The final rip-off

I love the Rolling Stones. But man alive I am mad at them right now. Do they care? No. I don’t expect them to, why would they. I’m just one fan. But I do have to wonder how many others out there are feeling the way I’m feeling.

I’m not mad at the Stones for their latest records, or a political stance or fashion choice. I’m not wild about Keef’s cameo in the Pirates of the Caribbean film but am thrilled that he has let his hair go grey again. No, I am angry at the Stones for the travesty that they whipped out in the form of the reissues (plural) of their classic, overly lauded double LP Exile on Main Street.

Exile on Main StreetI love Exile, it was the first Stones CD I owned. I still have the Virgin records ‘mini-LP’ package from 1994, one of the big deals in the Stones releasing their new LP on the label. The Stones’ work from Sticky Fingers through Tattoo You were reissued in this fashion and it was in the form that I bought the disc. Still have it, too. I can remember driving the roads listening, listening, listening.

The reissue was released on 18 May of this year, and my rant is, perhaps, a little late. My beef is with the reissue itself. Never mind that every rock writer (cough cough) born after 1972 FINALLY got to write their own review of the music, never mind that there was a Late Night Television Week dedicated to the reissue, never mind that all of a sudden we were supposed to act like we forgot that the Stones were great, what really pissed me off was how they did it.

Super Deluxe

The Super Deluxe Edition

The released SIX VERSIONS OF THE RECORD. SIX! There is the single disc reissue, the classic LP on a single disc. There is the double disc reissue, containing the single disc PLUS a second disc of “extra” songs from the recording of the original LP. (these claims are bullshit and will be dealt with in a further column). Then there is a single disc version of the second disc of the double disc set (which had I known about I would have bought in lieu of the double). There is a set on a double LP, mimicking the original release. And then there is the granddaddy of them all, the “Super Deluxe Edition” which contains the double LP, the double CD, a DVD compiling footage from a DVD to be released at a later date as well as two well bootlegged films (Ladies & Gentlemen The Rolling Stones and the forever infamous and horribly boring Cocksucker Blues), and a 50 page book in a slip case. What. The. Fuck. I cannot fully judge the DVD Stones in Exile as I have only seen the documentary and not the extra footage, but that is a rip to the fans that have any clue about the period the Stones were recording in. (The film is galling in the talking heads used at the beginning and end of the film: Benicio Del Toro? Wil.I.Am? Caleb Folowill? Ok, at least Caleb made me happy because he reminded me of how a bird shit in his mouth at a concert)

Why am I so mad? The Stones have ripped us off before, and will rip us off again. Sucking in the 70s? Rewind? The cavalcade of live LPs? They were ripping people off in the 60s with the differing US/UK releases and compliations. This reissue bugs me on a fundamental level because it seems so gaudy, so superfluous, so needless. Times are rough for a lot of people. Maybe you want that double set but can’t afford it, sure the single disc is nice and sounds great but you really wanted that fancier set. I don’t mind feeling that rock stars are rock stars and tread in different waters than myself, but I don’t like the feeling of the haves and the have-nots. Thirty years ago LPs were less expensive than cassette tapes. Now LPs are pegged as being 140/180/200 grams and are treated as an ultimate fetish object for the wealthy and the truly deranged die-hard. The Stones know this and yet this is what they presented to the people.

I love the Rolling Stones, the music that they created will continue to fill my head until the day I die. I know not to expect much from their business practices, but goddamn am I mad at them.

4 Responses to “The final rip-off”
  1. wallernotweller says:

    To do it cheaply ive been buying the complete back catalogue of ebay on vinyl. this too isnt cheap… i like this one but most fans hate it….

    • Angela Vasquez-Giroux says:

      It’s not a ton different than Dave Matthews releasing countless live albums, or any band, really, doing the same. At least the Stones are GOOD, and there’s a market for the different versions.

      On the other hand, they’re only ripping you off if you buy all six versions, right?

      • Mike V says:

        I sort of agree with your point about DMB and assorted other bands that issue volumes of Live material (Phish, Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam). To me there is a time and place for that, but it should be done judiciously. Some labels and artists have done this properly, treated as lost artifacts from the past. When bands issues hundreds of discs with little musical or creative variety, well, then it is just a dick move.

        True, it is only a rip off if you were to buy all six versions. But the point I hoped to make was about the nature of reissues and milking consumers.

        It used to be that when there was a big reissue rollout that there was only ever ONE version. When Virgin bought the Stones back catalog and reissued them in 1994 (the version I mention) they issued the 70s LPs in the LP packaging and then they let those versions fall out of print and replaced them with proper jewel cases. Fine. You bought the music, not the extras.

        About ten years ago there were a series of reissues on the Universal/Polygram/MCA label. Stuff like the Who, Motown discs and other LPs. These were double CD sets. Live at Leeds by the Who, which had been expanded in 1995 onto one CD was now two, with the entire recorded version of Tommy on the second disc. Plain and easy. The single disc was still in print but the second version offered just that little extra.
        When the Elvis Costello catalog transferred from Rykodisc to Warner Brothers, WB released all the titles as double CD sets with the original LPs on the first disc, the extras on the second. These were superior in presentation, etc to the Ryko reissues. And then Hip O released them as only the individual discs, in a less that superior presentation.

        A year or so ago I noticed that many of the “bonus material” that was one these second CDs were turning up in stores. It is the same company, Universal, that is now in charge of the Stones catalog and Exile.

        What irked me is that as a fan, one who spent the entire fall of 2002 devouring Stones titles and bootleg LPs, is that when I first heard about the reissue which was the only version I wanted? The uber-edition. See the fan is a collector, obsessive and fanatic. Even though I know every second of the LP I want all the extra hoo hah that comes with the reissue. BY nature the fan will want what has the most ‘stuff’ with it.

        Simply put the many different editions were just too much and while it may have seemed to have something for everyone the only way the average joe could get any insight into the LP was to get the uber-edition. And I don’t think that is right!

        Now my column on being hypocritical on this topic should run next week!

    • Mike V says:

      Undercover has some moments on it, the title track is pretty great. Better than the next LP from the Stones. Granted I do like One Hit (To The Body) but that was at the height of their torn and frayed relationships. I believe Keef referred to Mick as Brenda and another unflattering cuss word in the press. Great times.

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