The flexidisc is dead. Long live the flexidisc.

The humble, disposable black, plastic, foldable, easily ruined, cheap, novelty, as punk as you like, promotional item, much-maligned and much-adored in equal measure, is making a comeback.

It's a relatively minor one, sure, but it's a return, nonetheless.

We've just received another one in the post, from fledgling indie soundtrack label One Way Static. This seven inch marvel features the radio spots from horror film Last House On The Left. It comes off the back of not one but two we'd received from our favourite label, Death Waltz Recording Company, including one features the ads from Halloween III.

While three may not constitute a fully-fledged movement, it's still a near-Lazarus-style return, given that a few years ago you couldn't find anyone willing to admit to bring able to press the damn things let alone actually do it.

The flexidisc has had a chequered history, it was first used as a novelty giveaway item. This writer vividly remembers getting them free with Ready Brek cereal more than 40 years ago, eagerly wiping off the oats and accompanying dust to listen to, er, Noel Edmonds. There was another belter featuring Jimmy Savile, no less, given away with Dale Farm (see below). This, like Edmonds, ended up somehow assimilating itself in and among our records, to be flung around the rim, tested out as a Frisbee, rolled up, bent – we used to test its durability and then try playing it again. 

During the fag end of the first wave of punk at the end of the 70s, when it was morphing into post punk and the beginnings of indie, it began to enjoy a resurgence, the cheap cost of pressing them up, the trebly sound and ease of putting the package together were perfectly suited to the DIY ethos of the era. 

The rise of the  fanzine went hand in hand with the the next flexidisc boom, as publications started sticking them within their pages – heck, a whole magazine, Flexipop, grew up around the phenomenon and drew big names to its coloured take on the form. 

There was another major wave in the mid to late-80, again, driven by fanzines and scratchy, lo-fi, two-bob indie music. Didactic, partisan and with a ready-made ethos, the music sometimes shine through, but too often weighed down by its own sense of self-importance. 

And then… Well, overuse and overkill did it no favours, but, despite the odd punk flirting, they disappeared from view. So much so that, a few years ago, one seasoned industry professional couldn’t even find where to get them pressed. 

But now they’ve returned. 

“Flexis are cool,” says Sebastiaan Putseys from One Way Static Records, “I’ve always had a big love for this odd format.”

It’s a very punk rock format, isn’t it? “It is!” enthuses Putseys. “Punk bands on a budget have always used the medium (and still do) to get their sounds out in the world. Easy to put in magazines, low shipping costs, etc.

“I remember back in the days when the Berlin wall was still up, all these Russian and Eastern European bands would press flexis on postcards, foils… even on x-rays. There was easy access to the machines since it was a way more popular format over there than here. Plus it was easy to smuggle since a lot of music was banned by their governments. Very clandestine, very punk indeed.”

Like many, flexidiscs were an integral part of growing uo as a music fan and vinyl collecter for Putseys. “I remember getting magazines with a flexi when I was a kid,” he recalls. “I had no idea if I could just put this on my turntable, if I needed to put something underneath it, did I have to cut it out of the square? I was puzzled, it was tons of fun.”

Putseys discusses his own favourites – “I have this 8” Flexi from Infest … this one is as cool as it gets. Our friends from Death Waltz Recordings also released a Halloween flexi that is pretty mind blowing” – and mention of Death Waltz brings us on to that label and Putsey’s own imprint, One Way Static, and their recent flexidiscs. 

The disposable format is, one would suppose, at odds with the ethos of labels such as Death Waltz and One Way Static. Both are resolutely high end, with new artwork, immaculately dressed and pressed vinyl. Surely the flex is a far more lo-fi offering than their normal output? 

“These are in stark contrast to our high grade packaging and sound, but they can fit a release perfectly if you use them as a add on for some odd and ends material that don’t fit the main product,” explains Putseys. 

“It’s also a great format to be used as a sampler or promo. For example we found some recordings of old radio spots for one of our releases. It was a match made in heaven to release them on flexi and offer them as a bonus with our limited edition.”

It certainly looks as if the trickle could grow in the coming months. In keeping with the current hold-up in getting vinyl pressed up – the post-Record Store Day logjam – the few places you can get a flexidisc made are already hugely busy, with waiting times rising. 

“To my knowledge there are only two or three plants that still press flexis, mainly in Eastern Europe,” says Putseys. “It was easy to find them and a couple years ago it only took a couple of weeks to have one printed. The last time I enquired, the waiting list was bumped to three or four months. So I guess it’s a hip thing again. Looking at the current waiting times at the pressing plant, yes, they are making a big comeback. I can only applaud this.

That’s not to say you won’t see more from the likes of One Way Static. As label boss Putseys concludes: “Whenever we have something that fits being pressed on a flexi… we’ll do it. The fans love them since it’s such a cool add on and odd format.”

