In part one, amazinglyfewdiscothequesprovidejukeboxes invited fellow music blogger Paul English of legendary compilation review site apopfansdream to share his thoughts on all things pop; the ’80s, reissues, deluxe editions, and of course his specialist subject….Now That’s What I Call Music!
afdpj: As this is the second part of our chat, it obviously makes sense to talk about “firsts”….so…what was your first single?
nlgbbbblth: Back in December 1981 my music collection numbered zero items aside from taped tapes. I went to Sinnotts in Waterford to buy the 7″ of the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me. It was sold out with the next delivery not due for two days. I was desperate to spend my couple of pounds so started looking at their “reduced to clear” bin. There were some 12″s in amongst them, so ended up buying The Sound Of The Crowd 12″ for 99p. No way back.
Get it right now! A fine choice. I do remember those Human League singles from Dare being massive, and the video for Don’t You Want Me was everywhere that Christmas. I was still into my cars (matchbox-sized) and the most memorable thing for me was the brown Rover SD1. When Matchbox added that model to their range in 1982, it came in the same colour. I wonder if that was just a coincidence!
My first 7” came early in 1982. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts with I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll. The B-Side was the superb Love Is Pain. I played it over and over. In school, people would sing it but change the lyrics to a variety of rude versions.
Children, eh? Tsk…how about your first album, and first compilation?
One Friday in July 1982 the four of us piled into my Dad’s Fiat Mirafiori and drove 15 miles down the road to Waterford. Sinnott’s again and I had ten minutes. At that point I wasn’t 100% sure of what LP I’d buy but ABC were in the running. The woman in the shop was playing Poison Arrow as I walked through the door. I didn’t bother looking at the racks; instead I walked up to the counter and said “May I have the ABC album please?” Ms Jack Black walked over to the turntable and unceremoniously yanked the needle off the spinning wax. “It’s the last one” she growled by way of explanation.
Ouch. Sounds like an excerpt from the Morrissey autobiography. Fortunately my first album purchase had no such drawbacks. Although I would quite like to have actually been present for the occasion. Into The Gap by the Thompson Twins, on cassette (for the side of extra mixes). £4.49. I kept the price display card inside for years. Thanks Mum!
My first compilation was a taped copy of K-Tel’s Star Traks. It was released in April 1980, and its cosmic gold disc sleeve soon adorned the number one slot in Hilary Murphy’s Carousel record shop on John Street. I wasn’t in a financial position to buy the LP at the time but a taped copy (green BASF) quickly did the rounds on our road. 20 songs in 63 minutes means that truncation and editing was inevitable but back then, this was not a concern to my 8 year old ears during the summer of 1980.
In terms of vinyl, the first one that I got was Chart Hits ‘82 – buy one, get one free. Sleevenotes by Jonathan King and soundtracked my Christmas that year. I also got the Rothman’s Football Yearbook that year – the one and only time – and still dip into it.
That was my Bible from 1979 to about 1984….and 1981/82 was a classic season. Ahem, anyway back to business!
Your favourite things about compilations/reissues/boxsets?
My first encounter with reissues was seeing Nice Price or Prime Cuts stickers on older albums in record shops. I only had a limited amount of money to spend on music so if an album got a reissue for a lower price point, then I was in. Obviously as I got older and started earning proper money, my preference was to pick up original pressings. But those mid-80s reissues were a gateway into albums I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to obtain or track down. On that basis, the best thing about reissues is that they are making an album accessible again – which is how it should be.
My first Prime Cuts purchase would probably have been Rumours, the same week as Tango In The Night was released. April 1987. My local Woolworths in the high street wasn’t very large and had limited stock of most things, but they were big on the budget-priced titles. I got Mirage at the same time. They were 3.79 each, on vinyl. As you say, they allowed you to get more deeply into an artist’s catalogue at affordable prices. If those albums had still been £6 each, I could only have afforded one.
As the 1990s progressed and CDs became the dominant format, the reissue market blossomed with the concept of bonus tracks, essays and new information putting the album in context. At the same time, I started buying box sets. The golden era saw most of these released in 12” x 12” format and each disc had its own jewel case.
Now that’s what I call a pile of proper box sets!
I have two of these, both bought quite recently (Bee Gees and Springsteen Live 75-85). Plus others in later re-packaging (Dylan, CSNY, Led Zep, Bowie). The 12x12s really do look great; not sure why I wasn’t drawn to these kind of releases at the time. Too busy hoovering up as many new releases every week as I could…
I know that environmental concerns mean that packaging is much less elaborate nowadays but I really do miss those days. You really felt you were getting value for money.
