Plastylite and The Mystery of “9M”

plastylite

Plastylite pressed Blue Note, the quality is there for all to hear.  The Plastylite “ear” in the run-out of all their pressings is not much of a mystery, it is a hand-written (cursive, in the jargon)  letter “P“. Problem is, it doesn’t actually look like a “P”, at least not until you view it transposed and inverted.

plastylite-inverted-grahic-LJC

Voila, now it makes sense. What hasn’t made sense is the 9M etching found in the run-out of 10″ Blue Notes, two thirds of mono 1500 series pressings and some 4000 series titles.

The 9M

9M-close-up-1800-LJC

The mysterious “9M”, which some collectors mischeviously question as possibly “W6” is the certificate of authenticity of original metalwork of a Blue Note 1500 series pressing, whatever the label – Lexington, 47 West 63rd, NY, it is even sometimes found on a Liberty reissue, even United Artists, where original metal has been used.. Unlike the Plastylite ear, which was applied only in the Plastylite Pressing plant (hence it disappeared when Blue Note was sold to Liberty in 1966 and pressing moved elsewhere) the original metalwork and its derivative mothers and stampers went on to live a “life after death”.

9M or 6W?

In my opinion (what else?) the direction of initiation of the characters, pressure of stroke and where they lift off tells me it is a 9M not a W6.

6-or-9 The “9M” (it’s settled) and is found on many 10″ Blue Notes from the early/mid 50’s, many of the incredibly rare and valuable 1500 series, and vanishes  with the 4000 series  after 4067 Bluesnik

All my few original 1500 series have 9M on both sides, as do a number of later reissuers on later labels. Even this later Liberty pressing of 1519 below, on old stock Lexington labels but no “ear”, confirms use of originally sourced  metalwork, mothers or stampers derived from the original van Gelder master.

9M---Lex-labels-800

That means you are effectively listening to a copy of the original pressing, inevitable pressing variations aside (first-to-last-off-stamper, reducing vinyl thickness and weight, quality control, whatever) That is some bonus.

The later pressing shown below,  of BN 1593, Lou Donaldson Blues Walk, released originally  in early 1959, shown here on New York labels,  but with the provenance of  original metalwork,  “9M” etched in the run-out, in a large hand. There is no consistency in the writing of 9M, it is found in a number of different hands.

9M-BN1593-1000-LJC

Original-sourced metal, but what does 9M mean?

What did “9M” mean? No one knew – not even the great authorities on Blue Note . When the 9M became a hot topic a while back among some of us hard core collectors , someone contacted Fred Cohen, author of the authoritative Guide to Blue Note 1st Pressings, who confessed it’s meaning was unknown,  and gets no mention in his book. If Fred doesn’t know, no-one knows. I think someone even contacted Michael Cuscuna, but my recollection could be hazy on that one.

In any event, the 9M earned its place among the world’s great mysteries like the Bermuda Triangle, the Loch Ness Monster, and the true identity of Jack the Ripper, albeit on a slightly more humble scale. It was a “known unknown” and sensible people were content to leave it at that. However being a modern jazz and Blue Note collector means sometimes taking leave of your senses.

LJC reader felixstrange came up with a plausible new theory

9M is consistently found on Blue Note and not any other alpha-numeric permutation. But Blue Note wasn’t the only label Plastylite pressed. In the early days they also pressed Prestige, and other labels. Below you see an early Prestige title with “ear” and what else but another but different code, 7E. Is Plastylite the common connection with these additional codes?

Plastylite/ Prestige: 7EPlastylite-Prestige-7E-1000

This caused me to go back to my only 10-inch Prestige pressed by Plastylite, and lo and behold, the answer had been staring me in the face but I was  looking at the ear  so I didn’t see it.7E.

Prestige-ear-and-7E-10inch-sims-1

The hunt was on. Who else did Plastylite press for?  Collectors obligingly  rummaged  through their early jazz titles and came up with more examples, confirming Felixstrange‘s notions about Plastylite’s or their supplier’s code system. Note these codes consistently relate to particular labels. They are not random. They don’t refer to stamper alignment in presses, an early theory discarded for 9M.

Plastylite/Dial: 3R

Dial-3R-Dottorjazz-800

Dottorjazz, now demon photographer

Plastylite /ESOTERIC: 10Z.

Esoteric-Platylite-10Z-1000

Plastylite/Debut:  19H

DEBUT-19H-ETCHING---DOTTORJAZZ---800

Mystery solved! Sort of… there are still too many loose ends..

(Updated with further insights from expert comments, September 15, 2014) 

LJC Thinks:

9M was one of a range of numeric/alpha codes identified with metalwork destined for various labels pressed by Plastylite, possibly others, applied  at some point in the chain of manufacture either by a metal-plating department of Plastylite or a supplier to Plastylite if plating was done externally, to them and maybe others.

Five-Plastylite--Client-Codes

LJC---sherlock--RTThe etching appears always centrally placed between two lead-out grooves, never seen cut by the groove. That must narrow the window of opportunity for its’ placement. It is always at right-angles to the groove, never in the direction of the groove. Though it is often in a different hand, it always follows these conventions, so there is a common purpose, and I suspect, common organisation.

In a chaotic system, 9Ms would be written in many diverse ways. This smacks of “we do it this way because that is how we have always done it in this organisation.” Precedent rules, a single organisation. Perhaps when an acetate is plated, there is a one opportunity in the workflow to apply an identifying code, and a place where you can apply it. Speculation, but intruiging.

Why did it disappear from Blue Note pressings around 1962? Any number of possible explanations. Perhaps they changed supplier, perhaps there was no need for it. Or perhaps the original plating process changed practice, a supplier was bought up, closed down, or business moved to another. But it disappears from Blue Note new titles after 4067.

BN 4001 Rollins, Newks Time  – first 9M on 4000 series

4001-Rollins-Newks-Time-label-9m-1000-LJC

Unlike the “ear”, which disappeared in 1966 when pressing was moved from Plastylite to new owner Liberty’s plant, the 9M  continues to pop up occasionally on Liberty reissues of Blue Note 1500 series, where Liberty had access to legacy stampers which naturally display all the original  etchings of the original metalware (apart from the factory-applied ear) ie matrix codes, RVG/ VAN GELDER stamp, and 9M. When a 9M present on a reissue or later pressing, you are effectively listening to a copy of the “original”, though not necessarily sounding the exact same because of many other variables in later pressing.

LJC Update September 15, 2014

There are lots of people who have wrestled with this mystery, me included, lots of theories and every time lots of loose ends, we may not have it all. Take the contrary evidence of “anomalies”. There may be alternative explanations  for anomalies. For example, what if an record is found with two codes? Well, what if that was an operator error in that one occasion? Or a product intended for one customer was subsequently supplied to another? Anomalies may be just that, or they may fatally unravel an until then  good theory. One thing I support here is evidence, which trumps anecdote and speculation.

There are two possible competing motives in this enquiry as any other, both valid in their own way. One is a commitment to discovering what is right, the other a determination to prove something wrong, without contributing to discovery of what is right. I leave you to be the judge which gets us further forward..

9M: what does it mean? 9M meant Blue Note, for a crucial period of time.. To whom, why, and the rest of the chaos  may never be unravelled.  That much I think stands as a given. For the rest, good luck.

Professor Jazz

Professor Jazz

My thanks to Felixstrange, Aaron, DottorJazz, Rudolf, Bob Djukic and others who contributed information opinion  and pictures to this original research.

To readers, the information is valuable. Use it wisely.If you have other examples of Plastylite/label  codes, send them. However, we are more or less done with this topic. Back to the music.

LJC UPDATE November 7, 2015

New find: a 9M found on the RVG STEREO master of BN 84057 Stanley Turrentine and the 3 Sounds Blue Hour. (release August 1961, this United Artists re-issue circa 1975 using original RVG Stereo master) Having stated the 9M disappeared after BN 4001 (released Jan 1959) the new sighting puts it two and a half years later.

Stanley-Turrentine-and-the-3-sounds---blue-label-UA-RVG-STEREO-master-9M-LJC-2000

There are  nearly a dozen others in the 4000 series with 9M, found on pressings manufactured between 1959 and 1962. One hypothesis is that a number of blank acetates had been prepared for Blue Note  which were stock items, a consumable from one supplier (the origin of these codes) along with a number of other suppliers, which were finally used up. Beyond that, it is a random by-product of record manufacturing technology.

