In composing that post yesterday about the vanishing public art around lower Manhattan, I fleetingly mentioned a mural that looms over a small stretch of Prince Street between Mott and The Bowery. I can’t think of this painting without also associating it with a long gone music store that used to reside across the street from it called Lunch For Your Ears. I didn’t discover this shop until some point in 1989. I’d normally shop for music around various spots in Greenwich Village and the East Village (click here for my roster of great since-vanished record shops). But as far as Soho went, I generally just hit Rocks In Your Head (also gone). It wasn’t until I walked east from there one afternoon that I stumbled upon Lunch for Your Ears. The very first time I walked into this shop, this song was playing.
Unlike the shops to the north and west of it, Lunch For Your Ears dealt largely in higher-brow exotica (much like, say, Other Music or Downtown Music Gallery – where a former employee of Lunch now works today). If you were looking for something by The Misfits or Agnostic Front or some similarly slack-jawed fare (all of which I adored at the time, I should note), there were scads of stores to choose from, but if you were searching for some further-flung indie rock ala something on Ladd-Frith or Shimmy Disc, you were more likely to find it at Lunch for Your Ears. Their real emphasis seemed to be on unwieldy avant-jazz of the sort that sends conventional jazzbos scrambling for the nearest exit. These guys knew their stuff.
Now, why they were playing a selection by Danielle Dax when I happened to walk in the door is a bit of a head-scratcher. Dax was a criminally under-sung, eccentric British chanteuse with irrefutable ties to the oft-maligned Goth movement (again, a sub-genre I heartily endorsed at the time). But she was a good deal more adventurous than bands like, say, The March Violets or Alien Sex Fiend or _____ [insert Goth band of choice here], which is why she may have wormed into the good graces of the Lunch for Your Ears dudes. Here in the States, with the exception of a major label record she'd release a couple of years after this chance hearing, her stuff wasn’t exactly easy to find.
The song I was hearing was “Big Hollow Man” off her album, Dark Adapted Eye (basically a slightly altered Stateside re-release of an album of hers dubbed Inky Bloaters). Over a booming beat with a staccato-funk guitar riff, Danielle’s distinctive vocals alternate between a throaty Morticia Adams-ish croon and a high-pitched bleat that resembles the female singing style of Indian folk music. It was truly unlike anything I’d heard, and I bought the record on the spot (something that happens oh so rarely these days).
I picked up the afore-alluded major label release, Blast The Human Flower a year or so later when it came out (which boasted an arguably ill-considered cover of the “Tomorrow Never Knows” by ye olde Beatles), but found that record to be somewhat lacking the bizarre oomph that I so loved about the previous disc. I decided to stick with that first record and pretty much left it at that. I’m afraid I don’t know what has become of Danielle Dax since then, although her official MySpace page suggests that she's had some health problems, which I'm very sorry to learn.
Lunch for Your Ears, meanwhile, was shuttered somewhat suddenly some time after this. I remember hearing some awful rumors about the owner falling prey to some form of addiction and succumbing to incalculable debts. There was a further story that all of the shop’s stock was taken out of the premises and dumped on the sidewalk, where scavengers swiftly made off with the goods. I’m not sure if these tales are true, but they’re tragic if so. Lunch For Your Ears was a great little spot. The storefront it once occupied is now some insufferable fashion boutique. But I still can’t walk down that street without the opening notes of “Big Hollow Man” coming into my head.