RECORD COLLECTING FAQ

Part One





Styrene (properly, Polystyrene) - Hard, relatively inflexible plastic used to press records, mainly 7-inch singles, mainly using the Injection Moulding process. The material is heated to a liquid form and is then squirted or injected into the closed stampers in the press. This requires that the labels be either glued or painted on after the record leaves the press. The cost savings to the manufacturer comes from the extended life of the stampers because of the lack of a heating cycle to the stampers. The material can also be reused without noticeable change to its moulding properties. Styrene records will therefore usually have very quiet surfaces when found in an UNPLAYED Mint condition, but unfortunately they will wear to a noisy condition rapidly, especially if played with a bad stylus or an improperly tracking tonearm. They also are more prone to Cue Burn.

The Columbia Records Pittman, New Jersey pressing plant was once the major source of Injection Moulded Styrene pressings, and pressings from this plant are found on MANY small labels. Look for the glued-on labels. Painted-on labels can be found on records from the Amy/Bell/Mala group. Vinyl (properly Polyvinyl Chloride). Relatively flexible material used since the early 1930s to make non-breakable records. Its fumes are an acknowledged carcinogen, so don't breathe in deeply when you have your next holy burning of Beatles or back-masked devil-worship records. :-) Usually pressed by Compression Moulding which allows the label to be an integral part of the pressing itself. This process also requires that there be extra material which spills out the sides of the press, therefore this extra material is routinely ground up and re-used. Because vinyl does not re-heat and re-cool to a smooth, glossy surface, the excessive use of "re-grind" mixed in with Virgin Vinyl can account for the inherently noisy surface of even Unplayed Mint examples of the cheap pressings that some record companies used. Noise can be seen AND HEARD by looking at and/or playing the un-grooved surface of the lead-in and lead-out areas. If this area looks or sounds grainy, then the grooves will also have some of this grainy background sound. The stampers used for the compression moulding process will start to break down after only 1,000 pressings because they are forced to expand and contract when heated by steam at the start of the pressing cycle and then cooled to solidify the record. Some companies routinely overused their stampers for their pop record series.

Dynaflex - Ultra-thin pressings of high-grade Virgin Vinyl introduced by RCA Victor in late 1969. Although considered crap by most collectors because they do not seem flat when held, they actually have much quieter surfaces then most of the popular records pressed by RCA in the mid-to-late-1960s due to the extraordinarily high percentage of Re-grind Vinyl used in all but its Red Seal, Vintage Series, and Original Cast pressings. Dynaflex was also less prone to breakage and permanent warpage in shipment. Its lighter weight reduced shipping costs and allowed for the use of a higher grade of Vinyl because less material was required. They were supposed to lie flat on the turntable due to their own weight, but RCA forgot that many people had changers with 8-inch turntables!

Dynagroove - Record cutting system introduced by RCA Victor in 1962 that supposedly reduced tracking distortion by computer controlling cutting characteristics to overcome the imagined faults of playback equipment. Considered a disaster by everyone except the New York Times writer Hans Fantel who wrote the blurb inserted in all of the early pressings, it brought the golden age of RCA Victor Living Stereo to a screeching halt. Because there is a possibility that this system was used on later re-masterings of the early Living Stereo records, collectors try to obtain only early pressings of these masterpieces--usually called "Shaded Dogs." The words "Stereo-Orthophonic" are on the record label and sometimes the cover of the "good" Living Stereo albums.

Acetate/Lacquer - Is usually a reference cut that is made on ultra high-grade methyl cellulose sprayed onto thick aluminum discs. Reference acetates are primarily to make certain the record will sound somewhat like the tape. Often they are also made to allow a club or radio disc-jockey to play the music on turntables before it has been pressed as a normal record. Acetate is a misnomer. It is actually a Lacquer, but since so many people call these acetates, both will be used here.

Alternate Take - At a recording seesion more than one take (recorded version) may be kept on file for future use. What is considered the best take at the time is usually used for the commercial release. Sometimes a different take is used for a compilation album or in really rare cases the first recording that was issued is pulled and an alternate take from the same session is used. When this happens a lot of people will think "There is something different about that song." This was done with a 50s record from Whirling Disc records. It was Whirling Disc 107 and the songs were "I Really Love You"/"What Do You Do" by The Channels. After a couple of months in release, Bobby Robinson (the owner) for whatever reason, used two different takes (one for each side) from the same session for subsequent releases. Anyone that has heard both records (I have both) can tell the difference between the two in a minute. The most famous of all is the Bob Dylan, "Positively 4th Street" 45 on Columbia. For some reason, some copies of the commercial 45 were issued with a version of "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" instead of "Positively 4th Street". The funny thing is that Dylan's next release on Columbia "Can you please crawl out your window" was a different take than the mistake on "Positively...".

