Armagideon Time

Most of the singles in my collection are either non-album tracks or one-off favorites where it was easier (and cheaper) to opt for the seven-inch over a full LP. There’s no point in springing for, say, The Best of The American Breed when I know deep down that my turntable’s stylus will only traverse the part containing “Bend Me, Shape Me.” There are also cases (Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry or Ladytron’s Witching Hour) where a coveted album release is impossible to find or extortionately priced, so I’ll settle for a seven-inch promo slice of the whole for the time being.

For reasons of space and efficiency, I generally avoid buying singles of material I already have on LP. It’s not a hard and fast rule, though, and it has been broken for the sake of a superior-to-the-album edits, strong b-sides, or tracks I really, really love and like having handy for the “sets” I spin for Maura and the critters after work.

A perfect example of that last category is “A Message to You, Rudy” by The Specials, a 1979 cover of a Dandy Livingstone jam which became an anthem of the 2-Tone scene. It kicks off The Specials’ eponymous debut LP, which gets frequent spins on my machine but sometimes I need those three minutes of rocksteady bliss in isolation.

I needed it badly enough that I was willing to pay a premium for it. 2-Tone (both the label and broader scene) material still generates strong demand in the used vinyl market. While the prices are not nearly as exorbitant as they are for certain punk obscurities, finding decent condition and affordable copies of the records requires casting a fairly wide net and sifting through a staggering number of international releases until finding an acceptably sweet spot.

Ultimately, I settled for the German version of the 7-inch. It plays perfectly well and is indistinguishable from the UK original in every way…

…except for the truly bizarre font choice on the sleeve.

Maybe the person responsible didn’t really grasp the granularity of the “new wave” scene and assumed it was all synthesized futurism. Or maybe it was 1979 and COM-PEW-TOR shit was still in faddish vogue.

I don’t have an answer. All I know is that looking at it induces intense feelings of cognitive dissonance…while making me wonder if there’s a German release of the “Empire State Human” single where “Human League” is done up with black and white checks with a cartoon version of Phil Oakey rocking a porkpie.

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