Record Collecting Miscellanies: Run Out Groove Messages

Sometimes record engineers, band members, label people, or other unknown individuals will inscribe funny messages or insider jokes on the run-out grooves of records. These spaces near the label of the record are often inscribed with matrix numbers that contain record manufacturing or label information. Dates, pressing number, plant identification, logos, initials, and other information can be gleaned by the avid record fan. These details may reveal when the record was cut, who engineered it, where it was pressed, etc.

The numbers, for instance, usually are different than the catalog number, yet many minor labels print the catalog number and record side in the groove as well -- probably because their pressing runs are smaller. For example, Green Day's Slappy EP has a matrix number of L35573, but also has Lookout 35-A designating the label number scratched into the wax, as well as the initials, D.W.K. Many major label  records have less information, which may refer to the order of the sides, so that the records can be matched up with the stamper and to ensure that the record has the proper labels, i.e. the Box Tops "Cry Like A Baby b/w "The Door You Closed to Me" has just two numbers (8460 and 8461) that signify the sides of this particular record and have no label affiliation as the record is numbered Mala 593. Incidentally, the record has the engineer, or whoever mastered it's initials stamped on it and my copy has something else scratched out. (You see this from time to time). Most of my bootlegs have such changes.

It would be difficult to truly catalog these comments and information as certain pressings have different information, but they can be used to figure out some pressing and production details. The funny messages and comments are more interesting, and can perhaps shed some light on the manufacturing process and the people involved. With smaller labels like Lookout! -- I need to pay attention to some other labels in my next RCM post --  the messages often comment on the scene or make wry observations about other bands. I've been intrigued since I first discovered them in my obsessive collecting of the label's output. On the Slappy EP, the messages read "Might Bleed Today" on side A and "Cold Slapped Out! on side B. What does it mean? Their 1000 Hours EP has "No Way!" on Side A and "Tre Cool!" on Side B. (Is this a reference to their latter drummer, Tre Cool -- If so, this could be a repressing). On the Operation Ivy Hectic EP the messages read "Eat Shit Crimpshrine" and "Eat Shit Isocracy." They name check other bands on the label. This could be an insidious marketing tool. Crimpshrine's "Sleep, What's That?" EP asks the question, "Any duct tape companies wanna support us?" Many of the label's records don't contain messages, but the ones that do, and all the others out there, remain intriguing. They represent a different, if minor approach, to the history of labels and how they interact with fans and consumers.

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