[Cover Me]: Dead Kennedys, Nouvelle Vague and Seu Jorge.

There are good covers, and there are bad covers. These are some I think belong in the former category.

Dead Kennedys – ‘Viva Las Vegas’ (Originally by Elvis Presley)
Appearing at the tail end of their 1980 debut Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, Dead Kennedys had been playing the Elvis Presley show tune since their early days. Stripped down and revved up, this version simmers with reckless abandon and the anarchic humour in Jello Biafra’s reworked lyrics of a coked up gambler rings truer than the original’s optimism. Fittingly, the Kennedys’ version appeared in Terry Gilliam’s leering film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.

Nouvelle Vague – ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’ (Originally by Dead Kennedys)
Almost at the other end of the spectrum, this take on Dead Kennedys’ fourth single is slowed to sultry, bossa nova groove. Bringing their distinctive knack for transposing punk and new wave songs to a lounge jazz setting effectively, Nouvelle Vague put ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’ in a drinks party and what it might be missing in Biafra’s manic energy is made up for by Camille Dalmais’s amusing and bubbly delivery.

Seu Jorge – ‘Rock n’ Roll Suicide’ (Originally by David Bowie)
Seen here in his Team Zissou garb on the good ship Belafonte, Brazilian actor Seu Jorge’s major contribution to The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was to reinvent a slew of early David Bowie songs as Portuguese acoustic ditties. Hearing these versions Bowie himself said “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs acoustically in Portuguese I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with”. Brimming with charm, Jorge’s covers are the masterstroke in Wes Anderson’s absurd nautical adventure.

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[On The Record]: Thank You For The Days – Friars Music Exhibition, Buckinghamshire County Museum

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Probably like many other gig goers, I occasionally feel like I’ve turned up too late to the party to see legendary live shows. Completely untrue obviously, but with concert footage of any given artist now at your fingertips, a pang of envy sometimes takes hold for that disinterested crowd member in the corner of the screen during a seminal, spine-tingling performance by a band in their prime.

Recently, this feeling was not helped by the Friars Music Club exhibition at Buckinghamshire County Museum, which extensively details the illustrious heyday of Aylesbury’s premier music venue, now 45 years young. During its lifetime the club has had four different phases inhabiting various venues across Aylesbury: Phase one at New Friarage Hall from June 1969 to July 1970; Phase two (“The Golden Era”) at Borough Assembly Hall from April 1971 to August 1975; Phase three at Aylesbury Civic Centre from September 1975 to December 1984, then June 2009 to June 2010; and phase four which currently resides at Waterside Theatre since October 2010. In addition, Friars also hosted “Foreign Gigs” in neighbouring towns and even as far north as Newcastle and Liverpool.

Over the years Friars played host to pretty much any influential group you care to think of between 1969 and 1984. David Bowie? Played Friars. The Velvet Underground? Played Friars. Pink Floyd, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Clash, U2, Grandmaster Flash, Toots & The Maytals, John Martyn, the list seemingly goes on forever. Offering equal chances to underground bands like The Birthday Party and Captain Beefheart or local acts Marillion and Warren Harry, Friars Music Club and its members welcomed everyone with open arms. “I know Mott The Hoople happened in Aylesbury long before anywhere else,” commented  Mott frontman Ian Hunter. “Everybody seems to be friendly, and they make you feel good – and whenever I played there, I felt like an old friend being welcomed home”.

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The exhibition opened on 1st March, but it has been in gestation for quite a while. “I’ve been wanting to put it on for about ten years and the regime at the county museum wasn’t particularly sympathetic to the idea” says David Stopps, who founded Friars along with other music lovers in 1969 and who masterminded the exhibition. “But, last year the hierarchy changed there and they suddenly became very enthusiastic indeed about hosting our exhibition, so we talked to them about it and managed to get things together at very short notice. We only had it confirmed just at Christmas time and we had to get it open by the end of February, which is a very, very short time. But, we did and it’s been growing organically ever since, we’ve been adding things to it every week since 1st March.”

