The Message: Run-Off Grooves and Pop Music Consciousness

31 08 2007


In the manufacture of phonograph records, there are a number of blank or “musicless” grooves at the end of each record. These are put there for several reasons, among them the inability of the operator of the recording machine to raise the recording stylus from the “master-wax” immediately after the last note is recorded ; for during recording, the movement of the master-wax under the needle is at great speed, nearly 4 ft. per second, or more than a full revolution. Then, too, the operator is required to wait until all the echoes and other sounds die out before raising the stylus from the wax ; hence, we find several of these blank grooves at the end.

So begins the abstract for a “Sound Record,” US Patent 1,625,705, issued April 19, 1927. The patent goes on to detail run-off grooves in records. It’s a riveting read.

If you’re one of those people who loves run-off grooves (and really, who doesn’t), you’ve doubtlessly noticed the often goofy messages that sometimes run along these grooves.  These are usually put there by the cutting engineer, the same person who put the matrix numbers on.  If you’re like me (and really, who isn’t), you’ve probably wondered “where can I go to find more data about this peculiar phenomenon?  They’re so cool!”

Well, today, my good nerd, is your lucky day. I was sitting at my computer and I happened to notice a pair of folk peering through the glass, gazing upon the stacks. After a brief introduction, I learned these folks, Micha and Felicia (in town from Amsterdam, I think), run a site called Vinyl Remarks dedicated to cataloging the messages found in run-off grooves (they call them “run-out” grooves; a European convention?  I understand “lead-out” groove is also acceptable).  Here’s what the “About” page says about their project:

Vinyl Remarks is a collection of texts found on records between the run-out groove and the label (the so called ‘dead wax’), in most cases the only text to be found is the catalogue nr. and sometimes the person that mastered the record also leaves their name or that of the mastering plant, for example the infamous ‘porky prime cut’ or all the folks at the exchange.

On a small number of records, especially those on smaller independant labels, you can find some real text. Witty, sweet or even bitter comments. Messages that can shed some light on the music or just plain cryptic ramblings. These texts give another way to see records, a secret way of communication between the producers and the consumers of vinyl. It makes music physical in a time where it becomes increasingly loosened from any physical format.

Of course the messages we find are always limited by our own collections so Vinyl Remarks is set up in such a way to give you the opportunity to contribute. This also means we are very interested in your comments, on the site but also on the individual remarks, let us know, you can do this very easily through the contact form on the page and the comment fields on every entry.

Although their database is still on the smallish side, it has a good web interface and is pretty easy to use. Which is good, because there is a way for you, John Q. Public, to contribute!  All you’ll need is a record with a run-off groove message. Go to the site, log in, put the appropriate title, artist, label, format, catalog number, release date and message information into the required fields and submit. It’s that simple!

I’m not really sure what run-off groove messages will tell us about pop music and its consciousness, but it certainly has a long history.  Besides, it’s a fun idea, and maybe someday someone will show in great detail just how blind we were not to have collected these messages earlier. When you come across a record with a run-out groove message, why don’t you help them out by adding to their database?  I know I will!


Brooklyn Baseball

30 08 2007

Well the Sox are in town, and baseball fever grips the ARC. Fred, our archivist, is star (only) softball pitcher for the “The People”, who ended the season tied for first place (MAYBE a playoff?) in the amateur Zen League last evening in Brooklyn.

So in his honor we offer this baseball flexi-disc, with Brooklyn roots, from our collection.

Baseball flexidisc

This seven-inch flexidisc features Donald Scott Drysdale, the Cy Young winner who played for the Dodgers on both coasts. Here he offers insights on the first game he ever pitched and tips for youngsters on how to prepare for the big leagues (uh, “throw fastballs”). On the back there’s a bio and stats. It’s from 1962 by Sports Champions and Auravision/Columbia Records.

Now you all have seen Ken Burn’s Baseball, and no doubt stayed to the very end to see the ARChive’s credit. Experts that we pretend to be, we’ve been amassing sports recordings for quite a while here and have a formidable collection. The Drysdale flexi is one of the many, of nearly 1000 paper records and flexi-discs, that are also sports related. To complete this story, worthy of a Zen League, this disc was given to B at the ARC by Nancy, long before either of us knew Fred, and she and Fred became an item!

For a nice online gallery visit Michael Cumella’s Internet Museum of FLEXI/CARDBOARD/ODDITY Records @

Beat & the Unbeat

29 08 2007

Never one to miss an opportunity to hear some Spontaneous Beat Prosody, while grazing at a local purveyor of vinyl slabs I recently laid a paper George Washington head on the checked-out counter and strolled away with this item.

cafe bizzcafe bizz2

Click here to take a tour of Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. Jean Shepherd does the narrating.

Beat & the Unbeat items at the ARChive of Contemporary Music:
Kenneth Patchen With the Chamber Jazz Sextet Kenneth Patchen Reads His Poetry
Jack Kerouac With Steve Allen Poetry for the Beat Generation
Allen Ginsberg Howl & Other Poems
Irving Fields Trio Pizza and Bongos
and more . . .


RIP Jah Jerry

24 08 2007

August 11, 1921 – August 13 2007

Cool T-shirt of the day

23 08 2007

Today, this T-shirt was spotted on a fellow talking on his cell phone across the street from the ARChive.


This is one way of saying “corporate rock sucks.”

French Girls Are Vicious!

23 08 2007

Street Music of France

As you head out on vacances let us suggest some light reading…
ARCster B., having donated all his records to the ARC, exposed a gap in his psyche.
Luckily, rushing in to fill the abyss were the ladies of France.

Go to his new webthing, to view his collection of
French pulp fiction paperbacks…

Why? Because it’s a bit slow in the summer, and domain names are $2.99 these days, and once you’ve seen, “French Girls Are Vicious”, well, what else can you do…


In Today’s ARChivewear Fashion

22 08 2007

When I arrived, I learned that it wasn’t simply Hawaiian Shirt Day, but that it was Tiki Hawaiian Shirt Day. Neither Jon nor I have tikis on our Hawaiian shirts, so once again B. and Phreddie are Wednesday’s fashion elite. Here they are:

Tiki Hawaiian shirt

Now the reason for Tiki-specific Hawaiian Shirt Day (every Wed @ ARC) is a tid-bit discovered in the pile of magazines donated by Lois Weiss (see yesterdays blog). There in the back of The American Girl, from 1964, was this ad…

tiki advertisement 1960s

Well, we did some checking, and 31 Second Ave, near Bond St., is or has been the home of some famous Tiki-related eateries; the Ice Bar and Lounge, (where to shop for Nordic Tikis), Natchez Restaurant (home of New Orleans style Voodoo Tikis), and Mugsy’s Chow Chow (pizza Tikis).

And just to let you know that we take Tiki seriously, here is a pic of the two most recent adds to the Tiki Altar.

new Tiki altar


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