WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . .

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

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WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . VERNON DALHART: Are you ready for the country?

29 Mar 2021  |  4 min read

While it's not uncommon to hear people speak of some kind of "parallel universe" where another and different version of ourselves might exist, few would actually believe it exists. But every now and again someone comes along who . . . The child, born in northeast Texas on a cattle ranch in 1883, had the perfect name for a country singer who had been brought up tough in a... > Read more

The Wreck of the Old 97

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . TWANG!!: The sudden end of an error

12 Mar 2021  |  3 min read

What could possibly go wrong? Here was a Sixties stage musical with music and lyrics by the proven hitmaker Lionel Bart and among the cast were the r'n'b/blues singer Long John Baldry (very popular at the time), Bernard Bresslaw and Barbara Windsor (famous from the Carry On films), and comedian Ronnie Corbett. And who could not love a heretical, knockabout musical comedy which poked... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE DONAYS: A devil of a story

1 Mar 2021  |  4 min read  |  2

On the cover of the 1986 Rhino compilation Beatle Originals; Original Versions of the Songs the Beatles Made Famous there are photos of the usual suspects: Little Richard (with Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey), the Shirelles (Boys), Buck Owens (Act Naturally), Larry Williams (Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Bad Boy, Slow Down), Arthur Alexander (Anna) and so on. Conspicuous by their absence in photographs (and... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JOHN JACOB NILES: Murder, mountain music and a voice from the spheres

22 Feb 2021  |  3 min read

There's a fascinating, if brief, scene in Martin Scorsese's documentary about Bob Dylan, No Direction Home. It is of American folksinger, archivist and writer John Jacob Niles. He looks to be in his 60s as he sings to a small group of people and plays a large Appalachian dulcimer. The filmed scene probably took place in the late Fifties and Bob Dylan certainly knew of Niles' music.... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JOHNNY BRAGG: Inside looking out, then out and in again.

1 Feb 2021  |  4 min read

The way Johnny Bragg told it, this is what happened. He went over to his girlfriend Jenny's house and found her sexually engaged with his friend Chester. Johnny was angry, she shoved off Chester and laid into Johnny who fled. When her parents came home Jenny said Johnny had raped her and he was taken into custody. While in jail a white woman and a few black women were brought in to... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . DAVID MUNROW: Remembrance of things past

25 Jan 2021  |  4 min read

The legendary British folk singer Shirley Collins once said of David Munrow that he was incandescent. “He had so much energy that you really did feel if you put your finger on him you would get an electric shock. “I've never met anybody like him for absolute focus, and this energy crackling out of him.” It was an opinion widely shared. Christopher Bishop wrote... > Read more

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

15 Jan 2021  |  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 – seduced... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JACKSON C. FRANK: A folked up life

4 Jan 2021  |  3 min read

Unless you are into the small print about British folk music in the Sixties, you will be forgiven for not having heard anything by the lost folk legend Jackson C Frank, and excused for never having heard of him at all. After all, he did just the one album.  Jackson C. Frank died in '99 -- he'd been a diagnosed paranoid-schizophrenic and had been homeless on the streets of New York... > Read more

My Name is Carnival

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . MARNI NIXON: The voice of the famous faces

27 Dec 2020  |  4 min read

When the American singer Marni Nixon died in July 2016, her passing was barely noted in the music press. Major newspapers like the New York Times weighed in with obituaries, but the silence from the music press was deafening. Maybe contemporary music writers didn't know who she was, and that would be the irony of her life . . . Even though her music was enjoyed by many millions at... > Read more

I Could Have Danced All Night (from My Fair Lady)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . FANNY CROSBY: Safe in the arms of Jesus

21 Dec 2020  |  3 min read  |  1

When Bob Dylan sold his song catalogue to Universal Music in late 2020 for the princely sum of a reported US$300 million, there was another figure worth considering. Dylan had the copyright on more than 600 original songs (not all of which he had recorded, of course). In their 10 years together in the Beatles, the authorial credit Lennon-McCartney was attached to more than 200 songs.... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . DON BLACK: The man with the Midas touch

