Record Needle Scratch

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
A crushing realization hits the crew of Sluggy Freelance.

"Jonathan Morris has a dream: to be the first male Knicks City Dancer. There's only one problem...
...He's the President of the United States!"

The Modern Humorist, "Movie Trailer Cliché Theater"

The plot is moving at a predictable pace toward a foregone conclusion. Suddenly, something shocking happens, disrupting the action and going off somewhere totally unexpected. With the sound of a record needle pulled violently across an album, the background music, along with everything else, comes to a screeching halt.

The question occurs: does the current generation know what that sound is supposed to be?

It's hard to use this straight anymore, with Musicalis Interruptus having gradually replaced it.

Please note that if you wish to use the sound in a bit of your own, just buy (or get) a prerecorded version. It's insanely hard to actually produce this noise.

A variant is Letting the Air Out of the Band, which happens when you cut the juice to the rotation motor without disabling the needle.

Examples of Record Needle Scratch include:


  • A commercial was released by Blockbuster in 1993 starring: "This was to be the year. Dan Marino, eleven year veteran quarterback was to surpass 290 career touchdowns, 3200 completions, and 40,000 yards..." [1]
  • In the original Super Smash Bros. commercial costumed characters hold hands and skip across a field until the sudden needle scratch, whereupon they start pummeling each other senseless. After the scratch, however, the same music carries on ("Happy Together" by The Turtles).
  • Home re-fi commercials on radio use this ad nauseum. Once they get to a pivotal point of the pitch, a record scratch is used before the announcer delves into the product in question.

Anime and Manga

"Tentomon Digivolve to...(usual SFX, but no change)...Kabu--never mind."

  • Samurai Champloo, of course.
    • In the dub, it was used to censor certain profanities.

Fan Works

"roane wil nevr make it in2 r fotress curc! hes nevr gona be able 2! muhahhaa!" sad the bron haird wman but ten tha council herd a rcord scatch becus i had just cum inside them! "NOOOOO!" eylld all 4 of ten!"

Films -- Animated

  • The Lion King has Timon's mom showing Timon the savanna at sunset, explaining how "everything the light touches" (hinting at the "... is our kingdom" line from the original), cue needle scratch and Timon's mother ending with: "... belongs to someone else!".

Timon: Funny, I thought you were going in a whole different direction.

  • A Running Gag involving this was cut from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, where every time a dramatic statement was made, a record scratch would be heard, only to show it to be caused by a jukebox repairman, even if the scene took place outside.
  • In Toy Story 3, when Ken meets Barbie for the first time, they're happily talking ("Nice leg warmers/ascot!"), and "Dream Weaver" is playing, when Lotso (-Huggin' Bear) breaks them up [cue scratch] and says "C'mon Ken, recess don't last forever!"
    • It also happens in Toy Story 2, complete with an actual record player.

