Get a record out of its sleeve. Don't ask questions - just do it. Now have a look between the last track and the label, in that inch or so of plain vinyl. Anything there? Tip the record slightly towards the light to get a better view. Now, anything there?
There'll always be a long-ish and tedious stamped number, bearing some relation to the record's catalogue number and a Side A/Side B indicator. On happier occasions, though, there may be interesting little messages and signatures from the cutting engineer or the metalworker. The what!
A stereo master tape is whipped out of the recording studio to the cutting room where the master acetate is cut. This skilled job is done by the cutting engineer. The acetate goes to the pressing factory, where the metalwork to stamp records is produced. This skilled job is done by the metalworker. Either operative may choose to sign their work or write a message.
So let's have another look.
Sometimes they're straightforward: the name of the cutting room, for example. TOWNHOUSE DMM, it says on Queen's "A Kind Of Magic", indicating not only Townhouse cutting room but high quality 'direct metal mastering'. The virgin-owned Townhouse has several cutting rooms, which explains TOWNHOUSE 2 on The Fountainhead's "Burning Torch".
Often the individual cutter will add his name to that of the room: BILBO TAPE ONE is (for some reason) Dennis Blackham at Tape One, JA is Jack Adams at the same abode, or, still there, we have POUNDA TAIPE, though who this is we don't know. Mr Flesh, perhaps?
Others you might find include a lyre symbol - Utopia cutting room; DAMONT - a metal-work/pressing factory; JONZ SOUND CLINIC - John Dent at SC; A PORKY PRIME CUT - George Peckham at Portland; or the fashionable-amongst-big-bands American cutters MASTERDISK (eg Simple Minds "Once Upon A Time") or STERLING (eg Big Country's "The Seer").
But the messages are the most fun - and the most unusual. Here are a few we've smiled at recently: FEAR OF MANCHESTER and THEM WAS ROTTEN DAYS on either side of the Smiths' "The Queen Is Dead"; a panicked afterthought SLEEVE DESIGN: CARAMEL on After Midnight's "Restless"; lots of love letters, like TO LORI WITH LOVE FROM STEVE AND OLLI on Johnny Wakelin's fated 'Bruno' 12-inch, or CHRISSIE LOVES LES on Nick Heyward's 'All Over The Weekend' 45, or HI CLANCY MY FUNNY VALENTINE on Johnny Hates Jazz's 'Me And My Foolish Heart' (ahhhh); the enigmatic CABBAGE FOR LOBSTER on Tim Finn's "Big Canoe"; and a succint WHERE'S THE HEAD? on Sigue Sigue Sputnik's 'Love Missile F1-11'.
Now it's your turn. Your name in print in this fine journal in exchange for the best/funniest message you can find. Get squinting, then write to (Contact Details).
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