From the Vaults

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

Selina Tusitala Marsh: Fast Talking PI (2009)

24 Jun 2017  |  <1 min read

Every time I have played this track on radio it has had an immediate and favourable response: people want to know who the writer/reader is, and what else has she done. Marsh has done a lot: she was the first person of Pacific descent to graduate with a PhD in English at the University of Auckland and is currently a lecturer/tutor in that department. She is not only an accomplished poet... > Read more

Ariel: Yellow Submarine (1997)

19 Jun 2017  |  <1 min read

Another track from the often hilarious and sometimes worrying Plastic Soul Vol 4 album which is a compilation of mad Beatles covers, many from Russia. Ariel weigh in with two entries, A Little Help From My Friends and this tempo-challenging stab at Yellow Submarine which ends up waltzing down the Danube. The band – which these days seems to consist of five staid middle-aged... > Read more

Cheryl Lynn: Got To Be Real (1978)

12 Jun 2017  |  <1 min read

If it weren't for Madonna's hit Vogue most people outside of New York wouldn't have known of this posturing late Eighties style which seemed to come with more attitude-dance than seemed healthy. Narcissism isn't pleasant at any time. But the music was something else and no musical style should be held to account because if its followers (or even its practitoners). The... > Read more

Bertha Lee Patton: Mind Reader Blues (1934)

5 Jun 2017  |  1 min read

The last wife of Charley Patton, Bertha Lee was a fine singer in her own right -- and she probably had plenty of reasons to sing the blues. She was only married to Patton for about four years -- he died in 1934 -- but by all accounts their relationship was a volatile one. Honeyboy Edwards said, "Charley always had a lot of women. Men didn't like him much because all the women was... > Read more

Sarah Vaughan: After You've Gone (1963)

29 May 2017  |  <1 min read

Some very serious jazz people don't take British pianist/singer Jamie Cullum very seriously. They point out he also sings pop, his repertoire includes songs by the White Stripes and hip-hop artists and . . . All the usual accusations. Like Herbie Hancock doesn't draw from contemporary music? And what of Coltrane using My Favourite Things as a vehicle? Cullum gets a mention here... > Read more

April Stevens: Love Kitten (1961)

22 May 2017  |  <1 min read

Singer April Stevens found great fame when she teamed up with her brother, the producer/writer/singer Nino Tempo for their early Sixties hit Deep Purple. But before that she had briefly enjoyed a solo career in the early Fifties until her married lover decided he didn't like to see her in the spotlight. When the relationship foundered in the late Fifties however she began something of a... > Read more

Max Bygraves: You’re a Pink Toothbrush (1959)

15 May 2017  |  2 min read

When George Harrison was interviewed for the Beatles’ Anthology he spoke about the songs he heard in his childhood which somehow influenced him, and the other Beatles. These days you get the impression from interviews with musicians that they were always incredibly hip and into something that no one else was . . . but Harrison was refreshingly candid when he said, “I... > Read more

Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello: My Brave Face (1988 demo)

1 May 2017  |  <1 min read

Elsewhere recently essayed at length the expended reissue of Paul McCartney's album Flowers in the Dirt from 1989, the album the returned him to critical favour after many lesser albums in the previous decade. In part that was because McCartney spent more care and attention on the songs, and also invited Elvis Costello to come to his writing studio in Sussex to see if they could work with... > Read more

Joan Baez: James and the Gang (1987)

14 Apr 2017  |  1 min read

Recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Joan Baez has written very few original songs but after her painful separation in '73 from her activist husband David Harris – who had been imprisoned for refusing to be drafted into the army – she raised their son Gabriel who mostly lived with her. In the Eighties Gabe, as he was known and is now drummer in her touring band,... > Read more

Gerry Mulligan: Mr Tambourine Man (1965)

10 Apr 2017  |  1 min read

By the mid Sixties the once-popular jazz had been pushed to the margins of mainstream interest by the arrival of pop culture in the form the Beatles, the British Invasion and then the American response of the Turtles, Byrds and many other bands. And of course by Bob Dylan whose literary sensibilities and political subtexts proved that popular music could be about something more than... > Read more

Dinah Shore: The Gypsy (1946)

