Daniel's Staff Pick: December 1, 2022

Stains: S/T 12” (SST, 1983)

The Stains’ 1983 full-length on SST Records has been the subject of a lot of internet chatter over the past couple of weeks. I’ve found this chatter both entertaining and frustrating, so I chose the Stains as my staff pick this week in order to fill you in on as much of the story as I am privy to.

Here’s the background info. The Stains LP was SST’s 10th release, recorded in 1981 but released in 1983, presumably because of SST’s notorious cash flow problems in their early years. While I think most people today think of the Stains as a hardcore-era band, they started in the 70s and were contemporaries of the Masque bands and the original Hollywood punk bands, and you’ll see their name on many flyers from that era. Black Flag were big admirers of the Stains, and while, thanks to the release dates, many people assumed the Stains were influenced by Black Flag, it seems just as likely that the influence ran in the other direction. In particular, guitarist Robert Becerra’s expressive playing, full of long, psychedelically bent notes, sounds a lot like Greg Ginn’s playing on Black Flag’s later material.

I was lucky enough to buy my copy of the Stains LP in the early 2000s, when it was much less expensive than it is now. If I remember correctly, I paid around $50 for it. It’s always been difficult to find, but its stock has risen in the intervening years, and the median price on Discogs now sits at $400 for the first pressing. There are several factors at play here. While there was little to no information out there about the Stains when I first bought this album, the past several years have seen a mini-documentary about the band on YouTube and a lengthy cover feature in Razorcake magazine, both of which helped to fill in some of that context. An important part of that context is that the Stains, while they played a lot in Hollywood, were from East LA and all the members were Latino, something I rarely, if ever, saw remarked upon before a few years ago. With so much interest in voices from marginalized communities, the Stains’ story was even more enticing to younger punks. The internet has also allowed a lot more people to hear the record, and it’s so undeniably great that as soon you hear it, you want a copy. The record hasn’t been repressed since 1987, even as a bootleg, so higher demand plus no more copies available equals the prices of originals rising through the roof.

That all changed last week when news emerged that SST had repressed this record. I heard about the repress earlier than most people, because I was sitting at my desk working when an email arrived from one of our distributors saying a pallet just arrived from SST. I looked at the email immediately because SST releases have been impossible to get for the past few years. SST’s distribution has always been erratic, but lately the supply seems to have evaporated completely. The problem is so bad that pressings of their classic records from just a few years ago are selling for big money on Discogs. People want the Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime so badly that they’re willing to plunk down over a hundred bucks for a copy pressed in the 2010s. Crazy!

As I’m scanning the list of what the distributor got in stock, I saw the Stains LP listed and jumped out of my chair. That was the first inkling I’d gotten that the LP was available again. I put together an order and asked them for 50 copies of both Double Nickels on the Dime and the Stains LP (I would have gone for 100 or more, but SST releases are expensive). A few hours later, they wrote back saying they put those two releases on their website and they sold out, and that I wouldn’t get any copies of either. No real surprise there, but I was disappointed. However, when our order shipped, there were 5 copies of the Stains LP on the invoice, though when the order arrived there were only 3 (and 2 extra copies of Black Flag’s Annihilate This Week single… eyeroll emoji). Two copies were claimed by Sorry State staffers, and the other one sold. I’ve been hitting up every distributor who carries SST releases trying to source more, but no luck yet. Rest assured that, given the opportunity, I’ll get as many copies as I can for Sorry State.

This story wouldn’t be worth writing about in my staff pick, except that SST’s chaotic rollout made the 80s hardcore record collecting internet explode with speculation and misinformation. It’s funny, I think a lot of labels would kill (or at least pay a lot of money) to generate this kind of hype, but SST has done it, apparently unintentionally, just through the bizarre opacity of their decision-making.

A lot of this confusion stems from a post on the Stains Facebook page, which speculates that the release is a bootleg or dead stock copies. The post’s main evidence for that claim seems to be that it doesn’t appear on SST’s website, but given SST’s chaotic approach to pretty much everything, it’s not surprising they haven’t updated their website. The evidence that this is a new pressing from SST is much stronger. First, the distributor who carried them said they arrived on a pallet direct from SST full of other SST releases, which they put up for sale at the same time. It would take a complex conspiracy for that to be incorrect… either they bootlegged an entire range of SST releases, or they sat with this bootleg waiting in the wings until a shipment arrived from SST (that coincidentally also contained a bunch of other SST releases that hadn’t been available for years). The matrix etchings also indicate that they pressed this new version from the same plates as the original release, and it’s unlikely anyone but SST would have access to those.

The post also implies this release is a bootleg because the band wasn’t involved, but anyone who listens to the SST-focused podcast You Don’t Know Mojack knows that Greg Ginn always insisted on the rights to releases in perpetuity. The Stains’ singer even acknowledges in the mini-documentary that SST owns the rights to the record, and by all accounts, SST is not in the habit of keeping in touch with the musicians whose work they own. The Stains may not like the fact that SST has repressed the record without their knowledge or input, but that doesn’t make it a bootleg.

The Facebook post also speculates that these might be dead stock copies, and I’ve seen other people repeat this claim as fact. However, it’s dead wrong. If you hold one of those things in your hands, it’s clear it’s not a dead stock copy from 1987 (the last time SST pressed the record). We deal in dead stock records all the time at Sorry State, and we know a 35-year-old sealed record when we see one. This isn’t one… the weight, color, and texture of the paper are dead giveaways. Plus, it just doesn’t make sense that someone would sell a ton of sealed dead stock copies for a tiny, tiny fraction of what they sell for on the secondary market.

TL;DR version: SST repressed the Stains album, but they’re rolling out it out in a fashion that’s chaotically opaque, which is typical of SST. While the randomness of it all has people freaking out, I’m pretty sure that, with some time, copies will continue to drip through SST’s Willy Wonka supply chain and you’ll have the opportunity to buy one. Patience is the record collector’s best friend.

Oh yeah, funny side note about my copy. Ten years or so ago a bunch of people were partying at my house and I put on this record. It started skipping, and I was so bummed. I thought it had gotten warped sitting on my shelf. I started looking for a replacement copy, but never found one at a price I wanted to pay. Then, a year or so ago, I decided to check how bad the warp was. The record played fine! Either it flattened itself out sitting on my shelf (which seems impossible), or I was tipsy and didn’t lay the record down flat on the turntable at that party. I deprived myself of a decade of listening to this on vinyl for no reason at all!


  • Where Can I Get the Reissue of This Gem, I’m in Ireland and would like to be able to get my hands on a fresh copy.

    Thomas J. Foley
  • Great post! Thanks for filling us in on this. I’ve opened the record since it came out but certainly would buy another copy because it’s the greatest record in the world and I’ve been promoting that for years. Love love the Stains!

    Danny G

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