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


Past Lives

20 08 2007

If you ask, nearly everyone you know went to Woodstock, or was in a band, or once dated someone in the Eagles – or at least it seems that way. So it’s nice to see some proof every now and then.


[Joshua Light biz card; click on this and other images for larger view]

Our favorite past life belongs to Lois Weiss, a real estate columnist for the New York Post. As a young Miss Zelman and later Adams, Lois was on the music scene big-time. The early Sixties saw her 12th row center at The Beatles Carnegie Hall Concert, meeting the Rolling Stones backstage at the same venue, working as a hired “screamer” in the audience at Peter & Gordon and Billy J. Kramer gigs, a reporter for various teen mags, a publicist for college rock shows, and even one of the principals manning the magic lanterns at the Joshua Light Show at the Fillmore East. Lucky for the ARC, she saved a lot of the memorabilia she acquired along the way.


                                                                                                                                    [The Beatles, circa 1964]

Last Friday we picked up the first six boxes of her massive donation. We are slowly going through and cataloging everything, and there are still file cabinets of clippings and boxes of books to be picked up. So far we really like her notebooks of concert reviews and the original Woodstock program covered in original Woodstock mud. But by far the most valuable materials are the photographs, negatives and slides of shows and stars. There are tons of these and Lois is generously donating a slide and film scanner so we can digitally save this treasure trove.


[Beatles itinerary, first US tour, 1964]

Wanna be like Weiss?

Send in a story of your past life and back it up with some memorabilia or donation of any kind. It couldn’t hurt, and it really helps us build our collections here at the ARC!


Happy Birthday, The CD.

17 08 2007


Today is the 25th anniversary of the compact disc. Although there seems to be some consensus that today is indeed the CD’s silver anniversary, astute readers may note that different sources disagree over which one of the above three CDs was in fact “the first CD ever.” Allow me to untangle: CNN says it was the Strauss via Philips (while their wording is sort of vague, it’s CNN and they’re “the news,” so that’s what everyone’s going to think now – besides, Strauss is classical, so it just SOUNDS right), Philips says it was the ABBA (“the first CD ever manufactured,” a kind of nit-picky claim if you ask me) and Sony claims it was the Billy Joel (the first numbered CD in the first commercially available series of 50 released in Japan; why anyone would want to claim Billy Joel overany of the other 49 that shipped with it, however, is beyond me).

Anyhow, each link makes a c-o-m-p-e-l-l-i-n-g case, but you may just want to pick your favorite version of the story and go with it. Just don’t believe anyone who tells you that “the first” was Springsteen’s Born in the USA. Those people are just plain wrong.

We at the ARChive celebrated this historic and momentous occasion by listening to vinyl. And Max Roach tributes on the radio.

Oh, CDs, we hardly knew ye (except for the 150,000 or so that we have cataloged so far)…


Crazy like a fox.

15 08 2007

God knows we love Britney Spears, y’all. But she’s troubled. Oh, so troubled. “Celebrity train wreck” troubled. The divorce from K-Fed, rumors of a sex tape, botched rehab, crotch shots, hair weaves that don’t fool anyone, greasy couture chicken fingers and a falling out with her momma. But now, we’re seeing reports that the next stop for her on the comeback trail will be a performance at the MTV VMAs. How in the world can this possibly be a good idea? Besides, what will she sing? It’s not like she can go back to any of her hits. Not now…not anymore. She needs something new. A song that shows she’s moved beyond her troubles and is still relevant, but one that also shows that she has good sense of humor about her past. It also has to be something that pushes the boundaries of pop taste. But what to choose…what to choose?

We here at the ARChive have a suggestion:


A real oldie, but a goodie. Yes, we realize that this suggestion is a little off the wall, but ask yourself: with all the trouble surrounding her, how crazy would it really be if she sang about selling a baby? Imagine Brit-Brit singing THIS jam through a vocoder over a heavy dance beat LIVE, on stage, at the Video Music Awards:

You know what we hear? A return to her rightful place as #1 Pop Princess, that’s what.


(The sheet music is a recent donation from Kevin Lanagan, a regular contributor to the ARChive’s sheet music collection. The sound file can be found on UCSB’s Cylinder Preservation and Digitization page. If you like the recording and want to hear others like it, I encourage you to click on over. It’s off the hizzy, y’all!)

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