The exhibition is extensive: captivating concert photographs from Geoffrey Tyrell, Mark Jordan and others, some of which are being displayed for the first time to the public, hang on walls sprawled with gig posters and tickets. Elsewhere, clothes, memorabilia, instruments from Nick Mason, Edgar Broughton, Mark Rutherford and even a box of busted microphones (survivors from performances of ‘Headbutts’ by local hero John Otway) can be found. “We have our own archives, which is mainly tickets, handouts and posters,” reveals Stopps. “Then I contacted Toyah to see if she could lend us some costumes, which she kindly said she would. I contacted Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), who I know quite well, and he kindly lent us his “wave” drum kit, which is actually the same kit which he used at the Friars gig in 1969! It’s going off on Monday morning by courier as soon as the exhibition closes to a Pink Floyd exhibition in Milan which starts next week. Edgar Broughton kindly let us have his guitar, I contacted Stackridge and they let us have some stuff. [Free improvising saxophonist] Lol Coxhill’s wife helped me put together the exhibition booth around him, which I think is one of the highlights personally.”

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The dizzying list of Friars alumni and the glowing testimonials many have offered is impressive enough, but more than this the exhibition emphasises the seminal place Friars Music Club holds in music history. Friars quickly gained a reputation as an essential proving ground for bands to hit on tour and for picking up on bands before they broke into popular consciousness. Black Sabbath played just prior to the release of their debut album. Genesis honed their stagecraft there in the early days, with Steve Hackett remembering “there was a warmth and enthusiasm from the crowd that acted as a morale booster when other hearts were harder to conquer”. Even Rob Stringer, current CEO and Chairman of Columbia Records, started off as front of stage security at Friars: “When he was at the local grammar school he started working for us where he got into music really and has ended up going right to the top of the record business in America”.

Most notably, David Bowie premiered material from Hunky Dory during his first appearance at Friars on 25th September 1971. Three months later on 29th January 1972, Bowie returned with The Spiders From Mars and performed as Ziggy Stardust for the first time. The rest is history, and Bowie clearly recognised the pivotal role these shows at Friars played in his career when he texted Stopps hours before the exhibition’s opening night on 28th January. “Memories are everything apparently,” the text read “and I have only great ones of the fabulous Friars”. Remembering receiving the text Stopps says “I didn’t think it would be emotional, but it was and it was fabulous. Just a fabulous thing to get a few hours before we opened. I don’t think he does that for many people so it was particularly special coming from him”.

Friars kept its finger on the pulse of contemporary music and moved with the times, repeatedly proving its relevance in staging bands of the moment. As punk rose in the ‘70s Friars played host to MC5 in 1972 and Iggy Pop (with Bowie furtively appearing on keyboards) in early 1977, but it was when The Ramones played in May that year which punk truly arrived in Aylesbury. After a local campaign by Colin Keinch, The Ramones came to Friars on their tour with Talking Heads and delivered a blistering 45 minute set that fully kicked open the doors to the many punk and new wave acts that would play Friars. The Greatest Stiffs live showcase brought Ian Dury, Elvis Costello and Wreckless Eric later that year and the following year would see Friars put on their biggest open-air gig in Aylesbury’s Market Square, which saw local punk acts play to an estimated 20,000 people.

During the nationwide backlash against punk culture during the summer of 1978 when councils around the UK were putting bans on punk shows, Friars again showed their prescience by working with Aylesbury Vale District Council to bring The Clash to Aylesbury in June 1978. A strong relationship was forged with the band, who would return with The Slits in December 1978 and chose Friars for the opening night of the London Calling tour in January 1980. They would go on to play to 2,000 people at Friars biggest indoor event during the Combat Rock tour of 1982.

I asked David Stopps if there any performances which stick out as particularly memorable? “If I had to pick one it would be The Kinks [6th August, 1980, Maxwell Hall], that was just a phenomenal gig. To me they’re like the universal band: they’re a sixties pop group; they’re a punk band in their own sort of way because they’re all pretty edgy’ they’re a rock ’n’ roll band; and a folk group. They were everything, they were the universal band for me. Obviously the Bowie gigs stand out as being incredible and lots of others. The Ramones come to mind, particularly astonishing gigs. Kate and Anna McGarrigle were absolutely magical”.

Sadly in December 1984 Friars closed its doors due to financial difficulties and so 25 years of silence ensued. “When we stopped in 1984 I was surprised that nobody took it on and did their own thing along similar lines,” says Stopps. “But, nobody ever did and the venue was just sitting, it wasn’t like the venue closed or anything. There were a few concerts here and there between 1984 and 2009 that other people put on but, not many and I was quite disappointed that nobody sort of picked it up and ran with it. Now there’s quite a lot of local band activity at the moment which is encouraging and there are a lot of little venues putting on gigs again where a few years ago that wasn’t the case. So I’m reasonably encouraged about that”.

