Strange, eccentric and sometimes mad people or unusual events and albums in the music world.

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WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ZZ HILL: Suited up for Soulville

13 May 2024  |  2 min read

Arzell Hill was a soul and blues singer who came to serious attention in the early Eighties with his crossover hits Cheating in the Next Room and the terrific Down Home Blues. He was in his mid Forties at the time and had been recording two decades, mostly with little success beyond admiration and critical appreciation. It was dreadful tragedy then that just two years after he was enjoying... > Read more

Nothing Takes the Place of You

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . CHARLEY PATTON: A riddle wrapped in an enigma

28 Apr 2024  |  5 min read

So little is really known about Charley Patton that people have had to fill in the gaps with belief, rumour and myth. The date of his birth in south Mississippi can only be located somewhere between 1881 and 1891 (although consensus is forming around the latter), and it seems the man who raised him and whose name he took was not his natural father. And even his first name is... > Read more

High Water Everywhere (Part 2)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ROSEMARY BROWN: Music from the great beyond

10 Mar 2024  |  6 min read

When the English composer and pianist Rosemary Brown died in 2001 at age 85 she took with her an intimate knowledge of the works by some of the greatest classical composers. This is not uncommon of course. Classical performers and conductors always have a deep and personal connection to the music of those whose compositions they have studied and played. But Brown's connection to... > Read more

Valse Brillante in E Minor

WE NEEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . CY GRANT: The dreaming soul of blackness

15 Jan 2024  |  3 min read

We could start with his war record: he was a flight lieutenant navigator on an RAF Avro Lancaster in 103 Squadron (one of the few black officers in the airforce) but was shot down over Holland in 1943 and imprisoned at Stalag Luft III (made famous in the film The Great Escape and the book The Wooden Horse for the escapes which took place from there). Or we could consider his earlier life in... > Read more

Every Night When the Sun Goes In

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . BILLY NICHOLLS' WOULD YOU BELIEVE: Care for Pet Sounds inna English accent, guv'nor?

1 Oct 2023  |  3 min read

In the second part of his 2002 autobiography 2Stoned, Andrew Loog Oldham – manager and sometime producer of the young Stones, founder of Immediate Records and more – wrote about the profound impact the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds had on him. He had managed the Stones through the madness of those early years when they were being belted by the British media and the... > Read more

Feeling Easy

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JO ANN CAMPBELL: Another case of the singer not the song

3 Jul 2023  |  3 min read

If you were to believe standard histories of Fifties rock'n'roll, women were marginal figures at best and, in some books, non-existent. The great Wanda Jackson often gets a mention (her career as a rockabilly singer was short, she got religion) but beyond that the river runs dry. There were, of course, quite a number of young women – black and white –... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . BARRY MARKWICK: Lennon, McCartney and Markwick

26 Jun 2023  |  3 min read  |  1

Few people know the backroads and by-ways of New Zealand music like Chris Bourke, the current editor of AudioCulture. A former editor of Rip It Up '86-'88, he delivered the Crowded House biography Something So Strong and two remarkable books of historical research, the essential Blue Smoke; The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918-1964 and Goodbye Maoriland; The Songs and Sounds of... > Read more

Can't Buy Me Love

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . TONY BURROWS: The famous anonymous star

29 Apr 2023  |  4 min read

Was it three times? Or four? Not even Tony Burrows is absolutely certain but he thinks it was three. Three times on the same 1970 episode of Britain's Top of the Pops television show where he appeared in three different bands: White Plains (singing My Baby Loves Lovin'), Edison Lighthouse (Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes) and Brotherhood of Man (United We Stand). He was also in... > Read more


12 Apr 2023  |  2 min read

The first thing to acknowledge is the drumming genius of Hal Blaine, one of those extraordinary players who was a member of the famous and informal Wrecking Crew so played on Phil Spector productions and numerous sessions for Sinatra, Presley, the Beach Boys, Byrds and hundreds more. He played on around 150 top 10 American singles and literally hundreds more which were top 40 chart hits.... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . DAVID SPINOZZA: Three Beatles and all the rest

4 Mar 2023  |  3 min read

A number of big stars have mentioned this, so we'll repeat it here: the most expensive cars in the recording studio parking lot belong to the session musicians. It might be a joke – most stars don't drive themselves to studios – but it says something about the lifestyle of those who have avoided the excesses and weariness of touring in favour of studio sessions, be they on... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JOYCE HATTO: The classical genius who wasn't

