NEWS : MON, NOV 21, 2016 at 11:45 AM

No Fly List: Notes from Sub Pop’s Airport Store (November 2016)

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As 2016 finally limps to a close, we’re happy to provide you the pleasant distraction of this the November edition of thee No Fly List! This month’s dispatch is stuffed with plenty of product placement and peppered with the sort of almost-humor you might expect from a tippling uncle at Thanksgiving. In what follows we’re going to explore what is perhaps Sub Pop’s most well-known, provocative, overused, and frequently misunderstood expression: “LOSER.”

If you have been keeping up with No Fly List posts from Sub Pop’s airport store since the beginning, you’ve probably wondered what our fourth most asked question is! (See top three FAQ’s

Wonder no more! It’s “What is loser, and why loser?” (Which, yes, is kind of actually two questions, but they’re related and we’re calling the shots here, so deal with it.) Let’s dig in…


According to LOSER; the recently expanded book by Clark Humphrey that chronicles the diverse Seattle sound and punk scene, it’s, “a statement of defiance against the yuppies’ obsession with ‘winners.’” The term “LOSER” or “losers of the music industry” was a reaction to corporate industry driven trends and views.

First developed/stumbled upon in the summer of 1988, “LOSER” made its way onto a Sub Pop t-shirt that very year. Consistent with the label’s aesthetic embrace of apathy (and characteristic of the time), images were sporadically misprinted, contained gaps, and sometimes were even screened in reverse. You can scope photos of the original “LOSER” shirt in such books as Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm, and Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe by Bruce Pavitt.

In grunge speak, courtesy of Sub Pop’s current CEO Megan Jasper back when she was still the label’s receptionist, a loser is a “cob nobbler.” And, the greeting “Dear Loser” was used endearingly in the infamous Sub Pop rejection letters of the early nineties. The term was later used to market a Sorachi Ace-forward American pale ale developed in Seattle by local brewery Elysian. It’s also a term used in the card game contract bridge.

So that’s why Loser Editions! And, why don’t you have Bloom, Fear Fun, or King Tuff on colored wax? It might be because you didn’t pop in to the Sub Pop store at SeaTac. The Sub Pop airport shop is often the last place you might be able find one of these limited slick discs before they hit the wicked online aftermarket. When the pre-sale is sold out and the stash at your favorite shop has dwindled to nothing, your Loser Edition might just be one plane ticket away.

More “LOSER” related fact and fiction…

One of the earliest singles I’ve scored since becoming a Sub Pop employee is TAD’s long-out-of-print 7” single for “Loser” b/w “Cooking With Gas” (SP55).  While this release was limited to 3,000 copies on a green transparent vinyl 7”, both tracks are now available on the deluxe edition reissue of 1990’s Salt Lick. The 45 has a killer back cover by celebrated local cartoonist Peter Bagge, which exists now on a fine black t-shirt.

Are we forever going on about “LOSER” this and “LOSER” that because of the Beck song? Fuck no! Beck was/is not on Sub Pop. He did, however, put out the 1994 release One Foot in the Grave on Olympia-based label K Records (the latter day reissue of which is occasionally stocked on vinyl in the ‘non-Sub Pop’ section of the airport store with the rest of the PNW titles and related artists). 

Life as a “LOSER” is not for everyone. Tourists regularly walk by the store and stare. Some stop and think out-loud how unsuitable something like this would be for their youngster. Others imagine their choice of relative sporting a big, bold “LOSER” (as punishment or gift, who can say?). For those daring and/or proudly unambitious enough to let their “LOSER” flag fly, however… As the holiday season approaches, this charming stocking awaits, (available online only!), as does a great heap of other shit that says LOSER on it

Now if you don’t have any other questions; beat it LOSER!    



Posted by Brent Zmrhal