One of the worst album covers of all time and one of the most cheaply produced compilation LPs of all time as there was absolutely no information bar the name of the song, the artist and where it was lifted from.

Product 2378 was released in 1990 on Telstar Records which, according to wiki:-

… was founded in 1982 by Sean O’Brien and Neil Palmer with a government loan of £120,000. It was launched as a specialist compilation marketing label and had hits with a range of compilation franchises such as the Deep Heat, Kaos Theory and 100% ranges. As well as these brands, the company licensed a number of major artist recordings (for example ABBA and the Four Tops) to release telemarketed compilations.

In the mid-1990s it diversified its output into the singles market and long-term artist development with the launch of the Multiply Records and Wildstar Records subsidiaries. Until then, Telstar normally only released singles that were tele-marketed and associated products like The Chippendales or PJ and Duncan. Acts signed in this period included Conner Reeves, Sash!, Phats & Small and Basement Jaxx.  Craig David had the label’s first UK number one single.

Other artists included Victoria Beckham (a sub-licence deal from 19 Records), Rosie Ribbons, Skream!, The Cheeky Girls and Mis-Teeq. In the late 1990s, Telstar became closely associated with BMG Records, especially with the Telstar TV compilation arm and The Hits Album releases.

Telstar Records went bankrupt in 2004, largely due to the company’s habit of giving large advances to artists such as Claire Sweeney, Victoria Beckham and Rosie Ribbons who failed to make them any money. In the media much of the blame for the label’s failure was placed on their most high-profile signing, Victoria Beckham. However, as most of Telstar’s artists were not directly signed to the label, instead being either sub-licensed or part of a number of joint ventures, BMG (soon to be merged with Sony) declined to buy the label’s assets outright.

It’s really quite astonishing to think that the same label was responsible for such an excellent and star-studded compilation  as the full sixteen-song track listing demonstrates:-

mp3 : The Wonder Stuff – Who Wants To Be The Disco King?
mp3 : New Order – Vanishing Point
mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Head On
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Kennedy
mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It?
mp3 : Happy Mondays – Mad Cyril
mp3 : New Model Army – Brave New World
mp3 : The Weather Prophets – Almost Prayed
mp3 : Morrissey – Last Of The Famous International Playboys
mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Peek-a-Boo
mp3 : Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven
mp3 : Inspiral Carpets – Joe
mp3 : Crazyhead – Baby Turpentine
mp3 : Throwing Muses – Dizzy
mp3 : All About Eve – December
mp3 : The Mission – Tower of Strength (Bombay edit)

I just can’t begin to imagine how Product 2378 came about given the daily dross (for the most part) that Telstar Records inflicted on us. Was it down to some indie-kid on work experience for a week who somehow managed to sneak it out without his bosses noticing? As I said, the cheap artwork for the cover and the lack of any relevant and meaningful info within the packaging would indicate it wasn’t much of a priority for the label.

File under bizarre but enjoyable….

12 thoughts on “PRODUCT 2378

  1. Simply cringe worthy cover! But it’s a pretty spot on look at the 90’s – Grebo, Arena Goth, Madchester, Indie, and a couple heavy weights for good measure in New Order, Morrissey and The Banshees!

  2. Ah, I bought this, still have it in the collection somewhere. And it was brilliant!

    At the time, I thought the cover was a riff on the over/false-coloured covers that New Order were doing at the time (like this one but I don’t see that so much now. Even if so, why a kettle? Perhaps it was “product 2378” in some catalogue or other…

    Anyway, cheers for posting, brings back a very happy audio memory.

  3. I agree with Martin. Peter Saville is one of my favorite graphic designers, but he had a lot to answer for. His penchant for blank and impenetrable imagery sometimes worked for his clients, but it has resulted in a plethora of indiecruft record covers with abstract imagery and little or no identifying text by designers who did not mentally apply themselves to the design problem as carefully as he often did.

    When I walk into a record store now, I see approximately 10-20% of all indie releases with such design. It certainly is inexpensive to pull a stock photo and slap it on a cover with little or no thought! The best thing is, I can safely ignore them because I can guarantee the music on them will not appeal to me. Impenetrable imagery is usually paired with ugly music.

    My rule now is simple: if I can’t identify what a release is by looking at it, it simply doesn’t matter! But this comp is pretty good, with what few high points of the early 90s were available mostly here for our pleasure. Half of that is/was in my Record Cell!

  4. I love this quote from Johnny Marr –
    “So much has been made of Factory apparently turning The Smiths down, but that’s a crock of shit. The Smiths would have signed to Factory over my dead body… I didn’t want to be assimilated into the Factory aesthetic. Before we knew it, we would’ve had side-partings and khaki shorts, with bongos round our necks… No disrespect to A Certain Ratio.”

    Imagine how different The Smiths aesthetic would have been if Peter Saville had got his hands on it.

    Anyway I was always more of a Vaughan Oliver man than a Peter Saville one.

  5. This came out when I was working in Our Price. Every label simply had to put out an “indie” compilation at the time as Madchester had brought it to the fore and there were more indie bands in the charts than ever before.

    It is a decent tracklist, agreed, but there’s nowt out of the ordinary here, save maybe Crazyhead (dead good track that one) and New Model Army who rarely seemed to feature on such comps. It was kind of what you expected from what we called a “TV album” – it was made for a TV ad marketing campaign, essentially.

    The sleeve? Again, pretty standard fodder for such a record back in the day; an attempt to be arty and oblique, but with no understanding of the market it was aiming at. As a result, I think our sales of this over 12 months remained in single figures…

  6. On my shelves, you will find monographs by Vaughan Oliver, Peter Saville, and Neville Brody. I’m still waiting for Malcolm Garrett to deliver…

    At the end of the day, I’m still a Peter Saville guy at the core. But that’s because I’m a John Foxx fan like him. Saville copped his whole aesthetic from the cover to “Systems Of Romance,” by Dennis Leigh [Foxx]. He was making soft-core porn in design school before encountering that seminal cover.

  7. Looking back, this compilation was pivotal in the forming of my musical tastes. In 1990 I was all about heavy metal, Iron Maiden, Metallica etc etc but I spotted this and I noticed it was loaded with bands many of my friends liked so thought, ‘meh, something different’. Nearly three decades later and I can’t imagine life without nearly all of the bands on here, many of which are still releasing music and doing gigs.

    So thanks Telstar!

  8. I picked up a copy of this recently at a market stall; it’s in excellent nick! (the record, not the market stall)
    What a track listing! Every one is a belter and is basically the soundtrack to my misspent youth! Ridiculous sleeve but the track listing means Telstar can be forgiven in this case I reckon. Does anyone on here know whether they ever put out any other comps in a similar vein with equally excellent tracks? (Maybe ones with microwaves, sandwich toasters or electric tin openers on the cover?)

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