If it is present, and should be present,  it is associated with the original master. If it is absent on a record where it should be present (a third of original 1500 series don’t have it) then it is likely you have a later remastered pressing.

UPDATE: July 10, 2016

Folkways Records, ©1954 “Custom Molded by Plastylite” – by rights there should be a unique custom code for Folkways, 3T,  and may be a Plastylite “ear” but it went unremarked by the Discogs uploader

Folkways-label-1954-custom-moulded-by-Plastylite

If you have one of these early ’50s Folkways and you can get a picture of the 3T custom code, email it to me, support the cause.

 

LJC

101 thoughts on “Plastylite and The Mystery of “9M”

  1. Hello all,

    I recently found a Plastylite test pressing of one of my favorite records on Folkways> The Album is “Negro Folk Songs and Tunes” by Elizabeth Cotten. I am not sure how to post a photo here but the label is white with “Plastylite” and “Test Pressing” printed. Someone has written in “Folkway: FG 3562A, 10-31-58, Class 1.” This is the only Folkways test pressing that I have ever seen. The record includes the cover and the standard Folkways labels were pasted poorly over the test pressing label and later removed. Have any of you seen any Folkways test pressings? How many do you think were made? Also, what do you think “Class 1” means?

    Thanks and take care,
    Greg

    • I pressed records at Plastylite from 1964 until early 1966; we did mostly Blue Note and United Artist records. I never did any “test pressings”, just regular runs-usually 100 to 200 B.N.s and large runs of U.A.-lots of movie sound tracks-Shirley Bassey/Goldfinger comes to mind. I don’t really recall much Folkways stuff at all. My late brother worked there in 1961-1962-I think then they did more Folkways records. Quality control did lots of regluing of labels; If the pressing itself was OK but the label was incorrect/defective they’d reglue another label. I don’t know why a test pressing would be done. To switch to another run, the press operator would just be handed a new set of stampers and a stack of labels and start the run. I think it would be assumed everything would match up without a “test.”.. An interesting side note, I don’t recall the label, but my brother (and maybe others) did a run of the recording of the Adolph Eichmann (Nazi) trial.
      Larry C., larrydh8@yahoo.com

  2. Fascinating info about the Plastylite pressing plant. Love the little nod on the MM test discs.
    [IMG]http://i66.tinypic.com/2prchs7.jpg[/IMG]

  3. LJC,

    I know this is an old post but the mention of Folkways Records was a perfect coincidence, too good to pass up. A couple days ago, I was digging through a bin of $2 records at my favorite local shop, when I came across a Folkways title (looked original, DG blue labels). I’ve forgotten what it was, but two things stuck with me: 1. That it was dated 1961 on the label, and 2. It read Folkways Records and Service Corp., 43 W 61st St. N.Y.C. 10023

    43 West 61st St., New York 23

    As a Blue Note collector, I was stopped dead in my tracks. As we all know that was location of the Blue Note offices from the early sixties on. Same address, both Plastylite pressed…

    I’ve tried doing some research, but nothing that I’ve read has mentioned a connection between the labels. Anyone know anything? Are there two 43 W 61st Streets NY 23? Was there any connection?

    • Folkways is not a label I know anything about but your question got my attention. They appear to have had a number of addresses between the years 1950 and 1970 – taken at random:
      117 W 46th St, ©1954
      43 W 61st St., (as Blue Note) ►© 1956
      701 7th Ave., ©1964
      165 W 46th St., ©1964
      So they got around.
      One Folkways record I found with the first address 117 W 46th St., ©1954, carried the magic words “Custom Moulded by Plastylite”. So there is another spooky connection with Blue Note.

      According previous posters, Folkways in this period carry the custom client code 3T.

  4. I go along with the idea that the “9M” designation was the Plastylite code for Blue Note. It seems like they were THE plant for the New York indie labels in the early 50s, so it would make sense that this was a designation to keep them all straight. It appears that this was scratched on the mother (or maybe the father), and the Plastylite logo was stamped into the stampers. In that case, it would be a code for the category under which the mother and/or father were stored.

    Considering that these two pieces can be made to produce a bunch of stampers, it would make sense that Blue Note used them for years. When the label was sold to Liberty, it would make sense for Liberty to order all of the existing master work returned to them, after which time, they could produce stampers and press “Liberty” onto them (or whatever they wanted to do).

    A label not documented here that was exclusively pressed by Plastylite until the end of the plant was Folkways. Its code was 3T.

    • 3T , thank you. It would be great if you (or anyone else out there, I know you are lurking!) could get a passable shot of the Folkways 3T etching, to complete the series. It is not a label found in my collection. Email me at the address in CONTACT LJC.

  5. Holy mackerel… Never knew the 9M would trigger such an enormous debate. I have called Fred Cohen once to ask him about it. Indeed the only thing he could tell me was that it reads “9M” and not “W6”. What it stands for, he could not say.

    Given all the outstanding dead wax close ups (I almost want to think I set a standard 😉 ), one thing is clear: Plastylite used these many codes for something. Question remains: what??

    Who knows if there’s still a Plastylite staff member alive, if that’d be the case, we’d be out of the woods.

    • I pressed records at Plastylite from Oct, ’64 ’til Jan ’66 when I was drafted into the army. They were starting to move some equipment out when I left in ’66. It didn’t much concern me as I was leaving. I never paid attention to the “9M” or the “W6”, but would take a stab in the dark that it may very well be a “W” as the owner of the company was Mr. Weinraub. Someone in an earlier post mentions Plastylite’s metal finishing department…..there was no such department there. We did pressings for several labels, two that I recall were Folkways and United Artists (a VERY long run of UA’s “Shirley Bassey Sings Goldfinger.”) Mostly did runs of 100 pressings of Blue Note (actually 110, to cover any quality control issues.

      • Thanks for posting! Do you happen to know what year Plastylite closed it’s doors? From the research I’ve done I suspect by 1970 they no longer pressed records (or alternatively, no longer stamped the “P” in the deadwax).

        • Hi, Aaron…I’ll get back to you hopefully this week….I was just finishing typing my reply to you when my computer lost it somewhere..was having heluva probem don’t know if it was m y computer my srver or my yahoo account..sorry…Larry C.

          • Aaron, I was at Plastylite from Oct, 64 til Jan, 66 when I got drafted into the Army. Just prior to that (’66), they seemed to be getting ready to or, were actually moving out some equipment. I recall seeing one of the Amo (their last name) guys there (checking on the company, or actually moving stuff out, I don’t recall) Amo family was, I somehow knew, in the pressing business (we all grew up in North Plainfield.) I left at the end of Jan in “66, so I suppose it was sometimejust after that that Plastylite stopped vinyl pressing (they also did Bakelite [thermo-setting] molding-parts for electrical applications and such.) My brother pressed there from about mid-1961 to later in 1962 when he went into the Air Force. He was discharged in late 1966; he had written me when I was in Viet-Nam; he was back at Plastylite, but I believe he said he was just doing some B.S job there-not pressing records, so I assume by mid-66 or so the pressing stopped. I don’t know how long they stayed in business after that doing Bakelite stuff. I was out of the Army in late 1967 and my brother was then working at Union Carbide (Bakelite.) I don’t recall him mentioning anything more about Plastylite. He has since died, so…
            LJC had some questions for me, so you can check my reply there for more info.
            Regards, Larry C.

        • Before I left in ’66 for the army, they were transferring equipment to, I assume, Liberty. I guess Liberty was owned by the Amo family, from North Plainfield where I was from (two sons whom I knew.) While I was in Viet-Nam (’66-’67) my brother wrote that he had been discharged from the air force and was back working at Plastylite but there wasn’t much left, production-wise, just the Bakelite molding (they did a lot of that in addition to the record pressing.) I came home from the army in October, 1967; my brother was then working for Union Carbide (formerly Bakelite) in Piscataway, NJ. Union Carbide supplied the raw materials to Plastylite for the Bakelite and record molding. I assume Plastylite was about gone by then. I still lived nearby, but don’t recall if they were actually there or not. At some point the place was a claims office for Allstate Insurance. Now vacant…
          Larry.C

      • Hi Larry, you have some unique experience, I can’t resist drawing on it.

        You say you did runs of a hundred (and ten) of Blue Note. Do you have any idea of the total number of copies that went into the first pressing run of a new Blue Note title? The number 4,000 has been mentioned, in context of Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder, but no-one seems to know for sure. The only other number in circulation is 800, for some of the very rarest titles in the mid/late fifties.

