Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | Locked Groove Is In The Heart

Track 116 | Play me again. Play me again. Play me again. Play me again.


If you’ve never listened to This Is The Kit, I invite you to do so. Kate Stables fronts the duo-turned-band from the U.K., who create beautiful, cool alt-folk music which is thoughtful, original and inspiring. They have one song called Moonshine Freeze, from the 2017 album of the same name, which makes my Labradoodle howl. Every time. It’s hilarious.

I snagged their new album a few days before it came out. Careful Of Your Keepers might be their best yet. Mine is the limited edition on green vinyl and it has something cool at the end of each side: A locked groove.

Actually, to be clear, it has a locked groove with a snippet of music in it. All records have locked grooves — that’s what keeps the tonearm and stylus from running straight into and across the label after you’ve played the side of an album. People with turntables like mine, without auto-return, know all about this. The stylus just clicks and clicks at the end of a side until you physically go over and lift it. Locked groove records like the new This Is The Kit album put a little bit of music in that groove. In this case, the effect is the song never ends. But most albums with music or sounds in the locked groove are presented as a looping sound effect at the end of the side, usually a few seconds after the last song has ended.

This is what you get at the end of Side 2 of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on early and anniversary pressings. The Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove is just a repeating bit of crowd-like gibberish.

So I thought I’d compile some cool locked-groove grooves out there for you to discover — if you have a turntable without auto-return.

Roger Waters was behind the silly Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast, which closes out Pink Floyd’s 1970 album Atom Heart Mother. The album opens and closes to the sound of a dripping tap, which was the rhythm to which Waters intended to construct the song. There’s a locked groove at the end of Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast which makes the dripping tap go on for as long as you wish. Likewise, the applause at the end of Side 2 of Abba’s Super Trouper loops forever.

Jack White is my hero — he makes great music with a bunch of other musicians and heroes and often puts loads of goodies into the records pressed for his Third Man label. 2014’s Lazaretto might have the freakiest locked-groove ever. Side 1 of the album (which has hidden tracks under the label at varying speeds, laser etching and a matte finish on one side) has a locked groove at the outer edge of the vinyl rather than near the label. That’s because Side 1 plays from the inside out. In order to play it, you set the tone arm at the end of the side, on the far side of the label, and it plays outward to the edge. Side 2 doesn’t have a locked groove, but starts with a double groove — depending on where you drop the needle the first song can have either an electric or an acoustic intro. Clever monkey.

My copy of Yer Album by James Gang has two fun locked grooves. At the end of Side 1 the voice of Joe Walsh comes on, asking you to “Turn me over.” The locked groove keeps this phrase repeating, while the second side of the record has the phrase “Play me again.”

If you have one of the early U.S. pressings of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, there could be a bunch of hidden goodies waiting for you. Yes, there’s a locked groove after I Remember Nothing at the end of Side 2, but there’s a good chance the vinyl is translucent if you hold it up to the light. It could be purple, brown, grey or reddish brown.

Only Rush would call a song By-Tor And The Snow Dog. If Geddy Lee’s voice isn’t permanently ringing in your ears, the bell at the end of the track will be, courtesy of a locked groove.

Here’s one that’s easy to spot: Lock-Groove Lullaby by Stereolab. Much easier to spot than it is to remember how to properly say the album name — Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements. The song has all the feels of a locked groove, and then ends with one (which quickly gets pretty annoying).

If you look closely, the song length for the last song on Sonic Youth’s 1986 album EvolExpressway To Yr Skull — is given as an infinity symbol because it ends in a locked groove.

If there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s Ringo The Fourth to last any longer than it already does. Alas, there is a locked groove at the end of Out In The Streets making the song’s ringing phone go on forever.

I got reading about these locked grooves on Discogs and discovered there’s actually a pile of not-so-legal compilation albums of them. Some of these albums literally have hundreds of locked-groove samples.


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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.

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