We have looked askance at the feeding frenzy by design which was the thrust of RSD by a few years after its origins. For me, most everything I wanted was in the UK edition in any case, so it was aftermarket only for me. The few items I might actually want were few and far between. Then the majors started to monopolize it and I stopped caring.
Last year was interesting. It was RSD under COVID lockdown and every store was left to twist in the wind and figure out what they would do in response. Mr. Ware told me about how stores in his locale established lotteries to get the titles you might want!! My local emporium had what I thought was a really good response. At the appointed hour you could email/message the store with your wants. They emailed back and if it was available you got it. With a link to pay. Do that and drive by for curbside pickup. I got the Steven Wilson “Roxy Music” clear LP and the similarly clear “Sleepwalk” 12” single by Ultravox. Also remixed by Steven Wilson [when does that guy sleep?]. It took 15 minutes and was nearly effortless!
This year was different. They have had limited traffic in the store lately and this day was no different. They would open from 9-11 and have a single file line enter the store [masked] to only browse “the tables.” Letting 8 into the store at a time. The rest of the store was closed until 11, the normal opening time. So we’ll see how it goes.
I had numerous chores to perform this Saturday. Grocery shopping and mailing out packages. I would plan to leave home as early as 7:00 and just get in the line. As it turned out, I was behind the curve and left home around 7:30, but when I got to the west side I saw a modest line of about 20-30 people on the sidewalk. Less than my fevered imagination.
I parked down the street and took my place in line. A gent walking his dog was curious as to what was happening so I told him about RSD. I chatted a bit with the younger guy in front of me. Turns out he took his undergrad studies at my alma mater. Small world.
The items I was gunning for won’t shock any longtime readers. I was agog that for the second year in a row there was an Ultravox RSD release for the USA! While last year we bought the “Skeepwalk” 12” and the “Vienna”BSOG, this year the tossed us ‘Vox-heads a further bone: a 2xCD of “Vienna” with new cover art that had the Steven Wilson remix on disc one and an instrumental CD of that [not in the box from last year] on the 2nd disc. Then the Harold Budd soundtrack album for the “I Know This Much Is True” show he scored had been DL only and this would be a 2xLP that we could buy and own. So with the esteem for Budd in my household, this was a must buy.
At 9:00 the store began letting the eight people inside single file. The three RSD tables were broken up by alphabet. About 9:08, I was let in to browse the goods. I made a bee line to the “B” bin and was rewarded with the Harold Budd album, that they had three copies of. Nice. The price was not a bank-breaker at $28.99. Not as expensive as a 2xLP in clear vinyl could potentially be. And the All-Saints release trumpeted a DL card, so that meant we could listen to this quickly. And with no potential modern LP pressing sonic pitfalls.
Would I get the desired Ultravox CD? I ambled over to the S-U table and was agog to see a tiny box with 7″ and CD releases in it. There was three copies of a single CD and it was not “Vienna [Steven Wilson Remix.” I asked the clerk if they had the title, and he responded that they had it on LP only. I had already decided that I was no longer playing the Ultravox “redundant vinyl” collection game unless I can do it inexpensively. Knowing that there was a CD out there meant that I would not blow twice the cost [at least] on a pretty, but redundant LP. If I ran across a used copy for $12 one day…maybe. But not here. Not now.
I paid for the album and left. There were two other participating RSD stores downtown, where I needed to go to the post office and shop for groceries. But I was not anticipating much happiness at Static Age or Voltage Records. Both store had long since purged the silver discs from their formerly interesting stock. I wasted a couple quarters to park downtown and pop into the two stores, which were helpfully located about 300 feet from each other and they opened at 11:00 a.m. to see that any RSD material for sale was clearly vinyl only. I went off to my other duties only half-fulfilled.
That Saturday evening, I went online and bought the desired CD from a dealer on Discogs for $15.00, new. Better still, they had the two Grace Jones Capitol albums I never heard on CD for modest prices, and a couple of 12′” singles in my want list for a dollar each. I also downloaded the Budd album from DL provider Bleep.com and they didn’t let me down. CD quality WAV files meant that I could throw it into iTunes and beam it to the living room on Sunday morning for our weekly Budd session.
In the end, I should not have been surprised that with only three CD titles in toto for RSD US Drop 2, that there were only three copies of the John Prine title alone on CD in Harvest Records! Prine is revered like a god in my town. But I did get into the store and buy what I wanted in less than 2 minutes of store time, with no seething amoeba of limbs surrounding the tables in a feeding frenzy as had happened in earlier years. Which is why I adopted a policy of wilful neglect on the whole RSD phenomenon. Last year with the whole email wants/buy with link/pick up curbside policy was the least painful RSD possible, but this years “8 people in store in single file line,” was not bad for having to stand in line for a hour prior. It was still a pleasant, non-abusive experience. Join us next year when we’ll see how things go.
Just to confirm, this Ultravox album that you speak of, it is an instrumental version of the entire album?
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Tim – You’ll recall that the 40th anniversary box contained discs with a Wilson 5.1 and 2.0 mix. This year for RSD they are de-coupling the 2.0 mix in a cool new black cover design/different photo and to add more catnip, the Wilson 2.0 mix contains a bonus instrumental version of the album for karaoke…or remixes!!! [insert stinger] I should depict it in the story.
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Hmmmmmmm…steeples fingers……on the plus side a lot of this RSD stuff finds it’s way to Amazon mps/iTunes fairly quickly. There was an Elvis Costello ep a couple of years back and I think it was maybe 10 days after RSD that I found it on Amazon.
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Tim – Well, $15 for the CD was more than fine with me. And thanks for steepling your fingers! The best gesture ever?
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I hate RSD – they make stuff in such limited quantities it’s almost like they *WANT* the aftermarket. I mean, does Capitol have a stake in Ebay?
postpostmoderndad – I despise “twitch capitalism” where items are produced in numbers of false scarcity. What was once delightful about collecting music was that it was an affordable, mass market hobby. No longer. We now have music collecting in physical form for economic elites, and streaming [non-existent] form for anyone who doesn’t have $30 to throw at a single album.
Capturing streamed material is the new holding a cassette player up to you stereo speakers.
I am pretty sure that I heard that snuck into the last COVID relief package was something that criminalized capturing and dissemenating streamed material from entities like Netflix, Hulu, etc.
Tim – I’d bet on that theory. Our rulers have the greatest fealty to their owners. The more “felonies” they can define, the fewer voters, as well. Works like a charm in both directions!
Hi, glad you got what you wanted with minimal hassle. That’s what RSD should be like for everyone. Thanks for the article.
Hugh Hall – Well, I’d call it minimal hassle if the 2nd title I wanted was available at one of the three stores I went to. But not onerous. Yeah. I’d go that far. And for RSD that’s a big uptick.
I made calls to every independent store in my city and no Ultravox on CD (Ultra-who?). Given that postage costs are now rivaling the cost of the product, order by mail is now a “do I really, really want that?” Sucks being a non-vinyl, non-streamer in today’s music environment.
And I agree that pre-covid RSD was a flipper mentality; funny how covid leveled the playing field.
KeithC – Postage costs rivaling the cost of the product?! Hey man, I’ll swap you for that! Anything I want to buy is about 400% postage costs!! The value of records I want has plummeted in the last 20 years while postage costs have skyrocketed. So I end up at the same, painful place.