Search for the earliest pressings of “Kind of Blue”, a Collector’s Guide (more updates Nov 13)

(Update Nov 11, 12 and 13, see foot of post,  super-anorak addendum, label font variation, Canadian pressings, and two eye )

WARNING: contains strong vinyl collector content, and no music or digital ingredients.  It is also quite long and in depth, be prepared, I suggest preparing a packed lunch for the journey.
columbia-detective-ahead-sign-sherlock-ljckob-1a-1b-miles-davis-kind-of-blue

Columbia matrix codes have been bugging me for a long time .I thought I had them figured, in theory at least, but a chance exchange of emails with an LJC reader who is working on a book about Kind of Blue, Hi Enrico!, opened up more possibilities.

There is a record which is perfect  to test the theory, on which lots of matrix information has been collected by record sellers, to see how well it explains and dates the manufacture of Columbia records  – the immortal Kind of Blue. And it may add some useful knowledge for collectors too. A closer look at the auction history of Kind of Blue copies had me scratching my head again. What do you have to know in the search for the earliest pressing, to increase your confidence, impress friends with your knowledge? More than at first I thought.

First too, a recap on information from others, the usual suspects:

Hoffman Forum

“In addition to the prefix code and job number, there would also be a number/letter combination at the end – the number indicates the tape/mix used, whilst the letter refers to the lacquer used. Only the letters A to L were used, excluding I: A 1st cutting; B 2nd; C 3rd; D 4th; E 5th;  F 6th;  G 7th;  H 8th;  J 9th;  K 10th;  L 11th; AA 12th; AB 13th; AC 14th; AD 15h etc -“

LJC full table:

A 1st cutting; B 2nd; C 3rd; D 4th; E 5th;  F 6th;
G 7th;  H 8th;  J 9th;  K 10th;  L 11th; AA 12th;
AB 13th; AC 14th; AD 15th; AE 16th; AF 17th; AG 18th;
AH 19th; AJ 20th; AK 21st; AL 22nd; BA 23rd; BB 24th;
BC 25th; BD 26th; BE 27th; BF 28th; BG 29th; BH 30th;
BJ 31st; BK 32nd; BL 33rd; CA 34th; CB 35th; CC 36th;
CD 37th; CE 38th; CF 39th; CG 40th; CH 41st; CJ 42nd;
CK 43rd; CL 44th; DA 45th; DB 46th; DC 47th; DD 48th;
DE 49th;………………ad infinitum.

Anorak’s Corner:

Lacquers were made at the same time to then be sent out to pressing plants – therefore lacquer A does not necessarily reflect the “first press” – it is possible to have “1A” on one side of a disc and “1D” on the flipside.” (LJC: No, I didn’t follow that either)

Kevin Gray: “Columbia used PAL and PBL prefixes for side 1 and 2, and A and B suffixes for the Santa Maria, Ca. plant, C and D for Terra Haute, In. and E and F for Pitman N.J.  Six (or more) sets of lacquers were usually cut for any big-name artist, so the very first mastering would be 1A,1B,1C,1D,1E,and1F.

Any recuts would be the next higher number for that plant”. (LJC: so 1G and 1H would be the 2nd cut from Santa Maria) “That way they could easily keep track of how many replacements were needed for each plant.

Discogs:

Discogs has 247 entries against Kind of Blue.

Columbia  pressed vinyl at three pressing plants of their own (and possibly made use of many others), however note the dates these came into operation, according to Discogs:

Terre Haute IN. opened 1953
Pitman NJ. opened May 17, 1961
Santa Maria CA. first opened September 1963
.
LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30LJC concludes:
When KoB was first released, in August 1959,  Columbia had only one plant of its own in operation, Terre Haute, (though it made extensive use of many other plants)
The Columbia Six-Eye label was in use from 1958 until early 1963. Hence nearly four years of KoB pressings are found on Six-Eye, including two years when both Terre Haute and Pitman  plants were in operation.
The “earliest pressings” are most likely from Terre Haute, Indiana, which I believe  is usually indicated by a “T” hand etched. Had it been other plants, big names like Capitol, contract pressings, there would be other indicators, etchings,  die groove variations, of which there are none.
Hmmm. Time to dig deeper.
To find out more, I looked at 500 Ebay auctions of Kind of Blue, those closing in excess of $100, going back over the last three years. Total number of KoB copies auctioned in that period was over 3,000. The $100 cut-off  search criteria concentrated on  finding the promos and early pressings. High value auctions were more likely to provide matrix codes in the description, and better quality photos, though not always. Many sellers omitted mention of matrix codes. Almost all six eye copies are described by sellers as “rare” despite being probably the most common jazz record ever sold. Diligently described copies of Kind of Blue are even more rare. I found only about  a hundred with good stamper information and photos of both labels, 50 mono, 50 stereo. Not great, but good enough to take the plunge.
Promo copies
Conventional wisdom™ suggests promotional copies are the first pressed, and that first pressings start with the earliest alphabetic matrix suffix  1A, then 1B, 1C etc