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When Friars fan Mike O’Connor started putting together a Friars Music Club website in 2007, David Stopps was astonished by the in-depth charting of the venue’s history and the interest the website generated. Inspired by his enthusiasm, Stopps and co. decided to resurrect Friars for a one-off gig in 2009 to celebrate its 40th birthday, which featured Friars veterans The Pretty Things, Edgar Broughton Band and The Groundhogs. The success of that gig lead to further shows from Stiff Little Fingers and Paul Weller, and Friars has continued ever since.

Since the demolition of Aylesbury Civic Centre in 2010, Friars has entered its fourth phase at the new Waterside Theatre where it lives on as select shows, which have seen the return of Friars veterans such as punk diehards The Buzzcocks, Aylesbury natives Marillion and a sell-out show by The Specials. Compared to previous venues Stopps says, “It’s different, it’s an evolution. The first venue was 400 capacity, the second one was 700, the third one was 1,250 and this one is 1700, so they’ve all gotten bigger as we’ve gone on. The Waterside is a very expensive venue to use and that’s always a big risk to put something on there, but in the old days it wasn’t so much of a risk. It was sort of make £100 or lose £100. But, now it’s very much more expensive and risky, so we don’t do so many shows now, but we are intending to do more in future. This year has been about the exhibition really, but we’re definitely going to be doing more shows.”

Fortunately, the intimacy and atmosphere of old which made Friars Music Club such a legendary venue seems to have survived intact. “That was what I was worried about, to be honest,” says Stopps, “If we’d ever get the old atmosphere back. But, when we came back in 2009 it was just magical, it was exactly the same as it used to be!”

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With interest in the club reignited by the exhibition, Friars Music Club are now looking to the future with a mixture of current and new bands to come. “Whilst we’ve been looking back since 2009, although Paul Weller is still pretty current in his own way, we are looking through to the new bands breaking through at the moment,” reveals Stopps.  “We were going to put on Bastille last year and they wanted to do it, we wanted to do it, but we just couldn’t find a date. We could see it coming before they had the hit single [Pompeii], it’s just such a shame we didn’t get them. But anyway, we’d like to think we’re still quite good at that but we’ll see!” Friars have lost none of their edge it seems, finger still on the pulse.

The exhibition had been scheduled to close on Saturday 5th July, but to celebrate its success Buckinghamshire County Museum have decided to specially open their doors on Sunday 6th July for a Special Final Day. “There are a lot of people coming, a lot of artists, a lot of music business people,” Stopps explains. “I shall be doing impromptu guided tours all day, get ten people together who are interested in a particular area and talk about that. Hopefully that will work and I’ll still be standing at the end of the day!”

Friars Aylesbury: The Local Music Club That Rocked The World runs until Sunday 6th July at Buckinghamshire County Museum. You can learn more about Friars Music Club here.

Photo credits: Mark Jordan, Martin Percival, Geoffrey Tyrell.

 

[It Was A Very Good Year]: The Best Of 2013

Well, 2013 is officially over, which means its time to cast an eye back over the year’s finest moments. There were so many albums I loved last year that they would easily fill up a top twenty, and even then there would be pushing and shoving. However, there can only be ten (for arbitrary reasons) and so with that in mind I have chosen the albums which impressed me most and continue to impress me long after luring me back for repeated listens. So, without further ado…

The Best Albums

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10. Kwes – ilp
On his hypnotising debut Kwes blends pop, ambient and electronic influences into a gluey fog of emotion that clings to you, giving it the deeply immersive quality of Portishead’s Dummy. While the understated melodies and blurred beats don’t immediately grab attention, it is the quiet confidence and kaleidoscopic nature of the music which is ilp’s strength. It will be interesting to see where he goes next.

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9. Julia Holter – Loud City Song
Not usually my thing, but there was something very compelling and mesmerising about Loud City Song which called me back for repeated listens and made me dig deeper each time. Each layer of Julia Holter’s avant-garde pop intrigues with moments of tension and release, forming dense collages of sound. Meanwhile, her flexible voice adopts different guises and moves eerily between seeming faint in the distance or uncomfortably close, as if you were listening to a radio which could tune into different rooms of a city.

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8. Charles Bradley – Victim of Love
After the overwhelming success of No Time For Dreaming, Charles Bradley’s debut at sixty-two, Victim of Love sees Bradley spreading his wings and finding his own (loud) voice. Aided by the capable Menahan Street Band, Bradley moves effortlessly between Temptations style psych-funk on ‘Confusion’ and ‘Love Bug Blues’, and slow-burning soul ballads on ‘Give Love A Chance’ and earnest album closer ‘Through The Storm’. It is an album brimming with gratitude and he gives as good as he gets (better, I’d argue).

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7. Jim James – Regions Of Sound And Light Of God
Jim James’s first out-and-out solo LP came up trumps, inspired by Lynd Ward’s Good Man and exploring themes of living life in an age cluttered by technology. Away from My Morning Jacket’s expanded alt. country, James blends genres to great effect from new-age rock ’n’ roll to electro-gospel. As ever though, at the centre of this extended sonic horizon is his cavernous voice, which sounds more than ever like a man sending messages into outer space.

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6. Eels – Wonderful, Glorious
No other album I heard this year was quite so aptly labeled, or half as fun. Wonderful, Glorious is the sound of E revelling in finally being in a band that can keep up with him, dishing up outrageous, scuzzy rock and gentle, mellow pop in the process. A golden slice of life affirming rock and roll!

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5. Josh Ritter – The Beast In Its Tracks
An album of dark nights and new mornings, The Beast In Its Tracks is the result of Josh Ritter retreating into songwriting to exorcise his demons from divorce, alcohol and insomnia. While much of the album sees Ritter happy in the arms of a new lover, songs like ‘Evil Eye’ and ‘Nightmares’ bounce along on cheerful melodies which disguise harrowing lyrics documenting his night terrors. Between bitterness and newfound happiness, Ritter evokes a long road to recovery experienced by many and perfectly captures the turning point onJoy To You Baby’. Ritter’s Blood On The Tracks? Possibly…

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4. Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt
Twenty-three years and ten albums in, Pearl Jam could be forgiven for showing signs of age. But, on Lightning Bolt they prove themselves to be as lean and hungry as ever, equally comfortable delivering full-throttle punk (‘Mind Your Manners’, ‘Lightning Bolt’) and gentle ballads (‘Yellow Moon’, ‘Sleeping By Myself’). The only signs of age are a mature perspective on love and mortality, with ‘Sirens’ seeing Eddie Vedder “overwhelmed by the grace with which we live our lives with death over our shoulders”. Lightning Bolt shows Pearl Jam ageing gracefully; still angry and still at the top of their game.

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3. Poliça – Shulamith
Hot on the heels of their critically acclaimed debut, Poliça build on its momentum with their difficult second album. The basic elements of echoing vocals, glacial synthesisers and effervescent percussion are still present, but Shulamith is more confrontational than its predecessor (much like its namesake, Shulamith Firestone). The music is less introverted; the synths are brutalising and the pulsing beats are feverish. Meanwhile, Channy Leanaegh’s vocals and lyrics, concerned with conflicts of identity in relationships, are direct and forthright. Rather than courting mainstream success, you get the sense that Shulamith is the sound of Poliça staying true to their beliefs.

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2. Anna Calvi – One Breath
Grander in scale, but more vulnerable than it’s predecessor. Anna Calvi still has a flair for the dramatic, but she seems to let down her guard more on One Breath, not letting the façade get in the way of expressing mortal frailty on the title track or brutal honesty on ‘Love Of My Life’. Calvi’s symphonic ambitions still remain intact on ‘The Bridge’ and ‘Sing To Me’ though, and that astounding voice continues to grip the imagination, even when it is but a barely audible whisper.

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1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
With the departure of guitarist Mick Harvey in 2009, Nick Cave’s right-hand man for nearly thirty years, the sound of the next Bad Seeds record seemed uncertain. As a result, the Bad Seeds embrace disarmingly minimal and intimate soundscapes on Push The Sky Away, focusing on textural instrumentation and contemplative lyrics delivered with conviction by Cave. The album looks both backwards and forwards on the band’s legacy, with the cataclysmic ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ seeming an answer to their ‘Abattoir Blues’ prophesied nine years earlier, while the spiritual communion of ‘We No Who U R’ and personal mantra ‘Push The Sky Away’ gesture to the artistic boundaries which they continue to push and transcend.

The Best EP

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Sampha – Dual
A genre defying EP; part electronic and hip-hop, part soul and singer-songwriter. While Morden based musician/producer, Sampha Sisay, has been lending his skills to high-profile artists such as Jessie Ware, SBTRKT and Drake, here on his second solo EP he shows that he kept the best ideas for himself. The songs themselves, based around Sampha’s soulful vocals and commanding piano melodies, are accomplished and would make enjoyable listening by itself. However, the extra layers he constructs on these solid basics indicate a measured artistry and that Sampha has a clear direction in mind. Brief interludes such as ‘Demons’ and ‘Hesitant Oath’ brim with creative enthusiasm and give the EP a cohesiveness which is missing from many full-length releases, while the intricate composition of clipped samples that weave in and out of the ‘live’ instrumentation keeps Dual unpredictable and imbues it with a compelling sense of depth. And yet for all its intricacy Dual still manages to sound pared down to its lean essentials, with no flab or unnecessaries attached. Evocative and simply captivating.

