DiCristina Stairbuilders will be releasing a 2 CD set of singer/songwriter Vashti Bunyan’s PRE “Just Another Diamond Day” recordings, comprising all her work with Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham as well as the solo recordings she did that yielded her original demo tape. I’m very much hoping you’ll consider covering this marvelous artist and release via feature or CD review. She is anxious to talk about her experiences in the thick of “Swinging London” in the 60’s as well as her 21st century experiences with the “avant folk” crowd she’s befriended and recorded with: Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Espers, Animal Collective.
In April 2007 I borrowed a reel-to-reel tape deck to listen through some old quarter-inch tapes my brother had found in his attic a few years before. I was listening out for some recordings I knew he’d made of my songs in 1966. I did find them and some of them are included here on Disc One.
To explain the presence of Disc Two – in the same box I found a different looking tape, tried to play it but found it was running way too fast. I didn’t recognise the songs at first but then it began to dawn on me that this was my first ever studio recording from back in 1964.
I had been thrown out of art school that year for (they said) wasting all my time writing songs and playing guitar. I’d then spent the summer in New York where my older sister lived – and found the album ‘Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ in a village store. Although I had been trying to write love songs that said a little more than the Buddy Holly, Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson singles I had listened to so much – Bob Dylan’s words began to fill the air in my young head and to educate me more than anything in my life had ever done. I came back to London with a certainty that there were momentous changes ahead, though I could not articulate my thoughts. For myself I had big ideas of recording my own songs, dreams of freedom and fame – and absolutely no money. My older brother was brought in by my despairing parents to ask me what I was doing with my life and how I intended to make a living.
‘I want to be a pop-singer.’
My brother laughed his big drain laugh – one I came to love later and so miss now he is gone – but at the time it only served to narrow my eyes and fix my resolve. I borrowed some money and booked an hour in a studio around the corner where I recorded twelve songs straight, one after another, just voice and guitar. I had four of the songs put onto a seven inch acetate record and this was my only demo. Nobody -neither agents nor producers – would have had reel-to-reel tape machines in their offices and I did not have one either and so this one demo was all I had to play to people. Mostly I just sang with my guitar in producer’s offices and they had to shut their windows, shut out the traffic noise in order to hear me at all. I was as uncommercial as I could be and many doors were shown to me – and not the opening kind. Until I met Andrew Loog Oldham that is – who opened the door to the rest of my life by giving me the Jagger-Richards song ‘Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind’ to record as my first single for Decca, promising to use one of my own songs for the B side and any further singles…