23 Jan 2023  |  2 min read

As many politicians and Milli Vanilla would attest, the problem isn't just what you did in the first place, it is the lying afterwards which compounds matters. When the lies are revealed what follows is scorn, contempt and public opprobrium. You get fired, the work dries up, friends and neighbours shun you . . . and sometimes you can only see one way out to end the... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ZOOGZ RIFT: Speaking more than Frankly

7 Jan 2023  |  3 min read  |  1

Because his music and career was so diverse, heretical and dispirate, few would try to follow in the footsteps of Frank Zappa. He seems to have spawned no progeny. With one notable exception: Zoogz Rift. Mr Rift -- born Robert Pawlikowski in '53 -- recorded a couple of dozen albums for the SST label, among them Idiots on the Minature Golf Course, Amputees in Limbo, Can You Smell My... > Read more

With My Bare Hands (extract only)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . HP LOVECRAFT: High, here and gone.

19 Dec 2022  |  4 min read  |  1

Now, I'm neither ashamed nor proud of this, but some while back – decades ago – I enjoyed perpetrating pranks and hoaxes, especially postal pranks. Of the latter I would, for example, anonymously send increasingly large blocks of wood to a friend in some far flung place inviting him to join my “Plank of the Month Club”. Or I would send off elaborate... > Read more

The White Ship

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . SANDY BULL: He had the whole world in his hands

12 Dec 2022  |  5 min read  |  1

Just a thought, but if Sandy Bull had been British, magazines like Uncut and Mojo would be running major, rediscovery features about him and placing him in the pantheon of innovative guitarists like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Richard Thompson and – especially – Davy Graham. But Bull – who recorded fewer than a dozen albums between his debut in '63 and death in 2001... > Read more

Improvisation for Oud 1 (live 1969)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JANDEK: Stranger in an even stranger land

5 Dec 2022  |  3 min read

In his very interesting 2001 book about cult figures and outsider musicians Songs in the Key of Z, Irwin Chusid had chapters on some figures (Wild Man Fischer, Syd Barrett, Florence Foster Jenkins, Daniel Johnston, Tiny Tim, Harry Partch etc) who have largely been accepted into the grand pantheon of the weird but rather wonderful. And then there were the others like the talentless Shaggs... > Read more

Cave In On You, from Ready for the House

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . HARRY KALAPANA: Aloha from Yugoslavia?

28 Nov 2022  |  4 min read

Of all the many hundreds of musical styles across the planet, only one has managed to embed itself in popular, post-Fifties music which exists along the Western axis of London-New York-America's West Coast: reggae. Yes, there are belated flickers and influences (if not downright copying) of Fela Anikulapo Kuti's Afrobeat and some aspects of Sahara blues and Indian music out there. But... > Read more

Hawaiian Lullaby


15 Oct 2022  |  4 min read

When country singer Spade Cooley went face down after a heart attack in November 1969 there were doubtless a few would have said he deserved to die, and that it should have happened sooner. The were ironies aplenty also: Cooley – born Donnell Clyde Cooley in Oklahoma in 1910 – was attending a benefit concert for sheriff's deputies where he played, having been released on... > Read more

You'll Rue The Day

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . WILD MAN FISCHER: Psycho street singer and shouter

10 Jul 2022  |  2 min read  |  2

Given Frank Zappa's proclivity towards oddball performers and different musicians -- Captain Beefheart, the GTOs, the Shaggs -- it's hardly surprising he should be the one who brought Wild Man Fischer into the vocabulary of outsider musicians. And Fischer was very outside. In '68 Zappa recorded a double album of Fischer's singing and rants as An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, the title... > Read more

Monkeys Vs Donkeys

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . VOICE OF BACEPROT: Heavy from the hijab

25 Jun 2022  |  3 min read

Over a long lunch recently – where the best conversations happen – a friend and I were talking about how music informs our very being. In her case it was obvious: she's a musician a long time in the game and someone others look up to as a contemporary. For me it's been the odd bit of tinkling and strum'n' . . . damn! Got that chord wrong. Again!  So in truth, I'm just... > Read more

School Revolution

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . MIDORI TAKADA: Through a glass, brightly

8 May 2022  |  2 min read

It's a given these days. The moment you write about a musician who exists in an obscure corner of the mainstream world – or has absolutely no presence there at all – then someone in the internet world will weigh in telling you about their longtime fandom, offer footnotes, advance the better album you should have referenced and so on . . . Well, let's open the discussion on... > Read more

Blue Fox: Midori Tanaka and JPC Percussion Ensemble