Continuous Hit Music: Laura Nyro – Eli And the Thirteenth Confession

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ‘em all here

Artist: Laura Nyro
Title: Eli And the Thirteenth Confession
Original Release: 1968
Label: Columbia/Sony Legacy
Store: Red Eye Records, 143 York Street, Sydney.
Price: $36.98
(US reissue)

Red Eye Records in Sydney is an institution. It is by far the best record shop in Sydney. It used to be one of many, but as physical retail died off in the last few years, Red Eye was the one to survive. It’s my go-to for all my vinyl new releases. I love the staff, and they’re always good for a tip. The years have not been kind and it’s recently moved to a new smaller location. But it is still the best we have and I try to support it when I can.

And where else would you find an album as glorious as this one? Laura Nyro. Just typing those words fill me with music happiness.

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of the 70s girls again. It happens every so often. Carole King‘s Tapestry, Joni Mitchell‘s Blue, etc. And this, Eli And the Thirteenth Confession, is perhaps the best of the lot. It’s overflowing with melody, of joy, of heart. Her tremendous voice soars, over her own piano led songs. And she’s terribly quirky. The albums flows in and out of hazy madness.

I hear her in the music of others. Most famously, Todd Rundgren‘s whole Something Anything album was a double record tribute to her. Regina Spektor‘s sound and restless muse gained her many Nyro comparisons. Most excellently, a whole episode of Sports Night was devoted to the spookiness of the song ‘Eli’s Comin‘ (later covered by Three Dog Night).

My favourite track is ‘Sweet Blindess‘. It’s the perfect drinking song – capturing the heady stops and starts of a night of getting on it, with trumpets whirling away in the back somewhere. But every song here is a classic.

This album was hard to find for many years. It was only available on expensive import for ages. And there was never a hit on this album, and Nyro still lacks a great one disc best of. She remains obscure – yet in her day she was a minor pop star. I guess in the long run, it’s maybe good to seel out and write that pop hit – just once. To pay the rent. She died in 1996, in obscurity.

The new vinyl reissue of this album is one of the prettiest I’ve seen. It doesn’t come in a fancy box, it’s just a well made standard copy. The record is hefty and sounds perfect – especially for an album where the detail is in the sound. The sleeve is sturdy, and has a neat trick. The liner notes fold outside of the back, bends over the cover and has the title and artist name. Lifting out the insert leaves that album image clean of all text. A really neat trick, and I wonder if it’s on the original. It’s all topped off by a black inner bag – a great small touch. Well done, Sony.

Something/Anything

Becky asked me for a little timeline of bands she should listen to, of old stuff. I sent her this…

Here is a timeline of significant events in human history.

5 Billion Years Ago: The Big Bang

1972: Todd Rundgren realeases his double album masterpiece, Something/Anything.


Todd Rundgren was at one point the talented frontman of The Nazz, one of so many bands in the 60s who thought they could be something like this band called the Beatles. The Nazz were actually way better than the Beatles. At least they were for one glorious song, Open My Eyes, a song that sounds like Snow Patrol only in title.

The Nazz did three albums, called ‘Nazz‘, ‘Nazz Nazz‘ and then, just as you thought the third album would be called ‘Nazz Nazz Nazz’, they called it ‘Nazz 3‘. And by ‘they’ I mean everyone other than Todd, who left.

Todd did two fantastic solo albums, Runt (1970) and Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1972). ‘Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren‘ should not be confused with ‘Runt‘. Although it often is. That’s because it’s fucking confusing.

All that was like taking off your shoes and squishing your toes before the long, orgasmic glories of Something/Anything in 1972, released on Bearsville, a label out of Woodstock (the real one, not the fake one) run by Bob Dylan’s manager.

To be clear, it is a glorious ride of 70s radio rock. From Carole King ballads, Motown thumpers, Rolling stones rip-offs, New York Dolls like sex drenched glam, Rufus Wainwright show tunes with flutes – you put it on and you are on a trip through all that is great about music.

The album is split into four sides – each with a name.

First is a ‘Bouquet of Ear Catching Melodies‘. Which is exactly what it is. Take the best of the Beach Boys, the Cars, Queen, Chicago…all the greatest shiny over produced pop, and that’s what this start of the album is about.

This side, and the album itself, opens with the single lifted off the album – ‘I Saw The Light‘. Todd writes his own notes on the album, saying he thought it would be a great single, so he put it first on the album, like Motown. This confused me for many years, as I had a copy of the Bearsville pressing, but didn’t understand why he would write liner notes for himself. Then I realised people did that back then. Nowadays they wait for the reissue.

(Another reason Todd is better than everyone else)

It has such great tunes. It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference that was used in Almost Famous, and Wolfman Jack, a tribute to the legendary DJ.

Sides two is ‘The Cerebral Side‘. It starts with a spoken word skit, where Todd runs you through all the different glitches you can get in a studio (bad mastering, hiss, pops, etc). It’s plain weird, and lightly experimental. What a guy.

Third side is ‘Kid Gets Heavy‘. Now, I’ve heard Prince say he loves Todd Rundgren a lot, and seeing him recently, reminded me how great Prince is as a guitar playing, but he’s no Todd. Todd is the man. It’s the jam rock side. I mean, it’s a double record from the seventies. Expect jamming.

The first three sides of the album, Todd PLAYED EVERYTHING.

And he played everything better than anyone else.

That’s just the way he is. He is the Chuck Norris of 70s pop.

But, just to prove he has friends (because, we all know Calvin Harris has no friends), the final side of the album, brilliant named ‘Baby Needs a New Pair of Snakeskin Boots‘ is recorded live in the studio, raw and tough. From this side, we get the album’s other big hit, Hello It’s Me, which probably made it all the way to #30 or something, but was straight to the top of my personal charts, and has stayed their ever since.

The album ends with three of the weirdest songs. ‘Some Folks Are Even Whiter Than Me‘, which is horribly politically incorrect now, ‘You Left Me Sore‘, which is about sexually transmitted disease, and finally, the awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome rocker ‘Slut‘, where the whole band is singing along

“S-L-U-T
She may be a slut but she looks good to me!”

And another line about not keeping his hands to himself that I find quite funny. The trumpets groove the whole thing along, as Todd belts the tune out. Then it’s all over.

It’s a great album.

The original vinyl only has the word SOMETHING on one side, ANYTHING on the back. It has a stupidly cool looking photo of todd standing on a chair in his studio. He looks so damn cool, that if you held the gatefold cover up to the sun, it would stop global warming.


The album’s catalogue number is 8122711072.

End of timeline.