So you went ahead and did it. Bought yourself a limited edition Tool tour poster as a keepsake of the night you saw the band perform live. Maybe you even shelled out some extra money for one signed by all four band members. Hell, you might have even hit the conveniently located ATM so that you could purchase a poster that contained original hand-drawn art by guitarist Adam Jones. Then after the show – if the thing survived intact – you had it framed and hung it on a wall, making sure that it was perfectly centered. Okay, great. But was that the end of the story, or did you find yourself wanting more cool Tool stuff? Here, I’m talking about collectible things – perhaps even highly sought after Tool memorabilia such as, say, a signed limited edition Lateralus vinyl with bonus doodles by Adam, or an Evans drum head signed by Danny with a purple Sharpie, it also containing a slightly off-kilter “Star of Babalon”, or what about the even harder to obtain “Cesaro Summability” 12” promo picture disc? Wouldn’t that baby look good on the wall next to your prized tour poster! If such is the case, you might just be more than your average Tool enthusiast. Standing there in your “All Indians, No Chiefs” vintage tee-shirt, you might be a… collector (and if so, carefully take off that shirt, and put it on a tattooed manikin!)
Although I’m far from an expert on the various collectible (official) Tool merchandise out there, as a friend of the band members, and as the content manager for their websites, over the years I’ve come across quite a few things that I would deem to be very valuable. But which is the rarest item of all - the so-called “holy grail” of Tool memorabilia? I’ve got my own idea, but first let’s look at some other pieces that are sure to fetch a high price on eBay, in second-hand record shops, at collector’s expos, or on other online auction houses. As I’m sure most Tool devotees are aware of, collecting and selling these items can be highly profitable. But beginners (and even seasoned veterans!) will need to be careful to avoid paying an arm and a leg for fakes. And there are a lot of fakes out there, some even having a genuine look about them. So that you don’t blow your hard earned money on a “Stinkfist Eastern European promo album”, or a “rare blue vinyl of Lateralus”, or even a super scarce Australian release of a “colour double Salival LP” (all of which are most likely CD transfer bootlegs), check with some of the excellent on-line buyer’s guides, especially if you’re not absolutely certain of the authenticity of the item.
(Note: Before we examine some of the more uncommon pieces, be advised that I am not going to include things that were once considered for official merch (prototypes and such), but which, for whatever reason, never made it into production. Things such as Tool bottle openers, skateboards, clothing, jewelry, lighters, or license plate frames. Nor am I going to include promotional record store displays, although I’m sure they are quite collectible. The same goes for personal items like business documents, letters, holiday or birthday cards, etc. In the past I’ve received X-mas gifts from Adam that were wrapped in generic paper containing hand-drawn decorative flourishes [although not necessarily keeping with the spirit of the occasion!], but I can’t imagine there being too many items like this out there, especially for sale! Yet, that is… And finally, I’m not going to include Tool tour books, no matter how old, due to the private information they might still contain.)
When thinking of rare Tool collectibles, and especially one that commands a high price on eBay, the first thing that comes to mind would be a factory-sealed mint copy of the band’s 1991 original demo cassette, titled (or dubbed) 72826. (In case you didn’t know, the number is “SATAN” spelled out on a phone keypad.) With a simple illustration of the familiar phallic Tool wrench on the cover, the demo contains 6 tracks from Tool’s first two records, including studio versions of “Cold & Ugly” and “Jerk-off.” As for the exact number of copies made, I’m going to guess around 500, although this could be higher, keeping in mind that many were given away by the band during early club performances. Whatever the number (Danny thinks possibly 1,000), a genuine UNOPENED copy of this cassette makes for a nice centerpiece to any tool memorabilia collection.
Besides the demo cassette, something else that Tool enthusiasts and collectors drool over are picture discs. There were several species of these produced, mainly for promotional use, and if you can get your hands one of the more scarce (official) ones, you’ve got yourself quite a treasure. Some of these limited editions include the “Sober” 12” picture disc UK promo, the aforementioned “Cesaro Summability” picture disc, a 10” “Stinkfist” picture disc, and a beautifully-illustrated “Lateralus” sampler version. Variants of Tool vinyl are also popular with collectors, with the authentic ones becoming harder and harder to find. These include Undertow in a grey promo, and a clear green version. And although neither of these promos includes “Disgustipated”, they are much sought after. (Note: Years ago I remember people on the message boards talking about a double LP [one disc black, with the other being orange] that supposedly included the lengthy “Disgustipated” as well as a side chockfull of re-mixes from “Undertow.” However, I can tell you with absolute certainty that this is a pure fabrication. But if you can’t get your hands on a picture disc, how about an “Opiate” mis-press, with both sides being double-cut and containing the hidden track “The Gaping Lotus Experience.” There’s also the “Prison Sex” white vinyl with (hopefully) an included art sheet that contains the “big fat lady.” And I don’t have to tell Tool aficionados (those who know exactly where the Parental Advisory stickers should be located on the shrink wrap) that the original “Aenima” gatefold album (with its “Useful Idiot Joke”) is extremely pricey, only don’t drain your savings on one with colored vinyl, unless, of course, that color is black.
As for CDs, I’m not sure how many of these were produced, but I have in my possession a promotional issue of “Prison Sex” (Zoo – ZP17148-2) that contains both the radio edit and album version of that tune with the CD artwork being the same as the “Prison Sex” UK grey vinyl version. And though it’s not that rare, the European version of the Aenima CD SHOULD BE of interest to collectors. Not because the disc contains the Goetic sigil of Furfur, or that it includes an insert catalog of spurious “other albums available by Tool”, but because the spoof catalog contains in itself true information that might be of great interest to certain fans of the band.
