Blue Note Geek Alert! Blue Note vinyl detectives at work, sifting the evidence for original pressings through the Blue Note inner sleeves. Followers of the evil silver disk, downloaders, and proud owners of modern repros may wish to look away, we will get back to the music shortly.For the rest of us, get stuck in.
Blue Note inner sleeves can be helpful fixing the provenance of Blue Note records as original pressings, despite obvious limitations which are, I think, incorrectly dismissed. Often over-looked due to sometimes being missing and the possibility of mixed up inner sleeves, having examined the evidence in my own collection, I conclude that they are a useful diagnostic tool, in the same class as vinyl weight. Not perfect, but helpful circumstantial evidence.
Fred Cohen’s Guide to Blue note First Pressings points to nine different inner sleeves, each identified by a unique cover thumbnail, of a record which does not appear on any other inner sleeve, in any of the total 72 covers displayed front and back. Each variation is linked to a run of Blue Note releases, which themselves can be linked to approximate release dates, aidentifying the approximate time that sleeve was in use.
(Updated September 12, 2014)
The main value of these sleeves is for identifying probable date of manufacture of a particular copy of a record during the four years of the NY label 1962-6. In this period, hundreds of titles were released and hundreds more re-pressed. The label remains exactly the same, but you now have eight discrete changes in inner sleeve during those four years. You may think you have the 1962 “original” pressing. Then why has it got a 1966 inner? Yeah yeah,sure, “people mixed them up”, sure, but how else do you know?
When I went through my Blue Notes, the first thing I noticed was the number of Blue Notes below catalogue number 4045, when sleeves were plain, that a seller had added a “real” later Blue Note inner sleeve to make it look “more authentically Blue Note”. Now there is no excuse. The knowledge is here now, and freely available.
Each inner sleeve in the Cheet sheet can be viewed individually in the guide below.
Chronology of Blue Note inner sleeves
Prior to 1962, Blue Note inner sleeves were a simple plain white, now yellowed with age. I have only a few originals in the 1500 series and so could not say with any confidence how early “original” plain inner sleeves can be identified.
Between 1962-6, inner sleeves were used to promote the Blue Note catalogue, 72 thumbnail covers in total, headed simply “Blue Note” for 1962-3, and bearing the legend “27/26/25 Years of Blue Note” for the years 1964, 65 and 66 respectively.
Within this broad structure – no mention of year, and the years 25-26-27, there are nine variations which Fred Cohen has identified in his Guide to Blue Note First Pressings – differences I was unaware of before acquiring Fred’s book (a kind gift from a reader, hat tip, DaveS).
Most interesting, Fred asserts different inner sleeves were linked to the release of specific catalogue numbers. How this worked in practice is intruiging. We know stocks of labels and covers were used for many years after printing, until stock ran out and more needed to be printed. Hence labels and covers are “lagging indicators” of provenance. I have Liberty pressings with no “ear” but 47 West 63rd labels, even Lexington labels.
The inner sleeve is a generic consumable item, designed to promote the latest releases. It isn’t tied to any particular title, so it could be used for any pressing, and is therefore potentially a leading indicator. The business rationale is to use the most recently printed inner sleeve to promote the most recent releases, as the record sails out the factory gate. It is, I am beginning to think, a more accurate date-stamp of manufacture than labels or covers (used with caution, as may be different due to unknown circumstances.)
An original pressing should have a matching inner sleeve. If not, that record may have been pressed much later than the labels or jacket indicate.
When I started to check, I found a disproportionately large number of later inner sleeves with what appear to be earlier pressings. If the mismatches were a result of Blue Note afficionados “mixing up” sleeves during play, there should have been an equal number of later pressings accompanied by earlier inner sleeves, but that was not the case. Very few Blue Notes which had an accompanying inner sleeve (around half in my collection have a corporate inner sleeve) had the “correct” inner sleeve, and in the majority of cases it was a later inner sleeve than the labels suggested. This is the Devil’s work, I tell you.
Using Fred as a guide, I identified all the nine inner sleeve variations except one, which I could not find, for which I created a placeholder. The titles have approximate dates of release originating from Schwann catalogues. They are a bit all over the place as it took anything from just a month to several years from recording date to release, so consider everything as approximate. All inner sleeves are pictured as seen from the front with the opening to the fore and the Blue Note Address at the bottom (the reverse taller side has no address)
Sleeve 1: BLP 4050 – 4078 (releases mainly in 1961)
Unique Identifier –
BLP 4046 Duke Jordan Flight to Jordan
Column 1 Row 2
Sleeve 2: BLP 4079 -4088 (releases in 1962)
BLP 4058 Hank Mobley Roll Call
Column 4, row 5
Sleeve 3: BLP 4089 – 4114 ( late 1962 early 1963)
BLP 4084 Baby Face Willette Stop and Listen
in column 4 Row 5
(Sleeve picture courtesy of DottorJazz)
Sleeve 4: BLP 4117 – 4131 (mostly 1963 releases)
BLP 4107 Don Wilkerson Preach Brother Preach
Column 1, Row 5
Sleeve 5: BLP 4134 – 4158 (late 1963 – through 1964)
Unique identifier –
BLP 4136 Solomon Ilori African High Life
Column 1, Row 5
Sleeve 6: 25 Years – BLP 4159 – 4177 (late 1964 – mid 1965)
BLP 4144 Johnny Coles Little Johnny C
Column 1, Row 5
Sleeve 7: 26 Years – BLP 4178 – 4201 (releases mainly 1965)
BLP 4159 Andrew Hill Judgement
Column 1, Row 4
Sleeve 8: 27 Years 1st variation BLP 4202 – 4226 (mid – late 1965)
BLP 4187 Larry Young Into Somethin’
Column 6, row 4
Sleeve 9: 27 Years 2nd variation – BLP 4227 and higher ( early 1966 )
BLP 4204 Dexter Gordon Gettin’ Around
Column 6, row 4
This is the last and final Blue Note inner sleeve.
I went further and compared the two final “27 Years of” inner sleeves photographically head to head. I found seven different titles slipped into the mosaic of covers, always in the same row/column positions, indicating a fixed and variable template used by the designer/printer. Ominously, this last inner sleeve “27 years of” is the one found I found most often among my Blue Notes. I thought they all “looked the same” but I thought wrong. Highlighted are the changes.
This was all unknown to me until I took a long hard look at the basic forensics. It’s enough to drive you crazy – if you weren’t there already.
Blue Note First Pressing Fundamentalist update
For those who may not have caught up with it, Dottorjazz has updated his Illustrated Guide to Blue Note First Pressings, the second edition is here:
September 3, 2014 – Blue Note Illustrated Edition 2
With new content AND a new photo of the good Dottorjazz!
(262mb Acrobat pdf)
Note: there are a few production problems in Edition 2 where pictures are mis-matched, which will be corrected in Edition 3 shortly. Mega don’t seem to like heavy traffic.
UPDATE September 15, 2014: Edition 2 now available in handy bite-size pieces, starting with Introduction and 1500 series. Copy and Paste the whole link into your browser (not just the hyperlink, which requires the decryption key end part)