Product 2378 was a 1990 indie compilation on the abysmal (and now defunct) Telstar label, home of Black Lace, Engelbert Humperdinck and Des O’Connor. All the songs on it were from the previous decade and its cover image is a photo of a kettle; altogether an unpromising looking little package, but this cassette was one of my first indie music purchases and it meant a lot to me. Take a look at the track listing;
- The Wonder Stuff – Who Wants To Be The Disco King?
- New Order – Vanishing Point
- The Jesus & Mary Chain – Head On
- The Wedding Present – Kennedy
- Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It?
- Happy Mondays – Mad Cyril
- New Model Army – Brave New World
- The Weather Prophets – Almost Prayed
- Morrissey – The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
- Siouxsie & The Banshees – Peek-A-Boo
- Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven
- Inspiral Carpets – Joe
- Crazyhead – Baby Turpentine
- Throwing Muses – Dizzy
- All About Eve – December
- The Mission – Tower Of Strength
That’s a strong collection of songs covering a variety of contemporary UK scenes;
- C86 – The Wedding Present and The Weather Prophets
- Goth – Siouxsie & The Banshees, All About Eve, The Mission
- Post-Punk – The Jesus & Mary Chain, New Model Army, Crazyhead
- Manchester – Inspiral Carpets, Happy Mondays, New Order
- Stourbridge – The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself
It also featured a couple of American contributions (Pixies, Throwing Muses) and one from Morrissey, who was really beyond any sort of scene by then.
Looking back now, it’s a pretty good summary of the state of indie music at that time. If you dropped two or three of the lesser lights from the line-up (no need to embarrass them by naming them, we all know who they are) and added a My Bloody Valentine track and something off Sub Pop, it would be perfect.
For me Product 2378 will forever be associated with the paper round I had between the ages of 13 and 16. It wasn’t a hard core, get-up-before-dawn-every-single-day paper round, it was an evening one, delivering a free newspaper once a week. This sounds pathetically easy, but it meant delivering to every single house on an estate near mine – about 200 papers in all.
Every Tuesday the papers would be dropped off at to my house in two bundles by a nervous looking middle-aged bloke with a moustache. It wasn’t possible to carry all 200 papers at once, so I’d put one bundle in my canvas bag and trudge off. 100 papers are heavy and the strap seams would cut me like a knife. Once these were safely delivered an hour or so later I’d go home and fetch the rest.
Sometimes, as I hauled my heavy burden around, I would think about the kid in the arcade game Paperboy, gliding down Easy Street on his bike, lobbing papers into or near post-boxes and I’d laugh to myself bitterly. Even if I could have balanced on a bike with a bag that weighed nearly as much as me, I had to deliver to an estate full of semi-detached houses, so there was nowhere to make use of one. And my customers expected their papers to go in their letterboxes, not on their doorstep.
It was hard work and the main thing that kept me going – apart from the prospect of earning up to £5, plus an extra quid if there was an advertising leaflet to be delivered as well – was wearing my Walkman.
In the early days De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising was a favourite tape for the ordeal (that album’s also indelibly linked with my paper round), later it was mix tapes made by mates or by me while listening to John Peel, but Product 2378 got more plays on that round than anything else.
Each song on the tape is associated with a section of the route, from The Wonder Stuff – helpfully upbeat for the opening few houses when the bag was at its heaviest – to The Mission for the walk home after a job well done. I was listening to Mad Cyril when I saw a woman in a dressing gown let my best mate’s dad into her house, lead him upstairs, put the bedroom light on and shut the curtains (apparently he went round to play snooker with her husband in their spare bedroom) and I was listening to Joe by Inspiral Carpets when some fat old bastard threatened to kick my juvenile arse for walking across his grass. Each week I’d have a little wrestle with a Jack Russell that would snatch the paper from the other side of the letterbox to the sound of Can U Dig It? by Pop Will Eat Itself.
The nervous looking middle-aged bloke with a moustache was visibly upset when I quit my round at the age of 16. I was moving on to take up a Saturday job which was less badly paid and physically demanding. Having saved up for a record player, almost all my money from this job went on vinyl, so as my career blossomed, so did my listening choices and Product 2378 got fewer and fewer plays. But if ever I hear the ‘yeah, yeah, yeahs’ fading out at the end of Head On I still to this day expect to hear the 100mph opening bars of Kennedy immediately after, and Peek-A-Boo after The Last Of The Famous International Playboys and so on – it’s one of those albums. I know all the words to all the songs on it and I actually like the cover image too. Good work, Telstar.