Long overdue, a heartfelt blog about one of my favourites past-times, 'Church-ing', not a sexual deviance though, who knows, give it time.
Anyway, 'Churching' in various 'Churches', aka the 'Music & Video Exchanges', scattered around London's Notting Hill, Camden, Greenwich & Soho is so called after Eddy Temple-Morris & I coined the term from its spiritual/worship word-associations when we used to go and 'pray' religiously to our DJ/Vinyl Junkie-dom obsession nearly every Sunday afternoon before or after Xfm's 'Remix' show which I used to produce and co-present. We paid homage to 'Church' in this article, 'Church Of The Precious Find', (reproduced at end of this blog), now it's time to revisit:-
I've spent far too much time flitting in between the various chapels over the last 20 years, I clearly remember my first baptism when I went with my best friend Eddie B under recommendation from his brother. Bob Dylan droned away in the upstairs Notting Hill branch and I hazily recall snapping up some 80's 12"s like F.G.T.H. and possibly Eugene Wilde's 'Got To Get You Home Tonight' (!), loving the initial bargain basement vibe, even though we were actually on the 2nd floor!
Now you don't just have to dig for tunes in 'Church' then buy them, oh no, it's far more exciting than that. You have the option to purge yourself by selling all your unwanted CDs, DVDs, Vinyl, even books/comics/magazines, clothes, bric-a-brac, home interior stuff too. Provided you have 2 forms of identification, you will be made a cash offer for your goods or double that cash amount in MVE 'Vouchers' to spend in MVE shops. Man, if I was Prime-Minister, I'd scrap the euro and bring in the 'v' immediately.
I've had endless hours of fun selling stuff in exchange for things I've wanted and as much fun getting a 2nd hand (sorry!) experience from watching others schlepping in their goods to then receive the holy thunderbolt of an unexpected offer, far lower than they ever expected. "Wot, each?" I've heard numerous souls hoarsely cry in front of a high pile of vinyl they've almost collapsed bringing in when told bluntly that "It'll be £2 cash, £4 in exchange."
(More often than not, an offer is preceded with the staff member's deep sigh/intake of breath coupled with the immortal, "To be honest mate......ADD OFFER HERE")
You can't be too generous as an MVE buyer otherwise you won't get the job or you'll possibly lose it (the job). Sarcastic humour is rife so that if you can't laugh about it on the receiving end of a suprisingly low offer - take your own deep breath.....maybe try a Jedi mind trick and refuse the offer & take the stuff away - you will incur wrath, almost guaranteed.
Adam & Joe parodied the whole 'Church' experience brilliantly here or on their DVD and Nick Hornby's 'High Fidelity' was unquestionably inspired by the British 'MVE' phenomena/culture, despite the film adaptation being US-centric. Yes, I've been to some moody record joints on New York's Bleecker but they're not a patch on MVE UK's dark, broody ill humour vibe; without a doubt, it's a London ting!
To me, 'Church' is like, what Manhattan's 'Video Archives' was to Tarantino, a 'temporary autonomous zone' of sorts where you go to indulge in your chosen geekdom, trancing out in a flow, digging for random, rare tunes and/or selling off 'waste' that has gathered too much dust in your home. The difference though re: me & Tarantino is that I've never worked in any MVE shops, despite customers repeatedly mistaking me for a staff member, asking for help in finding Radiohead, anything 'Hoxton', 'Krautrock', 'Breakbeat Garage' or the 'Gothic Trance' section - maybe when one day, when I retire.
Recently though, I have felt like an honorary staff member, often allowed a sacred, privileged 'chiselling' through fresh stuff bought in from journalists, DJs, desperados, crack addicts and people who need to see more daylight etc.
I actually suggested some sort of VIP membership, you know pay a few vouchers for 1st looks before stuff's put out, like a film pre-screening or art gallery preview.
I could probably write a book on all those personal 'Church' experiences (e.g. once being offered 1P for a table I took to bric-a-brac branch, selling in a toaster to 'Dance' branch as they needed it there and then) and numerous '2nd hand' (sorry again!) quips & trials, watching others dealt the killer blow after presenting their wares; it's really the amazing array of characters both staff and frequent customers that add true colour to this pop-culture painting.
Staff wise, untold props to Sean P (check his class compilations here and here), Bronx Dogs Rich, 'Avin It Nick, James Thornington, Dick, Mark & Debbie in rarities, Stage & Screen's Guy, Rob & Andy, the numerous Grahams, Howard, Jack, Jamie, Hicksy, Michael, Tony, Simon, Steve, Sid, Paul Kirman, Johnny (x2), Zak, Jason, Laurence, Leon, Rino, Ben, Richie, James Bull (the king!), Roy, Mick & Alan - the Subway Massive + all those past troopers over the years who I've forgotten to namecheck from slow-dying brain cell memory.