4 Dec 2020  |  3 min read

It's a safe bet that if you asked 10 people to come up with 10 names associated with James Bond no one would mention Don Black. Most of the Bonds would be there (Connery, Moore, Dalton, Craig and maybe that Australian one-off) and doubtless a few of the “Bond girls” (perhaps by character rather than the actor's name: Moneypenny, Pussy Galore, Honey... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . EVIE SANDS: Ever the bridesmaid

9 Nov 2020  |  3 min read

When the pub quiz question comes up, be prepared: The guy who wrote Wild Thing, Chip Taylor, is the brother of actor Jon Voight and therefore the uncle of Angelina Jolie. For bonus points, he also wrote the country song Angel of the Morning which was a big hit for Merrilee Rush and further popularised by Olivia Newton-John and Juice Newton. Unfortunately it wasn't a hit for the first... > Read more

Women in Prison

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . LOLA FALANA: Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl . . .

23 Sep 2020  |  3 min read

When the singer-dancer-actress Lola Falana arrived in New York in the early Sixties with, by her account just US$26 in her pocket, she took whatever dancing jobs she could get, mostly in Harlem clubs. And it was in one such place that she was spotted by Sammy Davis Jnr. In quick succession she appeared in his Broadway musical Golden Boy, recorded her debut single My Baby, appeared in... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . DEUTSCHE WERTARBEIT: Presenting, the one and only . . .

9 Sep 2020  |  4 min read

For way more than a decade, the sole album attributed to Deutsche Wertarbeit – which translates from the German as “German Craftsmanship” or “German quality” – was almost impossible to find. And even when it was finally reissued on CD in the mid Nineties it went past most people.  Released in 1981 and locating itself somewhere between... > Read more

Der Grosse Atem

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . COTTON MATHER'S KONTIKI: But it sounds like everyone, or nothing, else!

2 Sep 2020  |  3 min read

Back in 1999 when the US band Cotton Mather's second album, Kontiki, finally got release in Britain, a fan wrote to Mojo magazine and said, “the singer does his best damn Lennon Stars in His Eyes I've ever heard. If the Beatles had been influenced by Nirvana instead of Little Richard and Motown they might have sounded like this”. Mojo itself had called the album –... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . DANNY GATTON: Known unto God and guitarists

24 Aug 2020  |  3 min read

When Danny Gatton committed suicide on October 4, 1994 – exactly a month after his 49thbirthday – his passing went largely unacknowledged in the music press, although many fellow guitarists and musicians from across the spectrum lamented his death. There would be no subsequent Greatest Hits package because he'd had none . . . although there would be as many posthumous... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS: Trip, stumble and fall

5 Jul 2020  |  6 min read

When we look at the cast of misfits, murderers and murder victims, oddballs and eccentrics in our articles at WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT, you'd be entitled to ask why Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and hit-makers The Mamas and the Papas should be in such strange company. By way of explanation, let us start at the end. In fact, let's start after the end . . . Because in the real world the... > Read more

Creeque Alley

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JESSE BELVIN: Joining the club

26 Jun 2020  |  3 min read

The list of those 27-year olds who went to join what Kurt Cobain's mother called "that stupid club" received Amy Winehouse in 2011, and when she died there were any number of writers who noted the list of those of that age who'd gone: Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi, Janis, Jim, Badfinger's Pete Ham . . . And of course Jesse Belvin. Jesse Belvin was one of the most gifted... > Read more

Guess Who (1959)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . UTOPIA'S DEFACE THE MUSIC: So, ummm, that happened

25 May 2020  |  2 min read

It's a very odd thing to observe, but Utopia – the prog-rock band lead by Todd Rundgren from the mid Seventies – kind of did the Beatles' career in reverse gear. They went from ambitious and full blown stadium-sized prog on their debut as Todd Rundgren's Utopia – the opening Theme is over 14 minutes, The Ikon on the second side a tidy half hour – into small... > Read more

Everybody Else is Wrong

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . VIRGIN RECORDS: From prog to punk, Bells to Bodies

20 Apr 2020  |  3 min read  |  1

Although a considerable amount of other music happened in New Zealand during the Eighties – and some still feel aggrieved their effort and output goes under-acknowledged – there was a reason why the Flying Nun label dominates the conversation, then and now. Between its first singles in '81 (Pin Group, Clean) and the end of 1990, according to the label's founder Roger Shepherd in... > Read more