In the late-1960s, the split-grooved records released by the Hamburg-based Jugendlich Records proved to be a popular, if passing, fad. These were standard 7 inch vinyl singles, whose spiral groove diverged into two pathways, typically after the second chorus, thereby offering different endings to the same song – one happy and one sad, depending on which channel the stylus slipped into.
Jugendlich’s output consisted of cover versions of popular English language songs of the time, performed by an in-house band. The additional lyrics necessary for the alternative endings were written by the label owner, Giselle Lehrer. As the records wore-in, the needle would naturally favour one groove over the other, until, eventually, the less-played track would be completely sidelined and could only be induced to play by manually positioning the toner arm over the neglected part of the disc.
In a self-penned newspaper article, written shortly before her death in 2005, Lehrer (then a leading designer of meta-instruments) spoke of the rationale behind Jugendlich:
“When I was a little girl, one of the records that my parents used to play regularly was called Adrien et Isabelle. It was a French song about a boy and a girl who grow up in the same town and who eventually become lovers. The record held fond memories for my parents as they had danced to it on their honeymoon. Sometimes at night I would lie in bed and I would hear it playing downstairs. I used to sing my own words to the music. On other occasions I would imagine different endings to the song or I would make up stories about what happened to Adrien and Isabelle as they grew older.
When I started Jugendlich it was an attempt to recapture this brief moment in my childhood when my imagination and my notions of reality shared an equal footing.”