If you don’t know the album, you should. Ritual marks the end of Jane’s Addiction v1.0, and remains their masterpiece. The album runs the gamut from punk heavy rockers like “Stop” to epics like “Three Days” and “Then She Did” to the band’s only true hit, “Been Caught Stealing.”
Lead singer Perry Ferrell’s front cover assemblage led to some controversy due both to the nudity and the suggestive nature of the artwork. The record label demanded an alternate cover, so Perry cooked up a simple white sleeve bearing the First Amendment. Both covers are readily available, though the white sleeve might be slightly rarer.
The tour for Ritual evolved into the first Lollapalooza, a show that I refused to go to because I was suffering from a severe case of “I-Liked-Them-Before-You-Knew-Who-They-Were-itis.” I’ve never forgiven myself for that little bout of stupidity and ego.
But why we’re really here today is because I recently found this sealed copy of Ritual de lo Habitual at one of my local haunts, and it’s still in its original longbox.
Those of you who weren’t of music buying age prior to 1993 may have never seen the exotic beast known as “the longbox,” which was a 12″ tall cardboard package containing a CD. If 12 inches sounds familiar, either you’re watching too much porn or you rightly identified that as the height and width of an album.
When compact discs first came to market, record stores basically had two kinds of fixtures: album bins and a huge wall of cubby holes known as “the cassette wall.” The labels realized that in order to get the retailers to adopt the new format, they were going to have to make CDs easy to merchandise in the existing fixtures. Compact discs are much wider than tapes, so the cassette wall was out. That left the record bins.
The longbox allowed two CDs to fit side by side in a record bin. Shoppers could thumb through the bins, just like they could with albums, and the extra packaging allowed for artwork somewhat similar to an album cover. Not every longbox earned fancy artwork, though. The most common longboxes were generic, with a little window through which the CD artwork was displayed.
Environmentally conscious types hated the longbox, and rightly so. Unlike album covers, these were conceived as throwaway packaging. Retailers didn’t mind them, as not only did they make CDs easier to stock but also made them too big to easily steal. That was the theory, anyway. I found dozens of torn up longboxes during my years in record stores. They weren’t exactly the Brinks trucks of packaging.
The era of the longbox ended in 1993, so if you manage to find any CD still in its original 12″ packaging you’re looking at at least a 20 year survivor. Some fetch a real premium, but Ritual in its longbox sells regularly around the $20 mark. Still, given the fact that the packaging was intended to be thrown away, I suspect that still sealed longboxes will hold their value. Happy hunting, but not in my neighborhood.
Categories: From the Stacks