        Another Plastylite question about numbers – how many copies of a title were pressed before it was necessary to change to a fresh stamper? You could be the only guy on the planet that might know.

        Thanks for clearing up the question as to whether Plastylite had its own metal department. It seems not. That’s progress.

        • LJC..Having computer problems, afraid to get into a long text as my machine keeps deleting stuff as I type..very maddening..Will get back to you probably this week some time.
          Larry C.

        • LJC… Awww, you flatter me, “the only guy on the planet…”, Thinking about it, I recall doing a lot of runs of 200 (plus 20.) Perhaps we did longer runs, but it all escapes me after over 50 years (gee, maybe I AM the only guy on…..) I don’t think, though, that we did any REAL LONG runs of Blue Note- seemed like I was always changing stampers for a different title. When I first started pressing, the presses were on a 60-second cycle; they whittled that down to 45-seconds after a while. So, in an approx. 71/2-hour shift on a steady run with no “SC’s”- stamper changes, one could press up to 450 records on the 60-sec cycle, or up to 600 on the new 45-sec cycle (that’d be the theoretical max.- it took a few minutes to get the biscuits heated in the beginning of the shift and after each break, plus allowing for any problems.) On really long runs of other-than-Blue Note stuff we never changed stampers, just went and went…” A “first pressing run of Blue Note”…???Never heard of it, and I don’t think we EVER did any runs of 800, and certainly not 4000. It was almost always low-number runs. I’ve also read (here, or on another site) about “test pressings”-never heard of that, either. No one ever said, “let’s do a test pressing of this, or that.” Seems to me that the stampers went and went. You could, though, tell the older, more used stampers……ahhh, the much-bandied-about “deep groove.” I gotta go shortly, so I’ll get back to the “groove” another time. Back, for a second, though, the “new” 45-second cycle…obviously, more records could be pressed, but also, they were using less vinyl somehow (hotter press?…I don’t know), but the records were much thinner(on 45-sec) than when I first started there. We called them “oil can” records; if you held one between your palms and shook it up and down it made a “boinka-boinka” sound as if you were using an oil lubricating can. Very floppy…

          Regards, Larry C.

          • Reality-check, thank you Larry! The maths tells everything. One more question – how many presses did Plastylite have in operation at the plant? That gives us a clue of total production capacity.

            • LJC:
              Maybe seven or eight total record presses; not much more than that, perhaps less, can’t really recall. One was a ten-inch press, the others were all12-inch (we never called the records “albums” or “LPs”, just “12-inch.”) All but one of the 12-inch presses were the same, the “other” was a different thing, made in Belgium, I suppose, as we called it “the Belgium press.” I ran it for a while, a different animal; pressed 12-inchers, but took some getting used to as it was a different design and operated differently. It was newer-looking than the other presses, but it was there in 1961 when my brother was pressing at Plastylite. I saw a posting somewhere where someone stated that Plastylite had gotten some “new equipment” at some point (owing to the “deep groove” theory.) I doubt that, other than perhaps the Belgium press. More on the “deep groove” later…..
              Larry C.

              • When I said I had just one more question, Larry, I lied. I got hundreds. If you are ok with a few more questions, we are all ears.

                You got there with the first – the “deep groove” pressing ring. For some years there was collector folklore about how the “original first pressing” of a Blue Note title (whatever that means, I certainly don’t know) must have deep groove both sides, then some titles only side 1, others only side 2, then no deep groove, titles pop up from 1961 through to 1965 with and without deep groove, first and “later” re-pressings, until the DG pressing ring eventually disappeared.

                With pressing carried out in short runs as you describe, must be a lot of stampers for different titles coming on and off the press. You operated the presses, so you must be the man who knows how dies were selected when mounting a stamper. Can you walk us through the process?

                Could be a short answer, if so, tell us about mixing labels with the different Blue Note addresses. Presumably you filled the hopper with batches of labels. How did that mixing come about?

                • I suppose you mean, by different “addresses”, the physical address of Blue Note as printed on the labels. I didn’t quite realize that at first. We never checked any of that, just that the stampers and label numbers matched and that A-side to B-side were correct going into the press. Maybe some old stock was being used up, or perhaps new printings had come in and just mixed in with older ones before the older ones were used up. I don’t believe old stock/new stock was an issue, they just checked that the A and B sides had the correct A/B labels and the record number matched the label number. I could be wrong on that, but then again, that wasn’t my area….(No, I don’t mind all the questions….ask away…)
                  Larry Creveling

          • Fascinating information regarding the process of pressing. You mention stamper changes- one question I’ve always had is: how did you know when it was time to change the stamper? What kind of problems started to occur? For example, what would be the symptoms of a record pressed by an overused stamper?

            Thank you so much for sharing your expertise?

            • I think the stampers just went and went; nobody ever told us or brought out a new stamper to use. The stampers were prepared for attachment by sanding the rear surface with emery cloth, blowing off the sanding dust with compressed air, wiping the rear with solvent, blowing off again, cleaning off the press face, blowing it off, then putting the stamper(s) in the press. One of the inspector/packing ladies would take a few of the newly pressed records before you got too far along and inspect them. The biggest problem with a new run was “dents”-they were just that- tiny pockmarks in the record caused by speck(s) of dirt/dust/debris or whatever between the press face and the stamper. With so much pressure involved, anything behind the stamper would cause a dent in the record. The stamper had to be removed, cleaned and reattached. You didn’t get paid for this re-cleaning whereas you got paid for a stamper change on a new run. We were paid an hourly rate, plus so much for each record, or a certain amount over a set amount (don’t recall exactly), and so much credit for a “SC”- stamper change. Another problem would be “side sway”-never did know exactly what that was, I think the thickness of the finished record was uneven side-to-side. You just loosened the stamper (s?) and rotated it, or them, 90 degrees or so. Seemed to always fix the problem. There was a counter on the press, so when you hit the number of records to be pressed, you changed stampers. You always worked ahead, getting the next run’s labels heated, so when done with an “SC”, you were ready to go. You didn’t get paid for rejects or “dents.” Sometimes there’d be greasy-looking stains on the record. Don’t recall where they came from, maybe something in the vinyl, or grease from the press. Funny, they were called “shit-stains.” One of the ladies would come over to your press and “you have shit-stains.” Comical to hear ladies (especially back then) speak that way. I think we just wiped down the stampers with solvent. Occasionally the center of the stamper would pull away from the attaching “die”—-that’s another dissertation coming soon (involving the “deep groove.”)
              Larry Creveling

              • I feel somewhat like NY Yankees’ Mickey Mantle, who, in his dotage said, “If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself” (“The Mick” was reportedly rather fond of ethanol.) I submit that if I had known so many of you were so interested in pressing in general and Blue Note in particular, I would have paid more attention back then…It wasn’t a bad place to work, it was only a half-mile from my house and the pay was excellent. Contrary to a Sept., 2014 posting by one Bob Djukic, we at Plastylite were NOT “incompetent, underpaid, mistreated, undereducated, abused [and on and on.]” With that much vitriol, one wonders why Mr. Djukic would be even remotely interested in the [great] product we produced…With the aforementioned being said, A 12-inch stamper was greater than 12-inches in diameter, allowing for the stamper to be mounted/secured in the press head. The outer perimeter is flared toward the rear (away from the music groove side [I say “music groove” so you don’t think “deep groove”] much like a dinner plate, with the music grooves cut into the underside of the plate (where it rests on the dinner table.) The press head(s) have this same dinner-plate shape contour, so the stamper fits exactly in/on the press head, like nesting one plate on/into another. The outer perimeter of the stamper is secured to the press head with a sturdy steel ring using six allen-head bolts. The center of the stamper has a circular opening, about 2 7/8 inches in diameter (I eyeballed one of your photos of the “deep groove”, then measured across a BN label I came across [not a record, just a Blue Note paper label- 4050-A, Jimmy Smith, Home Cookin’; it’s been laying around all these years] This center opening has a lip, or flange, or rim in it that is about 1/8-inch wide by 1/8-inch deep. You can just make it out in the bottom left photo in your “slacker’s guide to pressing.” I suppose it’s akin to the rim that keeps a street man-hole cover from falling through its opening and allows the man-hole cover to be flush with the street surface. The center “die” (I don’t think we had a name for it but I’ll call it a “die”, since you like that term) exactly fit into the stamper center opening and held the center of the stamper tight against the press head by pressing the bottom of the stamper’s 1/8-inch center flange into a machined area of the press head that matched the flange. The back side of the die had a female-threaded shaft, perpendicular to the die face maybe 5/8-inch in diameter by 1 1/2 inches long; this threaded onto a male thread in the press head to secure the die (and stamper center) in the press. For the life of me, I don’t recall how we tightened this die into the press, but there must’ve been some tool we used to get it in and out…(Shouldda paid more attention back then… or laid off the ethanol……….) This die, then, would be about 1/8-inch thick, to allow it to seat against the stamper flange and remain flush with the stamper face. It had a nub that you’d put the label on, just like the nub on a turntable, maybe just a little taller (this is the bottom, or B-Side; the top, A-side is different.) I’ll continue later, have a sick friend I have to check on, and I fear my computer may act up before I can post this. (Do you want my Jimmy Smith label? I ‘ll make a color copy for myself and mail you the label if you want it, let me know. Also have a photo of the old Plastylite building some where.)
                Larry Creveling, the Plastylite Guy………..

