Special Editions: where does the line sit?

by James Hendicott
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A few years ago, I bought one of the most special musical items I have ever come across. It was a boxed set made by a local Dublin label, Delphi, a tiny boutique outlet that, at the time, had just a small handful of bands on their roster.

For an early Record Store Day, they produced a selection of CD singles from the bands, recordings which largely existed only in this release. There were just five copies made, beautifully presented in a handmade cardboard box, and the music was great, too.

Of course, there’s always been an element of the ‘cash in’ to some special editions (the above, was clearly not one – they cost about €10 each, and probably made a loss). But the ‘cash in’ side is the more common one. Is it growing? As we glance around at large nostalgia collections from the likes of Nirvana, Green Day, Radiohead, Muse, and a whole heap of other acts all able to dredge through their archives to find hours of ‘context’ for their biggest records, it feels like time to ask, is it really worth it?

It’s hard to say that it is. Now, I’m not the most full-on of vinyl collectors, though I have comfortably three figures of records in my collection. Personally, I always felt the point was to get a piece of music that you truly, truly love in a form that presents its sound and its art as a thing of real beauty. That’s why I buy records, which then feel like a bit of an event to play.

That, of course, is a personal opinion. But as incredible as some of these box-set vinyl bands are, is anyone truly looking to listen not to ‘Nevermind’ or ‘OK Computer’, but instead to the half-constructed B-sides that didn’t make these iconic records, over and over again? More often than not, I suspect not.

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