Non-staffers: MVE love to Dele Fadele (top NME scribe & vocalist extra-ordinaire - check him on a Peter Sartedt cover of 'Where Do You Go To My Lovely?' from 1992 'Ruby Trax' compilation), Fresh, Stuart and again, numerous recognizable faces but alas, forgotten names.
Church's Don Corleone is Brian Abrams, respect this man for his work and concept!! His daughter Ruth, with stunning piercing blue eyes worked alongside me at MTV for a short term and close friends urged me to marry her, not for the religious wedding in a real 'Church', no, marry her because of her father-in-law, "You'd be in heaven, heir to the holy hotspots."
Electrical Church recently closed down, maybe because of the 'charged' atmosphere in there, at times like Pulp Fiction's gimp scene - one staff member was so calmly motionless yet aggressive, no messing!! And rumour has it that back in the day, for a short time only, there was a food 'church' - just couldn't see it lasting: "I've got some stuff to sell, like this half bottle of Evian, hamburgers but they've been re-sealed, legs of lamb, oh and this should up the offer, some caviar."
Like those commemorative blue plaques around London, I reached 'Church' immortality recently, not only by not having to provide 2 forms of ID when selling stuff but some sarky staffers took artwork from my James Bond/007 Mix-CD and adorned the Berwick St. walls (pictured above). I felt so proud with ammended phrases to the cover text which had changed from 'James Hyman - Licence To Ill' into such glowing praise e.g. "Likes To Rim", "Cretin, licks the balls", "Makes You Ill" etc. All that's left, like the original article said is to get 'Church' as a verb into the Oxford English Dictionary.
As I journeyed to Berwick St. Church today I snapped this dude (above), maybe my doppelganger or a future mirror image when I'm 'Churched' out! Check him holding this Scanner/Tuner gadget, such a Gene Hackman/The Conversation vibe!!
UPDATE - 20 MARCH 2006
Genius letter sent in to Time Out (issue no.1834: March 1-8/2006) by Phil Pessera:
UPDATE - 11 MAY 2006
Like the classic Garage toon, "It just gets better" with, judging by this photo, the advent of 'FOOD CHURCH' (!) People would never believe me when I told them this existed years & years ago. Apparently you can only use vouchers/cash to buy food, obviously not to sell stuff in (!) I mean imagine the scenarios: "I'm looking for the exchange on half a bottle of Evian & this unused packet of mince" (!) or "Do I get more if I can prove there's no salmonella?" "Can you give me an offer on this apple, unopened jar of pickles etc. etc.?"
James Hyman's Blog, recommended in today's Guardian Guide:
We'll instantly pay back the props & big up 'The Guide' - perfectly pulped Pop Culture Pop written by, and for those truly in the know.
The essential weekly digest of TV, Radio, Film, Clubs, Internet, Arts, Books etc.
I've briefly banged on about the legend that be 'Steinski' before, here. To ram the point home - when it comes to Bastard Pop/Mash-ups, sampling, cut-up, early crucial blueprints to hip-hop, all roads lead to Steve Stein & of course Double Dee too, with their Tommy Boy Records 'History Of Hip-Hop - Lessons 1-3'.
I met Steinksi once, early 90s at a gig in Wood Green, put on by his UK proteges/counterparts, Coldcut for an embryonic Ninja Tune night, where PC (one half of DJ Food), was DJ-ing and Stein just calmly commented, "Gee, he's really playing the breaks tonight". We stayed in touch and did talk about doing some work together on the Suzie Gold soundtrack.
Anyway, this MonkeyFunk interview I came across via Beatmixed is digital dope; bizarrely the real gem in it, is the mention + link to a surreal voice-over session with Tom Baker (voice-over king e.g. Little Britain & Dr. Who etc.), it's all about the out-takes!!!
......Disneyland celebrates its 50th anniversary. Cheers for not inviting Dave Macpherson (below), the 1st paying guest all those years ago:
Back from a relaxing sun-baked holiday in Israel (as seen in photo-strips below).
Caught up with my old friend Guy (pictured above & previously name checked here).
Guy lives with wife & 2 kids in an eye-opening ultra-orthodox area, Bnei Brak. I spent a considerable amount of time hanging out in Bnei Brak's hood (!) as an onlooker clocking a parallel universe, sweltering in the sun but frozen in time. I truly admire Guy's balanced focused, devout devotion to the continued learning of religious study and family - his bible? The Torah, Mine? Popular Culture!!
Guy lent me 'The Path Of The Just' to read. I dipped in and found it terrifying yet thrilling with its detailed scriptures that outline a super-strict way of life, leading to ultimate spirituality.