                • The A-side stamper went on the top press head which was accessible once the press opened after a cycle. The hydraulic ram was at its lowest/bottom point, the upper press head opened, clam-shell like; you could then attach the top/A-side stamper. An outer ring held the perimeter, just like the B-side. A center die held the center of the stamper in, but was different than the B-side. The B-side had the nub/protrusion onto which the label was attached, but the A-side had instead a hole all the way through it. There was a retractable rod, the same diameter as the B-side nub (and label hole), in the A-side press head that protruded through the die for label attachment when the press was open at the beginning of the cycle and would be forced into the press head during the pressing cycle by the B-side nub as the stampers [almost] met and with the A-side label then held in position by the B-side nub which was then slightly inside the hole in the A-side center die. The A-side rod end, where the label was attached was square-ended, not like the rounded-end B-side (like the nub on a turntable.) This gave a flush fit in the hole so vinyl wouldn’t get jammed in the hole. This center rod was pneumatically operated-less pressure during pressing so it would retract into the head, and more after a cycle so it would re-protrude for label attaching for the next cycle. The center die, as I said, pressed against the rim/lip of the circular stamper opening to secure the center of the stamper to the press head. One of the problems was that this rim/lip would, on many occasions separate/split away from the stamper center rendering it useless. Once it started to split, it would be snipped completely off and a different center die would have to be used. Newer stampers, with less use were more likely to have an intact lip, and older, more used stampers would be more likely to have their lip torn and snipped off (it could go either way, though.) You could, though (and often did) have one stamper with a lip and the other without it (in the same label number/run.) So, each side on the same pressing could have a different type of die. The die used on a stamper without the rim/lip was slightly “stepped”, in that it overlapped the stamper center hole to hold the stamper firmly in the press head, then stepped in slightly to fit inside the stamper center opening. The die used on a (usually) newer stamper was flush with the the stamper since it recessed into the opening and against the rim/lip giving a flatter vinyl surface under the label. This arrangement seemed to have a more snug fit between the circumference of the die and the stamper opening. SO, I WOULD SAY, A PRESSING HAVING LITTLE OR NO GROOVE WOULD BE AN EARLIER PRESSING ON A RELATIVELY NEW STAMPER…..A PRESSING WITH A GROOVE AND/OR SLIGHTLY DEPRESSED AREA IN THE LABEL AREA WOULD BE FROM A MORE-USED STAMPER…Just a general observation, as a newer stamper may have had its rim/lip removed, and an older one with an intact one…….Larry the Plastylite Guy

                  • Am not a big audiophile, although I have an appreciation for music and do enjoy jazz as long as it’s not too “improv.” While pressing at Plastylite I was 18 and 19 yrs. old and a product of the 50s/60s and a “rock’n’roller”, too bad. Maybe, though, you’all at LJC have kindled something in me…Was just looking at Blue Notes on Ebay, and realized I may very well may have pressed some of those. I do have an old Edison cylinder player that I crank up (literally) on occasion (it ain’t no Akai with a Plastylite BN on it.) Belonged to my Grandpa who, ironically, worked for Edison in the ’20s. Anyhow, “pressing matters”- the “brains of the outfit” that controlled the press was a series of metal wheels stacked on an axle rod; the wheels were, as I recall, about three inches in diameter, perhaps less and stacked/attached side by side on the rod which was mounted in a control panel and driven by a small motor (motor could’ve been electric, or maybe pneumatic-don’t recall.) This whole contraption rotated as a unit, somewhat like a camshaft in an engine, but with the wheels instead of cam lobes. There was one wheel for each specific operation of the press, with each wheel having a tab protruding from its circumference. There was a row of little valves positioned above the row of wheels, one valve for each wheel. As the stack of wheels rotated, each wheel’s tab would click open, or click closed a valve, as necessary. The valves were attached to air lines which ran to servos that opened/closed hydraulic lines, steam lines, cold water lines and an air line for the A-side label shaft/rod. Somewhere between eight and 12 of these wheels (???…50+years ago.) The whole stack would, of course, make one revolution per record, automatically stopping at the end of a pressing, ready to begin anew with the start button being depressed. I believe I’ve pretty much covered the entire process…any more questions??? A bit of trivial digression-I recall Plastylite being there seemingly forever, sitting at the bottom of the Watchung Mountains, part of the Appalachian Chain. in the ’50’s, partly into the ’60s, beyond the plant and up the mountain, it was mostly wooded, an area where us local kids played, building tree forts, rope swings, damming up a stream for a swimming hole, shooting our weapons of the time-pellet rifles and bow-and-arrows. On the way up to the mountain we would pass Plastylite (it sat on a gravel/dirt road then) and rummage through the drums of reject record cut-outs—five-inch vinyl squares with [most often] Blue Note labels affixed. These squares made the perfect flying-saucer-like toys for zinging around at all sorts of targets (usually at each other.) Fifty-some years later I’ve still got a scar on my ‘throwing hand” where one of the rejects ripped into it. We kids always wondered as to the origin of these little “square records.” I stopped by the plant a year or so ago on a whim. It’s completely built up with housing around the plant, and the building was up for lease. If it was still wooded, there’d be many hundreds of those rejects lying around; I wonder how many more had to be swept off the flat roof when, undoubtedly, the building was re-roofed at some point…There was an old, somewhat derelict mansion on up North Drive (Plastylite’s address)-“Hyde’s Mansion.” It’s gone now, replaced by an apartment complex. Going the other direction on North Drive, the mansion’s stone gate house is still there (we always called it the “Clock House” as it’s got a clock’s hands and numerals attached to the stone chimney.) It’s a residence, has been for some time now, an impressive building. We always avoided the mansion, as local lore (from the “older kids”) had it that the residents were insane (actually, I believe it was a small nursing/old age home.) and the nutty caretaker roamed the grounds with a double-barreled shotgun containing shells loaded with rock salt (so as not to kill any kids that wandered there, just maim them.) You could always find someone who “knew some unfortunate kid who got shot by the crazed caretaker”………Ahhh, the adventures of youth, and of Blue Note pressing….
                    Larry Creveling, the Plastylite Guy

      • Larry, While I’m nowhere near as obsessional about Blue Note pressing minutiae as many on this forum, even I can see that for many here your contribution will come like God’s own voice from inside a pillar of flame. Well done — you will have made a lot of people very happy. Cheers, Alun

      • Do you think so, Dottore? According to LJC, the 9M is found on “10″ Blue Notes from the early/mid 50’s”, a time when mono/stereo was not an issue – everything was mono. I have no idea but “microgroove” would make sense because “non-microgroove” 78’s were still being produced in large numbers around 1955.

        • Gainsay, if M were to stand for something, say microgroove, or mono, or anything beginning with M, what would that mean for the E in 7E (Prestige) stands for? Or the R in R3 (Dial).

          A numeric/alpha combination is merely a unique identifiying organisation code, used perhaps in the ledger of the accounts department or the plating department to differentiate jobs. It contains its own meaning, it doesn’t have to be an abbreviation or a reference to anything.

          When I last worked in a large government department we dealt with over 600 organisations, each of which had a three character alphanumeric code to identify it, like 5C1 or Y53. None of the characters meant anything but the combination uniquely identified data for that organisation.

          9M is no longer lost in the Bermuda Triangle of Blue Note record collecting, or at least that’s what I think. I will have it engraved in large friendly letters on my tombstone.

    • There is a 99.9% chance that the Rudy Van Gelder facebook page is maintained by a random person who created it, not Van Gelder. And folks, I am sad to say that the great Rudy Van Gelder is in poor health. Also, there’s a post on the Steve Hoffman Forum (http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/rudy-van-gelder-yelled-at-me-today.357916/) where someone explains that they showed up at Van Gelder’s unannounced about six months ago, and needless to say, it didn’t go very well.