Films -- Live-Action

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the first live-action film inverts this. Their sensei wants the meditate on their first real battle (and victory), and it shows him starting to meditate, and then a Record Needle Scratch happens. Instead of it ending a song, it begins one: Tequila. Cue the eye rolling and "Oi" from Splinter, and the creation of a Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • The movie What a Girl Wants, where Lord Henry Dashwood plays some wild air guitar in leather pants until his fiancee walks in on him, bringing the dancing and the music to an abrupt halt.
  • The very beginning of the film version of A Series of Unfortunate Events pulls this trope: The movie starts out looking like it will be a happy tale about an elf, but a few minutes later, when the happy elf is skipping over some rocks in the water, an abrupt record scratch is heard, along with a darkening of the screen, followed by the narrator apologizing and saying that this is "not the movie you will be watching."
  • Stardust uses this on a couple of occasions, notably when Tristan attempts to jump aboard a coach: the music builds to heroic proportions, only to cut off when he slams into the side of said coach and falls flat on his rear.
  • Attack of the Clones has a slight variant of this: when Anakin and Padmé first kiss, their Love Theme swells... and instantly fades out when Padmé hurriedly breaks the kiss.
    • Taken a step further in the Riff Trax (MST) version in which one of the riffers, Kevin Murphy, makes the sound of a needle scratch just as the music cuts out.
      • References to the Record Needle Scratch are one of their Running Gags, either commenting on it when it appears or commenting at a spot that 'just seems to call for one'.
  • An in-universe variant occurs in The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy. Loud music is playing at a party, then someone bumps the record player. There's a loud scratch and the music stops, just as Arthur shouts over it, "They're all idiots!"
  • Fight Club has an interesting variant. The Dust Brothers included a record scratch in the score of the film. The opening theme starts out as one song, record scratch about 3 seconds in, and then a totally new song takes its place.
  • About ten minutes into the movie Zoolander, the main character's best friends are trying to cheer him up with a trip to the gas station for drinks. The scene itself is very cheerful and Wham!'s Wake Me Up Before You Go Go only makes the scene seem happier. The mood ends quickly and dramatically when the song fades out in a distorted fashion and all four of his friends die in a "freak gasoline fight accident."
  • The end of George of the Jungle seems to be a parody of The Lion King's "presenting the next king at Pride Rock as all the animals look on" scene, until the needle scratches and Ape cuts in with a musical segment of him performing in Las Vegas.
  • In The Addams Family (the film), Gomez and Morticia are having a tragic-romantic moment, complete with kissing and French, when the music abruptly cuts off and Gomez is ordered to get the money already.
  • Down With Love shows the needle automatically scooting across the record.
  • The Movie Plots With A View has it too. Alfred Molina, who plays Boris Plots, is dancing to a song which plays on a record player until Brenda Blethyn appear.Plots then accidentally kicks the needle from the vinyl,making this record needle scratch sound.
  • Bizarrely averted by The Matrix Revolutions. When Morpheus's team breaks into club Hel, The Merovingian shouts for silence. The scene then cuts to a DJ scratching on two turntables looking up...then hitting the "stop" button on his deck. This is noted in the Riff Trax of this film as well.
  • Justified in Malibu's Most Wanted in the rap battle scene as they are using actual vinyl records, and B-rad has a problem with N-Word Privileges.
  • Justified in The Shawshank Redemption: Trying to introduce a little humanity to the prison, Andy is playing opera music over the intercom. Then the brutal guard shows up and walks towards Andy, and the camera pans away as the record scratches.
  • Justified in Saving Private Ryan right before a major battle. The Americans are listening to a French record while one of them translates the lyrics - then everyone hears rumbling from an incoming German tank, the record scratches and stops, and the Americans get into position.
  • Played 100% straight in A Nanny For Christmas. The lead character sits down for an interview at an ad agency, relaxing Christmas-like music plays throughout. The female boss is called away from the interview and flat-out tells her that she'll make a great nanny, the music skips loudly.
  • Occurs in Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood after a character proudly declares to have raped another man in prison. Cue the shocked expressions from his friends.
  • An in-house example in Bedazzled (1967): we see the Devil at his London base performing routine acts of mischief - ripping the last page out of an Agatha Christie novel, hammering a crate of bananas, putting a scratch into a phonograph record...which becomes a Brick Joke as Stanley, who had sold his soul for seven wishes, is trying to seduce the girl he loves. He's playing a stirring record...which starts skipping. He's puzzled as it was brand new.
  • In Thoroughly Modern Millie, Mrs. Meers brings "The Tapioca" scene to a screeching halt with a literal record needle pull.
  • The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean has a variant, as the music stops when Jack gives up on kissing Angelica (director Rob Marshall even mentions the trope in the DVD Commentary).

Live-Action TV

  • Scrubs has one of the common subversions, where it turns out that the background music was being played by an actual jukebox until it broke.
  • Ally McBeal; Hoo boy.
  • This happens on Lost when Desmond is listening to "Make Your Own Kind Of Music" on the record player in his underground bunker. The needle gets knocked off the record when our heroes blow the hatch open with dynamite.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Dewey's babysitter—played by the late, great Bea Arthur—is in the process of bonding with him by dancing to ABBA's "Fernando" when she succumbs to a heart attack. How do they keep that funny? Bea's ticker trouble is indicated by the film stopping and the sound of a record scratching to a halt, followed by a jump cut to an ambulance driving away.
  • Variant: in Top Gear, Clarkson and May are teasing Hammond about falling in love with a 1963 Opel Kadett. May is playing the theme to "Romeo and Juliet" on a keyboard but stops abruptly when Clarkson slips and refers to the car as "him"
  • Played straight in the opening episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, at least within the show. Upon being told WKRP is now a rock station, Johnny Fever drags the needle across the easy-listening record that was currently playing and fires up a rock album. That he introduces by saying, "Boogers!"
  • At the end of the Blackadder episode "Duel and Duality", the record needle is pulled off the sad music when Edmund's death scene is interrupted by his lack of dying. We later hear the needle placed back onto the record after the prince is shot, continuing the previously-interrupted death scene, though with a different character.
  • One episode of Good Eats features Alton Brown trying to get a wedge of cheese to jump through a hula hoop, complete with circus organ. The scratch comes before he announces he'll have to make soup out of it.
  • A record needle scratch interrupts a romantic moment in Ghost Whisperer when Melinda and Jim realize that a particularly angry ghost hadn't been accounted for due to the suspected person being very much alive, not to mention very happy.
  • Used often on Britains Got Talent and America's Got Talent, usually in the following two varieties:
    • Transvestites and drag queens who reveal themselves to be men while on stage (like Britney Spears and Lady Gaga impersonators Derrick Barry and Max Oliver), or
    • People who look relatively normal backstage, but then go on stage in bizarre outfits (like Manuela "the Mominatrix" Horn and John "Prince Poppycock" Quale).
  • Used in a parody webshow skit during an iCarly episode.
  • The Swedish comedy series "Hem till Midgård" ("Home to Midgard") from 2003 used this about once every minute.
  • Used in X-Play at the end of Adam's review of Drake of the 99 Dragons after he gets sick of hearing Drake say "Nothing Can Stop Me Now!".[1]
  • Used in Come Dine With Me when one of the (male, heterosexual) contestants dressed in women's clothes to host his party greeted his first guest.
  • Played straight on the Mash episode "Tell It To The Marines." Potter returns from an away trip to find that Winchester, left in charge in Potter's absence, is using Klinger as his manservant and is blaring opera records. Potter puts an end to it by scraping the needle across a selection.


