I had a quick look on Discogs to see if there were any second-hand copies of today’s debut single, by Wire, up for sale.
There’s loads of them, ranging in price from £50-£350, although the seller who is seeking the highest amount seems a bit ambitious, given that all he/she is offering is the 7” plastic in a generic record company sleeve while others, who are looking for a bit less, do have the single available in the picture sleeve from 1977.
I’m prepared to guess that maybe 15-20 years ago, you could have picked up Mannequin for £25 tops, but such has been the recent explosive growth in the demand for original vinyl from the good old days that sellers are asking a premium and there’s folk out there willing to pay. I sort of get it, but as I get older, it is decreasingly so.
I started this blog 13 years ago, ostensibly to try and post songs that were almost impossible to find, usually consisting of b-sides only issued on vinyl or different mixes of singles, again otherwise not available other than vinyl. Things have been overtaken with just about every singer/band from the punk, post-punk, new wave and 80s era being happy enough for old albums to be re-released, often with additional material, such as demos, b-sides and single mixes, to be tagged on. It’s a clever way to continue to extract money from fans and there’s a certain democratic element to it as it means that fans can complete their collections without having to fork out silly amounts of money.
My best personal take on it is that my hunt for a copy of the debut Orange Juice single slowed down once the tracks were made available via a CD reissue of all the Postcard Records material and it ground to a halt when the vinyl revival saw the price for the original artefact go through the roof. In some ways, getting your hands on original vinyl from the 70s/80s, especially those which weren’t pressed in any significant amounts, has become like collecting pieces of visual art such as paintings or sculptures, where all too often, it is only the moneyed and privileged who can participate.
I’ll now get off my soapbox and return to the business of the day.
Wire weren’t loved by many back in 1977. They were critically lauded in some places but there was little in the way of mass appeal. The debut album, Pink Flag, didn’t chart. It was, in many respects, ahead of its time as there can’t have been many prior LPs that contained 21 songs but with a running time of just over 35 minutes. It was music of a different quality and distinction and although it has retrospectively been lauded as one of the most original pieces of work to emerge out of the UK at any point in time, and has proven to be a huge influence on so many acts who would find fame and fortune in future times, hardly anybody knew it.
I’d be very surprised if the debut single was ever played on mainstream radio, other than by the usual suspect, John Peel:-
More than 40 years on, these three songs still sound fresh, vibrant, edgy and exciting. They also sound familiar as so many bands would appropriate the Wire methodology in later years, often making a fair bit of money in the process.
All the tracks were available on Pink Flag, itself an album that has never been too difficult to find, having had its first re-release on CD in 1987, which also coincided with the label re-issuing it on vinyl. As such, none of the three songs were ever really obscure, and yet you have the situation of the 7” single fetching silly amounts. The original pressing of the album, which although not a great seller would still have found its way into more homes than the debut single, can be got for as ‘little’ as £60 or as much as £450, with the seller advising the vinyl and its sleeve are near-mint. Just as incredibly, a copy of the cassette version from 1977 is also up for grabs….£80 and its all yours with the seller saying “Tape looks in excellent condition, artwork is lovely, very slight corner wear. IS in original case, which is a bit worn, happy to replace with a new one, but it will be all clear, and this one has a black back”
Would it really be any better to hear the songs via these high-priced medium than any other?