Test Pressing - A "true" test pressing is sent back to the cutting engineer, producer and sometimes the perfomer, to confirm that the pressings will sound as intended. Most TP's are really just early pressings, frequently without artwork of any kind, and they are serviced to whoever as early promo's. In many cases this was done to rush the record out to radio stations to try and get immediate airplay before the complete label could be finished.

Original Label - This refers to the company that first issued a certain record. A lot of times small labels will have a record that will become very popular and they cannot meet the sales demand. In a lot of cases the master is sold or leased to a larger record company and the record is released on the larger company's own label. Also look at the small label examples under "Reissue." All of these fall under "Original label."

First Pressing - The way the record first came out on a certain label. Examples: The first pressing of "Sixty Minute Man" by the Dominoes came out on Gold top Federal. The first pressing of "Church Bells May Ring" by the Willows came out as "Church Bells Are Ringing" and all that was changed a few weeks later was the title. The label design and color remained the same.

Reissue - There are several types of reissues. There is the budget reissue. This falls into the K-tel, Design, Forum, etc., labels. These are discount labels that got the permission to use the original master to issue songs (usually hits) later as discount compilations. Then there is the reissue that is just a later issue that isn't a budget item. Labels that can fit here are: Collectibles, Eric, Rhino, etc. And then there is the other type reissue: A record that was originally pressed on a small label (see Original Label above) and then was picked up by a major or by a big independent. Examples: Question Mark & The Mysterians--"96 Tears". First recorded for Pa-go-go. It was picked up by Cameo/Parkway and reissued on Cameo. "At The Hop", Danny and the Juniors--original on Singular with a count-off intro. It was then picked up by ABC Paramount and the intro was deleted. "Short Shorts", the Royal Teens--original on Power but the hit was on ABC Paramount after ABC picked it up from Power and reissued it on their own label. The Motley Crue's first album originally came out on Leather and then was picked up and reissued on Elektra.

Re-Release - A record that was out of print for a certain period of time and the original company decides to put it back into their catalog of available items.

Re-Number - Taking a currently available record and re-numbering it.

Re-Recording - A song that was originally recorded by an artist for one label and then was re-recorded and issued later by another label. (Sometimes the original label will record the same song by the artist years later.) Examples: Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings. "Ooby Dooby"--originally recorded for Je-wel records and was later re-recorded and issued on Sun. Penguins--"Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)"--Originally recorded by the Penguins and released by Dootone records. Re-recorded and issued later on Mercury.

Revision/RE - To RCA Victor it means that something was revised, a credit was changed, the layout of the cover was changed, something simple like that. Sometimes the first pressings of the record has an RE. They did their changes even before issuing and felt it important enough to note it. You see things like this in the RCA files. This is the meaning of RE on the back of some of the RCA albums.

Cover - The same song issued by another artist at about the same time as the first record. This was done to "cover up" or take away sales from the first record. Timeliness was important in issuing "cover" records. Many times in the 50s the "cover" record was by a white artist "covering" a song by a black artist or black group. If the white artist or group was successful, the black artists record either died, or did not sell very well outside R & B circles. Examples: are: "Sh-Boom" The Chords covered by the Crew-Cuts. The Crew-Cuts far outsold The Chords. "Wheel Of Fortune by the Cardinals was covered by Kay Starr. Starr far outsold the Cardinals.

Remake - A song done later-on by another artist. This was not timely enough to be called a "cover" record. Examples: "Hound Dog" Big Mama Thornton remade a few years later by Elvis. "The Train Kept a-Rollin', orignally by Tiny Bradshaw. Remade a few years later by the Rock'n Roll Trio. Remade again in the mid 60s by The Yardbirds. "Louie Louie" Richard Berry in the mid 50s. Remade by the Kingsmen in the early 60s and then by 9 million other artists.

Master #s/Matrix #s - These terms (interchangeable) are used for the side identification # for each side of a record. It is usually printed on the label and is also in the dead wax of a record. I think it was also the catalog # given to each recorded song of a record label. RCA, Columbia and Epic had special alphabetical prefixes for their master #s.

Dated master #s - Some labels for a time put a date at the beginning of their master #s. This would show the releases for that year. The next year would start at the bottom of the numbering sequence. Labels that did this were: VJ, Tollie, M-G-M and Cub. RCA also did this from the late 40 to the early 60s. They used a letter and a # to denote the date. D8 would be 1948; E4 was 1954. In 1956 they changed again with F being 1956, G being 1957 and H being 1958. And they skipped I for 1959.