      And guys, if Rudy Van Gelder were to be asked to dig deep into his memory at this time to retrieve anything of value, from all the amazing, jaw-dropping experiences he surely had with every bop legend ever, I sure hope the person inquiring isn’t a record nerd who asks him whether or not he engraved a “9M” into his master lacquers. From what I’ve heard, he’s likely to pick something up and throw it at you.

      • Please leave the poor man alone. Only a SH Forum frequenter would arrive at an elderly sound engineer’s house unannounced, and then be surprised at the negative reaction. Good god, they’re just records for pete’s sake!!!

  6. Ahem… LJC, excuse me for asking a bl**** stupid question because I am not the kind of expert you people are. In my knowledge, RVG is still around. Why don’t we go and ask him?

  7. LJC likes the theory because it explains everything neatly. Bob dislikes it because he sees inconsistencies. But there always will be inconsistencies. What if future archaeologists dig up 20 liberty pressings and just one lexington pressing in the rubble of LJC’s house? They might think the lexington was a weird misprint.

    I am on board with LJC’s theory, mainly because it correctly explains so much and has so few inconsistencies. We can’t hope for none!

    I will check my United Artists albums tonight for [number][letter] codes. I know they all have “ears” on them and are quite thick. Art Blakey’s “3 Blind Mice” and Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” spring to mind. There may be more.

    What a juicy detective story we have here.

    • Hi Gregory:

      Awesome! Then, undoubtedly, you were also sold on the story of immaculate conception and sun revolving around the earth. These lovely theories, too, had precious few pesky little inconsistencies and easily and elegantly explained everything.

      Methinks it is highly unlikely that the future archeologists will find any BN pressings in the rubble of the LJC house. More likely, they will find the bones of one BD, slayed by the LJC webmaster over asking one inconvenient and bothersome question too many. The legend has it that the webmaster’s famous words were: “Will no one rid me of this bothersome Blue Note beast”?

    • My UA red label DG mono copy on Mingus Jazz Portraits recorded by RVG has U9M on dead wax and and printed on label too. No ears.

  8. I’ve no idea what the 9M might mean but there do seem to be persuasive arguments in other posts for it not being an identifying code of Plastylite’s customers, not least the fact that similar alphanumeric codes can be seen on LPs from many other manufactures and periods…

    It set me wondering (along Bob D’s lines) whether it refers to something else entirely – but something that all manufacturers need to keep tabs on. Vinyl batch? Supplier of the vinyl? Label and jacket printers? Warehouse location of the rest of the printed jackets and/or inners?

    But these theories too have their weaknesses. If the code identifies labels and/or jackets (i.e so that the right LP can be matched to the right cover and label, without reading (and possibly misreading) a title, then wouldn’t one expect to see many mores variants of code (because each would have to signify a different title).

    A vinyl batch identifier seems at least plausible – and would presumably generate far fewer code variants.

    Etching a warehouse bin location would seem counter-intuitive, as locations might be subject to change…unless of course the code identifies, say, a goods pallet: the pallet may change location but its identifying code remains the same….

    Interesting subject, though.

    • Thanks Alun…for a second I thought I was speaking some inscrutable and highly hermetic language incomprehensible to the dwellers of this bizarre galaxy.

      The arguments presented on this thread in favor of the theory that 9M is somehow logically or logistically connected to Plastylite are insufficient to meet my standards of credible and conclusive evidence (no offense to Andy and Rich). In particular, the quantum leap from “9M is obviously an internal reference” to “9M must be a Plastylite code for Blue Note” exceeds my cognitive abilities by a very significant margin.

      In a larger sense, though, somewhere, somehow, ought to draw the line between where the meaningful and relevant in Jazz collecting ends and esoteric pressing ephemera of indeterminable value and highly speculative nature begins. May I gently and inconspicuously insinuate that the moment might be here, and now?

    • As someone who has no Blue Note originals or early presses and only late reissues, I find the following:

      On early/mid-1980s Blue Note/Manhattan, Division of Capitol reissues, a code of M9 and sometimes M6 features frequently.

      On slightly later Blue Note DMM remasters, Capitol, M9 is quite frequent.

      On DMM Blue Note/Pathe Marconi French reissues M9 features almost always pin the titles I have.

      On the dark blue label Blue Note/Division of Liberty (where the run-out features machine stamped Mastered by Capitol, followed quite frequently by a hand etched Wally), on the titles I have there is never an M9 or M6 code.

      What does it all mean? A Masonic key to the secrets of the universe? A coded call to the Knights of the Templar to rise up? A coded exchange between Illuminati? A note to Bob in accounts that the associated production costs for this run have already been entered in the purchase ledger? Everything? Nothing? It’s fun to speculate and we must take our modest pleasures where we can find them…

    • It wouldn’t be a vinyl batch identifier….the extruder guy would pour the vinyl bags of pellets (from Bakelite [Union Carbide]) into a hopper that would feed them into the extruder. He’d collect the vinyl extrudings (about 6″ X 8″ X 3/16″ or so)off the end of a belt and wheel them out to the six or eight record presses (we also did lots of Bakelite [thermo-setting plastic] moulding.) He’d collect the flashings (cut -off slag from trimming the moulded record) and any rejects. After the labels were cut out of the rejects, they and the flashings were fed back into the extruder. So, with all the bags and bags of vinyl pellets, and all the flashing and rejects from all the presses, each pressing a different record, there was no way or even need to track batch numbers.

  9. Response to Aaron (avoiding the drainpipe)

    I think we are all on the same page here, except possibly Mr D – never let a good argument go to waste, that whoever “owned” the process during which the 9M etching was applied, an independent plating specialist seems the most likely candidate at this point, the meaning of the 9M etching remains specific, unique to Blue Note. Other loose ends don’t appear to me to undermine that central tenent. If someone can turn up a different record label with a 9M etching, show me.
    The only issue that changes is who applied the 9M, if not Plastylite themselves.

    Whether surviving Blue Note stampers with lineage to the original van Gelder master would produced identical or inferior sounding or even better sounding copy a decade later, for a whole host of reasons, is a different issue. It does not throw any light on the meaning of “9M”, which is where I came in. On the arguments put forward thus far, it still seems to me to mean “Blue Note” and not anything else.

  10. So the process is this:

    1. RVG cuts master lacquer from master tape with his Scully lathe at his parents house in Hackensack, NJ. At this point with a stylus he etches the mastering job number into lacquer for each side and also either etches ‘RVG’ or uses his ‘RVG’ stamp to press his initials into the lacquer.
    2. RVG delivers the two master lacquers for each side to the Plastylite plant in Plainfield, NJ. At some point after, a Plastylite employee etches the ‘9M’ into the lacquer with a stylus*. Perhaps this was to ensure that the customer could be identified even if the label of the lacquer became lost or unreadable (the label would have been paper and handwritten). After this, the lacquer is electroplated and a positive matrix created which now has: master number, ‘RVG’ and ‘9M’ in the runout area.

    3. Again at the Plastylite factory, a negative mother is electroformed from the matrix to make stampers for the production run.

    4. Stampers are plated from the mother to ad to the presses and stamp records. It’s at this point that the ‘P’ is stamped into the stamper**. My guess is that Plastylite put the ‘P’ stamp in a different location on each stamper made from a mother for quality control purposes so that it could be identified and pulled if defective pressings were identified***. We now have the familiar combination of: master number, ‘RVG’, ‘9M’ and the Plastylite ‘P’ in the runout area.

    5. Liberty buys Blue Note and transfers production to All Disc Records in Roselle, N.J.. At this point, Plastylite turns over the matrix and/or mothers to All Disc. Plastylite retains their stampers. From this point forward, the ‘ear’ is no longer seen.

    6. All Disc plates new stampers from the Plastylite mothers and/or creates new mothers from the matrixes. Since the Plastylite stampers are gone, so is the ‘P’. These pressings now have only: master number, ‘RVG’ and ‘9M’ in the runout area.

    • Regardless of what it means, because it so deep and well defined, the ‘9M’ must have been etched into the lacquer by someone. The only two ways to create a final negative impression in the finished LP are to etch the master lacquer or the mother. Since it is made of hard nickel as opposed to soft nitrocellulose, etchings on the mother are very thin and shallow and look like scratches. See the mystery ‘114’ in this post for reference.

