Product 2378 – The soundtrack to my paper round

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 photograph of a kettle. Altogether it’s an unpromising looking little package, but this cassette was one of my first indie music purchases and it meant a lot to me. And just take a look at the track listing;

Side One

  1. The Wonder Stuff – Who Wants To Be The Disco King?
  2. New Order – Vanishing Point
  3. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Head On
  4. The Wedding Present – Kennedy
  5. Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It?
  6. Happy Mondays – Mad Cyril
  7. New Model Army – Brave New World
  8. The Weather Prophets – Almost Prayed

Side Two

  1. Morrissey – The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
  2. Siouxsie & The Banshees – Peek-A-Boo
  3. Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven
  4. Inspiral Carpets – Joe
  5. Crazyhead – Baby Turpentine
  6. Throwing Muses – Dizzy
  7. All About Eve – December
  8. The Mission – Tower Of Strength

That’s a strong collection of songs, roughly 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 excellent 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 into the night. 100 papers are heavy – the strap seams would cut me like a knife. Once these were safely delivered an hour or so later I’d go home, fetch the rest and trudge back out.

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. 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 either made by mates or by me from listening to John Peel. You know how that would go – let the man introduce the track, hit record and decide 20 seconds in whether it was wonderful or unlistenable. Either that or find out it was played at the wrong speed. 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 pink, quilted dressing gown let my best mate’s dad into her house, lead him upstairs, put the bedroom light on and shut the curtains. Obviously I told my mate about this the second I saw him at school the next day. The explanation he got from his dad was that he went round to play snooker with the woman’s husband in their spare bedroom. Yeah, right! “But best not mention it to your mum, she hates me playing snooker”.

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 the 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.

In three years of doing that round I received one, solitary tip – 50p from a friend of my mum’s one Christmas. Possibly satisfied customers were constantly calling me post-delivery waving fivers and I just couldn’t hear because I was singing along to Monkey Gone To Heaven. Probably not.

The nervous looking bloke who dropped the papers off at my house was understandably crushed when I quit my round at the age of 16. He asked me if I knew anyone who wanted to take it over. When I told him I didn’t his moustache trembled fearfully. Maybe whichever media baron ultimately owned that shitty periodical oversaw a regime in which undelivered papers were punished with broken limbs. It wouldn’t surprise me.

I was moving on to take up a Saturday job which was less badly paid, less physically demanding and more likely to allow my spine to develop as God intended. It would also allow me to save up for a record player, and once I had it, almost all my money from this job went on vinyl. The only trouble was it was paid monthly, like I was a regular employee. So I’d always spend every penny in one joyous record shopping trip every four weeks and be skint for the rest of the month. It was great though.

So as my career blossomed, so did my listening choices and Product 2378 got fewer and fewer plays. But to this day, whenever I hear the ‘yeah, yeah, yeahs’ fading out at the end of Head On I still 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 every song on it. And I actually like the cover image too. Kudos, Telstar. You have a lot to be ashamed of but Product 2378 was pretty cool.

‘Head On’ by The Jesus & Mary Chain covered by Pixies – Magnificent Cover Version No.16

‘Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)’ by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, covered by The Wedding Present – Magnificent Cover Version No.4

‘When Tomorrow Hits’ by Mudhoney, covered by Spacemen 3 – Magnificent Cover Version No.22

The Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr & Blur – ‘Rollercoaster’ 1992

 

 

 

‘Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)’ by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, covered by The Wedding Present – Magnificent Cover Version No.4

Jilted John (Gordon Is A Moron)’ by Jilted John would be the perfect choice of cover version for The Wedding Present, with its themes of love, loss and jilting, but failing that, this’ll do.

Come Up And See Me (Make Me Smile) was The Wedding Present’s contribution to the Alvin Lives In Leeds, anti-Poll Tax compilation – a rich source of covers, but they’re mainly a bit shit. I first heard it as a B-side.

I got the 3 Songs EP that includes this cover on cassette from Woolworths or Our Price as a kid (it’s written about here, just below the L7 piece). I remember playing the tape to my mate Millhouse and him saying, “Woah, that’s grunge!” It wasn’t grunge of course, but it had a harsher, heavier sound, which complemented rather than overwhelmed the songs. This sound was largely due to the production of Steve Albini.

wedding_present_old

The Wedding Present recorded two EPs (including 3 Songs) and the Seamonsters album with Steve Albini. These recordings are, to me, the strongest work that The Wedding Present have produced. Seamonsters has the same brooding, claustrophobic feel as The Breeders’ Pod (also produced by Albini and discussed in Magnificent Cover Version No.2). Like Pod, it also has brilliant songs.

Around this time, I remember reading an interview with Steve Albini in which he complained about love being the default subject matter for songs. He couldn’t understand why this was the case since love, to him, boiled down to the act of rubbing genitals together; the old romantic. Makes you wonder what he made of David Gedge’s lovelorn lyrics.

Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) was a cover of a Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel song and it was perfectly suited to The Wedding Present. They speeded it up and stripped it down from the sleazy, sub-Bowie original, turning it into an edgy, angst-filled indie-rock classic.

steve-harley-and-cockney-rebel-make-me-smile-come-up-and-see-me-emi-5

I’d never heard of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel before hearing this cover but I discovered two things about them afterwards. 1) Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel are a band, not a duo. 2) Steve Harley’s cousin lived in the house that backed onto mine when I was growing up. I don’t know if he ever visited but I wouldn’t have recognised him if he had.

The sister of Bob Catley, the lead singer of Magnum, lived a couple of doors down from us too. I saw him a few times – my dog once took exception to his leather trousers and ran up to him barking furiously. It was the most upset I ever saw her. She was absolutely livid about those trousers. She didn’t bite him or anything and I dragged her away pretty quickly. During the incident Bob Catley looked a bit alarmed but he didn’t run away. He just said, “Hey, cool it dawg”, in an American accent, like he was from Venice Beach rather than Aldershot. Nice fella.

 

‘Different Drum’ by Linda Ronstadt, covered by The Lemonheads – Magnificent Cover Version No. 27

‘Head On’ by The Jesus & Mary Chain covered by Pixies – Magnificent Cover Version No.16