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What is a concentric groove record?

What is a concentric groove record?

Holly Conquer |

Also known as parallel grooves...

Very occasionally, a record will be advertised as being three sided, while (obviously) only having two sides. To achieve a ‘three sided’ record, two tracks are pressed concentrically to each other on the same side of the record. This practice has several names – a multisided, concentric, or parallel record.

This is generally seen as a gimmick and not many records of the type have been produced, though the first known version dates from as far back as 1901 which you can see in the video below.

The fun that comes with a multi-sided record is never being sure which groove the needle will pick up. While most only use two grooves, they can have several, with the most we have heard of so far being six. This has been used theatrically in the past, as a means of telling your fortune (the Victor record) or deciding the outcome of a horse racing/mystery game.

The band Rush released a promo record in 1981 for their album ‘Exit Stage Left’ using concentric grooves, called ‘Rush N Roulette’. It features six grooves containing samples of six of their tracks. This release has become very sought after, and copies sell for up to £215.

Rush – Rush 'N' Roulette Vinyl, LP, Limited Edition, Promo, Sampler, Stereo 1981 US USA

Probably the most well-known example of a concentric groove record in the UK is ‘The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief’, released in 1973 on Charisma. Both sides were labelled ‘Free Record’ and as side 2, so as to confuse listeners – though the catalogue numbers gave side A and B away.

However, listeners would be further confused upon realising that side B had two sets of tracks on. Due to the 50/50 chance of picking up the different groove, it’s quite possible that there were fans who were under the impression shortly after initial release that they possessed a different edition of the record than others.

Monty Python – The Monty Python Matching Tie And Handkerchief Vinyl, LP, Album, Double Grooved 1973 Uk

There are many more concentric groove records in existence with many artists such as Kate Bush and Jack White using them to show off different versions of a song - such as an acoustic and electric version, or vocal and instrumental. Jack White in particularly is known for his experimentation and desire to push the boundaries of our technology, as seen in his album ‘Lazaretto’ which features several types of grooves, and even a hologram.

If anything, we are presented with yet another justification for the intrigue of vinyl.  It is a playground for designers and musicians to come up with different ways of showing off their work and using the technology before them to fascinate and amuse us as listeners.


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