“Tubthumper” by Chumbawamba.
Wait a second. I own that? I bought that?
A lot of people did. It sold three million copies in the United States back in the ’90s, driven by the hit single “Tubthumping.” That’s the song that concussed everyone with the chorus of “I get knocked down/But I get up again/You’re never going to keep me down.”
Maybe you have similar outcasts in your music collection. Perhaps something by Color Me Badd, the Spice Girls, a boy band or any album by the Spin Doctors not titled “Pocket Full of Kryptonite.” Or maybe “The Best of Shaquille O’Neal,” an album that obviously could never be confused with the worst of Shaquille O’Neal. He’s that talented musically.
Or hey, what about “Music for the People” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch?
Come on, somebody has that.
(Or in the words of Marky Mark Wahlberg, c’mon, c’mon, feel it, feel it!. Here's the Funky Bunch video.)
The album sold more than a million copies, although I think Mark Wahlberg has destroyed many of them. He now stars in a movie with a talking teddy bear, but that’s high art compared to Good Vibrations lines such as “I’m a get mine so get yours/I wanna see sweat comin’ out your pores.”
I never owned a Marky Mark album, or at least I don’t think so. But I honestly can’t remember listening to the Chumbawamba disc, and I have only faint memories of a CD by the Crash Test Dummies, the group with that “Mmm Mmm Mmm” song and the singer who desperately needed a throat lozenge. I did have that CD.
One reason why:
I have questionable taste in music.
Twelve CDs for the price of one, with nothing more to buy ever!
Remember the amazing offers from the BMG and Columbia House mail-order CD clubs in the 1980s and ’90s? It was before the Internet really took off and people began downloading so much music, legally and otherwise.
Back when Beanie Babies were the rage and Seinfeld was a TV megahit, music fans didn’t have as many options. Want to spend just a few dollars to get a couple of good songs instead of paying for the full-length CD?
No soup for you!
CDs were 15 or 20 bucks at music stores, and that made the music club deals really attractive. Even after paying shipping, the 12-for-1 offer – or 16 for the price of two, or 8 for the price of half, or whatever the big offer morphed into over the years – you could get a bunch of music for not much cash. About $4 per CD, I’d say.
And sometimes even less.
Members of the BMG Music Service could get four free CDs if they had a friend sign up. I got more free CDs that way, and when I ran out of friends to sign up, I began signing up aliases. Only one membership was allowed per household, supposedly. But all my aliases had the same mailing address, and the clubs never turned down my applications.
So Matt Wixon got four free CDs for signing up Matthew Wixon. And then Matt Wixon got four free CDs for signing up Wixon Matthews. When I fulfilled my requirement of buying one CD for each “person,” I would write to the clubs to cancel my membership. Yes, you had to write to the clubs to cancel. No e-mails. No phone calls.
But that was only a small inconvenience. A few months later I would sign up again, and then add friends with more ridiculous offshoots of my name.
I certainly wasn’t alone. I’ve heard that some people claimed that their homes were apartment complexes and signed up a dozen aliases. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I don’t think the music clubs really cared. In my case, the same person was always paying for the CDs for each membership. My aliases were easier to crack than a Scooby-Doo mystery.
One complication of the music clubs was that members were sent a catalog every two or three months along with an order form that included a “featured selection.” You needed to mail the form back and decline the featured selection or it would be automatically sent to you, along with a bill. This controversial practice of “negative option billing” helped music clubs boost profits, and there were several times that I forgot to mail back the form and something like “The Woman in Me” by Shania Twain ended up in my mailbox.
Whenever it happened, I marked the CD “Return to sender” and sent it back. I did it several times over the years, and BMG and Columbia House always took them back. That helped keep Matt Wixon, Matthew Wixon, Wixon Matthews – and Matt Winox (or was is Matt Winxom?) – as satisfied customers.
It was a cheap way to discover new music. But unfortunately, some albums you wanted weren’t available. And with a limited selection, sometimes your last couple “12 for the price of 1” choices could be a bit of a stretch. You were like a pro sports team in the final round of the draft, trying to pull a rabbit out of the hat.
Well, a lot of people like Blind Melon. … That one song by the Presidents of the United States of America is pretty catchy. … Maybe I could get the Gordon Lightfoot greatest-hits album and give it to my mom for Christmas.
Some stuff was great, some not-so-great. My musical draft-pick busts were traded to Wherehouse or other music stores that would pay two, three, sometimes four bucks for a used CD.
Of course, the music clubs are long gone now. BMG absorbed Columbia House and then BMG shut down in 2009. I think most people were done with the CD clubs long before that.
But I know a lot of those music-club CDs are still floating around out there. They’re packed away in closets, on shelves at used-CD shops and being sold in droves online.
That Chumbawamba “Tubthumper” album I was taking about earlier? The last time I checked, there were 624 people trying to sell a used copy in the Amazon.com marketplace.
The starting price is one cent, and even after $2.98 for shipping and handling, you can get some thumping nostalgia for just three bucks. The seller describes the CDs condition as “like new."
I don’t doubt that one bit.
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