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Comeback queen.The revived career of Vashti Bunyan is one of the happier stories in recent musical folklore. A new generation of freak-folk fans were turned onto her by the 2000 re-release of lost 1970 classic, Just Another Diamond Day, and the collaborations with Piano Magic, Devendra Banhart and Animal Collective that followed. This process of rediscovery culminated in 2005’s Lookaftering, Bunyan’s first album in 35 years.
But there was a chapter of this creative life prior to …Diamond Day. Bunyan first recorded her own songs in 1964, and a year later met the Rolling Stones impresario Andrew Loog Oldham. “People have said he took this little folk singer and tried to make her into a pop singer,” recalls Bunyan. “But that wasn’t what happened. I wanted to be a pop singer, and Andrew gave me the chance. It didn’t work, but he gave me the chance.”
Under Loog Oldham’s aegis, that chance, a Jagger/Richards composition called Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind, became a huge production number “with four trombones, three flugelhorns, the most unbelievable amount of percussion”. It’s a swooning piece of mid-60s pop optimism that went nowhere fast in 1965 – “I was promoted against my will as a follower of Marianne Faithfull,” Bunyan recalls – only now seeing daylight as the title track of a collection of rarities and unreleased acoustic demos from that period.
“It was really strange to hear [the demos] because I made them when I was so young,” says Bunyan. She lost track of the tapes from that session, but years later her brother discovered them mouldering in his attic. Having sourced a reel-to-reel tape player last April, Bunyan found herself listening to a crackling fragment of her past. “It was a strange feeling,” she admits, “like finding teenage poetry. I mean, I was 18 or 19. That’s my excuse,” she laughs. If only everyone’s juvenilia were like this the world would be spared a multitude of blushes.
From the sinuous unwinding of I Want To Be Alone to the playfulness of 17 Pink Sugar Elephants – cracked cousins to Syd Barrett’s effervescing variety – this collection is further evidence of a remarkable talent. Bunyan has said that listening to songs by one of her favourite bands, The Blue Nile, makes playing anything else afterwards difficult, the irony being that hers have precisely the same effect. All the better, then, that here are another 25 opportunities to postpone the thorny choice of what to put on next.
Vashti Bunyan - Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind, out 15 October 07 on FatCat
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