I read another incredible spiritual book on holiday, James Frey's 'A Million Little Pieces'. If you've ever faced personal addiction (booze, drugs, sex, food etc.) or known an addict close to you, this book will have you hooked, start to finish. In short, 23 year old James Frey has practically shattered his mind & body into 'A Million Little Pieces' and enters rehab to rebuild his life.
The book initially reminded me of J.D. Salinger's 'Catcher In The Rye' and Spencer's blog (which I stumbled across in the Guardian Guide). Soon however it was like print PCP. I could relate to so many of the experiences in this memoir, the raging 'Fury', compulsions, 12 steps etc. Overall the author's constant detailed stream of consciousness is so staggeringly real, raw & acutely accurate; each aching emotion (from the excrutiating to the euphoric) had me gripped right to the last dot.
The IMDB geeks are already salivating over cast & music etc. for the up-and-coming film adaptation. I can't wait. Make-up will obviously be key too & with regard to 'Music Supervision'; I'm brimming with 'score' & 'source' suggestions - get in touch Laurence or James if you pick this up whilst googling.
Wolff's research, insight & 1st hand involved observations on the biz and its media titans like Rupert Murdoch, Barry Diller, Michael Eisner, is a raucous rollercoasting ride packed with humour, madness and heaps of hype. Like Matt Groening's 'Simpsons' parody of Murdoch, Wolff almost bites the hand that feeds with his brave strong open opinions on the 'M' man himself.
And like the New Yorker bloke, Russell Jones, who kept getting mistaken for rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard or Dave Gorman tracking down all the other Dave Gorman's round the world, I laughed out loud in chapter 9 ('More Michaels') where author Michael Wolff describes the confusion and meeting his namesake, 'Michael Wolf':
"Our names and mutual media interest have thoroughly linked us. I get his mail and telephone calls and get asked to make his television appearances. People I don't know call me in the hopes that I will tell them how they can turn their businesses into media plays. We may, of course, be helping each other - each expanding the other's brand. Once, when I unraveled the confusion on one television show - that it was not me they wanted but the other Michael Wolf(f) - the producer said I would do anyway. A McKinsey competitor took me to lunch to suggest that I ought to work with them because then we could get some of the business that the other Michael Wolf(f) was getting, which would be fair because he was getting business because people thought he was me."
Media moves at a mighty pace and even though this book hit my radar late, so much of Wolff's intelligent thoughts are still pertinent and sharp; strange there's no mention of video games whatsoever. Anyway, boy is Chapter 15 'Unreal Property' a doozie, taking a look a swift look at the music business and 'file-sharing':
"It's easy to understand why for the movie and music guys it's primal-scream time. They maintained a very basic relationship with the consumer - we make, you buy - which suddenly was messed up, not least of all by the media empires to which the movie and music business belonged........
......There'll still be some big hits (Celine Dion is Stephen King), but even if you're fairly high up on the music-business ladder, most of your time, which you'd previously spent with megastars, will be spent with mid-list stuff. Where before you'd be happy only at gold and platinum levels, soon you'll be grateful if you have a release that sells 30,000 or 40,000 units - that will be your bread and butter. You'll sweat every sale and dollar. Other aspects of the business will also contract - most of the perks and largesse and extravagance will dry up completely. The glamour, the influence, the youth, the hipness, the hookers, the drugs - gone. Instead it will be a low-margin, consolidated, quaintly anachronistic business, catering to an aging clientele, without much impact on an otherwise thriving culture awash in music that only incidentally will come from the music industry.
This glum (if also quite funny) fate is surely the result of compounded management errors - know-nothingness as well as foolishness and acting-out (suing college kids). But it's way larger too. Management solutions in the music business have, rightly, given way to a pure, no-exit kind of fatalism.
It's all pain. It's all breakdown. Music-business people, heretofore among the most self-satisfied and self-absorbed people of the age are suddenly interesting, informed, even ennobled, as they become fully engaged in the subject of their own demise. Producers, musicians, marketing people, agents...they'll tlak you through what's happened to their business - it's part B-school case study and part Pilgrim's Progress.
Radio and rock and roll have had the most remarkable symbiotic relationship in media - the synergy that everybody has tried to re-create in media conglomerates. Radio got free content; music labels got free promotion.
Radio's almost effortless cash flow and mon-and-pop organization, made it ripe for consolidation, which began in the mid-eighties and was mostly completed as soon as Congress removed virtually all ownership limits in 1996. A handful of companies now control nearly the entirety of U.S. radio, with Clear Channel and its more than 1,200 stations being the undisputed Death star.
Radio, heretofore ad hoc and eccentric and local, underwent a transformation in which it became formatted, rational and centralized. Its single imperative was to keep people from moving the dial - seamlessness became the science of radio.