Jimmy Savile for Dale Farm

A noncey gem from Jimmy Savile, promoting Dale Farm dairy. Cue lots of cheap cream gags, but this is a belter. I actually owned a copy of this as a child, it was more a source of fun as we tested its durability, bending it up, then trying to play it again. At the time, he was just a weirdly-dressed, eccentric DJ. Listening to him now, as he tries to chat up a couple of teenage girls and asks them back to his for a 3am yoghurt session, is just downright creepy. For groomers only…

Martin Hannett

From one Savile to a Saville… It’s often forgotten that there, tucked away inside the sandpaper sleeve of The Durutti Column’s first LP, The Return of The Durutti Column (arguably Factory Records and designer Peter Saville’s finest situationist prank) there was another little treat – a flexidisc containing two tracks from Factory’s in-house producer, Martin Hannett. Out-there post-punk for now people…

Joy Division 

Factory was keen on the flex and this Joy Division outing, outtakes from the Closer sessions, came out after Ian Curtis’ death. It was free and widely available, but you had to ask at the front desk of your friendly local emporium (you had more chance in bigger shops, in bigger cities) to be handed a copy. It felt like being in some kind of secret club, for those in the know. But, like buying a ticket for a rave some years later, it was much more widespread than you’d have thought. Factory promised it would never be deleted from its catalogue and was said to have given away something like 75,000 copies. 

The untitled third track, As You Said, is proto-electro, proto-New Order stuff, Incubation is a new wave disco gogo-a-thon…

Orange Juice

The kings of the indie flexidisc, essentially bringing it to the fore for a whole generation of popsters. Three notable flexidiscs stand out – Felicity, available on the marvellously titled I Wish I Was A Postcard label, named after the band’s then indie label proper (although purists may lynch me for saying I prefer the later Polydor version), The Day I Went Down To Texas (given away free with Melody Maker) and, a personal favourite, a Dennis Bovell produced, re-recorded version of Poor Old Soul. It gives a smooth, polished sheen, replete with added strings and instrumentation, taking out the punk and leaving just Chic stylings. In the words of Edwyn himself, “no more rock’n’roll for you”.  Plastic soul on a plastic disc. . 

Pete Shelley

Former Buzzcock frontman’s solo albums seemed like some kind of messages from the future – produced by Martin Rushent using what was then state of the art recording technology, XL-1 even came with a track at the end you could load up on to your ZX81 and get screens with lyrics and other extras on it. The 12”s, with extended dub mixes, were even better, any new wave disco collector should own most of them. It’s a shame that some of the dubs were only available on double play cassette, but this extended version – the second half of which is full of Rushent trademarks from this, his golden era, released at around the same time as The League Unlimited Orchestra’s seminal Love And Dancing elpee – was free with a magazine called New Sounds New Styles, a short-lived post-new romantic publication. The magazine featured a spread which gave the most loyal of readers the chance to cut out and make their own sleeve. I did.


Given their avowed aim of making records as cheap as possible for their snotty, spotty army of leather jacketed, teenage fans, Crass were always going to embrace the flexidisc, which they did with wholehearted enthusiasm. Rival Tribal Rebel Revel was given away with Toxic Graffiti fanzine, Sheep Farming In The Falklands was rushed out to show their righteous indignation at Thatcher’s South Atlantic shenanigans, but it was another situationist stunt that proved to be one of their greatest scams. Our Wedding was offered as a free giveaway with Loving magazine, the unwitting fools offering it as a way to remember your magic day. The disc itself, was, it said, produced by Creatice Recording And Sound Services (Crass, geddit?) Without realising it was made by Crass, satirising the very values that the magazine held so dear. When its real meaning was revealed, the magazine was mortified, editor Pam Lyons said: “This is a sick joke.We’ve turned Loving into a responsible and authoritative magazine and then this happens” (The full story is here)Weirdly, it sounds like a Saint Etienne b-side. 

The Siddeleys

From the ill-fated Sha-la-la foexi label, which boasted a strong ethos that too often dragged it down, this was not only one of the label’s finest moments, but also came free with the wonderful Trout Fishing In Leytonstone. A dear old friend was behind that and this disc, then fell out with the rest of the label’s founders because they didn’t like this song. Which somehow made it even better, their po-faced indie marginalise made this song sound even better. Better still, Ally gave me the leftovers of this to give away with a fanzine I was producing at the time. To be able to say: “This fanzine has a free flexidisc with it,” while giving it away to the likes of Alan McGee (at the same gig in 1987ish where his Biff Bang Pow! were supporting My Bloody Valentine, who he was so blown away with he signed them on the spot) was, for me, a proper, pre-acid house moment. One of the key people behind Sha-la-la went on to run the execrable Sarah Records, which, to this writer, effectively killed indie stone dead, but for a brief moment or two, it meant something… 

See also: The Clouds’ Jenny Nowhere, another high point from this era… 

Beastie Boys/Biz Markie

Given away with the sadly missed Grand Royal magazine, Biz slurs his own version of the Elton John classic. Later appeared on a Beastie Boys anthology. Still very funny and very balearic. 

Halloween III

Death Waltz essentially helped usher in a new era for the flexi with its special Halloween III outing. Following hot of the heels of its soundtrack release, this one featured the ads from the underrated and wildly out of place third film in the ongoing franchise, seemingly never-ending franchise. Perfectly suited to the medium. It’s now fetching big bucks on Discogs and ebay (up to £50 as a this is being written); best pick up the label’s next flexi, which featured Italian soundtrack maestro Fabio Frizzi live. Only a few left too…

Last House On The Left…

The disc that inspired this feature, in sone respects. Another hugely limited edition, soundtrack-friendly take on the form, available first as an insert with a One Way Static elpee, then, more recently, at special screenings of the film itself hosted by our pals at Cigarette Burns and Scalarama. Again, a strong use of the form, with the release featuring the radio spots for the original nasty film. Keep an eye on One Way Static’s site, with some spares potentially due up in October…

Words by the great Mr Tim 'Raygun' Murray