These multi-disc sets in tiny clamshell boxes that we get now don’t take up as much space, too, but you’re right – they feel less of a statement.
The golden age for retrospective compilations was the 1990s and lot of this was down to Rhino. Tower Records opened in Dublin during 1993 and that’s where I purchased a lot of Rhino series like Super Hits Of The ‘70s, Didn’t I Blow Your Mind, The Disco Years, Just Can’t Enough, Radio Daze, the DIY series, various Billboard collections.
They dabbled in box sets and my shelves are heavy with their output – five Nuggets sets, No Thanks!, Left Of The Dial, Loud, Fast & Out Of Control, Brain In A Box, their 70s, 80s & 90s Pop Culture sets. Again, the Americans came good with the Time Life series Sounds Of The Seventies, Guitar Rock & Sounds Of The Eighties. All accompanied with decent notes and information.
The past didn’t really interest me until the early 2000s, when I began attempting to catalogue all charting albums and their release dates, and then did the same with singles around 2005/2006. A few of these series have turned up on my travels to various used/collectors/charity shops, and I usually find myself picking them up.
Back then, it was just accepted that CD was the optimum delivery method for such projects. Even the handful of people like myself who were still buying new LPs had no objections to these wonderful collections coming out on shiny discs. Which makes the BAVJs behaviour all the more puzzling.
Born Again Vinyl Junkies…
Oh…haha! Figured the last two letters might have been vinyl junkies. Yes, the “resurgence” of vinyl has been one of the stranger developments of our times (and there have been many). I was so glad when Compact Discs came along. True they were expensive at the beginning, double the price of LPs and Cassettes, but an end to returning poor quality and defective records and tapes was extremely welcome for me.
I remember being laughed at all through the 1990s for continuing to buy new LPs. I always thought they’d stick around but never expected the massive uplift in sales that’s occurred in recent years. I always viewed CDs as another alternative rather than a replacement format. I bought them from 1986 onwards but was selective, generally picking up just compilations and reissues on the shiny disc format for many years.
So my favourite things about reissues are when they get it right and include all the relevant studio material such as B-sides, remixes, 7” & 12” variants. All of this plays a part in the story and reissues are the ideal place to house such material. It’s fair to say that many albums are unlikely to get another physical release so this is really the last throw of the dice. The last chance to get things right.
Extraordinary to think so, but I am in total agreement with your last statement. I also agree with the best reissues being the ones that include all those relevant tracks. They’re an essential ingredient.
Agreed – the best reissues are the comprehensive ones that bring all the essential strands together. Nik Kershaw’s Human Racing is a good example – not 100% comprehensive but a solid disc 2 that flows really well. For box sets that focus on a particular album, I love the idea of immersing oneself into the recording. The Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness & Adore being two prime examples. Crammed with demos and live material, you really feel that you’ve got under the band’s skin. Even better when there are visual documentaries like the Marillion ones or the archive interviews on the Genesis sets.
Fish signing off several hundred Misplaced Childhood deluxes….”to nlgbb…..ah bugger, how many b’s in that mate?”
The Marillion book-sets are things of beauty. I’ve loved collecting all those. Some bands just get it spot on, don’t they…
Yes! There’s a lot to be said for deciding on a design and sticking to it. Love the consistency and the detail that goes into them. A good price point as well with the vinyl versions kept separate.
Occasionally I’ve come to a box where my expectations were low but I came away loving it. The Roxy Music Complete Studio Recordings (2012) is an example. Initially it was meant to come with DVD-A and a booklet. Then as release date came closer, both were excluded. However the albums were in lovely replica gatefold sleeves on hard stock. The flat transfers sounded amazing and all the relevant bonus material was on two separate CDs.
That has to be one of the lushest-looking box sets ever. I was playing the discs from that set earlier in the year (with a view to deluxe-ing Avalon and Flesh & Blood) and hadn’t realised until I listened to them that they were indeed flat transfers and not some compressed remasters! The separate double CD of non-album tracks was stylishly done (Sony did the same with the Dylan 47-album mega-set).
The Dylan mega set is fantastic. I have bought a few of those over the years – Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock are the others. Love just closing my eyes and picking out a title at random to play before bedtime.
For compilations, I am most happy when forgotten or overlooked tracks get included as they can really re-kindle forgotten memories. It’s also great to find an obscure 7” mix of an 80s song on a foreign (usually West German or Dutch) compilation CD. The internet has made all of these more accessible and it’s easy to check Discogs to see which are ones to get.
