From the Vaults

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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

Young John Watson: Space Guitar (1954)

27 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

It's become common to hail Fifties out-there guitarists like surf king Dick Dale, Link Wray and others . . . but the man who became the great Johnny "Guitar" Watson has been somewhat sidelined. In the mid-to-late Seventies this journeyman -- who had done the hard roads with Little Richard, the wonderful rock'n'roll/soul shouter Larry Williams, Johnny Otis and many other greats --... > Read more

The Merrymen: Saigon Girls (late Sixties/exact date unknown)

27 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

Anyone who has watched Armed Forces television broadcast to American military personnel abroad -- often conclaves of very young men and women on bases which are like gated communities with all the home-comfort US amentities from grocery stores selling candy bars to movie theatres screening the recent Hollywood movies -- will recognise the veiled fear and warning behind this song. The... > Read more

Roy Orbison: She Wears My Ring ( 1962)

23 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

If anyone could have the operatic reach for She Wears My Ring it was the big-voiced Solomon King who scored a hit with it in 1968. Trained as a cantor, King was a balladeer of the old style (although his Happy Again is hilarious, you could imagine Groucho Marx dancing along like a demented puppet). Elvis also covered the song in '73. Neither were the first to undertake it, and in... > Read more

Hank Williams Jr: Don't Give Us a Reason (1990)

20 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

War is good for business (if you are part of the military-industrial complex), but also a fine time for stay-at-home patriots to get bellicose . . . among them songwriters who can reduce heroism to cliches and danger to duty. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in '90 the American songs about it came thick and fast. Sometimes pretty thick. There was Penny Gilley's Line Drawn in the... > Read more

Elvis Presley: Edge of Reality (1968)

16 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

By the time Elvis Presley's execrable film Live a Little Love a Little – he plays a photographer/Lothario – was released in '68 he was a man rendered irrelevant by the rapidly changing times. The film attempted to get hip more than a year on from the Summer of Love and Sgt Peppers. While some people were tuning in, turning on and dropping out, Elvis was still doing his... > Read more

The Avengers: Waterpipe (1968)

5 Dec 2016  |  1 min read

Warwick Freeman's useful book New Zealand Top 20 Singles of the Sixties confirms – using his formula – that Wellington's Avengers were one of the most successful bands of the decade. They charted five top 10 singles, among them the number two hit Love Hate Revenge, and using Freeman's ranking system were one of only four local acts in the top 50 of the Sixties. With... > Read more

Bob Leaper, I Saw Her Standing There (1964)

27 Nov 2016  |  1 min read

It's not easy to find out anything about the British jazz arranger and big band leader Bob Leaper, other than he did the music for a couple of (awful-sounding) sitcoms in the late Sixties/early Seventies which starred the likes of Jimmy Edwards and doubtless involved catch-phrases. But what we can say on the basis of his album Big Band, Beatle Songs on the London label was that he was... > Read more

Milva: Chi Mai (1972)

7 Nov 2016  |  1 min read

On November 10, 2016, the great Italian  composer Ennio Morricone will be 88 and celebrating the day with his wife of 50 years. Both of those are remarkable achievements, and so is the breadth of his music career. Perhaps best known for his distinctive soundtracks to Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns of the Sixties -- by coincidence they were in the same class at primary school --... > Read more

April Young: Will You Ever Be My Steady Boyfriend (1964)

31 Oct 2016  |  1 min read

It's one of those factoid which floated into Elsewhere's orbit: a survey which found that only three percent of songs in the American charts in the Fifties were about sex. By the Seventies the figure had risen to 40 percent and in 2009 it was 92 percent. We can't vouch for any of this – it rather depends on how you define “sex”, if nothing else – but we could... > Read more

The Castiles: Baby I (1966)

23 Oct 2016  |  1 min read

If Bob Dylan accepts his Nobel Prize for Literature (and at the time of writing he still has made no comment) then it is just another award to be added to a long list. At some point it might be useful to also acknowledge his services to marketing of music. With his Biograph five-record compilation in '85 he virtually invented the idea of a box set (it contained unreleased material... > Read more

The Valli Boys; Night Hawk (1966)

17 Oct 2016  |  1 min read

Quite where Frankie Valli's solo career emerged separate to the Four Season's discography is hard to discern. Before and during the Four Seasons era of the early Sixties he appeared simply as a member of the band, sometimes they were billed as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and even when singles appeared under just his own name there were frequently various Seasons on the session.... > Read more

Jay and the Americans: Tomorrow (1962)

26 Sep 2016  |  1 min read

Although they hit their peak when the American bands fought back against the British Invasion in the mid Sixties, Jay and the Americans always seemed like a band from an earlier era with their big ballad hit Cara Mia.  In fact they were, they'd been around since the late Fifites in some form or other and their sound was rooted in Italian ballads and the close harmony style of the Four... > Read more

Liquid Generation: Quarter to Zen (1984)

19 Sep 2016  |  1 min read

Elsewhere has frequently written unapologetically about the thrill of garageband rock'n'roll from the likes of Dead Moon, the Seeds, early Troggs, the Sonics, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Standells and all those groups on the famous Nuggets collection (and its various spinoffs). The joy of garageband rock'n'roll is it rarely springs surprises -- it's cheaply realised, fast pop with... > Read more