    ** LJC poster Matty noted in this post that the ‘P’ is in fact raised and not recessed and therefore conversely would have had to either be added to the matrix or the stamper. Since we have clear evidence of pressings without ‘P’s, we can firmly rule out the ‘P’ being on the matrix. We can only conclude it was on the stamper.

    *** Because of this, it ought to be possible to actually differentiate the individual stampers for each pressing. To take it a step further, Plastylite may have even had a system for relocating the ‘P’ for each subsequent stamper. For example: moving it further and further away from the master number. If this the case, you could even determine in which sequence the stampers were created.

    • “Perhaps this was to ensure that the customer could be identified even if the label of the lacquer became lost or unreadable (the label would have been paper and handwritten).”

      To me this seems the problem of the whole theory – the record label could be easily identified by the matrices. It simply doesn’t make sense to add a second code for the respective client: why should 7E be added to the runout area, when PRLP is a perfect code for the record company (or 9M be added to BNLP).

        • I’m looking for an explanation for this phenomenon for two decades now and have not come to a reasonable explanantion. Up to now, we have to rely on few facts: all codes of this kind refer to East Coast based record labels and/or pressing plants located at the East Coast. There are many prominent record labels and pressing plants that do not use these codes (e.g. Atlantic). You will find none of these codes at the West Coast. Just a semi-educated question: what do we know about unions at the East Coast? (Well, we know that unions at that time added their stamps to West Coast pressings…).

      • ” – the record label could be easily identified by the matrices.”

        IMO it seems much faster to just quickly look for a 9M than to read a multi numerical matrix code then look up that matrix and ensure it matches the proper release.

        Stream lining for efficiency and speed makes a lot of sense to me.

    • Hi Felix:

      My comments are appended below yours.

      “So the process is this”

      BD: Is this a process, or RECONSTRUCTION of a hypothetical process? :

      ===

      ” RVG cuts master lacquer from master tape with his Scully lathe at his parents house in Hackensack, NJ. At this point with a stylus he etches the mastering job number into lacquer for each side and also either etches ‘RVG’ or uses his ‘RVG’ stamp to press his initials into the lacquer.”

      BD: Exceedingly unlikely that he would have used master tape for lathe-cutting. The tape would have had to be equalized down to the production phase, otherwise the finished product would have been brutally and agonizingly sonically distorted. “Mastered from the Original Master Tapes” must be one of the cheapest and most blatantly vulgar and deceptive ruses in the history of the recorded music. Sadly, millions fell for it.

      ===

      ” RVG delivers the two master lacquers for each side to the Plastylite plant in Plainfield, NJ. At some point after, a Plastylite employee etches the ‘9M’ into the lacquer with a stylus*. Perhaps this was to ensure that the customer could be identified even if the label of the lacquer became lost or unreadable (the label would have been paper and handwritten). After this, the lacquer is electroplated and a positive matrix created which now has: master number, ‘RVG’ and ‘9M’ in the runout area.”

      BD: It is exceptionally unlikely that the master lacquer would have had a paper label or, for that matter, label or sticker of ANY other sort. This would have vastly interfered with the production of the metal stampers unless, of course, the labels were removable, which sounds highly implausible to me and would defeat their very purpose.

      More to the point: what relevance to either Plastylite, or Blue Note, or Rudy Van Gelder could 9M have? If the idea was to keep track of the number of vinyl copies pressed (for billing purposes), such purpose is not well served via small code etched into the master lacquer and is much better served by the press machine’s job counter. If, on the other hand, the idea was to identify the name of the client, artist and title for additional pressings or repressings (or production of additional metal stampers later on), the purpose is not served either, as the code contains absolutely nothing that could identify either the artist or the specific title. Of course, the 9M code could conceivably help narrow down the search for the missing master lacquer in case it gets misplaced, but then we must somehow explain the mysterious fact that not all BN period pressings had 9M code. And the PLastylite staffers would still HAVE to recreate at least an acetate to determine what exactly is on the master lacquer, which kinda kills the entire purpose of coding the lacquer for the purpose of making reissues. . .

      ===

      “Again at the Plastylite factory, a negative mother is electroformed from the matrix to make stampers for the production run.”

      BD: Most indie and small labels and pressing plants used bigger corporate players (such as RCA, Columbia, Decca or Capitol) for this purpose. Are you sure Plastylite had its own electroforming facility? I did not read the Cohen Bible (neither Old nor New :-)), but it was always my understanding that the Plainfield facility was strictly a pressing plant, not a galvanizing facility. Did I get this all wrong?

      ===

      ” Stampers are plated from the mother to ad to the presses and stamp records. It’s at this point that the ‘P’ is stamped into the stamper**. My guess is that Plastylite put the ‘P’ stamp in a different location on each stamper made from a mother for quality control purposes so that it could be identified and pulled if defective pressings were identified***.”

      BD: Your guess fails to take into account the gross incompetence and grotesque lack of interest of underpaid, mistreated, labor-unorganized, undereducated and otherwise abused manual workforce which participated in this process (with a prominent exception of the bigwigs, such as Messrs Van Gelder and Lion, of course). I can comfortably and without hesitation state that different locations used for the placement of the “P” stamp had absolutely nothing to do with the alleged intent and everything to do with the entirely random and chaotic nature in which records were manufactured at a time. You are giving Blue Note, RVG and Plastylite way more credit for intelligent design than they realistically deserve. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes it is an e-cig.

      ===

      “We now have the familiar combination of: master number, ‘RVG’, ‘9M’ and the Plastylite ‘P’ in the runout area.”

      BD: Actually, we don’t., because, mind you, not all copies had 9M code.

      ===

      ” Liberty buys Blue Note and transfers production to All Disc Records in Roselle, N.J.. At this point, Plastylite turns over the matrix and/or mothers to All Disc. Plastylite retains their stampers. From this point forward, the ‘ear’ is no longer seen.”

      BD: Doubtful, at least in the reconstruction of events you presented here. Remember, not a single Liberty pressing has Van Gelder’s initials hand-etched (at least not that I am aware of or can recall). According to your version of the process, RVG’s initials would have been hand-etched as a part of lathe-cutting, not the later production stages. If Liberty recycled old Plastylite master lacquers as you say it did, then hand-etched RVG would have had to be there on at least a few Liberty-pressed titles. If Liberty did, indeed, use the old PLastylite master lacquers (as you and Rich suggest), then RVG’s initials were added later (and replaced by machine stamp later still), and definitely not to the master lacquer itself.

      And, of course, the master lacquer-transfer theory presupposes that these things never wear and are made of wear-free material, which I am not even going to comment.

      Also, what do we make of Liberty pressings of earlier (pre-1963) titles which do NOT have EITHER the Plastylite “ear” OR Van Gelder’s initials OR the 9M code? How do these specimens play into your theory that Blue Note’s Liberty incarnation reused old Plastylite master lacquers?

      ===

      ” All Disc plates new stampers from the Plastylite mothers and/or creates new mothers from the matrixes”

      BD: Not sure I fully follow what you are trying to say here. Are you saying that Liberty recreated their own master lacquers from Plastylite’s second-generation (metal stamper) source? If so, I don’t understand why they would bother doing so: namely, they still had Van Gelder’s backup master lacquers and they still had his master tapes (both raw and equalized), and they still – at least for awhile – enjoyed their mastering services. Why opt for a cheap-shit way out when you are a successor of the King of All Jazz Labels? Could (loud gasp!) cheap-shit “free market” capitalism have anything to do with it?

  11. Hi folks,
    I too have to pour some cold water on the matter:
    ● some of these etchings can be found in the runout area of different record labels (i.e. “4O” can be found on Jolly Roger issues as well, as on Pax releases)
    ● other pressing plants use these codes too, e.g. http://www.discogs.com/release/4339670, in this case: pressed by Abbey Manufacturing
    ● some record labels have more than one code on the dead wax, e.g. Prestige has 7E as well as 8J

    I don’t think that this matter is settled yet. Some more codes

    ● 1I = Jazztone
    ● 1H = Stinson
    ● 4O = Jolly Roger
    ● 4O = Pax
    ● 4Y = Circle
    ● 9O = Royal Roost
    ● 9C = Allegro Elite
    ● 16I = Riverside
    ● 19H = Debut/Vogue
    ● 24X = Bethlehem

    Best wishes: Mark

    • Just to be clear, we are strictly talking about records pressed by Plastylite. Do all the records you posted codes for have the “P” or “ear” in the deadwax?

