In principal, Record Store Day is an incentive to get behind. Anything which supports and creates income for the rapidly dwindling collection of independent record shops is surely a good thing. It does though every year throw up plenty of gripes and dissatisfaction: from the cost of items, the barrel scrapping and standard of unissued material, the constant repackaging of others, the distribution, the black market it creates and the unscrupulous practices of some dealers.
Demon/Edsel Records were crafty in their advertising of the latest repackaging of their Action catalogue. By releasing The Singles Boxset on Record Store Day, 19th April 2014, as a limited edition they created instant demand (I can’t honestly criticise that too strongly, it makes good business sense). Shops ordered in a few copies each and in most cases sold out within hours which meant 48 hours after going on sale for around £60, one was sold on eBay £138. The eBay sellers always get castigated for queuing up at the crack of dawn to hoover up the in-demand items and flog them at inflated prices meaning the genuine fan misses out. Record Store Day then gets a reputation of being “just for people to make money on eBay” but that’s no different from concert tickets or anything where demand outstrips supply. And this is my beef here. Demon/Edsel did not, to my knowledge, say in what quantity these boxsets have been produced. If 300 then yes, that’s going to make them difficult to acquire, 3000 would still be limited but a big difference and whilst still desirable wouldn’t have seen the panic buying of desperate collectors lining the pockets of the eBay sellers.
I’m always more than interested in anything to do with The Action but there was no way I was either going to queue up outside Rough Trade East at stupid o’clock in the morning nor was I willing to pay over the odds for what, when all said and done, is a collection of songs I already own in a multitude of different formats and editions: original singles, reissue singles, LP, CDs, even ripped to my laptop and on my phone. Three weeks since the release and copies this new edition are still obtainable from shops that have restocked or from major online retailers.
The Action don’t need any introduction from me here - you know the songs as well as I do - so it’s not the songs anybody is paying for here, it’s the packaging. Seventeen tracks spread across eight 7 inch records, a 28-page booklet promising unseen and rare photos and memorabilia, an A2 double-sided poster, sticker and a download card. Curiously Amazon have copies listed as including a 40-page booklet and boasting “a replication of the note from super-fan Paul Weller” and The Action stub ticket. These are either the figment of someone’s imagination, items Demon intended to include and pulled, or I’ve been short-changed.
The singles are housed in individual picture sleeves made from nice thick card (it’s come to this, reviewing the thickness of paper). The five 45s The Action originally released in the UK only came in green and white Parlophone company sleeves so the art department at Demon have used a mixture of picture sleeves that crept out in various corners of the globe or have designed new ones. I would’ve preferred straight reproductions where possible but here we just get the front cover – with a big Edsel logo plastered on it – and the back sleeves are in a basic, unimaginative, uniform design. More importantly, the mastering of the vinyl is good. I went straight to “Since I Lost My Baby” and it does have the lovely warm feel of the originals and of the Ultimate Action LP (which later CD versions stripped away).
The booklet features Dean Rudland’s potted history of the band cribbed from Ian Hebditch and Jane Shepherd’s flawless In The Lap Of The Mods book although I don’t suppose Jane will be best pleased to see her name spelt wrong here. It’s an attractive book, especially the colour photos, but features only one image I’ve not seen before: a different shot from the Scotch of St James session, this time with Mike Evans holding a dog lead attached to Bam King’s wrist!
The poster is a two-sided reproduction of the one with Reggie King’s silhouetted face which was used to advertise Action gigs in clubs, and the sticker names The Action as Marquee Artists. Nothing wrong with either but I would’ve preferred a badge, preferably enamel - there was a fab one in a Yardbirds boxset about 20 years ago which I still wear regularly – but plain old button-badge would’ve done. Maybe I’ll run up a side-line in Action badges.
And there you have it. I don’t regret buying it. It’s a lovely thing to have but it was very much a gratuitous purchase. It’ll sit on the sleeve now as an ornament and rarely get touched. Music is to be played, to be enjoyed. Record collecting for collecting sake is rather pointless and there’s a significant part of me that feels a bit grubby and used by throwing money at stuff “just to have it” when I could’ve bought other music. I've been suckered, partially against my will. But ultimately, it’s The Action, and if there’s one band I’d give my last pound to, it’s them.