And then there’s the “Salival” box-set, some of which were autographed, and even came embellished with original Adam artwork of varying degrees of complexity. Leave any “Salival” vinyl alone, however. They’re all phony.
Another big-ticket item would be a GENUINE certified RIAA record award that contains the name of the person that it was presented to, but since these are only usually given to friends, family, and those intimately involved in the record’s production, they don’t often come up for sale. In fact, you might have to wait until someone dies… Also, the band stopped giving these out after “Aenima”, so, again, there can’t be too many floating around.
What about those limited edition tour posters? Well, they’re certainly collectible; in particular those with original drawings by Adam (or Justin), but what would be even better would be a signed “double-set” (with Adam art), such as those for the ‘recent’ Nokia shows here in L.A. Another good one would be from Tool’s performance in Hamburg Germany on June 6, 2006 (666). And then there’s the large “ET IN ARCADIO EGO” European tour poster from some by-gone era. So why settle for an unused wrench sticker (these might have been ancient back stage passes).
And while talking about the old stickers, satin V.I.P. and after show passes are also deemed collectible, the older the better. But of course, those that went unused are the most valuable. Even better (hmmm) would be a so-called unused “pussy pass” – truly a thing of the far distant past, with their pornographic imagery and accompanying text: “Don’t be offended – it’s perfectly natural.” You know that you’ve got a real one if stamped on the back are directions informing the ‘lucky’ recipient which section (say, 101) to report to after the show. With regards to all-access laminates (highly collectible), these should contain a photo, a tiny yellow smiley face sticker (damn, I’ve given it away), and a mini “Feed Me” satellite laminate. Among the VIP laminates, my personal favorite would have to be the one with the words Very Impudent Parasite written on the front with the following printed on the reverse: “I. The Person Whining Before You, Had Absolutely Nothing To Do With ANY Of The Creative Processes Which Lead Up To This Event And I Have Perverse Overestimation Of My Importance Here. Ignore Me.” Okay, Maynard, but can you feed me, nevertheless…
Also desirable are glossy promo photos of the band that have been individually signed. Many years ago, a number of these were given away to ToolArmy members who purchased merch from the Shopping Bazaar. Although most of these were included randomly or with every 50th order placed, I have to admit that on a few occasions, when I happened to be in the office, I would place one in an order where the person only purchased a $2.00 sticker, as opposed to a $100.00 + order of multiple shirts, etc. Because they didn’t have computer access (?), these kids would send a couple of bucks (even loose coins) in an envelope, hand writting their meager order. By sending these guys a signed photo, I guess I was just hoping to make someone’s day. Hell, I probably pay my rent to that kid today!
Other collectible items that were available exclusively through the store on the fan site were the limited edition art prints by Maynard (“Sieben”) and Justin (“Unbridle”). The original idea was for each member to do one, but so far neither Adam nor Danny has complied. We’ll stay on them, though, and print a few up, complete with embossed seal.
Recently, a Tool barbecue utensil set was designed and given as gifts to band and crewmembers. As the red apron contains the recipe-lyrics to “Die Eier Von Satan” these may one day command a high premium. Be warned, however - all you concocters out there, that I have left out an important element that can be used to distinguish the genuine ones from any counterfeits.
Which brings us to the “holy grail” that I mentioned earlier. No, it’s not a cheap guitar signed hastily backstage by all four band members as part of some radio promo. It also doesn’t concern bizarre video props or some Xeroxed set-list that includes “The Grudge”, and which is also signed by Maynard (most likely fabricated). It’s not even the lyrics to a popular Tool song hand written on a Ralph’s grocery bag. No, this is something REALLY special. Are you ready? Suppose I was to tell you that there is a Tool song – recorded in a studio – that hasn’t been heard except for by a handful of people, and that virtually no one outside of the band (and a few others) is aware of its very existence? Keep in mind, this is not a cover (not the rumored “Crazy Train”), nor is it a glorified segue that never made it onto a record. This is an original full-blown Tool song complete with vocals and lyrics. The title of this tune is “Problem 8 (The Riemann Hypothesis)”, and it was recorded many years ago – so long ago, in fact, that I don’t remember who played bass, although I want to say it was Justin. The length is somewhere in the six-minute range (if my memory serves me correctly), but whatever it is, the exact time had something to do with the unsolved and mysterious nature of the title. Now, not only was the song professionally recorded; it was actually ‘issued’ in a manufactured medium (though I’m not going to say whether this was vinyl, a CD, or cassette tape). Because of the ingenious way it was made available to the public, “Problem 8” , in my opinion, constitutes the ultimate hidden track. Only, don’t go looking for it among your collection (most of you, that is!), as there are no more than 30 copies on the planet. As for those who have one, most, I’m sure, aren’t aware of it, even though it might be staring them right in the eye on a near daily basis. The reason they aren’t aware of it, is because they’d never think to play it. Okay, enough said…
In the spirit of this newsletter about Tool memorabilia, “Merch” is going to be putting some nice stuff in the store tomorrow (consider this a head’s up). These items will include vintage tee-shirts (those now out of circulation), tour posters (maybe even a couple of signed ones), and at least one real gem that will have some fans salivating. In the meantime, keep hunting for those Tool rarities. They would sure look good next to that souvenir tour poster that you purchased at the last show.