From the Vaults

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here with Stephane Grappelli (1975)

5 Jun 2015  |  1 min read  |  2

If the recent reissue of Led Zeppelin albums proved something less than interesting, let alone exciting, in the "bonus tracks' department, the same couldn't be said for the Pink Floyd reissue of a few years ago. Without going the whole Pete Townshend into demos and second thoughts, the previously unreleased tracks on many of the Floyd discs were interesting for being expansive live... > Read more

Little Willie John: Leave My Kitten Alone (1959)

1 Jun 2015  |  1 min read

R'n'b singer/songwriter Little Willie John -- born in Arkansas in '37, raised in Detroit and perhaps best known for his crossover hit Fever which Peggy Lee famously covered -- clocked up more than a dozen songs on the US Billboard charts in his short recording career which effectively only ran for about five years until the very early Sixties. Booze was his downfall and in '66 he was... > Read more

Billy Fury: I'm Lost Without You (1965)

21 May 2015  |  1 min read

One of the most interesting songs on Marlon Williams' debut album -- and certainly the least expected from someone whose forte is along the folk/country axis -- is his heavily orchestrated cover of the old Teddy Randozzo song I'm Lost Without You. Randozzo was one of those classic Sixties songwriters who also wrote Gonna Take a Miracle (covered by Laura Nyro), Hurt So Bad (covered by Linda... > Read more

Ann Peebles: I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home (1972)

15 May 2015  |  <1 min read

Well, if anybody in '72 could break up somebody's home it would have been the steamy Ann Peebles who delivered this classic Memphis soul gem and the following year cemented her reputation with two classics, the much covered and sampled I Can't Stand the Rain and I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down. Peebles originally came from St Louis and sang gospel as a child but found her feet in Memphis... > Read more

Al Jolson: Are You Lonesome Tonight? (1950)

13 May 2015  |  1 min read

It's widely accepted that after he came out of the army in Germany, Elvis Presley's career quickly went on the skids with lousy movies and soft songs. Well, not quite. His first album when he came back to the States -- entitled somewhat obviously Elvis is Back! -- was an interesting collection, at a pinch you might even call it his Rubber Soul (although there would be no... > Read more

Blitzen Trapper: To Be Young (2014)

11 May 2015  |  1 min read

There are some beautifully simplistic but uplifting songs about being young between Cliff Richards' Young Ones in the early Sixties and Supergrass' Alright ("we are young, we run free") in the Nineties. It's not all running free as a teenager however (just check out Janis Ian's pained At Seventeen) and there is quite a body of work about that too, Quite what Ryan Adams was... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Who Killed Davey Moore? (1963)

4 May 2015  |  <1 min read

Bob Dylan's Hurricane in '75 is one of the best known songs about a boxer -- but very early in his career Dylan also sang another about a boxer, the fighter Davey Moore who was knocked out by Mexico-based Sugar Ramos from Cuba during a bout in March 1963. Moore spoke to the media afterwards (the illustration is taken from a famous post-fight photo) but then complained of headaches, slipped... > Read more

Carole King: Pleasant Valley Sunday (1966)

13 Apr 2015  |  1 min read

There's something to be said for getting up and going to work each day. If it is doing something you love -- and maybe even if it isn't -- you do get good at it, if nothing else. Songwriting is no different than playing an instrument: the more you do the more you learn and the better you get. The Beatles -- by writing and singing their own songs -- may have been the death knell for Tin... > Read more

Cynthia Lennon: Walking in the Rain (1995)

2 Apr 2015  |  <1 min read  |  1

It was inevitable that after their divorce, Cynthia Lennon -- married to John for six years from '62 -- would live in the shadow of her famous husband and struggle to find a meaningful place in the world. Cynthia Lennon -- who died from cancer at her home in Spain yesterday, aged 75 --  remarried twice and subsequently divorced both times, opened a restaurant in Wales (and later... > Read more

Archie Bleyer: Hernando's Hideaway (1954)

2 Apr 2015  |  1 min read

The photo of Archie Bleyer here looks more like the portrait of buttoned-down but likeable banker or real estate agent. But he was at one time a middle-sized player in American music. He was a bandleader, singer, producer from th Thirties onward and had his own label Cadence Records which he started in '52 and recorded the likes of Andy Williams. He got especially lucky when he signed... > Read more

Jimi Hendrix: Hornets Nest (1965)

