(Last Updated November 14, 2014)
Impulse Labelology: The First 100 – mono
For Record Collectors Only!
LondonJazzCollector previously posted a reference set of Impulse labels 1965-73 from A-100 onwards, to capture the evolution of the Impulse label from mid ’60s post-bop through to the early ’70s journey into outer and inner space. I’m not proud, it mixed mono and stereo, left gaps, it could have been done better but it was a start. The classic first one hundred Impulse titles remained unfinished business.
This flyover of the label of the first one hundred Impulse titles yields up more secrets that the Da Vinci Code. Welcome to the Fundamentalist Church of First Pressings, mono tendency, 21st Century visual reference.
Mind The Information Gap
Researching many thousands of auction offerings, I found the term “original” slapped recklessly on everything and anything. It joins the favourite of seller-lexicon, “rare“, as collector Viagra. Mind the knowledge gap! Too many sellers don’t or can’t read the label, and most do not provide a picture of the label of what they are selling.
The label is important. Treated with care, it gives a pretty good indication of point of pressing. Promo’s are a particularly interesting research resource, as they provide a timely insight into design, corporate name changes, and catalogue numbering matters at the initiation of the pressing run, which can be applied to the main commercial release.
The judgements here are based on looking at secondary picture sources: several thousand photos supporting auctions, notably the rich resource of Ebay.Ca, also Discogs, Vinyl Roots Guide, EIL, many inscrutable Japanese collector sites, and up to 10 pages deep of Google links. That is not to say it is infallible, and some records absolutely defy discovery of even one label photo anywhere on the planet. The search for knowledge never sleeps.
My thanks to LJC readers emailing me some of the labels missing in the original post.
There is no doubt more to be discovered from the dead wax (see comments below for some great info) however this depends largely on ownership of the record, which is outside the scope of a labelography.
Some discoveries, things to look for when reading across the label sets: – the handover between Am Par and ABC-Paramount, at A-33 (still open query on status of A-29). Nothing like sweating the evidence. – a new diagnostic, “Cat-A“, which identifies the ABC Paramount catalogue number format adopted from mid-1965 onwards, which I believe identifies re-pressings of earlier titles, despite having the same Orange Black label and often the same ABC Paramount Inc attribution. An example is given below, for A-32 Coltrane’s Ballads Popsike has nearly 200 auctions results of A-32 Coltrane Ballads, first released in 1963, a large proportion which bear the Cat-A numbering system introduced several years later. A large number claim “original status”. Pure A-32 copies are fairly rare whilst A-32-A copies are quite plentiful. There is plenty of supporting evidence that the Cat-A naming convention was established around the first issue of A-81-A, released in mid 1965, and remained the convention for all Impulse labels printed after this date (one exception A-100)
A great many examples of other Coltrane titles are found with the Cat-A label, suggesting many further re-pressings as his popularity rose. This is potentially controversial, I have not read this anywhere before, it’s a hypothesis and it remains open to scrutiny: science is never settled (unless of course it’s about the weather)
UPDATE A-32: (31/10/14)
my thanks to Dottorjazz for contributing a picture of his A-32 first pressing, on Am Par label, neatly filling the gap above, while at the same time blowing a hole through my hypothesis that A-32 original pressing was on ABC-Paramount, because that was all I could find.
Label Reference Set A-1 to A-100
Ashley Kahn in his excellent history of the Impulse label records Impulse executives understanding that unlike many other labels of their day in search of top-40 hits, Impulse made its money from the on-going sales of its whole catalogue year after year. It is for this reason that some Impulse titles span a long chronological series of label changes, with ten thousand copies pressed this year, another ten thousand next year, another ten thousand the year after that, and so on for a decade. Each re-print of the paper labels conformed to naming conventions of the day, legal entities current at the time (with regard to payment and collection of royalties and copyright protection). Long-lived titles like many Coltrane classics will be found on four or five Impulse label variations. This is not industry chaos, or regional variation, but straightforward commercial practice (with probably a pinch of chaos thrown in)
The labels are in four tableau of 25 titles, arranged in 5 rows of 5, with each label resized to around 400 pixels, which should be readable viewed at 2,000 pixel-wide full screen, apart from the essential corporate identifier which is rarely passed comment on. Having an orange and black label is apparently enough – I don’t think even one seller ever mentioned a label’s corporate ID in any of the thousand-odd auctions I looked at. That text is almost too small in real life, but the text has been “validated” in examination of the original pictures.
Mono A-1 to A-25 (all Am Par, no ABC, no Cat-A)
A-26 to A-50 (Transition from Am Par to ABC Paramount, no Cat-A)
A-51 to A-75 (All ABC Paramount, no Cat-A)
A-76 to A100 (All ABC Paramount, transition to Cat-A)
That’s mono 1st 100 1st done, coming soon to a
record player computer screen near you: Stereo Impulse! Hopefully you will find this a useful source for future reference, and will be maintained permanently under the Guide to record labels/ Impulse, once it’s shaken down, run past angry sellers, and broken-hearted collectors. Further work required: covers, stereo it’s endless…
If you note any errors or anomalies, please help improve the guide, mail me. You will have noticed a few image placeholders, derived from tiny thumbnails, where I was unable to find an acceptable size label shot. If you have a label for which I am showing only a “place-holder”, send one, help the cause.
My thanks to eagle-eyed reader Antoine, who started me looking more closely at variations in the label of some Impulse titles that were hard to explain, until the title-by-title examination showed up patterns I wasn’t previously aware of. Great detective work, take a bow Antoine.
Further thanks to LJC contributors Dottorjazz, GregorytheFish, Gordon T, Diego S, Enricomaria, and John B who sent in missing pictures.
Further reading recommendation: The House That Trane Built, by Ashley Kahn The perfect antidote to Labelology, the inside story of the Impulse Label (and hardly one record label in sight.) It’s a good read, one that unlike the biographies and music critics view, introduces you to more of the business side of ’60s modern jazz. It’s good to know more. Any good Jazz books you would like to recommend and what’s special about them? Anything you learned worth sharing? The floor is yours.
UPDATE: (November 5,2014) Lack of New Posts!
I’ve been travelling recently and recent Mediterranean storms have found me stranded for hours on runways amidst torrential downpours, thunder and lightening all around and aircraft unable to refuel in case of going kaboom!. Blogging has been light.
Now home, work on the stereo Impulse series is three quarters done, coming shortly with labels of the first hundred stereo first Impulse pressings. Breaking new ground. All I can say is god bless the Japanese jazz selling sites, who are alone in their meticulous documentation and photography.
Watch this space.