Mono promos

kob-1d-1g-hoffman-labels-mono-promo-wrong-orders2-1600px

 

On its first release in August 1959, fortuitously, an error was made in the track listing of the Side 2 label. Flamenco Sketches was wrongly listed as the first track, and All Blues as the second. All mono promos have the Side 2 track-listing error. The sequence was corrected (ie reverse order) on the label around November 1959, on commercial release pressings. Hence promos are all pre 11/59. The sequence error remained on the jacket indefinitely.

Matrix codes found on mono promos:

1D/1H, 1H/1D, 1D/1G, 1G/1D,  no other letters or variations were made mention of, no symmetrical pairs found (eg 1G/1G). The four variations are offset pairs eg 1D/1H and 1H/1D. The only unique letters found are D, G and H, and each letter is found as Side 1 and Side 2. D is found in every permutation, G and H are never found paired with each other, or at least not found in my sample (not to say they do not exist, possibly other letters, but none in my sample).

Stereo promos

kob-1ac-1ae-promo-stereo

Stereo promos replicate the early track sequence error seen on the mono promo labels ie they too are pre 11/59.

The matrix code on promo auctions found are:

1E/1K, 1K/1E, 1AC/1AE, 1AE/1AC

Similar to mono, stereo promos were found in four combinations of offset letter pairs, unique letters are E, K, AC and AE, each found as side 1 and side 2, but never mixed eg there is no 1E/1AC or 1K/AE. No other letters were found. Stereo promos leapfrog the expected alphabetic progression jumping from E (5th cutting) to AE (16th cutting). A small number of lacquers were responsible for generating promos, in one place.

Summary – what we now know from promos

KoB promos are all pre 11/59 (have Side 2 track-list error) and matrix code letter 1D or higher. None were found 1A,1B or 1C, ( which are found on the commercial release). All promos were probably manufactured at Terre Haute, Indiana. A lacquer includes Side 1 and Side 2.  A limited number of lacquers/ stampers were used in pressing promos,  Side 1 and Side 2 were drawn from different pairings, not symmetrical (not 1A/1A)  nor sequential (not 1A/1B).

Conclusion: Tidiness and order are retrospective intellectual concepts not manifest in practice. Conventional Wisdom™ is no guide to what actually happens.

US first commercial release – six-eye label – mono

Most sellers copies have the corrected Side 2 label, and many claim theirs is an original first pressing, simply because it is a Six-Eye. One even declared it was the first pressing because the matrix suffix started with a 1 (simply original tape mix, like all).

Time to dig deeper.

Side 2 mono : early vs later pressing

Illustrated below, the Side 2 track listing error, left pre-November 1959 (1.Flamenco Sketches 2. All Blues) and the track-list corrected after November 1959, right (1. All Blues 2. Flamenco Sketches)

kob-side2-tracklist-error-1920px

US first commercial release – six eye label -Stereo

Side 2  stereo: early vs later pressing – also initial track listing error corrected

kob-1ac-1ac-stereo-wrong-oder-and-corrected-1600The label correction is believed to have taken place around November 1959, on the instruction of Teo Macero (hat tip Enrico!). It is not known how many labels with the side 2 error were printed, but the presence of the Side 2 error is proof of “early pressing” status 8/59  to 11/59. Columbia was a major, not the sort of small operator that would “use up” wrong labels to save money. In all likelihood they simply canned the misprinted label and replaced it with a fresh print-run. Or so Conventional Wisdom™ suggests

US commercial release pressings – matrix codes

Mono:

Matrix 1A/1A with Side 2 track-listing error

kob-1a-1a-miles-davis-kind-of-blue-rare-1a-1a-orig-mono-columbia-deep-groove-lp-w-errors

It exists! the holy grail 1A/1A. One of the few samples found where the matrix codes Side 1 and Side 2 are taken the same lacquer.