The Best Single

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David Bowie – ‘Where Are We Now?’
Released silently on Bowie’s birthday in January, ‘Where Are We Now?’ announced the Dame’s return to recording as the leading single to The Next Day. In many ways indicative of the album’s musical introspectiveness, evoking and pastiching the diverse phases of Bowie’s career, ‘Where Are We Now?’ is the quintessential post-Bowie Bowie song. While only four minutes long, the song’s sweeping scale and slow-burning energy feels like a lifetime condensed into a single moment, as Bowie casts a forlorn backward glance at his Berlin days. Over twenty years after the fall of the Berlin wall things have changed yet remain the same, as old names and places spark memories and are filled with hurrying people crossing their fingers as they traverse busy intersections “just in case”. In the midst of the commotion which leads us nowhere, a childlike Bowie finds some solace and resolve to carry on in a few fundamentals: “As long as there’s sun, as long as there’s rain, as long as there’s fire, as long as there’s me, as long as there’s you”.

The Biggest Surprise

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Apart from Beyoncé dropping a killer pop album unannounced, Miley Cyrus’s twerktastic antics sparking mass debate on female autonomy in the music business and the early release of Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, probably the single piece of news that caused widespread shock and disarray across the music world was the sudden death of Lou Reed on 27th October. Lou died of liver disease at the age of 71, having undergone a liver transplant earlier in the year, and I guess the reason his death came as such a shock was that his body had been through so much abuse that people expected him to be one of the few things to survive a nuclear armageddon, along with the cockroaches and Keith Richards. Black humour aside, the effect Lou’s songs had on music and peoples’ lives is immeasurable and his sudden death took many off-guard as they realised there would never be another like him. So rest in peace, Lou, this satellite has gone way up to Mars.

What were your best music moments of 2013? Let me know in the comments below.

— Elements of The Best Albums appear in extracted form over at Hercules Moments.

[Cover Me]: Arcade Fire, Elliott Smith and Cowboy Junkies

 Arcade Fire – Queen Bitch (Originally by David Bowie)

Today Arcade Fire released their sprawling fourth album, Reflektor, and if like me you have recently been grooving to the lead single of the same name you will undoubtedly have noticed the heavy David Bowie influence on the track. ‘Reflektor’ masterfully synthesises choice elements from Bowie’s catalogue from Station to Station through to Outside to create a paranoid-dancehall anthem that sounds as if it were beamed from an alternate future where the Eastern bloc is still in effect, aided not least by the man himself on guest vocals and production from Bowie disciple, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem fame. Arcade Fire pull it off with style, but their earlier Bowie impressions were not always so accomplished. Their early, admirable take on the glam rock anthem ‘Queen Bitch’ points clearly to their musical inspiration for the riff on ‘Wake Up’, but does not little else besides. However, Bowie is always a tough nut to crack, so with the best of intentions the Montreal/Texas collective deliver a rollicking rendition that deserves to take home the bronze at the very least. (Please excuse the interminable screaming on the recording, I couldn’t find a better copy.)

Elliott Smith – ‘All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down’ (Originally by Hank Williams Jr.)

It has been ten years since Elliott Smith’s mysterious and tragic death, an end which has cast a long shadow over his recordings since. Probably known best for several contributions made to the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, much has been mythologised about him and much is made of the sadness. But, these are poor characterisations of a person who made light melodies of their personal demons and whose black sense of humour is often overlooked or misunderstood. With that in mind, I’ve decided to accentuate the positive by choosing this ramshackle cover of Hank William Jr.’s ‘All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down’, found on the Live at Largo EP which accompanies Autumn de Wilde’s portrait book, Elliott Smith. This idiosyncratic cover of a country song is a fun tune and is a great insight into the loving relationship Smith had with his audience. You can hear Smith audibly cracking up as he sings (and messes up) the song and the crowd laughing along with him. You can practically hear the grin on his face as he asks at the song’s close, “So, you guys doing okay? You weren’t thrown off by my fuck up? ‘Cause there’s more in store!”