Those German and Dutch compilation series were completely unknown to me until a few years ago. Despite the strange titles and even stranger artwork, they are a treasure trove of hard-to-find 7″ versions. And of course being from the 80s and early 90s, they sound better than anything that’s released these days.
One of my most cherished of these is Teldec’s Power Of Love CD from 1985:
Cherish the love…
It was on my wantlist from December 1986 until 2014. I first encountered it Dublin’s Virgin Megastore when they were demonstrating the perfect sound forever of the compact disc. The demo took place in the classical section but the German staff member asked me if I wanted to hear some pop music. He played me the first three songs from Power Of Love. I knew them by sound, having spent two weeks in Italy that August. Open-air disco every night.
How much to buy? But no, the CD was for demonstration purposes only. So began the search for this most elusive of compilations, the ultimate trip into the Italo experience. Heart of darkness indeed.
A bunch of High Lifes and Formel Eins turned up in a Dublin second hand shop in the early 1990s so picked those up and gradually with the help of Discogs, got hold of many more. The sound quality is great and no disc rot.
Before the “vinyl revival”, I briefly got into the habit of picking up some of my favourite 80s (and early 90s) albums on vinyl. Usually £5-6 maximum. The Blue Nile’s Hats was £6 but I was into getting that on as many formats as I could, and it was probably a good investment. And if I saw an album whose artwork I loved on CD, on the bigger format for a couple of quid, I’d get those too. I had no real intention of playing them all (I did give both my 1990 original of Jordan: The Comeback, and a pristine copy of Stay On These Roads a listen and enjoyed the different experience).
I bought Hats on vinyl first, then the CD. Sounds great on both. My vinyl copy of A Walk Across The Rooftops sounds amazing – really well-recorded. Jordan: The Comeback is the Pet Sounds of the 90s, a fantastic record.
I find it very hard to get excited about vinyl reissues of 1990s albums – usually because I already own the original pressing. I recognise that there’s a strong market for them now but their rarity status tends to overshadow everything. One such example is Whipping Boy’s Heartworm from last year. I bought the blue vinyl LP back in October 1995. There were plenty left on the shelves of Virgin, Dublin.
Here was a real opportunity for Needle Mythology to gather up all the period material (B-sides, live tracks & single edits) but instead we got an incomplete release which only included half of the relevant bonus tracks. Instead of maximising the storage capacity of two CDs, the content decision seems to have been dictated to by vinyl running times. Anything more and they would have needed a third LP which would have pushed the price north of €50.
A sizeable number of people seemed to be more interested in boasting that they would finally own a vinyl copy of the album rather than the celebrating the reissue and its content. Some of these same evangelical individuals were happy to leave the LP on the shelves back in 1995; forking out for the cassette or CD instead.
My turntable’s been in storage for a few years now, since I moved into the world of Hi-Res audio. Not enough space for it anymore!
If it was up to me, I would have reissued the album on vinyl with no bonus material and also put out a double CD with as many extra tracks as possible.
That leads us nicely (or not so nicely) onto the more frustrating aspects of compilations, reissues and boxsets….
Compilations – if it’s an overview of say the 1980s or a particular year, then 7” mixes should be used wherever possible. If not available, then album versions will suffice once they’re not too lengthy. Subsequent re-recordings should be avoided always – I hate when they appear, especially if it’s not flagged in the tracklist.
That’s a sneaky one. I’ve been caught out a few times, but not so much of late. Maybe they’re becoming less common and the labels have got the message.
For genre compilations (the likes put out by Cherry Red), I don’t like when demo or live versions are used. Better off to exclude them. In addition, if there’s a vinyl equivalent then don’t put an extra track there – it’s unfair.
I’m noticing this quite frequently with Cherry Red’s otherwise lavish sets, like Scared To Get Happy and The Sun Shines Here; it’s also something I am not a fan of. I presume it’s down to licensing and cost, the artist or label not allowing the studio versions or asking too much for them.
Includes a track by The Bluebells (wooo!). Except it’s a demo (booo!)…..
Reissues – No bonus tracks always feels like a bit of a swizz. Unless there’s a separate compilation to accompany the reissues which covers B-sides etc. I like the idea of the original album being on its own on CD1 but if space is a premium, then use it. If the album originally came out with bonus tracks on the CD version then, these should be relegated to a second disc on a reissue. To me, The Cure’s Disintegration will always be a 10 track album with Last Dance and Homesick not really “belonging” in my eyes.