Machine Stamped - A lot of labels used perfect die cut letters to put the master #s and pressing #s in the dead wax of their records. This is different than the hand written #s that some companies used. In a lot of cases this can be used to a certain degree of certainty in determining a counterfeit with U. S. pressings. Some companies that had machine stamped master #s were: RCA, Decca, Coral, Brunswick, Capitol. Columbia, Liberty, Laurie and Rust. Atlantic had the #s usually hand written, but somewhere in the dead wax had AT---machine stamped, but once in awhile it was handwritten.

Lead-In Groove - This is the silent area at the beginning of a record.

Cue-Up Area - This is the area where a disc jockey "cues up" the record so that the music will start as soon as he starts the turntable. With the stylus on the record the disc jockey moves the record back and forth over the same area to get the desired start-up point.

Cueing Scratch/Cue Burn - A common phenomenon with 45s that were cued-up by disc jockeys. In most cases there is either a hiss or a loss of fidelity in the first few revolutions of the record.

Dead Wax - Also known as the trail-off groove and lead-out area. Also known as the run-off area. The area between the end of the recording and the label.

Delta # - In July of 1954 an independent pressing plant in Los Angeles, called Monarch Records started putting a Delta (triangle) with a # next to it in the dead wax of each record that they pressed. This is the way that they kept track of the order of items pressed. Each side had it's own Delta #.

Repaired Seam - In a lot of cases the edge seam on album covers, EP covers and picture sleeves become split. This is a designation to show that this has been repaired. Sometimes this is done by gluing the ends together and sometimes tape is used to close the split.

Colored Wax (Actually colored vinyl) - Several companies in the early 50s used color vinyl on some of their 45 issues. These are normally a lot rarer and more sought after than the normal black vinyl release. Some examples:

King--Blueish green for its R&B series, and red vinyl for its maroon label country series.
Federal--Same blueish green vinyl as King
Chance--Red vinyl
Vee Jay--Red vinyl
Gotham--Pink vinyl
Jubilee--Red vinyl
Imperial--Purple vinyl

And the most famous of the 60s labels to issue white label promos on colored wax: Columbia, with the following known colors: red vinyl, green vinyl, blue vinyl, yellow vinyl and purple vinyl.

Timing Strip - This is usually found glued to the front of promo copies of albums. This shows the song titles and playing times for each cut on the album. These can take up a small space at the bottom of an album or can take up to half of the album cover at the bottom.

Gatefold - An album cover, EP cover or picture sleeve that opens up like a gate. Sometimes has records that fit in both open ends.

Vinyl Junkie - A record collector that has the collecting fever so bad that nothing else really matters. He/she plans his/her vacations around looking for records. He/she spends his/her weekends going to the usual swap meets, garage sales and record meets. He/she spends hours on the phone and internet with fellow record collectors. (See "High Fidelity.")

Break-In Record - A record that usually has a story line and has a lot of segments of different records mixed in. In most cases the records used are current of that time period. This form was first popularlized by Buchanan and Goodman ("Flying Saucer, Part I & II").

Answer Record - A record that is usually a response to another record, usually a hit. This is usually done by a different artist, not by the original artist. Examples: "Duke of Earl" - "Duchess of Earl"; "Mother in-law" - "Son in-law"; "Oh Carol" - "Oh Neil","A Boy Named Sue" - "A Girl Named Johnny Cash."

Kiddie Record - These were usually records that were put out for children by the big labels. In the early 50s they came out in both 45 and 78 form. RCA had the "Little Nipper" Series. Decca had the "Children's Series" and Capitol had the "Bozo Approved" series and the "Record Reader" series where you followed along in a booklet attached between the covers, and read along while the record played. RCA also had versions of this.

Bootleg - (Also improperly used as a synonym for counterfeit reproduction.) An illegal pressing of a record that was recorded at a concert and does not have the band or record company's permission to do so. Can also be used to describe illegally pressed music from a company's vaults that was acquired without the record company's permission. The term was also used with 50s and 60s 45 rpm collectors as exact reproduction and forgery.

Counterfeit - (Also known as "bootleg" or "repro," commonly but wrongly used terms.) This is a record that was illegally remade to look and sound like the original issue, usually done by making a tape of a regular pressing of an original copy of one of the records and then pressing this up on vinyl. Most of these types are made up to look exactly like the original with the same artwork and label design. The counterfeiter does not show any distinction between his forgery and the original (Once in awhile the bootlegger will make a subtle change to the label to let collectors know his record is in fact a counterfeit. Henry Mariano used to scratch in the current year into the deadwax of his counterfeits).

Repro/Reproduction/Counterfeit - An exact copy of a record done without permission of the original record company or without permission of the owner of the master recording.

Radio Spots - Promotional Advertising records that went to radio stations. These were mainly records that had a few one minute (or so) spots plugging a product or even a current movie.

Studio Tracks - Film or cast music which has been re-recorded, not an "original soundtrack" taken directly from the film or cast, even if featuring the same cast, musicians or orchestra.