The very few commercial mono copies were found with matrix codes in the range 1A to 1C on both sides ( five records only in the sample, they are very rare), all had the Side 2 track-list error. At 1D on both sides, Side 2 was found in both correct and incorrect track listing order i.e. lacquer letter progression rapidly stops being a useful guide to the very earliest pressings. Early letter-denominated mothers and stampers were used to press further copies with the corrected label for Side 2. Worse: later, rare combinations such as 1AC/1AA are found with and without the Side 2 error.  Bummer.

The most frequently occurring matrix code on mono pressings is D, which was also used in manufacturing promos; after that,  AC, AE, and AJ. . The highest value found was 1BD for Side 1 and 1BE (27th lacquer) for Side 2. Doesn’t mean there aren’t others higher, just not in my sample. There are clusters around certain letters, for example 1AJ on Side 1  is found with Side 2 as 1AD, 1AE,1AF and 1AG. There may have been 27 lacquers cut but many letters never appear, and only a limited number of lacquers appear to have been actually used for pressing. You have to ask, what the hell were the rest doing, hiding? What part was played by Customatrix, Columbia’s metal producing division?

Stereo

Recap (information taken from various engineering gurus) : 1959 is very early in the history of stereo. Columbia’s 30th Street studios then used four tape decks simultaneously: a prime mono deck and a mono safety backup deck,  a prime three-channel deck and three track safety backup deck, for stereo. To create the stereo Kind of Blue release, which was apparently recorded with Telefunken U-49 microphones, the prime three track tape (later discovered to be running 1.5% slow) was folded down to two channels, the centre channel  being folded to both  left and right channels. If you have read Ashley Khan’s book, of course you know all these things.  Michael Fremer, in his interesting write-up of various modern KOB  reissues, mentions  he owns a “6-eye” 1AJ . Aha, good for you, Mikey, but what’s the other matrix? 1AJ/ what? Many sellers  quote only one, (wrongly) assuming they are the same each side. The interesting thing is the pair.
Like the mono matrices, a few early alphas are found in my six-eye stereo sample, all 1A/1B, the next “oldest” was 1J/1H. Perhaps the rarest copies are sitting on collectors shelves, not up for sale, but I saw far fewer than expected. The highest matrix value was 1BH/1BJ, and towards the end, copies with the CBS overprint start to appear, fixing these to around 1962/3. The large number of high matrix  values probably reflects  a large volume of sales of stereo copies which occurred towards the end of the six-eye label period.
Most $100 plus copies were in the AC to AL range for Side 1, 1AC to 1BG for Side 2. Clusters of offset pairs appear,  1AG/1AJ and 1AJ/1AG for example. How this worked in practice, you can see a plant with two lacquers in play (as we found with promos), pressing one lacquer for Side 1, the other Side 2, and then vice versa. That is as much as I can figure, may be you have a better explanation. I don’t know anything, sifting for clues and evidence, just a vinyl detective, maybe jumping to wrong conclusions. But I am looking, because Conventional wisdom™ is an unfaithful friend.

The Deep Groove

The presence or absence of deep groove is often a signal of earlier pressings on some labels, like Blue Note  However in the case of Kind of Blue Six-Eye, almost all the Six-Eye mono’s are deep groove (example, left)  and very few non-DG (example, right) which had a very high matrix value (1BF)

kob-six-eye-mono-cl1355-dg-vs-no-dg

Inner Sleeve

Inner sleeves can often provide supporting evidence of original, early/first pressing status. A number of inner sleeves are found with Six-Eye mono and stereo Kind of Blue, but the black and white upper example (front and back) seems most closely associated with very early matrix codes A to D

inner-sleeves-final

The red polka dots sleeve is associated with higher matrix codes, as is the blue perspectival stripe inner sleeve. The inner sleeves advertising other Columbia titles could probably be dated by the release dates of the records pictured, if anyone had the energy to collect them all, I certainly had not at this point.

Finally, inside the cover, some copies have the dreaded Columbia inner bag:

columbia-inner-bag

I don’t know if it helps or hinders assessing pressing status, may be you do. The few copies found are associated with later matrix numbers.

Misprint! Mis-spelling! Much ado (about nothing).

As all sellers point out, the authentic original cover of Kind of Blue has Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s name miss-spelt “Adderly”. Unlike the track-list error, which is a vital clue to the earliest of pressings, the miss-spelling of Adderley’s name  remained  on the cover for over a decade, and is irrelevant.

four-labels-cover-no-change-in-adderly

No doubt it was corrected at some point, but not during six-eye era, the later CBS over-print, Guaranteed High Fidelity/two-eye 360º Sound, nor Columbia all-round. Didn’t seem to bother “Cannonball” that much, he’s no cissy worrying about a misprint,  he’s bigger than that. Now if they had miss-spelt “Cannonball” things might have been a little different.