30 Mar 2015  |  2 min read

In the year before he left for London and subsequent wild acclaim in late '66, JImi Hendrix was gigging around New York and during that time hooked up with soul singer Curtis Knight and his band the Squires with whom he'd sometimes play. Knight introduced Jimmy (as he was then) to record producer/entrepreneur Ed Chalpin and JImi, Knight and the Squires did some sessions for Chalpin's PPX... > Read more

Wattie Watson and Friends: Ye Cannae Shove Yur Grannie Aff a Bus (date unknown)

25 Mar 2015  |  1 min read

When I was a little boy growing up in Edinburgh I was doubtless surrounded by Scottish songs (I certainly heard the pipes) but it wasn't until I came to New Zealand that I can clearly remember particular songs (like The Cherry Rhyme which was played on the childrens' session on 1ZB on Sunday mornings). I also had comics like The Broons and Oor Wullie, and a couple of years ago when back in... > Read more

Elvis Costello: Wave a White Flag (demo 1976)

23 Mar 2015  |  1 min read

When Elvis Costello was an aspiring singer-songwriter, desperate to get a foothold and using the name DP Costello, he was fronting the pub-rock band Flip City. But he was also recording his own songs at home and passing these demos to (the now late) Charlie Gillett who hosted the Honky Tonk radio show. This song was the first of those that Gillett played and it's intersting for two... > Read more

Lou Christie: Lightnin' Strikes (1966)

11 Mar 2015  |  2 min read  |  3

Few people can say they celebrated their 23rd birthday in quite the same way as Lou Christie, this single was number one the US -- and just starting to go global. It was quite a comeback for Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco from rural Glenwillard near Pittsburg: he'd had some skirmishes with the charts and been on Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars traveling revue (he was seated next to Diana Ross... > Read more

Steve Reich: It's Gonna Rain (1965)

10 Mar 2015  |  1 min read

Sampling, found sound, loops and tape manipulation are commonplace these days -- but back in '65 this piece by minimalist Steve Reich (interviewed here) anticipated a whole style of experimental music. And as with John Lennon -- who allegedly put the tape of the Beatles' b-side Rain backwards into his home player and loved the strange sound which emerged -- Reich came upon this purely by... > Read more

It's Gonna Rain (extract only)

The Box Tops: I Met Her in Church (1968)

9 Mar 2015  |  <1 min read  |  3

In later years Alex Chilton -- who died in March 2010 -- was mostly known for the legendary but short-lived Seventies power-pop band Big Star which was hugely influential across the generations and was paid tribute to by the Replacements in a song named after him. But before the pop of Big Star, Chilton out of Memphis was the singer in the Box Tops which scored big with The Letter in '67... > Read more

King Kurlee feat. Blackmore Jr: Smoke on the Water (1991)

25 Feb 2015  |  <1 min read

The merging of hip-hop and rock (via Run DMC with Aerosmith, Anthrax with Public Enemy, and others) lead to nu-metal and its many unfortunate bands such as Limp Bizkit. But, as with the early days of hip-hop when there was an innocent and enjoyable experimentation, some of nu-metal's predecessors were more interesting than their offspring. This single out of Germany by the litle known... > Read more

National Lampoon: I'm A Woman (1975)

24 Feb 2015  |  <1 min read

Before they got into movies like Animal House and the Vacation series (with Chevy Chase), National Lampoon was a satirical magazine which also delivered a very funny sideline in records such as Lemmings (which skewered Woodstock). One of their funniest albums, but hard to find unfortunately as it doesn't appear to be on CD reissue anywhere, was Goodbye Pop from 1975 which featured among... > Read more

Moving Sidewalks: 99th Floor (1967)

23 Feb 2015  |  1 min read

This psychedelic garagerock single -- inspired by fellow Texans the 13th Floor Elevators -- was written by Billy Gibbons in his maths class when he was about 16. And yes, that's the same Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, which this band over time morphed into. Gibbons (the clean shaven kid third from the left in the photo) grew up in a musical envireonment -- his dad was a keyboard player and... > Read more

Deana Carter: Did I Shave My Legs for This? (1995)

20 Feb 2015  |  <1 min read

Country music most often tells character stories, and Deana Carter -- named for Dean Martin -- nailed it with this title track from her debut album. And when success came it had been hard won: She's tried her hand in music without much success, tended bar and cleaned urinals, and graduated from university in Tennessee as a rehab therapist. But her demos caught the attention of Willie... > Read more