23 Mar 2017  |  1 min read

Here's a pub quiz question for you: What was so remarkable about the song The Gypsy in the year 1946? And the answer isn't that it's sentimental pop. That was an odd year in American popular music. The war had just ended and people went back to work, including the musicians who had been on strike until late '44. But you'd have to also say there was no great... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Things We Said Today (2014)

13 Mar 2017  |  1 min read

Given the breadth and depth of his catalogue – even if we remove maybe 60 percent of the sentimental journeyman tripe – Sir James Paul McCartney deserved a much more interesting and digressive tribute than the mostly mundane double disc Art of McCartney of 2014. Despite the stellar line-up, many of the artists simply played Paul at his own game (using McCartney's touring... > Read more

Ebba Gron: Staten och kapitalet (1980)

6 Mar 2017  |  1 min read

The regular postings at From the Vaults have previously picked up this punk band from Sweden and although their single Scheisse in '81 went higher on the local charts (to number three) this is perhaps the song they are most known for. It is a furious tirade against capitalism and corporations, and they certainly seemed to be in the vanguard of something in conservative and state-controlled... > Read more

Mahalia Jackson: Consider Me (1953)

27 Feb 2017  |  <1 min read

Although widely recognised as the greatest of all American gospel singers and a prominent civil rights activist, Mahalia Jackson (1911 - 72) also flirted with some crossover chart success. Her mentor and main songwriter was Thomas A Dorsey who found salvation after recovering from an illness. He left behind the juke joints and rent parties and in 1930 started to write gospel songs, among... > Read more

Otis Blackwell: Daddy Rollin' Stone (1953)

24 Feb 2017  |  <1 min read

Otis Blackwell is best known as a songwriter, and he was one the most prominent and best in the rock'n'roll era. Among his classics were Fever, All Shook Up, Don't Be Cruel, Great Balls of Fire, Return to Sender . . .  But he was, at the start of his career, a performer himself and the slinky Daddy Rollin' Stone was his single which influenced the likes of Leiber and Stoller.... > Read more

Brews Springsteen: Shoot Me in the Dark (1988)

23 Feb 2017  |  <1 min read

More correctly this should be attributed to "artist unknown" but this bent cover appeared on an SST album from the late Eighties of which I only have a test pressing. Others on it are Revolution 409 doing the Osmonds' Crazy Horses, Celebrity Skin (Abba's SOS), I Love You (Burning' Love), Chemical People (It's Not Unusual) and so on. The biggest names are Sonic Youth and Das... > Read more

Ringo Starr: Early 1970 (1970)

13 Feb 2017  |  1 min read

It was one of the great ironies that after the Beatles broke up the solo careers of the songwriters Lennon and McCartney languished for a while, and that George Harrison unleashed the phenomenally successful All Things Must Pass triple album (with the chart-topper My Sweet Lord) But the most succesful solo Beatle was -- and here's the real irony -- the drummer who wasn't much cop as a... > Read more

Chubby Checker: You Better Believe It Baby (1964)

6 Feb 2017  |  1 min read

Poor Chubby Checker. In thge popular imagination andf the history books he is forever associated with the early Sixties dance craze the Twist. In a sense he also only had himself to blame. After his letter perfect cover of  Hank Ballard's '58 flipside The Twist in '60, the former chicken plucker from Philadelphia rode the twist train for all it was worth. He recorded L:et's Twist Again... > Read more

Public Image Limited; Death Disco (1979)

6 Feb 2017  |  <1 min read

Described by Peter Shapiro in Turn the Beat Around; The Secret History of Disco as "perhaps the most uncompromising record ever to make the Top 20 chart [in Britain]" this extraordinary piece is not just musically demanding but is also John Lydon dealing with the death of his mother -- in a warped dance/disco song. Curiously this extraordinary, cathartic and emotionally bruising... > Read more

Son House: Levee Camp Moan (1970)

30 Jan 2017  |  1 min read  |  3

By 1964 when the British blues explosion was starting to take off, the great and tetchy Son House was living in retirement and spent most of days drinking. He hadn't played much since his friend Willie Brown had died more than a decade previous. He'd preached some but mostly got drunk, he hadn't played guitar in five years. But when his sessions from some 20 years previous were reissued... > Read more