In a surprising move, Taking Back Sunday released a box set on Hopeless Records entitled Happiness Is: The Complete Recordings. As the title suggests, the box set, comprised of eight 7″ records, is the entire Happiness Is studio album plus six b-sides from the album’s recording session. It’s important to note the preface is not included in this box set, so this box set should be titled Happiness Is: The “Complete” Recordings or Happiness Is: The Somewhat Complete Recordings. The box set is limited to 1,000 copies, with all the records in the set being pressing on white with turquoise splatter.
The box set was put up for pre-order in late November 2014 and was released in late February 2015. There were three bundle options available along with the box set on its own. One bundle included a t-shirt and cost $58, with another other bundle including a mug coming out to $52. The last bundle option included both the aforementioned t-shirt and mug and cost $70. The box set on its own cost $40.
After finding a new copy on ebay for less than what Hopeless was selling them for, even after shipping, I was very pleased. The box itself has a slip lid, it’s not the type where the records slide into what amounts to a case. Inside the box the records sit in order of the track list, with each 7″ getting its own jacket with unique artwork. Each song also gets its own cover art, so the art is a-side/b-side dependent. Sitting on top of the records is an autographed “album cover card,” which is essentially an insert. It has the cover art of the box set on one side, with liner notes on the reverse side. An important note is that the cover art for the “Flicker, Fade” side of the 7″ is the same as the pressing of the 7″ that was released on gold vinyl last year. All copies come with a download card for high quality MP3s. My only gripe with this box set is that there is a lot of space in the box for the records to slide around, which led to the start of seam splits on a few, but not all of the eight records. The records also don’t come in a dust sleeve inside the jacket, so they slide around inside the jacket, which also contributed to the seam splits forming, not to mention a few scuffs on some of the records as well. Fortunately the scuffs did not affect play.
Themes and imagery and carried over throughout the box set. A panther is found somewhere on the cover art for all eight records/16 sides. All the center labels match, but they are as plain as you can get being solid white with black lettering. All the center labels have the band’s panther logo printed on them as well. Some of the artwork is carried over between records as well, just having a different the color scheme. The best examples of this are the “Better Homes And Gardens” and “Better Homes And Gardens (acoustic)” and the “Like You Do” and “Like You Do (acoustic)” artwork, as you can below see in the photos of the entire box set and all its fine details. Some of the jackets even make join together to make one full image when combined, which can be found on the “Stood A Chance” and “Stood A Chance (acoustic)” singles.
All four sides of the lid and bottom of the box have different things printed on it, ranging from simple title text to logos. Inside the lip of both the lid and bottom of the box lyrics from various songs on the album are printed . It’s something that can be easily missed and/or overlooked, but it caught my eye when going to put the records back in the box set.
There are six b-sides found at the end of the series of 7″s, which starts on the sixth record running on through to the eighth and final record. The b-sides are all contained on their own 7″s and so are the studio tracks. So they are no b-side songs on the b-side of any of the studio song singles. Some people may only consider three of the songs as “true b-sides”, as the final three songs are acoustic versions of album tracks, but since they are all not on the studio album, they are b-sides and should be classified as such. The b-sides in order are as follows (starting with Record 6, two songs per record): “How I Met Your Mother,” “This Is Happening,” “Can You Feel That (Here I Am),” “Stood A Chance (acoustic),” “Better Homes And Gardens (acoustic)” and “Like You Do (acoustic).” Since “How I Met Your Mother” was the b-side track on the stand alone “Flicker, Fade” 7″ on gold vinyl released last year, there are only five previously unreleased songs found in this box set, which are also exclusive to this box set. There are two songs per 7″ in this box set, so the track listing and what songs appear on what number record in the box set and what songs appear together on the same record should be easy to figure out doing simple math.
When this Taking Back Sunday box set was first announced, some people immediately denounced it. I call them the usual suspects; people on a message board who poo-poo everything and have nothing positive to say about anything, injecting themselves in threads for records they have no intention of buying and bands they don’t like. They deemed it unnecessary and overpriced. While the first may hold some water, the overpriced bit cannot be further from the truth. The box set cost $40 before shipping, considering there are eight 7″ records in the box, that is a measly $5 per 7″. And that is not even taking into account the box itself and the autographed insert; even if you take away the autographed part, last I checked there is still an insert underneath the signatures. Taking everything into account, I think if you buy this box set you won’t be disappointed. However, they did not sell well.
These sets were/are still around well after release date. I don’t really know what to think of that; I wouldn’t be surprised if the box sets sold out during the pre-order phase considering Taking Back Sunday is a popular band, but on the other hand I am not surprised they did not sell out. The box sets not selling well led to a bit of shady moves in my mind.
To set the table for this, I try to avoid pre-ordering things, and if I do I wait as long as I can before doing so. I used to pre-order nearly every record I bought the day pre-orders went up, but lately, after seeing most things not sell out like they used to, I no longer see a need to pre-order. Plus since things don’t sell out like they used to, I can usually wait and buy the record on sale after it gets released. With the way many web stores are, you can monitor the stock of items, so it’s easy to see/know when something is about to sell out. I monitored the stock of this box set, and saw it sitting at over 100 copies for weeks on end, so I felt no need to buy it just yet.
Then all of a sudden, after the box set was released, they were mysteriously sold out. Earlier that day, around lunch time I checked the stock, with it still telling me over 100 copies were available. I checked again before going out to dinner to see it still read over 100 copies. When I get back from dinner, under two hours later, the box sets were now “sold out.” The bundles were still available though, but I was never going to buy one of them just to get the box set. At first I thought it was a glitch, but then the items containing the box set were completely removed from Hopeless’ web store and the t-shirt and mug were available on their own.
I thought it was suspicious that they sold over 100 copies of the box set in a matter of hours when they couldn’t move anywhere close to 1,000 copies in over a three-month span. As of writing this there are 60 shirts left, plus 25 mugs (mugs have since been removed as of writing this) immediately after seeing that the box sets were mysteriously removed from Hopeless’ web store. So that means on top of the at least 100 box sets being sold on their own outside of the bundles, there were at least an additional 85 unsold box sets. I’m being generous with those numbers, because there were over 100 box sets available, I just don’t remember the exact number so I’m being fair, and more shirts could have been sold between the time the bundles were broken up and pieced out and when I wrote this blog post.
So I contacted Hopeless to see what was going on, and was told they were sold out but some were sent to record stores across the country. So I checked some record stores’ websites; places like Amoeba, Bull Moose and my local store to see that they did have copies in stock, but for $60. I then checked Amazon and some other distros and they too had copies up for sale, also for $60. So it’s pretty obvious I was lied to and this is what happened; Hopeless couldn’t sell all 1,000 copies themselves so they dumped them on their distributor, who then solicited orders for them from the places mentioned above. Those places bought some and had to jack up the price from what Hopeless couldn’t sell them for in order to make a profit from the wholesale price they paid the distributor. But I had the last laugh. As I mentioned above, I bought this on ebay for $35 shipped. So I beat Hopeless at their own game, which I love.