Giorgio Moroder’s “From Here to Eternity” (1977)

Giorgio Moroder is most famous these days for being “that guy from the Daft Punk song”, referring to his cameo on Random Access Memories. Prior to 2012 or so, he was known as the producer of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”. He had mostly faded into obscurity unless you were into ‘80s movie soundtracks (Scarface, American Gigolo, Midnight Express) or disco music.

On the strength of his newfound Daft Punk cred and “I Feel Love”, I had my eye on picking up one of his albums. This wasn’t one of those “must haves”, but it was on my mind as I sifted through several stacks of records at Giovanni’s Room thrift shop in Philly the weekend before last.

Lucky for me, Giovanni’s Room has a policy of marking down by half any records that sit for more than six months. This one slipped under the radar and was tagged $3. Best find of the weekend.

When you listen to this album, the first thing you notice is that it sounds a lot like you know who. The vintage drum machine and vocoder sound is what our generation associates with the robot duo or Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak, but it’s clearly borrowed from Moroder and his contemporaries and reinvented for a new generation.

The nice bit about Moroder’s sound being so imitated today is that this album listens like a lost Daft Punk album. It doesn’t sound dated at all. It’s got a cohesive house music beat that goes well in the background while you’re doing other things, but you could easily turn up the volume and get a dance party started.

“Matrix” engravings next to the label on vinyl records

When I first started buying records, I noticed that they often had hand-etched letters and numbers in the blank space between the last song and the label. At the time, not knowing anything about how records are made, I figured they were etched by hand onto each record by the company and denoted a numbered order of production, like a limited edition artist print. That would be a lot of writing! I chalked it up as another reason why new vinyl is so expensive.

When I discovered I could use Discogs.com to catalogue our records, I searched for some kind of identifying mark on the record itself and found that the etched alphanumeric string is called a matrix or run-out code. They do not count “up” with each new record produced. 

The first part of the number generally matches up with the catalogue number of the record and will also be on the label. The other information records the A/B side, the “cut” of the record stamper, and often the pressing plant or the mastering studio / engineer. Most have numbers or letters and dashes, but I even have one with a tiny flower, one that says “Porky”, and Paola has a green vinyl with a miniature signature!

The Beatles first US album label
Beatles hand-etched matrix code matching the 63-3402 code on the label
More matrix markings
Dylan’s Basement Tapes stamped matrix code
Coleman Hawkins USSR stamped matrix code

Finding weird and wonderful album covers

Since I just repaired our turntable I’ve been going to record stores to expand our collection. So far Princeton Record Exchange (PRX) in Princeton, NJ and Generation Records here in New York have been my favorites. PRX is well worth the trip if you’re starting a collection because they have so many classics for under $10 and Generation has a great budget jazz section and some unique stuff on the walls.

In some cases, I’ve taken a chance and bought great music and at other times just took photos of odd and interesting covers that I didn’t buy. Here are some photos from the last few weeks: