Home Geek LifeCulture Vinyl Me, Please April Edition: The Stooges – The Stooges (John Cale Mix)

Vinyl Me, Please April Edition: The Stooges – The Stooges (John Cale Mix)

by Patrick Phillips

Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives. With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club, it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month … in their living room.

The Skinny

Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (plans start at $25/month) and they send you one carefully selected album they feel is an Essential addition to any record collection. Yes, it’s every bit as easy as it sounds. And each custom pressing (often on colored wax!) also comes with killer special features like original artwork, informative booklets, or even a recipe for a companion cocktail. You’ll have membership privileges in the VMP store too, which means you can grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including February’s immaculate Classics re-issue of Aretha Franklin’s Aretha Now – not to mention a bevy of rare releases pressed exclusively for the folks at Vinyl Me, Please. The store is open, and Team VMP are dropping fresh new selections to their stock every single week. Do not miss out.

Word to the wise, while the store is open to the public, most of its more covet-worthy stock is only available to members, so membership definitely has its rewards. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP pick you don’t like for a past AOM (or other VMP Exclusive pressings) that’s a little more your speed. My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do yourself a favor and sign up today.

What’s on tap for April? Nothing short of a FIRST EVER PRESSING of the fabled John Cale Mix of The Stoogies self-titled debut … which is a bit of a holy f**k sort of release if I don’t say so myself.  

Yep, had to go ahead and add on the Classics track for April, ’cause nothing says “F you” to quarantine like a box containing albums from Otis Redding and The Stooges.

For the Love of Music, Please DO NOT BEND (or, how I learned that it’s actually possible to make a perfect album even better)

The audible gasp you just heard was, in fact, me. And you heard it because, well, Vinyl Me, Please quite literally delivered a dream of a box for me this week … one packed with killer albums from two artists who transformed the way I listened to music. And if you’ve gleaned anything from my incessant writings with these VMP unboxings, its that given the choice between two records I desperately want to add to my collection, odds are I’m gonna scoop them both up.

Only one of those records earned the Essentials seal of approval this month, however, and I really cannot argue with Team VMP for choosing The Stooges self-titled debut, ’cause it’s as vital a document of rock & roll history as early Elvis recordings, or late-in-the-game Beatles records. Between you and me and a tree, The Stooges is a record that I’ve revisited too many times to count since I first discovered it many moons ago. So much so that I’ve come to know virtually every frenzied guitar riff, punishing drum beat, and primal howl vocal by heart. Don’t even get me started on the album’s frantically flowing bass lines.

Truth is, I’ve also owned a pristine copy of the album for a few years now. But my jaw still dropped to the floor when Vinyl Me, Please announced The Stooges as their April Essentials pick. And that’s because they’d somehow scored the rights to release a FIRST EVER pressing of the fabled John Cale Mix of the album, which I’d never had a chance to listen to anywhere.

Now, for those of you who don’t know what that means, or who John Cale is, I’ll try and give you the Cliff’s Notes version. First and foremost, I’ll tell you John Cale is an experimental singer/songwriter/producer who’s been working in the music scene for over five decades. He was also a founding member of the legendary indie rock outfit The Velvet Underground, which means he was at the forefront of the musical avant-garde in the ’60s. Cale’s time with the The Velvet Underground unfortunately came to an abrupt end in ’68, at which time he started focusing on releasing his own albums, and working more frequently as a producer to up-and-coming bands with edge.

If you know anything about The Stooges, you know Iggy, Dave, Ronnie, and Scotty had edge to burn. The idea of John Cale working with The Stooges on their debut record would seem like little more than proto-punk fan-fiction if it hadn’t actually happened circa 1969. Charged with focusing the band’s relentlessly loud, wild experimental sound into something Elektra Records could release to the public, Cale instead captured Iggy and the boys at their rawest, and put together a mix of The Stooges that was at once Velvet Underground-ish, and something fiercely primal that had never really been heard before.

Cale’s mix of the album was, naturally, deemed “unreleasable” by the folks at Elektra, and unceremoniously rejected. The label then tasked Iggy with retooling and re-sequencing the album into something they could sell. What he delivered is the brooding beast of an album most Stooges fans have been listening to for the better part of the past five decades. And most of those fans would argue Iggy’s version of The Stooges is damn near flawless.

To be clear, I’m actually one of those fans. Luckily, Cale’s mix of The Stooges wasn’t outright destroyed after its rejection, and through no minor effort, actually survived more or less in hiding all these years. For the record, I can tell you that listening to The Stooges (John Cale Mix) is akin to hearing the album for the first time again. More than that, it’s hearing what might actually be a better version of the album Stooges fans have been drooling over for decades.