Back cover track-listsequence error

1ac-back
The back cover listing of tracks repeats the initial side 2 track-listing error, both mono and stereo  editions. The back cover error remained uncorrected  from 1959 to at least 1977. PC 8163 Columbia all-round red label still has it. In that respect, the back cover error does not add any information about dating pressings. Like the Adderly misprint, sellers often talk it up as though something significant has been being found, like a rare  penny black stamp misprint, worth millions!  Some sellers claim their copy has a “misprint” merely because the Side 2 label is the corrected one, at odds with the cover track list. All copies are like that.

Lesson’s for First Pressing Fundamentalists

Buyers in search of the earliest KoB pressing,  you have been warned:

ultra-rareoriginal-first-suffix-1

“VERY FIRST ORIGINAL AUTHENTIC ULTRA RARE”…baloney.

  • Six-eye Promos are the first pressings, guaranteed.
  • However, the six-eye label was in use on KoB for nearly four years. Only a combination of early matrix code 1A to 1C and the Side 2 label track-list error identifies first pressing commercial release.
  • 1D is found with and without the s2 track error, which suggests the transitional point
  • Six-eye without deep groove, presence of CBS overprint, and very high letter values like 1BH  is a warning flag of being late in series, 1963
  • Of the rest, you pays your money you makes your choice, condition is king: mint, looks un-played, still-sealed, storage find, you know the spiel, just forget “insanely rare!”

As for dating Columbia matrix codes, we know this record example is very very old, because it’s from  1 BC

kob-1bc-1bg-miles-davis-john-coltrane-kind-of-blue-rare-orig-59-columbia-stereo-lp-6eye-lbl_131879871

Perhaps the others side is from 1 AD, just a couple of years later.

If you have stayed with me, first, congratulations, you have learned to speak a little Columbian. The sort of question everyone wants an answer to, you are a long way towards having, possibly. If both sides are early alpha 1A to1D, its early, if both sides are 1BA or higher, it’s late, end of six-eye. In between, anything goes.  The use of lacquers was not a chronological progression, and they were paired in some very disparate combinations (1BC/1J,1A/1AC, 1AC/1B and so on) so the driving force is something else we do not yet understand, and are still working on.

It could be the explanation is one like those DG and non-DG dies at Blue Note -no “systematic” working practice to guide future collectors, no adherence to alphabetic sequence, it didn’t matter, the operative just used whatever stamper (from whatever lacquer) came to hand for the job, from those the plant was sent. Additional pressing runs yielded differently matched pairs, or sometimes, matching pairs. However they are not random pairs, but neither are they alphabetically sequential pairs. Conventional Wisdom™ is not having a good day.

fremer-qanda

That was my understanding too when I started out on this investigation, not quite where I ended up now.  I think we have increased the amount of stuff we know, but at the same time, increased the amount of stuff we don’t know. That is what usually passes for progress.

LJC says:  please feel free to weigh in if you think I’ve got something wrong (which you can put straight), or you can add something to the story, speak up, perhaps your promo doesn’t fit with my m.o. another theory could crash and burn (If you want to let everyone know your KoB  is a CD/, that joke is disallowed, don’t.)

The floor is yours.

UPDATE Friday November 11, 2016

Eagle-eyed reader  Acode has spotted label font styles as another potentially significant variable. Great! (heart sinks, more work) I’ve combed through my database and come up with these three variations. (v.1,  v.2 and v.3)

kob-typesetting-label

Like with the Prestige study we see the different label printers decisions on typographical layout. Track titles are often in a condensed font, tall and thin, to squeeze more in,  but in this case it’s the album title font that marks out the printer, and probably the collocated pressing plant.

We see three solutions, v.1 an ultra condensed font  to fit the title in a single line,v.2  a regular font of smaller point size on one line, and v.3 to hell with it, a bold regular typeface and two lines. So far I haven’t found any other variation. I reckon only two locations, local printing for that plant.

