In 1981, my parents finally gave in, and my dumb ass joined the Columbia House Record and Tape Club. I'd been asking for years to no avail. It seemed like the biggest bargain in town - 13 albums for a penny.... where do I sign! All I had to do was agree to buy 8 more later on - what a sweet deal! After my parents relented, I spent hours poring over the vast selection, carefully choosing each record as if my very life depended on it. I still remember the records that came in a nice big box three weeks later:
Stars on 45
At the time I actually thought I was going to get a Beatles greatest hits LP; instead, I got a Beatles medley sung by a cover band to a disco beat.
The Bee Gees - Spirits Having Flown
Yes, I know it was released in 1979; but in '81 I was evidently still wantin' some "Tragedy".
Styx - Paradise Theater
My friend and I would lay in his room, crank up the volume and listen to this LP over and over.... as if this was Sgt. Pepper or Miles Davis. How embarrassing.
Queen - The Game
Now here was a good purchase. Sadly, I would trade it for a Depeche Mode cassette tape five years later. Not one of my proudest moments.
Air Supply - The One That You Love
I'd love to tell you I bought a Sex Pistols or Sabbath LP, but I'm all about honesty here, folks.
Steve Martin - Wild and Crazy Guy
"Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia. King Tut." You remember it. You liked it too, I know you did.
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I'll stop there. You get the point. Anyway, once you get the 13 records for a buck, they keep sending you this form you have to fill out month after month. If you don't decline the featured album for that month, they mail it to you, along with the bill.
I wasn't exactly the reliable sort, back then. So, I inevitably kept getting stuck with the month's shitty selection. It was painful having to shell out hard earned money for a Pat Benetar album I would never listen to.
Even worse, cassette tapes were now the thing, and vinyl was being phased out. I wanted cassettes, and learning nothing from my previous business venture with Columbia House, I once again fell under their spell. I still remember the cassettes I purchased for a mere penny.
Phil Collins - Face ValueI don't recall the rest - maybe Billy Squire or Thriller. Once again, unwanted tapes kept coming in the mail (Marty Robbins' Greatest Hits comes to mind) and I kept paying for them. Even worse, these tapes didn't even look real - they were plain white with a microscopic little picture on the front. No liner notes, no fold out collages, nothing. I was accustomed to the bold brilliant days of LP cover art; these were dark times for vinyl lovers indeed.
AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Asia - Asia
Men at Work - Business as Usual
The Who - It's Hard
The Cars - Shake It Up
Stray Cats - Built for Speed
Fleetwood Mac - Mirage
The Police - Ghost in the Machine
Survivor - Eye of the Tiger
J. Geils Band - Freeze Frame
And thus ends the long sordid story of my dalliance with Columbia House. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else had similar experiences. If you remember what you ordered for a penny (or dollar), I'd be interested to hear.