In 1989, an indie lable named Restless Records saw fit to release am ambitious-albiet-somewhat-revisionist box set by one of my favorite bands, Buzzcocks. The starkly named Product arrived on discriminating music shop shelves in a perfect, silver box, culling together a potent arsenal of the British Punk band's oeuvre, omitting selections by their earliest incarnation as led by since-departed vocalist Howard Devoto. Regardless, Product collected the rest of the then-defunct foursome's recordings in one tidy package, appended with an extra disc, the hotly-coveted Many Parts, which featured a bracing live set and some super rare odds and ends. All told, Product was an absolute must for any Buzzcocks fan.
There was one problem. In 1989, I was freshly sprung from college, paylessly interning at SPIN Magazine, doing pick-up administrative work at an Upper West Side real estate agency and occasionally gallery-sitting at a gallery in SoHo (which I described on this post). I was living at home (like a loser), so I was saving money there, but I was otherwise not raking in the dough. Like, at all.
Product, meanwhile, in all its pristine, lovingly boxed splendor (the first real box set for a Punk band?) cost a whopping $35.00. At the time, that was an unthinkable amount of cash. Rob B., my primary co-hort in feverish music immersion (not to be confused with Rob C. or Rob D.), was similarly financially contricted. Also still living at home, while I was earning pennies answering the phone at a second-floor art gallery in SoHo, he was simiarly scraping by working at a neighborhood video rental place in his native Queens called Video Box. Together, we could barely pool together paltry beer money, let alone pony up the cash for our beloved Buzzcocks.
As such, in swift course, Product became an increment of financial measurement by which all goods and services were quantified. "Leanne's rent is crazy," Rob would exclaim about a friend. "She basically has to pay 48 copies of Product a month!" "I'd love to try that new East Village sushi place," I'd counter, "but a meal there is easily at least a copy and a half of Product."
In November of 1989, we did go see Buzzcocks' triumphant reunion show at the New Ritz on West 54th Street (the former site of Studio 54). A year or so after that, the band (albeit without original drummer John Maher, who left again to resume his career racing cars) would release the Alive Tonight e.p. (see super-rare video for same below). Honestly, I never actually procured a copy of Product. Being that I already owned most of the music on it in one form or another, I could never justify the expenditure. I did manage to track down a copy of the mighty Many Parts disc (featuring rollicking renditions of "Breakdown" and "Time's Up") courtesy of the soon-to-vanish Sounds on St. Mark's Place.
To this day, Rob B. and I still use Product as a unit of cost, despite the fact that Product is long out of print (and the lable that released it long out of business) and the box set itself has become (for most) the quitessence of obsolescence. In time, Rob and I both secured more lucrative variations of employment to the extent wherein the weighty cost of Product wasn't so intimidating.
Twenty-five years later, Buzzcocks are still going (and currently crowd-sourcing funds for a new album on PledgeMusic). Most of the downtown Manhattan records shops wherein Rob and I fleetingly held copies of Product in our sweaty palms are long, long gone. In all likelihood, all the tracks from same are out on the `Net somewhere. You can now attain your own copy of Product via eBay for sums not too removed from the original asking price.
Buzzcocks circa 1991: