Irene would like us to share her favorite Beach Boys track, the end of Pet Sounds. The album’s title is a reference to Brian Wilson and the fantastic arrangements he created on the record, largely working with session musicians without the other Beach Boys. Still, it ends with some actual pets.
Another LP ending of special interest to dogs is heard on Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album widely known to have been influenced by Pet Sounds. Here the album concludes with a lock groove, also called a loop groove, meaning that the needle will track through the same two seconds over and over. This obnoxious feature is only found on the original UK Parlaphone pressings of the album, but the two seconds of sound and voice can be heard on the US compilation Rarities.
What many people didn’t know is that the loop is preceded by a 15-kilohertz tone that will get your dog’s attention.
We have encountered a number of acetates of radio station spots and themes with lock grooves at the end of each track — the technique was originally developed by record cutters to help prevent disc jockey errors. Basically the grooves do not allow the needle to continue forward either to the label as at the end of a record or to the next track if somewhere in the middles of the side’s program. In the case of radio stations and spots the loop is simply silence, which we’ll find again in the Moby Grape recording below.
The normal groove runs to a lock groove at the end of the run out space, just outside of the needle. Sgt. Peppers may be the most famous record with a lock groove but it was not the first one we encountered. When we were kids we did not understand the technology but loved the fact that Fozzie the Bear is left forever calling for help at the end of the Muppet Show 2, as heard here.
Arista Records, the label which released the Muppet Show 2 is also the label which released Monty Python’s vexing three-sided album (Matching Tie and Hankerchief) which features parallel grooves, meaning that two entirely separate programs could be heard on one side depending where the listener dropped the needle. We’ll visit that anomalous record sometime in the future.
Our research suggests the earliest use of a lock groove in ‘popular’ music was a flexi disc that came with issue #3 of the short-lived multimedia magazine Aspen in 1966. The track was produced by John Cale of the Velvet Underground and was titled “Loop”. On the disc it said, “final groove purposely left open.” This was, of course, not as widely distributed a release as the Beatles album.
Some years later, Cale’s bandmate Lou Reed concluded Metal Machine Music also ends with a lock groove. The the time listed for side four of the album lists it as ∞. It’s possible that nobody has ever noticed because nobody has yet made it to the end of side four. Other loop grooves in our collection appear on Sonic Youth’s Evol album, where the track’s time is likewise listed with the symbol for infinity, and on Moby Grape’s album Wow.
Wow is already an interesting album in that it was packaged along with a second separate record (Grape Jam) but the end of its first side makes it one of the most uniquely mastered albums in rock and roll. After “Can’t It Be So” Skip Spense reminds listeners to change the record to 78 rpm for the next song. There is then a lock groove preventing the needle from moving forward. After the listener has changed the speed to 78 rpm and nudged the needle forward he or she would hear this track. We’ve left in Skip Spense’s introduction.
That’s Arthur Godfrey introducing the number and playing ukulele (oh, for the days when a Arthur Godfrey was a kick ass guest artist). The song by Spense is called “Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot”. Surface noise has been added to increase the old time feeling of the track. It was likely this was not an enormous inconvenience to listeners in 1969 but when three-speed turntables were more common, but it may mean trouble for many with more modern machines.