Sub Pop Singles Club: A Retrospective
From November 1988 through December 1993, and then again from April 1998 until its final permanent demise in February 2002, the Sub Pop Singles Club (of the famed Seattle independent record label) offered its subscribers some awesomely rare gems on a monthly basis by mail.
If you were musically aware enough to be a member of the Sub Pop Singles Club, you would have gotten a 7" record every month with two or three songs from someone on Sub Pop's roster, which has hosted some of my all-time favorite bands. I remember once on a college-scouting trip to Seattle how I sought out the Sub Pop record store on 2nd Avenue and felt like I was standing in my own personal Mecca. Picture the sound of angels singing, like in the movies, with me shrouded in golden light, surrounded on all sides by Polaroid pictures of the patron saints of rock.
I found this eloquent description on The Ratio of the allure of the Sub Pop Singles Club. It encapsulates why this was such a cool concept and why I wanted to write about it today:
"The concept of the Singles Club occupies an exalted position in my imagination, an altar at which I often pause to reflect on its multifarious beneficences.
...To the music snob, it promises to fulfill the fantasy of being repeatedly introduced to completely mindblowing songs by completely unknown bands.
To the parcel enthusiast whose aesthetic sensibility is entirely bound up in the impractical, it assures the sublime and elegant monthly delivery of a brown cardboard sleeve in which is concealed a 7” disc of coloured vinyl that must be spun at 45 RPM and demands that its listener get up from his or her seat every two minutes to flip it over.
A 7” from a singles club is the antithesis of a CD bought at HMV or an iTunes download. It is tactile, scarce, secret, and beautiful."
To give you a sense of the offerings from the Singles Club, the first three 7"s were Nirvana, Mudhoney & Sonic Youth, and The Flaming Lips. Yep, and it all progressed from there, with some of the final offerings being from groups like Death Cab For Cutie, Modest Mouse and The White Stripes. In retrospect, I don't know why I never joined this club (maybe because I was 9 when the club started? and then a poor high school student for the second round? or maybe I didn't have a record player?), but here are some examples of the cool 7"s that I would now have if I had been a member from the beginning:
Update 11/12/06: COMPLETE ZIP FILE re-upped
"Love Buzz" - Nirvana
"Big Cheese" - Nirvana
"Touch Me I'm Sick" - Mudhoney
(notable tie-in with Singles, one of my favorite movies)
"Halloween" - Sonic Youth
"Strychnine/What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love & Understanding" - The Flaming Lips
"Drug Machine" - The Flaming Lips
"Joe #1" - Fugazi
"Break-In" - Fugazi
"Song #1" - Fugazi
"Shove" - L7
"Packin' A Rod" - L7
"House" - Babes In Toyland
"Arriba" - Babes in Toyland
"Earache My Eye" - Rollins Band
"You Know Me" - Rollins Band (don't have)
"Psychobilly Freakout" - The Reverend Horton Heat
"Baby, You Know Who" - The Reverend Horton Heat
"Neon Zebra" - Shonen Knife
"Bear Up Bison" - Shonen Knife
"(Now That's) The Barclords" - Urge Overkill
"What's This Generation" - Urge Overkill
Alice Cooper Tribute
"Is It My Body?" - Sonic Youth
(and 3 other songs)
"Big Yule Log Boogie" - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
"My Christmas Wish" - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
"Birthday" - The Jesus & Mary Chain
"Hide Myself" - The Jesus & Mary Chain
"Never Ending Math Equation" - Modest Mouse
"Workin' On Leavin' The Livin'" - Modest Mouse
"You Alone" - Ron Sexsmith (don't have)
"We'll Manage" - Ron Sexsmith
(no cover art available)
"10 Minutes" - The Get Up Kids
"Anne Arbour" - The Get Up Kids
"Let's Start A Family" - Bonnie "Prince" Billy
"A Whorehouse is Any House" - Bonnie "Prince" Billy
"Song A" - Pedro The Lion
"Song B" - Pedro The Lion
"Butterfly Stroke" - Mudhoney
"Editions of You" - Mudhoney
"Underwater" - Death Cab For Cutie
"The Army Corps of Architects" - Death Cab For Cutie
"Party of Special Things To Do" - The White Stripes
"China Pig" - The White Stripes
"Ashtray Heart" - The White Stripes
"I Will Be Grateful For This Day. I Will Be Grateful For Each Day To Come" - Bright Eyes
"When The Curious Girl Realizes She Is Under The Glass Again" - Bright Eyes
"Leaving On A Jet Plane" - J Mascis
"Too Hard" - J Mascis
"Jam Eater Blues" - The Mountain Goats
"Straight Six" - The Mountain Goats
"Store" - The Mountain Goats
(no cover art available)
"Call Your Boys" - Iron & Wine
"Dearest Forsaken" - Iron & Wine
A (mostly but not 100%) complete Sub Pop Singles Discography is available here.
Ones I wanted but couldn't find (let me know if you can help me out!):
JANUARY 1991: Nirvana -- "Candy" & "Molly's Lips" (live)
MARCH 1993: Dead Moon - "Dirty Noise" & "Dark Deception"
SEPTEMBER 1998: Ron Sexsmith -- "You Alone"
APRIL 1999: Beachwood Sparks -- "Midsummer Daydream" & "Windows 65"
There are a dwindling number of leftover singles available to purchase on the Sup Pop site. When I strike it wildly rich (and have, like, $4500 to spare), I am going to buy me the complete back catalog of these singles on eBay or something (to complement the complete set of vinyl Pearl Jam Christmas singles that I have and am most proud of).
Oh, and PS - I have a record player now. Thank goodness.