The interesting thing is the matrix codes associated with the different printers. Almost all the  1D/1D and 1D/ 1AD or 1AE pressings are v.1, one-line title in an extra-condensed font. It is very similar to the font on promos, but with tighter spacing. None of the promos have the larger rounded regular bold font and all are two line . Another fingerprint, the plant in question tended to issue copies with symmetrical matrix codes – 1D/1D and 1J/1J – unlike other plants, which pressed with unmatched stampers e.g. 1AE/1AJ

(Updated Feb 24, 2017) The v.3 two line title is found exclusively on the very earliest commercial release matrix codes  1A, 1B and 1C (either side in any permutation and not paired with any higher letter), and in much later copies around 1AE-to 1AJ

UPDATE Saturday November 12, 2016

It’s been raining, it’s a miserable cold day, so ‘ve looked at another 500  KOB auction results, that is a thousand in total. (Virtually every time, “Rare!” If I see another KOB six-eye described as rare again I shall punch someone. Some interesting finds amongst the dross.

We now know where lacquer B went (or at least mothers derived from it) : Canada. Both mono and stereo six-eyes with a uniquely “Canadian” touch. Band 1. Band 2…so French. The suffix -1B is visible on mono Side 1 and seller described both sides 1B/1B.  This could be a quite desirable source for early pressings.

canada-miles-davis-kind-of-blue-lp-canadian-1st-edition-mono-and-stereo

In another development, stereo copies with 1AG and 1AH and mono copies with 1AF and 1AJ have been turning up with a letter “T” and alpha suffix – TA, TB and TC found – stamped mechanically like the matrix stamp.  One visible on a photo:

kob-1ah-tb-stamp-1959-miles-davis-kind-of-blue-columbia-6-eye-stereo-lp-cs-8163_25510973

As yet unexplained, but has to be a pressing plant process control identifier.

UPDATE Sunday November 13, 2016

We’ve had relatives staying, leading to escape to the study and more data on KoB auctions.

A little icing on the cake, the Columbia two-eye KoB  has a degree of chronology, so there are early and later two-eye.  It follows more or less the overall Columbia evolution – Guaranteed High Fidelity becoming <-360º SOUND -> MONO (white print);  and <-360º SOUND ->  STEREO first in black print then white print. In a further variation the word “UNBREAKABLE” under the catalogue number disappears.

kob-two-eye-label-four-variations-1800-ljc

The interesting part is the lacquer numbers associated with two-eye edition, commencing with the tail end of the 1BA-1BL run, and the start of the 1CA – 1CL run. Those lacquers existed, and were put into service from 1963 onwards until the early ’70s.

On the original study ambition, the analysis of the matrix data from six-eye auctions now covers over a thousand auctions, those over $40, which has doubled the number of matrix pairs in the database to 200.  The pattern of deployment of lacquers is starting to come through loud and clear, resulting in a fatal blow to Conventional Wisdom™.  All will be revealed. Very soon.

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49 thoughts on “Search for the earliest pressings of “Kind of Blue”, a Collector’s Guide (more updates Nov 13)

  1. Great article! I actually have a copy of stereo promo in 1A on side one and 1AE on side two, so 1A white stereo promos do exist.

  2. Ok. I’m kind of in disbelief over here. I pulled out my KoB Mono and I found that I don’t have a 1A/1B as previously thought. I have a 1A/1A…….I’m totally in disbelief. It was mentioned above as the “Holy Grail”. I know you have done a lot of research. What would a record like this be worth? I can send pictures of you would like. Thanks for your tireless research and wisdom!!!

    • 1A/1A is from the first commercial release in late 1959 – I assume it has the Side 2 track sequence error? That is important as stampers continued in use for a further number of years. If so, you have a very desirable copy, and one that is quite rare. Its value is very dependent on vinyl and jacket condition – my guess would be maybe $500 if it was Ex/Ex but the only way to know is through putting it to auction. Congratulations.

      • Well I’m just super excited to have such a great copy. I have an original Stereo copy and a Stereo repress and I have to admit that my original Mono sounds the best. I just know I need to take more care of it given its possible value. Thanks again for your help and I will enjoy such a beautiful record.

  3. Hello , and congratulations for this great article.. But as you said it’s so difficult to know..
    So I’d like to ask you about my version. I just bought it last week… I hope I did well…

    I own a Mono 6 eye copy with deep groove…
    The titles on side two have been corrected with 1. All Blues 2 Flamenco Sketches
    The title font is the version 1 you suggested (M.Davis) close to Flamenco Sketches.
    Kind of blue on the label is written in one line.
    MATRIX CODEs are :
    A)XLP47324-1J
    B): XLP47325- 1BD
    You can actually see all the informations here…
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/152445874557

    Please help me.

