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WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . MONICA ZETTERLUND: From smalltown Sweden to the world stage

13 Dec 2021  |  3 min read

From this physical and historical distance, it is easy to consider Monica Zetterlund, who died in 2005 aged 67, as simply “world famous in Sweden”. But there was time when she was infamous in her homeland. It came when she represented Sweden in the 1963 Eurovision Song Contest. Her song En Gang i Stockholm/Once Upon a Time in Stockholm (aka Winter City) scored... > Read more

En gang i Stockholm

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . CARLOS GARDEL: The voice of Argentina

6 Dec 2021  |  1 min read

Just as there is no English-language equivalent of Jacques Brel (suggestions anyone?) or Edith Piaf, so there is no equivalent to Carlos Gardel (1890-1935) who became the voice of Argentinean folk-tango. At a guess we might say Gardel was akin to an implosion Irving Berlin/Lennon-McCartney/Hank Williams with a touch of (unhelpfully) Brel and Piaf. Although the facts of his birth are... > Read more

Mano a mano

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . SANDRA DEE: Teen angel in an adult world

29 Nov 2021  |  3 min read

When bad girl Betty Rizzo, leader of the Pink Ladies in the film Grease, sang Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee she was referencing the famously all-American chaste teenager who'd starred in the surf-culture Gidget movie and a couple of Tammy films. In Come September with Bobby Darin in 1961 – they married almost immediately-- she played Sandy Stevens. In Grease, Olivia Newton-John was an... > Read more

Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee, by Stockard Channing (Grease, 1978)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . STRINGBEAN: The killing of a long, lean banjo picker

21 Nov 2021  |  3 min read  |  1

If Truman Capote hadn't already written his brilliant “non-fiction novel” In Cold Blood (about the collision of two murderers and their victims in rural Kansas in '59), and he was still sober enough to focus, he might have found a great story in the 1973 murder of country music star Stringbean, David Akerman to his parents. Stringbean was one of those idiosyncratic stars... > Read more

Stringbean and His Banjo

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . MUTT CAREY: Go north, young man

11 Oct 2021  |  3 min read

If only he'd gone north instead of west, things might have been different. But, with his cornet, he left his home in New Orleans some time in 1919 and headed to California to join Kid Ory's band which had already had considerable success. Trombonist/band leader Ory's first choice had been the New Orleans player Louis Armstrong but when the 21-year old Armstrong decided not to go Mutt... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . CHANCE: Searching for the chancer

22 Aug 2021  |  3 min read

Like the remarkable Vernon Dalhart who had numerous stage and recording names, the man born Chance Martin also used a lot of pseudonyms. Unfortunately unlike Dalhart (his extraordinary story is told here) who sold records by the shedload, Chance -- as he was known to friends -- barely shifted a copy of his sole album In Search, released in 1981. Chance -- who has been variously Mr Freedom... > Read more

Mr Freedom Man

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . “THE VELVET UNDERGROUND – ETC”: Candy says, yeah but nah . . .

18 Jul 2021  |  3 min read  |  1

There are plenty of albums of very dodgy provenance (live and studio bootlegs, outtakes never intended to see the light and so on) but few misrepresent themselves quite as much as this one which, any passing civilian might rightly think was the Velvet Underground. It is. But only tangentially. Most rock people would say VU were Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE PATTY WATERS' ALBUM, SINGS: It's black then gets blackblackblack

28 Jun 2021  |  3 min read  |  1

Now. We could talk about singer Patty Waters' lengthy career because she's 75 and still around and performing. At least she was in 2020 before that Covid thing hit. But . . . we have focused on just this, her debut album Sings from 1965 because . . . Well . . .  First, let's tell you the label it is on: ESP-Disk. For some that will be the... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . LORRAINE CROSBY: To Hell, and back to the bingo halls

6 Jun 2021  |  3 min read

When Simon Cowell kicked Lorraine Crosby off the second round of the UK X Factor competition in 2005 saying she lacked “star quality”, he may well have been right. But she could certainly sing. Well, she could back in '93 when she'd been a key voice on the biggest selling single of that year, and was the voice – but not the face – in the bombastic,... > Read more

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 . . . 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