#2. "Artsy" Box Sets
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When it comes time to really bleed the fanbase of every expendable dime they have, nothing works quite as well as the limited edition box set. After all, what kind of fan would you be if you just bought the $80 version of The Pixies' Minotaur collection when you could buy the version that comes with five LPs and a book with a doodle of a dick on it for just over $400 more?
It weighs less than most really large house pets!
Ridiculously adorned box sets are an industry standard. From Metallica's coffin-shaped edition of their last album (you know, the one that sounded like shit compared to the video game version) to the White Stripes' adorable USB sticks, record labels never run out of fancy box ideas, and the completists and collectors of the world pay dearly for it.
Inevitably, when a box set hits store shelves with a price tag that's outside the financial reach of most fans, the artist or band in question issues an angry statement denouncing it as nothing more than record company greed that's completely out of their hands. No one wants to believe their favorite band would gouge the pocketbooks of its most loyal fans, so it's the kind of controversy that tends to blow over without much notice. That doesn't mean it's an excuse you should believe every time though.
Take the case of Motorhead's Complete Early Years box set. When news broke that it would set die-hard supporters back more than $500, Lemmy Kilmister himself asked fans not to buy it, claiming the band has no control over what their old record label does with their early recordings. Do I believe that? Sure, as much as I believe a glowing skull full of Motorhead albums is worth a half-thousand dollars.
Look at it!
In other words, of course I do. The very same excuse struck me as a little less credible when Elvis Costello used it recently to rant against his $225 The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook box set, though. He described the price as "a misprint or satire" on his official website, but this is far different from the aforementioned Motorhead set. For one thing, no glowing skull.
Seriously! Just look at it!
Beyond that, we're not talking about old recordings being repackaged by a greedy ex-record label. This is a soundboard recording of a concert that happened in 2011 being released by the record label that Elvis Costello is still signed to. He signed each set by hand. Yet we're somehow expected to believe that not once during the creation of this document of the last year or so of his life as an artist did Elvis Costello ask how much it would sell for? I believe that like I believe a box full of one Elvis Costello concert is worth 10 times more cash because it has a paper wheel on it.
It spins just like a real wheel!
In other words ... maybe? Elvis Costello is no glowing skullful o'Motorhead, but he's still pretty great.
#1. Milking the Vaults
Frank Micelotta/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Making fun of bands that a lot of people tend to enjoy has been my shtick for a long time. As I've explained previously, though, I'm just doing my job. Sometimes, I like the band in question just as much as you do. I'm obviously a fan of Motorhead, for example, but I included them in an article about why your favorite band sucks a few weeks ago. Whatever, a lot of the things we love aren't perfect.
With that in mind, let's talk about Nirvana. They're probably my favorite band ever. Back when CDs were a thing I thought I needed, I'd spend stupid money on bootleg CDs featuring all of those unreleased songs and B-sides and all the other good stuff that was so hard to compile in one place before file sharing took off. Once that happened, I had fucking everything. Everything that was out there, at least. There were always those rumored recordings that never surfaced on the illicit MP3 market. The most famous of them all was a song that most fans called "Autopilot" after it surfaced in the form of a super rough live recording on a bootleg called A Season in Hell.
While that particular version never struck me as all that compelling, legend had it that a studio recording existed and that it was amazing. Over the years, talk of a box set featuring that song and all sorts of other wonderful things would come and go. Eventually, fans got the song they wanted (which was called "You Know You're Right," as it turns out) ...
... but instead of being served on a delicious bed of B-sides and rarities like everyone hoped and/or expected, it was tacked onto one of the most questionably track-listed "best of" collections of all-time. Why? Because, like most everything Courtney Love-related, the law got involved. As the story goes, one side wanted to put the song on a box set as planned, the other side wanted to cash in with the greatest hits strategy.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images Entertainment
When that box set, With the Lights Out, did finally arrive ... it was kind of a disappointment. Sure, there were some fun things included, like this insane Leadbelly cover about the virtues of not beating your wife on Sunday when there are so many other days in the week you could do it, instead.
There was also plenty of stuff missing, though. A fine example is the unfortunately titled but otherwise pretty great "I Hate Myself and Want to Die," which was going to be the title track of the band's final album, In Utero, but ended up on the The Beavis and Butthead Experience album instead, which is fine, too.
It shows up on the box set, but only in the form of a lesser-quality demo. Why leave something like that out? Is it because so many fans still have their Beavis and Butthead CDs in the 10-disc car changer? Is it because, by now, every fan must have gotten their hands on the "Pennyroyal Tea" single, which featured "I Hate Myself and Want to Die" as a B-side and was therefore immediately recalled seeing as how it came out a few days after Kurt Cobain died? Probably not, those routinely sell for hundreds online, if you can even find one that's legit. It's not because of any of that. It's so you don't feel swindled when you buy In Utero again, except for $125 this time.
How about that wacky poster!
Teenage angst never stops paying off well, it seems.
You can see Adam tell jokes to your face this Tuesday (10/15) at Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica. Go here for tickets and more information. To see him tell more jokes about Elvis Costello while wearing a Motorhead shirt, click here. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you're still around after clicking all those other links.