Cowboy Junkies – ‘Sweet Jane’ (Originally by The Velvet Underground)

This cover has been on my list for a while, and the unfortunate announcement yesterday of Lou Reed’s death at the age of 71 seems to make this an appropriate moment to feature this tribute. ‘Sweet Jane’ was one of Reed’s favourites from his own compositions and he included it regularly in live sets from 1969 until his death. The song has been through many variations, from upbeat pop strummer on the Loaded album to solo heavy glam-rock in some live renditions. This version by Cowboy Junkies, which most will recognise from Oliver Stones’s Natural Born Killers, is based on the slower version from 1969: The Velvet Underground Live! and takes full advantage of the natural reverb in the church in Toronto where they recorded their second album, The Trinity Session. The lazy strumming and sluggish bass line perfectly complement Margo Timmins’s drawn out delivery of each line until the break where her voice soars above them and lifts the song up. And what did Reed think of it? He told BBC Radio 4 in 2007 that it is “the best and most authentic version I have ever heard.” High praise from a man whose work will be played with as much excitement in one hundred years time as it was on the day it was first unleashed.

[Interview]: Mike Frankel of Merchbox

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There seem to be a lot of subscription delivery services these days. From healthy snacks to dog treats and all points in between, whatever you fancy arriving on your doorstep once a month, there’s probably a subscription service for it. But, nothing sounds better to the folks at Hercules Moments than a box chock-full of music-related goodies (with a few oddball trinkets thrown in for good measure), tailored specifically for you. With Merchbox, that’s exactly what you get, all for $10 a month (+ shipping), or $20/about £13 if you don’t live in the US. We caught up with Merchbox guru and all-round nice fella, Mike Frankel, to find out more.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thanks for taking the time, really appreciate it! Me? I’m addicted to startups and music.
What music are you currently enjoying?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Motown recently. As far as new music, I created a playlist of current artists that have Manhattan neighbourhoods in their band name. Ludlow Thieves, Bowery Riots, Nolita Knights, etc. Sonically, it’s not the most strategic way to organise a playlist, but on some level, it works.
What was the first record you ever bought?
I wish I could say it was something cool like London Calling from The Clash, or Rocket to Russia by The Ramones. Truth is, it was Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morrisette. It was the ’90s, don’t judge me.
Which do you prefer: MP3, CD or Vinyl?
Artwork is a huge part of the music experience, and I think vinyl highlights that. It’s a completely inconvenient medium though. I think CDs are a great way to discover new music because they’re relatively convenient, and still provide a visual experience.
We love the idea of Merchbox over here at Hercules Moments. How did Merchbox start? Where did you get the idea from?
I ended up in a college dorm a few months ago (don’t ask), and noticed how different it looked from when I was in school (which wasn’t too long ago). There were no posters on the wall, CDs on the shelves, books on the desk. No stuff. It was sterile. Everything needed was on a laptop or phone. Definitely convenient, but kind of boring. I came up with Merchbox as a way to get tangible entertainment back into people’s lives.
You also run FreeIndie with your friend Alex, so you must be a pretty busy guy. How many of you work on Merchbox?
Yeah, and I also help run Wreckroom Records. Very busy. I have two other people who help out with Merchbox. The reason I’m able to do so much is because of my great team.
Could you tell us a bit more about Wreckroom Records?
Wreckroom is a singles label. Each week we team up with an up-and-coming artist, produce a studio track, film a live video, and then put it up online for people to enjoy. We have an awesome team – the label was founded by Adrian Grenier, and includes Giraffes guitarist Damien Paris, and an incredible young gun engineer, Brian Koerber. Really proud of what we’ve done there.
Looking at some of the Merchbox on Tumblr, there seems to be quite an eclectic mix of goodies you throw in there. Could you describe what goes into the average Merchbox?
If you like getting presents and discovering new artists, just imagine what an ideal package would look like. That’s a typical Merchbox.
Where do you get the items from? Some of those knick-knacks look hard to source.
Very hard to source, but that’s part of the fun. We love to throw in some vintage throwback items, and finding those in bulk is tough. However, they’re out there.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start up a service like yours?
Don’t. I don’t want any competitors. Makes my life harder.
Finally, what would go into your ideal Merchbox?
Good question. A vinyl David Bowie album, a CD from an awesome band I’ve never heard of before, a Clash button, and a piece of the wall from CBGBs.
So if you fancy receiving some Merchbox goodies in the post, get yourselves signed up here. N.B. Pieces of walls not included (probably).
Originally posted on Hercules Moments.