    • I suppose the fact that Prestige had two different codes affiliated with it is a bit of a monkey wrench, but as long as both of those codes were used exclusively with Prestige, I would think that it might have something to do with a change in ownership? Though I really have no idea.

      • I suspect there weren’t two Plastylite codes for Prestige as they had so few titles pressed there. Was this 8J code from a different pressing plant?

  12. Bob’s comment actually reminded me of a thought I had when I first read the post…

    So are there any pressings of 1500-series titles out there with 1. RVG indicators, 2. the “P”, 3. the same labels as the original, but 4. no 9M? If yes, then the 9M could potentially be the sole indicator that a copy fitting this description is technically not a first pressing…?

    [I’m guessing that the vast majority of the time the labels for the two pressings will be different (R vs. no R etc.) so the 9M may not ultimately prove all that useful in most situations in terms of it describing the vintage of a record and hence telling us something about its value.]

  13. Hi Andy:

    I have to disagree with your inferences on a number of points.

    Where, oh, where, do I start?

    (1) Obviously, we agree that this was some sort of internal reference. This goes without saying. An alphanumerical code of this nature could only have been relevant to its maker and did not and could not (and frankly, should not) carry any relevance to the buyer, owner, music-lover or collector. But then, when exactly was something pressed into a Blue Note vinyl not of any material relevance to the collectors? One of these days, I will probably wake up to discover that my fingerprint, left carelessly in the Blue Note item I sold on eBay carries concealed cryptic message, mystical numerology code and esoteric meaning (most likely: “Thou shalt not have any other eBay sellers but Bob).

    (2) The code COULD NOT have been meaningful to Plastylite (or, to be more precise, to Plastylite ALONE) because, as you noted (” it is even sometimes found on a Liberty reissue”), Plastylite went belly up long before the occurrences of 9M on Blue Note pressings gradually began to abate. In essence, 9M precedes and exceeds any meaning it might have had only for Plastylite’s technical staff)

    (3) Letter “M” – even similarly hand-etched, possibly even by the same person(s) and in the same handwriting – can be found on a myriad different releases, entirely unrelated to either Blue Note or Plastylite. You can find them on Atlantic, Impulse, ABC and/or ABC-Paramount, Capitol, Warner and a whole slew of other labels (granted, some of these characters may in fact be Ws, not Ms, but it would take Hercule Poirot to evidence one way or another). Nothing I have learned thus far comes even close to evidencing conclusively that 9M was unique to Plastylite-specific, On the contrary, industry-wide use of letter “M” (or W) seems to point out to a shared technicality related to the pressing process, something that essentially all record-pressing plants had to encounter one way or another. But what?

    (4) One of the participants of the Steve Hoffman forum claims that 9M is (quote):

    ” believed to be a pressing plant code for aligning the mother of the stamper in the 9 o’clock position. No other combination of number or letter is known to exist” (end quote).

    Which leads me to ask: Believed by whom? And substantiated by what? And :aligned to what? To the label?!?!? Or to the printing press? Or to Mecca and Medina? Jerusalem? Rome? Santa’s workshop? And why would the mother stamper have to be “aligned” specifically at 9:00 position? Why not at 02:31 AM? Does this mean that Debut mothers for the Oscar Pettitford album shown above were aligned at 19:00 o’clock position? How exactly do we prove something that has absolutely no empirical, material, logical or documentary trail of evidence and can only be metaphysically speculated about ad nauseam? Aren’t we counting the number of angels on a pinhead here?

    (5) The conjecture that 9M somehow stands for the client code or client job also cannot withstand serious scrutiny. If the “9” stands for Blue Note, who the heck were the remaining 8 (or 10, or 11) Plastylite clients?. Thus far, I was able to identify only about 5 Plastylite clients OTHER than Blue Note and very, very early Prestige (I may have missed one or two). Those are::

    • Folkways (possibly Broadside)
    • United Artists
    • ESP
    • Dial
    • Stinson

    if 9M is a client job code on Blue Note pressings, what in the Sweet Name of Jesus could be 19H on Debut? Surely you are not going to tell us that the horrible, entirely incompetent pressing vendor Debut was using at a time (Mingus himself was on record as stating that all pressings of ‘Mingus at the Bohemia’ on Debut – his own label – are defective to the point of being essentially unlistenable) had another 19 equally hapless and unfortunate clients? So, the client job theory goes outta window (along with its author: think of it as a Debut defenestration on LJC).

    (6) Finally, your statement (“Why did [9M] disappear around 1959?”) appears to contradict your statement that your New York, USA pressing of Lou Donaldson pressing of “Blues Walk” has it, and that 9M sometimes appears even on Liberty pressings.

    I strongly believe that things that are immaterial to the music (or the value of the record) AND on top of it inherently speculative AND unprovable should be relegated to the “trivial pursuit” and “crossword puzzle” section of LJC. Oh, I am sure that someone, somewhere will find the 9M bit educating, entertaining and cognitively stimulating, but I definitely do not want to share my living quarters or financial arrangements with such (self-censored) individuals.

    If, however, anyone asks me for my 2-cents (adjusted for inflation) worth, my qualified guess (emphasis on: guess) is that the alphanumerical code represents the manufacturer of the vinyl, i.e. the source of the vinyl being used.

    No need to thank me for my trademark brevity, y’all. It’s been a pleasure!

    Over and out. Roger?

      • the conclusion is: 9M=Blue Note by Plastylite.
        I do think LJC’s interpretation is correct.
        Different signs for different labels and, for Blue Note, even a small sign can make a big difference in price.
        unlike all serious collectors, too many EBay sellers do not pay the right attention to many a small sign, or pretend.
        that’s why a lot of NON-original records sell for (stupid) high prices.
        it’s under anyone’s eyes.

      1. I understand that with point 4 above you were trying to illustrate that a theory with no hard evidence in the end is just a theory, but when compared to the strength of Andy’s evidence (IMO), that didn’t do much for me to disprove Andy’s theory nor weaken his case, it just pointed out how weak the other theory was.
      2. Regarding the time frame of the code’s appearance, I believe that all the disks referenced would have been originally pressed in or before 1959, so when the 9M appeared in later pressings of a title, the original metal work would have still been done no later than 1959 so that seems to be consistent with Andy’s theory.

      3. If I personally had to guess (with my highly limited knowledge of these things), Plastylite could have had many obscure clients who still warranted their own code even if they only asked for a very small amount of work.

      4. I think Andy did a good job of indicating that it’s just a (plausible) theory that still lacks hard evidence along the lines of testimony from someone who worked at the plant.

      5. I politely disagree that information about a record (seemingly) unrelated to its value is useless speculation. And if by “self-censored” you mean people believing in the dogmatic truth of something like this, who ever said they were going to do that? It’s just a (strong) suggestion, and I can only hope that we all understand that it is certainly not indisputable truth.

      Your feathers seem legitimately ruffled by this, Bob. What gives?

      • Rich, I am scratching my head as we speak. Is the length of my post such a turn-off that most of the LJC readers can’t finish my sentence before their patience goes limp?

        Andy HIMSELF conceded that 9M can be found on Blue Note pressings that fall WELL OUTSIDE of the Plastylite era. Allow me to quite The Master:

        “The mysterious “9M”, which some collectors mischeviously question as possibly “W6″ is the certificate of authenticity of original metalwork of a Blue Note 1500 series pressing, whatever the label – Lexington, 47 West 63rd, NY, it is even sometimes found on a Liberty reissue.”

        I would add to this statement that not only are 9M codes found on Liberty reissues, they are also found on Liberty pressings proper (first pressings issued after 1966).

        This statement alone in and of itself is sufficient to forever disqualify the 9M = Blue Note by Plastylite argument – unless, of course, the President and Chairman of Plastylite resurrected the pressing plant for the sole purpose of arbitrarily and randomly 9M-stamping the Liberty pressings he had absolutely no involvement with.

        To cut the long story short: when some of these 9M codes were etched into the BN vinyl, Plastylite was no longer residing in this corporate vale of tears. It was Gone. Dead. Kaput. Rigor Mortis. Belly up. I don’t know how much more forcefully I can put this, but there could not POSSIBLY have been any causal-consequential relations between 9M and Plastylite, unless Liberty continued using the slabs of Plastylite’s pre-stamped vinyl, in which case I assure you that the Liberty pressings would have been entirely indistinguishable from Plastylite’s.

        Of course, there is a highly hypothetical possibility that Liberty continued using Plastylite’s 9M code past the transition point from Plastylite to Liberty, but I think we can all agree that the odds of their doing so fall somewhere between zero and subzero.