Cale’s song sequencing is a big part of that, to be certain. His use of The Stooges iconic porto-punk anthem “I Wanna Be Your Dog” as an album closer proves a particularly inspired choice, as do other minor shifts here and there. More succinctly, the way Cale presents each song on The Stooges stands in such stark contrast to the prior versions, it legitimately feels like you’ve never heard them before, including the band’s crunchy-as-f**k rocker “No Fun,” which stands as one of my five favorite songs of all time. And Cale’s drone and reverb-heavy cut of the psychedelic black hole that is “We Will Fall” will prove nothing short of transcendent for those who dwell in the darker corners of psychedelia.

Suffice it to say, “1969” remains one one of the greatest album openers in the history of music as well. Likewise, The Stooges remains one of the most daring rock records ever recorded. If you already knew that, please know that if you haven’t listened to VMP’s John Cale Mix version of The Stooges, I wouldn’t hesitate to say you actually haven’t heard The Stooges at all.

Cover Matters

There’s a lot to be said about keeping an album cover simple. The original cover of The Stooges groundbreaking self-titled debut is a prime case in point. You might’ve noticed, however, that this is not the original cover of The Stooges. It is, in fact, a Vinyl Me, Please exclusive cover variant. That being said, it also wisely keeps things simple with Iggy and the boys just sort of hangin tough. Though they do look a bit more in down and dirty vogue on the back cover.

Now, as we’re exploring a variant cover, you’ll want to take a moment to check a few of the alternate details, like the shiny new John Cale Mix denotation in the title.

As The Stooges is very much an Essential release from Team Vinyl Me, Please, you’ll want to take note of the stamp declaring as much on the back cover.

And just in case there were any doubt, you’ll want to check out this fancy hype sticker which will tell you exactly why Vinyl Me, Please’s The Stooges is the definitive pressing of the album.

How’s about we get on with the show, eh? Sure, sure, sure. But first let’s have a gander hat the super slick OBI strip wrapped around the sleeve of our shiny new VMP copy of The Stooges, because there’s some vital stats there to absorb. Like the album name, band name, and Vinyl Me, Please catalogue number.

There’s also a few choice words about why The Stooges (John Cale Mix) made the cut as a Vinyl Me, Please Essential selection. Not that you should need any convincing.

And, of course, if you’re the sort who likes to indulge in an adult beverage while getting down, there’s a recipe for The Stooges companion cocktail. It’s got a Scotch base, so chances are good it’ll be supremely tasty treat.

Now before you go digging too deep into this month’s box, be sure you don’t overlook this killer little vinyl-centric sticker from Team VMP, ’cause it’s pretty damn slick. It also happens to perfectly sum up the current state of record buying.

As I mentioned a while back, VMP’s pressing of The Stooges comes with an exclusive variant cover. But for all you punk purists out there, this month’s album inspired art print is actually the O.G. cover art straight from the Estate of Mr. Joel Brodsky.

I know, I know – art prints, cover variants, and adorable stickers are all well and good, but you’ve all come here to get a look at that gorgeous slab of wax inside Vinyl Me, Please’s April box. Alas, there’s still the matter of The Stooges‘ brilliantly printed inner sleeve to contend with. And trust me, you’ll want to take a few beats to gaze upon the band in their rapidly rotting salad days. Also, there’s a few review blurbs of the album from the time of its release – not to mention the story of how the John Cale Mix survived all these years.

There’s also a credits list of folks who did the heavy lifting on bringing this mix to the masses. Yes, the great Bernie Grundman was indeed involved.

Anyway, if you were worried about the wax inside, fear not, ’cause it’s a smoky-red stunner.

Pro tip: you’ll want to hold it up to the light for the full effect.

Also, dig that old school Elektra Records label.

Unfortunately, you don’t get quite that effect when said disc is placed on your deck. But those of you with one of those sexy, clear-acrylic platters are probably in heaven with this one.

How’s it sound? Filthy and furious and psychedelic and experimental in ways that heavy music simply wasn’t in 1969. Which essentially makes it a pitch-perfect Stooges album, even if this John Cale Mix doesn’t quite sound like any other Stooges album in existence.

Give It a Spin

I realize I’ve done a fair amount of preaching in these unboxings about the Essential tag not always applying to one album or another. I’ve also taken the “one man’s Essential” route on several occasions. But in the history of Vinyl Me, Please, I really cannot imagine a more Essential selection than The Stooges self-titled debut, if only because it’s truly a record that dramatically influenced everything that came after it. At least everything that featured raging guitars, wild vocals, and pulse-pounding rhythms built to shake you heart and soul.

And yes, this John Cale Mix version will prove as bold a listening experience for die hard fans of The Stooges as much as Iggy neophytes. Frankly, I’m still not quite sure how the folks at Vinyl Me, Please pulled this one off, but I’m beyond glad they did. And I’d sincerely like to thank them for putting this version of the album out into the world, and helping a new generation discover, and/or re-discover such a vital piece of rock & roll history.

A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out the Vinyl Me, Please website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door each and every month! Here’s hoping they knock that incoming May pressing of Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna out of the park as well!

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