Saturday, April 16, 2016

Tricky Fingers in the 90s: Finessing the Jewel Case Top Wrap-Around Label Sticker

For those who need a visual aid
I spent at least ten minutes searching on Google trying to find out what that sticker is actually called (and ten minutes in internet time, is at least a decade in old-school library card catalog time), but people who actually still buy CDs and DVDs (or did at any point) know what I'm talking about. It's that stupid sticker with the artist's name and album title (and bar code) that wraps over the top edge of CD jewel cases and generally make it a pain in the dick to open and always seem to rip into dozens of tiny sticky pieces and leave tacky gunk on the case. You know those horrible little things. If anyone knows if there is official name for these things, let me know.

I recently rediscovered these delightful nuisances. Like an increasing number of music enthusiasts, most of my music purchases over the past several years have been on vinyl. CDs have not been by regularly purchased format since the late 90s. Unfortunately, recently I have had some problems with my receiver which has made me unable to play records, and as the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony (and surrounding controversies) set me off of a Deep Purple listening binge, I decided to order a bunch of CDs from Amazon. (Those who would be quick to admonish me for not supporting independent record stores should know that I did look in numerous shops for all of the albums before resorting to online purchases.)

Why I did this instead of just listening to them on Spotify or YouTube (or, in this case, in addition to doing so) has more to do with old habits and principles than anything practical. Not to dwell too much on a point on which I have pontificated so often before, the fact is that when I was growing up you bought music. Sure, on occasion, a friend would dub an album onto a cassette for you, but by and large, music was a physical artifact that you bought, you listened to, and you treasured. Collections were usually on display, showing off your investment (emotional and financial), as well as giving the curious and analytically minded guest an insight into your personality through your choices.

So at any rate, in the last few days, I have been getting packages from Amazon full of CDs, and I have now found myself trying to utilize that skill that I have not practiced regularly in at least fifteen years: Getting those fucking labels off, and doing it in style.

I know this sounds trivial, but I put to you that this was a way of showing commitment.

When I was in college in the mid 90s, one of my roommates (we'll call him Tom O to avoid protecting his identity) used to cover the inside door of his wardrobe with top label stickers of discs that he had bought and which he had managed to remove in one piece. The dexterous removal of these stickers was a sign of investment and engagement with music. It showed that you cared. Much like the ability to handle records properly, or to wind a reel to reel tape, the ability to deftly remove these horrible little things demonstrated a tactile skill that came with a serious dedication to listening to and engaging with music. It was a skill that developed through practice, from buying a lot of CDs and caring intensely about the tangible and fragile artifact that carried the music.

Oh yeah.
I feel like millennials will not understand this. They don't buy CDs anyway (to be fair, most people don't anymore). Also, looking back, I remember looking at the modest collections of my baby-boomer parents and their friends, full of cracked jewel cases and ripped stickers, evidence that they couldn't be bothered to show their commitment to music through manual dexterity on such an obsessive compulsive level.

Maybe this was only a Gen X thing. Or maybe it was just a little part of Gen X. Or, who knows?
Maybe it was just me and my roommate, Tom O. At any rate, now I have found myself having to try my hand at it again, finessing that little piece of plastic, trying to get it off in one piece. I gotta tell you, I still got it.

(Seriously, though, if anyone knows a better name than "jewel case top wrap-around label," let me know. Or even make on up. I'm open to colorful suggestions.)

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