        Strictly logically speaking, the ONLY thing that these 9M codes have in common is that they are somehow related to and connected with Blue Note (even this conjecture is highly debatable in view of the points I raised previously). As an internal code, this was something relevant and meaningful to Blue Note, not to Plastylite. In any event, had Plastylite used alphanumerical codes for their client jobs, you can bet your sweet hind end that similar codes would have been found in United Artists, ESP or Dial pressings. To the best of my knowledge, they do not.

        • Hi Bob,

          (Preface question: Is this “9M” is assumed to have been present in the master lacquer disk i.e. acetate since it’s handwritten and not backwards?)

          1) When Andy mentions different label addresses with the 9M, I’m pretty sure in all of those instances the master lacquer disks would be the same as the original.

          2) It seems obvious that when Liberty bought Blue Note and changed plants they inherited all of Blue Note’s master lacquer disks and indeed used them (which is why Van Gelder’s markings appear all the way through to the dark blue lowercase “b” 70’s labels in some instances). So for Liberty-era pressings with 9M’s in the dead wax, it seems to me that the master lacquers for those pressings would have been cut by Van Gelder way back in the fifties.

          • Rich, this is precisely where our intuitive and deductive processes diverge. You see, what is obvious to you is definitely neither obvious nor self-explanatory to me (ever seen Kurosawa’s “Rashomon”?). Human experience is a hugely fragmented and fractured area. Shared experiences are surprisingly few and far between, despite what our spiritual leaders may tell us.

            Allow me to elaborate, I will be as brief as possible.

            1. There is no reason to assume that the master lacquers contained the 9M code, because in many, many, many instances the lacquers itself were produced by facilities which had absolutely nothing to do either with the recording label (Blue Note) OR the pressing plant (Plastylite) (see LJC’s “Making Records”: segment for illustration). RCA Victor alone was probably responsible for making as many as 30% of all master lacquers in the first two decades of the existence of 12″ LP. Unless you are implying that either (a) Plastylite owned their lacquer facility or (b) that the actual manufacturer of the master lacquer etched these codes at the request of Plastylite (both of which sound exceedingly unlikely), the assumption does not hold.
            2. I am not sure Andy ever said or implied that (that Liberty used the same master lacquers as the Plastylite). I am not reading this from his post. We would have to ask Andy for clarification (Andy?). In any event, the odds that, in 1969 or 1970 Liberty would have used the exact same master lacquer Plastylite used, say, 15 years earlier, strikes me as implausible to the point of surreal. Mind you, these things were not meant for perpetual use (I can’t even begin to tell you how many worn-out and discarded master lacquers I found in the NYC flea markets over the past 30 years). There is a wear and tear involved in master lacquers, too. This is where the degradation of sound (primarily) comes from.

            Finally, your last assumption (“So for Liberty-era pressings with 9M’s in the dead wax, it seems to me that the master lacquers for those pressings would have been cut by Van Gelder way back in the fifties) is betrayed by the fact that many Liberty pressings of the pre-1966 titles were visibly and audibly remastered by people other than Mr. Van Gelder.

            • Without meaning to sound offensive in any way, Bob, I knew you were going to say this:

              “In any event, the odds that, in 1969 or 1970 Liberty would have used the exact same master lacquer Plastylite used, say, 15 years earlier, strikes me as implausible to the point of surreal.”

              😉

              If you saw two copies of a record, one original with “P” and one Liberty-era without “P” where the dead wax markings on both are identical down to their position, would that prove it to you?

              And I know you hate “indisputables” and statements claimed to be such, but I think it’s common knowledge that Van Gelder cut his lacquers right at his studio and had them sent off to the plant. I will say that it seems like a stretch that Van Gelder would have etched the “9M” into the master lacquer for Plastylite…perhaps Plastylite engraved it backwards into the master stamper along with the “P”…? It does seem a but clumsily written most of the time…?

              • “If you saw two copies of a record, one original with “P” and one Liberty-era without “P” where the dead wax markings on both are identical down to their position, would that prove it to you?”

                Rich:

                if everything is the same, but one pressing does not have “ear” (P) stamp, and the one that doesn’t is clearly and audibly inferior to the one that does, why in the heaven’s name would I assume that the two pressings are coming from the same master lacquer? What quantum leap of faith would impel me to reach such conclusion?

                • Well for one, if the handwritten etchings are exactly the same it would clearly indicate they are from the same lacquer cut by Rudy in his studio. The lacquers were sent to the plating plant where is it likely the “9M” was applied (notice it is etched at a much shallower depth and by a different hand than the matrix number, indicating that it is not on the lacquer but was applied to the metal-plated mother) and from this mother, stampers were created and the “ear” die was stamped, also explaining the differing location of the ear on “original” Plastylite pressings. Questions?

                  • “Well for one, if the handwritten etchings are exactly the same it would clearly indicate they are from the same lacquer cut by Rudy in his studio”

                    But…Aaron….they are NOT the same, and therein lies my disagreement with Rich. He claims that, if all markings are the same EXCEPT for the presence/ absence of the 9M code, the two pressings must be coming from the same master lacquer. Frankly, I don’t quite understand how this conclusion follows from his two preceding premises. Either I missed some of my Logic 101 classes, or I am missing something in Rich’s reasoning, or both.

                    Secondly, Rich’s theory stems from the (incorrect) belief that master lacquer must contain the matrices (and other markings) of the metal stamper used for production of the LP. To me, this is a non-starter. Why would master lacquer contain the matrices of any particular generation of multiple metal stampers it subsequently begets? It is like saying that all children of the person X must, by definition, carry the same genetic material and the same genetic expression as their parent. They cannot and they do not.

                    Finally, as I mentioned earlier, the odds that BN would use the same generation of master lacquers over as many as two decades of continuous production of some titles, and across label acquisition by another, larger label, and that it would do so despite audible loss of the physical definition of the master lacquer (and despite the fact that BN did, in fact, remaster many of its own back titles) are slim to the point of disappearance. .

    • I will say though, that if the number has something to do with the client, what does the letter indicate? Now I highly doubt that they had so many clients that they needed to move on from two-digit numbers into letters. That being said, to me the code still seems to be related to the label.

      • When you say: “label”, do you mean Blue Note as a recording company, or one or more of their specific LP labels (Lex, 63rd, NY) ? If the former, I completely agree with your statement. If the latter, your statement could not possibly be true.

    • I have seen a lot of organisation “coding systems” over forty years of working in organisations, all of whom have internal business systems. In 1956-9, you predate computers, a numeric/alpha is just an identifier in a ledger, it serves a business purpose. If there is a 9M and a 7E it doesn’t follow there can’t be a 19H, or there must be an 8X, there doesn’t have to be a stepped string in between. The “M” doesn’t have to stand for anything you can associate with today.

      Based on the evidence, 9M is consistently associated only with Blue Note and no-one else, and present with the Plastylite ear in pressings and related metalware up to 1959. The fact there are an infinite variety of scribbling in the runout of billions of records, engineers initials, plant identifiers does not invalidate the unique association between Plastylite, Blue Note, and the 9M.

      We don’t know why it ceased to be used, we don’t know who added it to the metalware, or when, there are still a lot of unknowns, but the fact there are other codes consistently associated with Plastylite and the labels they pressed for is a persuasive case, and I haven’t read any other explanation that comes even close.

      I am quite happy to be proven wrong, I’ve been wrong about many things in the past, who hasn’t. I would love to see the evidence on all these other codes, guys, get busy.

      • “Based on the evidence, 9M is consistently associated only with Blue Note and no-one else, and present with the Plastylite ear in pressings and related metalware up to 1959.”

        But, Andy…didn’t you yourself say that Liberty pressings can also contain 9M code? And didn’t your image of Lou Donaldson’s Blues Walk (clearly of 1962/63 vintage, definitely not pre-1959) also have one? How do we bridge the logical gap – chasm, really – between the two clusters of logical statements? Am I missing something in your articulation of the argument?

  14. Just to give credit where it is due, reader felixstrange actually formulated the customer code theory. He posted about it on the Blues Walk page on August 21st and I merely provided some other codes and sent pictures of my Plastylite pressed Prestige and Esoteric to our gracious host.

  15. I can confirm that all my Debut (2,3,4,5,8,10,12,17,19 and 120) have 19 H etched on both sides.
    I’m pretty sure that in the next future LJC will start X-ray test of early Blue Notes.

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