The music business suddenly had to start producing music according to very stringent (if unwritten) commercial guidelines. Format became law. Everything had to sound the way it was supposed to sound. Fungibility was king. Familiarity was the greatest virtue.
Once Sheryl Crow was an established hit, the music business was compelled to offer up and endless number of Sheryl Crow imitators. Then when the Sheryl Crow imitators became a reliable radio genre, Sheryl Crow was compelled to imitate them. But then, just as radio playlists become closely regulated, the Internet appears. File sharing replaced radio as the engine of music culture.
It wasn't just that it was free music - radio offered free music. But whatever you wanted was free, whenever you wanted it. The Internet is music consumerism run amok, resulting not only in billions of dollars of lost sales but in an endless bifurcation of taste. The universe fragmented into subuniverses, and then sub-subiniverses. The music industry, which depends on large numbers of people with similar interests for its profit margins, now had to deal with an ever-growing number of fans with increasingly diverse and eccentric interests.
It is hard to think of a more profound business crisis. You've lost control of the means of distribution, promotion, and manufacturing. You've lost quality control - in some sense, there's been a quality-control coup. You've lost your basic business model - what you sell has become as free as oxygen.
For a long while, the management response at the major labels had a weird combination of denial and foot stomping: putting Napster out of business - then sort-of/sort-of-not buying Napster - all the while being told by everybody who know anything about technology that no matter what the music industry does or who it sues, music will be, inevitably, free. Duh. There is, too, a management critique - perhaps most succintly put by Don Henley in his now infamous post-Grammy letter wherein he quoted Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles: "Gentlemen, gentlemen! We've got to protect our phoney baloney jobs!" - that sees record labels as generally engaged in the uusual practive of ripping off anyone who can be ripped off while remaining oblivious to the fact that Rome is burning.
It's a spreadsheet solution. There will continue to be a market for selling music; however diminished - but it will have to be cheaper music. Margins will shrink even more. Accordingly, costs will have to shrink. Spending a few million to launch an act will shortly be a thing of the past.
And then there is the CD theory. This theory is widely accepted - with great pride, in fact - in the music industry. It represents the ultimate music-biz hustle. But its implications are seldom played out.
The CD theory holds that the music business actually died about twenty years ago. It was revived without anyone knowing it had actually died because compact-disc technology came along and everybody had to replace what they'd bought for the twenty years prior to the advent of the CD.
The music business, this theory acknowledges, is about selling technology as much as music. From Mono to Stereo to Walkman. It just happens that the next stage of technological development in the music business has largely excluded the music business itself.
The further implication, though, might be the more interesting and painful one: You can't depend on just the music.
Howard Stringer, interviewed by Heilemann during lunch on the subject of file sharing and the future of the music business, was a world-weary presence. He had come out of the news business and risen through the ranks of network television and found himself on top of an anomalous media empire as chairman of Sony America. Sony had been slated to take over the media world a generation or so ago, but had faltered when it realized it had paid too dearly for what it had bought, and then when the Japanese economy fell apart, and finally when it learned that all of this hardware-software-cross-platform synergy was, relatively speaking, bunk.
And even here, it was amusing to hear Stringer on the irony of Sony America's reverse synergy - Sony, with its myriad listening devices, actualy benefited from people stealing music. Although Stringer too said it was a terrible, terible thing that college kids everywhere were stealing all this stuff, and obviously felt compelled to play the stern father, he also, I would bet, got the joke.
Respec' etc. to Wolff and his gonzo approach to this novel, suprised this guy's not more of a mighty-morphin' Media Mogul himself after reading this book, he ought to be.
Final bit of holiday media consumption was 'Hostage', Bruce Willis doing 'Die Hard' again for the die-hard fans. A no-brainer fun mash-up of film styles and influences, 'Hostage' went from 'Panic Room' to 'Scream' with the final stages going Western. Big up to the Trent Reznor look-a-like spurned boyfriend baddy!!! (played by Ben Foster who's just been cast as 'Angel' in X-Men 3).
Radio ad. here:
James Hyman DJ-ing tonight @ Boujis; sorry for short notice!
James G's just reminded me about Google Earth, so to quote him/our speak: "absolutely f%^ing tearing...THE BIGGEST BIG UP TO DA SPACE RINSE MASSIVE. U BET THE WORLDS TERRORISTS ARE LAUGHING IT UP TO....NUFF URBAN WARFARE PLANNING BIZNEZZ".
On another digital digging tip, like Blinkx, simply loving 'Yahoo!'s Video Search'. Tried it with 'The Beatles' to see how it'd help for a 2 hour Xfm Rinse Beatles special 1-off radio transmission; it make the bass & boy it's banging!!
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