I’d definitely prefer Disintegration with fewer tracks. 70 minutes is a slog with only a dozen songs (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me seemed to speed by and it’s actually longer). Rhino’s 2-disc Chris Rea reissues (still the most popular articles on this blog) took your approach, turning On The Beach back into a 10-track album and putting the other 3 which were originally on the CD onto the bonus disc.
Generally speaking pop, dance and soul reissues are well put together and usually contain 7” and 12” mixes. Rock & indie reissues often exclude these – often because the artist may be embarrassed or dislike the sound of 80s extended mixes. This is an unfortunate rockist viewpoint which often spills over onto the fans who will make disparaging comments about 7” mixes or radio edits.
Hello, Bruce Springsteen! There were also rumours (sorry) that Lindsey Buckingham would prevent the 12″ mixes of Tango In The Night’s singles appearing on any reissue/deluxe, but thankfully they proved unfounded. It was the right decision.
Some artists choose to only offer a small selection of bonus material (Erasure, The Blue Nile) – I’d prefer to get everything – but if it’s selective but well-sequenced & has a good flow, then I have no major objection.
The Blue Nile “deluxes” were the ultimate in minimalism, which I suppose was quite fitting. With the main albums well under 40 minutes, the 6 or 7 bonus tracks could have all gone on one CD. Yet somehow it stayed in keeping with their reputation for less-is-more, and not just chucking anything onto their releases. Of course, I am loathe to say anything negative about The Blue Nile…
I don’t like seeing reissues constrained by vinyl running times and insisting on the same content being on both formats – e.g. Neneh Cherry. Another thing I don’t like is multiple mixes of the same song sequenced consecutively – break them up a bit if at all possible.
This is a scenario I’m frequently presented with in the course of curating my Homemade/Fantasy Deluxes. On one occasion, The Beloved’ Happiness – I ended up dedicating a disc each to all the mixes of particular tracks. I couldn’t find a better way around it, but mostly I aim to mix things up so it’s listenable. Right Said Fred’s Up is currently posing the very question. Eleven versions of I’m Too Sexy anyone?
With box sets, a lot of people object to mixed media especially the inclusion of LPs which drives the price up. I actually don’t mind if it’s just the main album included on vinyl because it’s nice to get a new copy. The advantage is that the box will in 12” x 12” format which means a bigger booklet, better photographs etc.
The price points for the different forms of deluxe editions of the same title appear to be widening; I remember not so long ago the Tango In The Night 3CD/1DVD + LP was £35, compared to about £14-15 for the 2CD. Now it would be more like £80 and £20. I recently got the 21st Anniversary deluxe of Mansun’s Attack Of The Grey Lantern – 3CDs and a DVD with Hi-Res Audio and videos in a 12×12 bookset design – for twenty quid. But I expect it cost more on original release in 2018.
A vinyl-only box is grand if there’s a download code included (Elvis Costello’s Armed Forces which was really well done). A proper essay or track commentary is essential – if people are shelling out a lot of money for a super deluxe edition then they deserve something decent to read. A book of photos is nice but information is better.
I like the idea of videos, TOTP performances etc., but really wish they would just be on Blu-Ray. No need for DVDs – and certainly not both formats together. A recent phenomena that I really dislike is releasing box sets with no name on the spine. I’m looking at you Fashion & Shakespear’s Sister!
ABBA’s Voyage – or at least the HMV-exclusive digipak edition – has nothing on the spine, and I keep forgetting what it is when I browse my shelves. Really don’t get the thinking behind it…
For any sort of reissue, quality control is very important and it is discouraging to see so many sets with wrong mixes, duplicate tracks, poor ripping capabilities etc. Labels should really send test discs to reviewers to ensure that any errors are spotted in advance. The worst one being the Dead Or Alive debacle which just put me off buying it. Now it’s OOP.
I remember the big Heaven 17 box of their Virgin years was a mess as well….multiple discs with errors and faults.
Having said that, nobody’s perfect and once a clear replacement programme is put in place – with minimal incovenience to the customer – then all’s well that ends well. I am watching the Joni Mitchell Asylum Albums 1972-1975 discussions with interest in this regard. When mistakes are ignored, it also leaves a bad taste.
Rhino’s reaction thus far has been less than stellar on that one. I’ve decided to keep my copy because everything else about it is perfect (having had to send two copies back for various packaging and playback defects); I can live with just programming out the replicated track, but it really shouldn’t have happened and you would think it poses a very simple replacement strategy.
