, , , , , , , , , ,

Delta5 Anticipation & YouAmong the great secret delights of punk-era 45-rpm records are the inscriptions etched into the runout grooves of the records.  Sometimes there are only serial numbers and record-company codes.  But many of them contain mysterious cipheric words, adulatory opinions about the music on the disc, and messages meant for one single unknown individual and no one else.

It was John Farrell who alerted me to one of the most important inner-groove inscriptions:  “A Porky Prime Cut.”  Any record that featured this caption was guaranteed to be GREAT!

And right now, I am playing a 45 that is has been bestowed with the “A Porky Prime Cut” approbation on both sides.  It is by Delta 5 on the Rough Trade record label.  Delta 5 is a girl-dominated punk band from Leeds in England.  This is their second single.  In addition to the “Porky” inscriptions, the inner groove on the A side says “Where’s the goat?” and on the B side, “And the kids!”  These comments are probably a private joke between Porky and one single solitary other person.

Like Gang of Four, Delta 5 had the musical acumen to punch up the band by using two bass players.  The group on this record is singer Julz Sale, Ros Allen on bass and vocals, Bethan Peters as the second bass player, and Kelvin Knight on drums.  The production is spare, the guitar is dry without distortion, the vocals bump around in a small boxy room.

The song, “Anticipation,” begins with a thudding solo bass groove.  The other instruments join one at a time: complementary thumps from second bass, driving drums, dissonant guitar, and the two girl vocalists singing in a working-class British accent whose enunciation is not always discernible.  The words appear to be about how the expectations we bring to a looked-for event are always more pleasurable than the event itself.  After deciphering the writing on the record sleeve, I have determined that the lyrics go something like this:

Days of your youth
Days of your dreams
Days and nights that might have been
Dreams reality has stolen

Anticipation is so much better
Anticipation is so much better
Anticipation is so much better

Time that was spent
In pleasant practices
No mood you realize
Made in advance
Those things that might have been
Are left to others


The music is freewheeling and oblique and the musicianship has that sloppy-tight wildness that threatens to collapse but always hits the beat spot on.  The angst in their songs is usually personal, directed at such disappointments as a false friend or the violation of one’s privacy.  But every song is grounded in the economic wretchedness that debilitated their home town of Leeds and all other British factory towns in the late 1970s.

We did not know it at the time, but “Porky” was George Peckham, a British lacquer-cutting and mastering engineer.  The manufacturing of a phonograph record begins with a cutting machine that transforms the electronic signals of a musical tape into spiral grooves on a disc which is coated with a nail-polish-like substance called lacquer.  The lacquer grooves are coated with layers of such metals as silver and nickel.  The metal is peeled away resulting in a disc which is a mirror of the lacquer disc.  Rather than sunken grooves, it consists of raised ridges.  This negative impression of the record will be used at almost 200 degrees under tons of pressure to melt and press hunks of vinyl into magical black discs of music.

Peckham was primarily at the lacquer cutting end of the process.  Many great records were mastered by Peckham, including those of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Genesis.  In fact, the “Porky Prime Cut” blessing was not reserved only for punk records.  It appears for example on some of George Harrison’s singles.  It was Peckham who mastered Monty Python’s Matching Tie and Handkerchief album, which is a three-sided disc.  One side is a single spiral groove and the other has two parallel running spirals.  You would never know if your needle would select the “side” starting with “The Background to History” or the one beginning with “Minister for Overseas Development (aka Mrs. Niggerbaiter explodes).”

Delta 5, “Anticipation,” No publisher (No licensing) (1980).  From:  Delta 5, Anticipation b/w You (45 rpm single), Rough Trade Records, RT 041 (1980).  Sleeve design – Jon helped by Ralph.