To a certain breed of human being – like me – the arrival of a new Manic Street Preachers single is cause for celebration. And, even more promisingly, the Nicky Wire preamble has described their tenth album ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ as “one last shot at mass communication”. Which, in a very ‘Everything Must Go’ kind of way, it most certainly is. Have a listen:
BUT. Before we start with another “the Manics are a bunch of cliché-ridden twats”/“the Manics are the greatest thing since sliced wrists” bore-a-thon, allow me to get on to the real reason I am writing this. That being: they are releasing ‘(It’s Not War (Just The End Of Love)’ on… wait for it… two CD singles! Or, as every other advert used to call them, 2 x CD singles!
Surely, in the current, perpetually “in crisis” climate, this has to be some kind of kitsch, “oooh, remember the ’90s!” gesture, in keeping with the soaring strings and glistening goal-round-up guitars. You know, like all those twats who were doing stuff on cassette a few months back because they reckon their music harks back to C86.
The cynic in you might be tempted to point out that this is merely the Manics record company harnessing double the not-insubstantial power of their obsessive (and thus completist) fanbase.
But, just for a minute, let us think back rose-tintedly to those heady days, where The Kids – and the pre-file sharing The Kids, at that – would routinely be conned into spending double bubble on a host of shite remixes. Witness the plethora of rubbish presented on the three – THREE! – CDs that helped Skunk Anansie to a career best chart placing (with one of their least memorable singles).
Twisted (Everyday Hurts) (BBC Radio 1 Session)
All I Want (BBC Radio 1 Session)
It Takes Blood And Guts To Be This Cool But I'm Still Just a Cliché
(BBC Radio 1 Session)
Brazen (Weep) (Dreadzone Remix)
Brazen (Weep) (Hani's Weeping Club Mix)
Brazen (Weep) (Ventura's Underworld Mix)
Brazen (Weep) (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Remix)
Brazen (Weep) (Electro Mix)
Brazen Weep (Junior's Arena Anthem)
Brazen (Weep) (Hani's Weeping Club Mix)
Brazen Weep (Dreadzone's Instrumental Mix)
Brazen Weep (Jr's Riff Dub)
Brazen Weep (Hani's Hydro Instrumental Mix)
Now, let’s not vilify Skin and co, because they were far from the only ones doing this back in the late-’90s. For example: I can remember queuing up with my hard earned ten pounds to buy my three versions of Suede’s ‘Can’t Get Enough’. What I can’t remember is what any of the extra tracks sound like, because frankly I only listened to them once each. Particularly disappointing from Suede, who fitted into another ’90s trend: that of staggeringly ace B-sides. This was why I felt compelled to purchase all three, you see.
The multi-format/cult fanbase routine obviously doesn’t work so well these days, what with downloading and all that, but if you look back, it allowed all manner of unlikely stars to gatecrash the charts. Gary Numan’s ascent to Number One with ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ was aided in no small way by being issued as a seven-inch picture disc. They were a very new thing back in 1979, and collectors were buying anything issued in the format. They’re currently on eBay for 12 quid, so, y’know, not a bad investment.
Following U2’s release of ‘Numb’ as a video-only single – and that’s VHS video-only single – in 1993, the latter half of the decade and the beginning of the first decade of the new millennium were flooded with DVD singles, all of which just contained the video for the track. Owning a video for a track was still a relative novelty at this pre-Youtube point, as previously one could only tape ’em off the TV, with accompanying annoying graphics.
But anyway: now that we’ve got record companies on their knees and don’t have to pay for any of their rubbish marketing gimmicks or ‘Perfecto’ remixes, let’s look back and celebrate the multi-format! Which ones suckered you in? What’s the most embarrassing ‘limited edition’, coloured, etched, numbered seven-inch vinyl lurking at the back of your closet? How many ‘Collector’s Edition’ single box sets did you buy and never listen to? What’s the absolute worst marketing gimmick ever?
Come on now, be honest…