  • Austin, Texas's Asylum Street Spankers' song "My Favorite Record" has them quoting lines from their favorite records, and ending the song jerkily repeating a line like a scratched disk.
  • Fishbone, in the video for their ska-flavored "It's a Wonderful Life", uses footage from the Frank Capra movie. The repeating fadeout comes to an abrupt stop with the visual of Donna Reed angrily yanking a record off a phonograph and smashing it.


  • An actual scratched record was part of a segment of The Stan Freberg Show, "Gray Flannel Hat Full of Teenage Werewolves", where a werewolf-by-night ad man is almost enraged enough by a scratch on his record to revert to his hairy state.



  • Played straight in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and hilarious by virtue of its being ridiculously out of place.
  • Heard in Perfect Dark Zero when you activate the fire alarm in the dance club.
  • In Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, if the player dies, the background music will end with an abrupt record scratch before the screen goes to black.
  • A literal example can occur in the BioShock (series) games if a song happens to be playing on a small record player, and it is jostled from its spot (which, due to the awkward physics of the game, can happen by simply searching the desk it's sitting on). Detracting from the realism, though, is the fact that the music audibly fades out during the scratch instead of cutting out abruptly.
  • In StarCraft II, when Prince Valerian reveals himself to Raynor, he removes an actual needle from a playing record, with a scratch.
  • In Call of Duty's first British mission, the player has the chance to sneak up on some German soldiers near a bridge listening to a radio. Shortly after you begin shooting, the radio stops with a record scratch.

Web Comics

Web Originals

  • The Echo Chamber episode on the trope Freudian Excuse had Tom telling a sad story set to sad music. The story was about his childhood, and why it made him the jerk he is. Dana's response was an unimpressed, "Is that it?", timed with a Record Needle Scratch and the music stopping. It was an explanation, not an excuse.
  • The Mother Of All Trailers... until now!
  • Metal Gear Solid The Abridged Snakes uses one in its sixth episode as part of a bait-and-switch Rickroll (the episode continues after that).
  • The Only Superhuman flash animation. God's dancing a victory jig for the destruction of humanity to a hammond-organ rendition of 'Hallelujah', which scratches when he discovers their ingenuity has foiled his plan.
  • Referenced in an edition of The BBC's Paper Monitor (scroll down to Paper Monitor for 15 March):

Skkkrrrrrreeeee! (An attempt to render the sound of a phonographic needle skittering across a record through the medium of the alphabet, to signify a "whoa, hold on there little doggy!" reaction.)

"My Christmas tree is simply overflowing with kind gifts. Thank you, ever so much. I simply cannot wait until Christmas. And so... <skrrrrtt!> I won't!"

