From the Vaults

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Boyd Rivers: Fire Shed in my Bones (1985)

21 Aug 2017  |  <1 min read

Not a lot is known about the Mississippi-based country-blues and gospel singer Boyd Rivers who died in '93, but his growling voice seems to belong to a much older time. He was born near the town of Pickens in December '43 and after being injured at his casket-making job in '72 he lived off his music and the pay-out. He was also a Reverend. And that's about it. Oh, and he seems to... > Read more

Willie Nelson: Cowboys are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other (2006)

14 Aug 2017  |  1 min read

When this Willie Nelson song started to get a bit of attention around the time of the movie Brokeback Mountain, many people -- myself included -- assumed it had been prompted by that film. But the story of it goes back quite a way and the song's writer Ned Sublette tells it in his excellent book The Year Before the Flood about his time in New Orleans before Katrina and the flooding.... > Read more

The Quarrymen/Silver Beatles; Cayenne (1960)

31 Jul 2017  |  <1 min read

The QuarrymenSilver /Beatles at the time of this recording in Liverpool included bassist Stu Sutcliffe and (absent) drummer Pete Best. And all of them -- Lennon, McCartney who most likely wrote this, and Harrison who was also absent for this tape recording – were all shy of being 20. Best information on this says it was recorded in early 1960 and was part of about a 40... > Read more


Mamie Van Doren: Separate the Men From the Boys (1958)

31 Jul 2017  |  1 min read

Mamie Van Doren's not inconsiderable assets -- big breasts, bleached blonde hair and a breathy speaking style -- served her well for a career in cinema and self-promotion when she emerged as a kind of second-tier Marilyn Munroe in the Fiftes. She, of course, always denied being a mere copyist ("I have never been a Marilyn Munroe wannabe, I have always been happy in my own skin")... > Read more

Mavis Rivers: Farewell Samoa (1950)

29 Jul 2017  |  2 min read  |  1

Because her career as singer was mostly in the United States -- where Sinatra apparently called her the purest voice in jazz -- Mavis Rivers was for many decades after 1953, when she made the first move from Auckland, more respected in New Zealand than actually heard. Yet in her brief period in Auckland -- the family originally from Apia, Samoa arrived in Auckland in 1947 when she was in... > Read more

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Soldier Blue (1971)

22 Jul 2017  |  1 min read

The great Buffy Sainte-Marie has appeared at Elsewhere previously for her always timely song The Big Ones Get Away, but this exceptional piece deserves to stand in its own right. Part political activism, part patriotic American anthem and a powerful plea underlining it all, Soldier Blue was the title song to a film of the same name which goes largely unseen these days. The film -- by... > Read more

The Mamas and the Papas: Free Advice (1967)

15 Jul 2017  |  <1 min read

Although they looked kind of clean-cut by the hairy standards of the day and sang such pretty songs, what we would learn later was how fraught and seedy some of the internal workings of The Mamas and the Papas were. The song Go Where You You Wanna Go for example was less about living your life in the hippie spirit than John Phillips' address to his wife Michelle's infidelities (one of which... > Read more

Twinkle: Terry (1964)

8 Jul 2017  |  1 min read  |  1

There's quite a tradition of death ballads in rock -- Pearl Jam tapped into it when they covered Last Kiss which had been recorded to no great public interest by Wayne Cochran in '61. Perhaps the greatest of them all was Leader of the Pack ("look out look out look out!") by the Shangri-Las in '64. Coincidentally at exactly the same time as the Shangri-Las were topping the US... > Read more

Lou Reed: Families (1979)

1 Jul 2017  |  1 min read  |  1

Lou Reed probably never struck you as having a sentimental streak, but this song (from his album The Bells) is as nakedly autobiographical and pained as John Lennon's Mother. It is the sound of a son who knows he has disappointed the family but equally realises there is no way back. Interesting too is the tone of regret and sadness at what has been lost, and the line changes from... > Read more

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