My two biggest peeves though are people’s reactions to announcements:
1/ “What region is the DVD going to be?” – I really can’t understand this being an issue in 2022. I started buying DVDs in 1998 and from the outset, ensured that my player could play all regions. Back then, you had to enter in codes via the remote control. But since the mid-2000s, cheap multi-region players have been €30 – €40 over here (and presumably elsewhere) so really there is no excuse.
Yes, I was under the impression that most, if not all, music-related DVDs were Region 0 these days. Albeit NTSC not PAL.
2/ “Why isn’t this coming out on vinyl?” – It must be very discouraging for the likes of Cherry Red that every time they announce a well-curated genre box set, somebody will come along and complain that it’s not coming out on vinyl. There are reasons why CD is the most practical delivery method for multi-disc projects:
A/ Pressing plant delays for new vinyl production
B/ Cost – you’d need between 6 and 8 LPs which would drive RRP above £100. In addition, the extensive liner notes would need to re-formatted into a large form booklet that is also expensive to produce.
C/ Shipping charges & returns. If there are any issues, then it’s much easier to repress a single CD.
With previous sets (Scared To Get Happy, Still In A Dream) they have released a cut-down double LP of highlights which were nice but really only skimmed the surface of the compilers’ original vision.
I’m noticing more of these “redux” vinyl formats of bigger sets. Quite ironic really, seeing as 35 years ago it would be the other way around, and the likes of NOW would be downsized for the CD edition from the larger LP version!
I am a lifetime buyer of vinyl and CD; both formats have their advantages and disadvantages but when a label like Cherry Red can churn out quality collections like these for a £20 – £25 price point, then I am absolutely fine with the format. In a number of instances, I have many of the tracks on vinyl already but very few on CD so these are often great additions to my collection.
This agenda is usually driven by Born Again Vinyl Junkies (BAVJs) who ignored the format in the lean years (1990-2009) and now feel that they have to over-compensate by denigrating CDs at every opportunity.
The anti-CD rhetoric really does get tiresome…and don’t get me started on record shop owners/staff who bang on about “nobody’s buying CDs these days”.
The latest buzz phrase is “I don’t own a CD player anymore” which really is a laughable attempt at vinylphilia hipsterism.
Maybe they all own jukeboxes. Speaking of which….do you own one, have you ever wished you did? And what would go on yours?
I have never owned a jukebox but yes, would love to get one! A vinyl jukebox crammed with 7”s would be perfect. When I DJ-ed at B-Music, I played a lot of 60s beat, plenty non-English language tracks. Many of them were sourced from the Utrecht Record Fair. I’d love maybe 50 killer tunes from that case going on. Plus maybe a selection of failed Irish pop from the ‘80s.
Ah yes, you’ve done some DJing in your time – have you ever wanted to, or thought about, making your own music or were you always just a collector/listener?
I have DJed on and off since 1989. A variety of genres and club nights. There’s nothing like it – getting a crowd filling a dancefloor and keeping them there. I even played at my own wedding and caused a mosh – The Wedding Present’s Kennedy being the culprit.
Oh my word…
My only foray into making my own music was recording an album with my next door neighbours in 1987. We were called The Band and the album was Musically Inclined. A kazoo and piano were the instruments; lyrics lifted out of newspapers and magazines. Sadly, the recording only came out in one channel – duff mic connection – but the tape still exists. Other than that no, never had an interest or desire to play in a band or make my own music.
No splitting up due to musical differences, then. I think my own musical partnership (where I was the principal songwriter) and band would probably have hit the rocks because, to be honest, we didn’t get on as people. We’d have ended up like The Police…or had the Police called out on us!
Anyhow, back to jukeboxes…
The most memorable pub jukebox was in Galavan’s where various punk and ska bands would play in the cavernous back area which was built on the face of rocky cliff. As a venue, it held sway from late 1992 to 1996; the gig itinerary for groups frequently listed as Dublin – New Ross – Cork. When Galavan’s shut down its owner re-located 100 yards away to Ma Byrne’s. They brought the jukebox. The key disc was a compilation CD called Loaded:
Some brilliant 1992/1993 tracks there. Good grief, it’s been 30 years…
Well, we’ve reached the end of our odyssey. Thanks Paul!
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about what I love!
Paul’s blog apopfansdream features “compilations from the distant past”. He can be found on Twitter, Spotify and all those new-fangled things with hashtags and apps. Remember, physical formats rule!