Western Animation

  • Kappa Mikey loves using this.
  • Parodied in a Sealab 2021 episode, after the second Record Needle Scratch it cut to a nearby character at an actual record player, who then apologized for doing it.
  • Used in all the parody trailers for Rob Schneider films in the South Park episode "The Biggest Douche in the Universe". Also used for the spoof pseudo-trailers in "Stanley's Cup".
  • Used straight in The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, as Peter Parker confidently walks up to the head cheerleader and asks her out, only to be bluntly rejected.
  • A needle scratch interrupts the opening credits of an American Dad episode when the newspaper Couch Gag has been replaced by Stan seeing Roger the alien undisguised on the front page.
  • Megas XLR: The sound of squealing car brakes replaced the traditional sound effects.
  • At the end of Ice Age 2 when Scrat is dancing through his acorn-littered Fluffy Cloud Heaven this happens just before he can touch the biggest acorn he's ever seen and is pulled back to the land of the living.
    • And once again in the begin sequence of Dawn of the Dinosaurs. When Scratch and Scratette are falling and both holding on to the acorn, romantic music plays. Then, with a Record Needle Scratch, Scratette winks and turns out to be a flying squirrel while Scrat keeps plummeting down.
  • Used hilariously in an episode of Teen Titans. A villain is listing his demands to Robin, and the final demand is...that Robin will take his daughter to her junior prom. Said daughter appears on the screen ("Hi Robby-poo!"). Cue record scratch, as well as an eye twitch.
  • In The Simpsons season 21 episode "Bart Gets a Z", a cool new teacher actually says the words "Record scratch!" as he enters the classroom.
  • Used liberally in Phineas and Ferb
    • In "Dude, We're Getting The Band Back Together", the record scratches off Perry's Theme Tune when he realizes Doofenschmirtz isn't up to anything more nefarious than trying to make a nice sweet sixteen party for his daughter after a string of failed ones.
  • In the Pixar short Mater and the Ghost Light, there's one right after Lightning McQueen says, "What is the Ghost Light?"
  • Used in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants where Patrick is the one millionth recipient of a driver's license and wins a boatmobile. This trope occurs near the end when Patrick reveals that he threw the boatmobile away because the needle was on E, and he apparently thought it meant "end". Hilarity Ensues.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Actually used quite frequently, because the music usually follows the action. Just a couple of examples:
    • In "Call of the Cutie", Apple Bloom trips right into an actual record player, causing it to scratch like this, and drawing attention to the fact that she still doesn't have her cutie mark and was trying to hide it.
    • In "The Best Night Ever," Pinkie's disco music cuts off suddenly when Rarity is hit in the face with a layer cake.
    • In "Hearts and Hooves Day", the Cutie Mark Crusaders play Shipper on Deck for their teacher and Big Macintosh. Not only does a needle scratch accompany the first attempt at a romantic moment being ruined, but because there was an actual record player present the music keeps playing only distorted.
  • Inverted in Duck Amuck; Daffy asks for sound, and a quiet static can be heard. That is the sound of a record starting to play.
  • A variant in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, in "Paw and Order", with a chorus instead of record needle: The "Masked Bear" is preparing to fight the villain and is twirling an ice cream spoon in his paw dramatically, but then suddenly drops it...

Chorus: "Ohhhhh... ohhhhh... aw!"


  • In one of the many, many extras for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the music swells heroically and then abruptly fades out as Billy Boyd wearily recounts his experience filming the scenes with the Treebeard puppet:

Billy Boyd: They used backwards bicycle seats [for us to sit in], and for that they found the most uncomfortable bicycle seats in New Zealand."
Dom Monaghan: I don't think Weta had any concept of men having testicles, and by the time we were through I didn't either.

    • In the extras for The Return of the King, when, once again, Billy Boyd talks about his Gondorian helmet.
  • A RP on the internet uses a recorder scratch. The setting is that a bunch of roleplayers are playing a game of D&D or similar—one of the roleplayers, Sara, is playing background music on her recorder. The DM's character (not entirely like D&D, then) has just finished talking about the perils her group will face, finishing with "a giant, fire-breathing, winged koala". Cue the recorder stumbling on a few notes, before the player gives a coughing fit.

Sara: Sorry, I think there's a dead bug in here.

  • A Monty Python LP record has an audio version of their documentary on the Piranha Brothers crime family end when mobster Luigi Vercotti walks in and informs the sound engineer that he should quit the sketch. When the engineer balks, there's a large scratch and Luigi says "Awww, sorry, squire, I scratched your record!/orry, squire, I scratched your record!/orry, squire, I scratched your record! etc. etc.
    • Another Python LP has the "First World War Noises" sketch. The Frame Story involves a customer listening to the title sketch in listening booth at a very strange record store ("She came over all dead so we gave her the afternoon off"). The record sticks, there's another bit involving the customer, then the sketch resumes. Later the record sticks again, the customer complains and then the Frame Story also sticks. There's a very loud Record Needle Scratch and the next sketch begins.
    • Monty Python's Previous Record starts off with Terry Jones panicly shouting "Not this record! Not this record!" followed by a record needle scratch. Side 1 ends with the Travel Agent sketch, as Michael Palin frantically pulls a record needle scratch while Eric Idle drones on about his misbegotten holidays.
  • At the end of the first Cheech and Chong LP, Chong is attempting to play a humorous record his friend had ordered; cue about 15 seconds worth of horrendous needle scratches.
  • An episode of Watchdog, a British consumer issues program used this trope to end some Sad Violin Music, being played by a man with a violin.

Real Life

  1. a clip repeated throughout the review