    • Congratulations, you have hours of listening pleasure ahead of you. The side 2 1BD is a fairly high matrix code usually found paired with similar high codes in the range 1AJ to 1BJ, but in your case with a 1J. This still suggests manufacture late into the six-eye era, but before the CBS overprint, so probably somewhere around 1962. Impossible to be more precise.

      • Thank you… I’mreally disappointed as I thought I bought an almost first pressing !
        So I think I paid my copy way too much (130 dollars…)

        • If I were you I would ask for a refund. He said it was a Deep Groove in his description and it clearly is not. False advertising on eBay will get you a refund with Buyer Protection.

        • Take stock: sometimes in life we end up paying too much, other times in life we get a bargain, and pay too little. On no scientific basis, it is probably a zero sum game, wins cancel out losses.

          You may have paid a little over the market rate for the specific provenance of your copy., but you still have a great piece of music and a cutting that is probably indistinguishable from any other copy manufactured around this time. Mine is a late six-eye too, stereo, and it enchants me every time I listen to it.

          Accentuate the positive. Vinyl is for playing, and you have a great vintage copy. What you pay for it makes no difference to how it sounds. Personally, I wouldn’t send it back, I’d chalk it up to experience and enjoy what you have.

          At some time in the future, you will catch a bargain that will even the score.

  4. Great article! Very informative, as I just picked up a copy today, and can now give a clear description of my KOB formula ‘so to speak’, but still can’t find mine on Discogs to ‘catalog’ it. Ha!
    So here goes: side 1: XLP47324-1AL side 2: XLP47324-1AF, TA stamp, Mono, Six Eyes, no cbs, v.2 Mono label typeset w/ corrected side 2 label, B&W inner sleeve, ‘4’ printed on the cover, with all of the misspellings as everyone else’s (apparently moot).
    So all that said, what’s that concoction lead me to? Because, I still can’t find that combination. Lol!

    • ‘4’ Imperial Packing Co., Inc., Indianapolis, IN; T# stamp
      all suggests Terre Haute pressing, early 60’s, 60, 61 exactly when anyone’s guess. I would be surprised if any Discogs uploader had the insight to classify with any more precision.

      Price of being ahead of the curve!

  5. First off…amazing article. I loved it, it answered some questions for me, but has also created a few more. I have a 6-eye mono with a matrix on Side 1 of: XLP47324-1B and Side 2 of: XLP47325-1A which is exactly what you show in your first two pictures on this page. Side B has the error of the track listing. But my font on the label is what you show as to be V.3. I know you said that V.3 usually have higher two alpha matrix codes, but mine does not. I was hoping you could shed some light on this……once again, a great article. Thanks!!

    • Hi Steve, I’ve now taken a more systematic look at the font and title setting associated with matrix codes – at the time of writing it was an afterthought and an “impression” which wasn’t as accurate as I now find.

      The great majority of labels are either the two-line title setting (which I called v3) or the one line setting (v1 or v2)

      The very earliest commercial release pressings – mono matrix A, B or C in any permutation on both sides, with the Side 2 track-sequence error, are exclusively the two-line title setting. None of these have the one-line title setting. Your copy is from this early cluster, I think.

      After this, the two line setting also appears with many later permutations of matrix letters (all of which have the corrected side 2 track sequence) with the exception of a large cluster where only the single line title appears,

      The single line title appears on permutations of AE to AL on both sides, and the letter D paired with a much higher alpha like AD or AG. Whichever plant had possession of these acetates had a local print supplier who set the title in one line using an extra-condensed font.

      That’s it. Any more KoB research and I will lose the will to live. Cheers
      LJC

  6. I just picked up an early stereo version. Any thoughts? What album cover plant was 6?

    mono/stereo / DG / label track listing error / label typography / matrix / inner / back cover code (manufacturer) / back cover track listing error / Adderley misspelling

    stereo / yes / yes / wide / 1AA/1AA / B&W / 6 / yes / yes

    Machine-etched matrix with an H on the opposite side of the matrix present on both sides. The insert is black and white and has 36 different Blue Note albums on each side.

  7. BACK COVER CODE

    What about the back cover code (manufacturer)?

    Printing Columbia Covers
    At the bottom right corner of Columbia back covers is usually a number. According to the eponymous WB, these identify the following LP cover manufacturers:

    ‘2’ Imperial Paper Box Corp., Inc. of Brooklyn, NY
    ‘3’ Modern Album, Long Island, NY
    ‘4’ Imperial Packing Co., Inc., Indianapolis, IN
    ‘5’ Modern Album, Terre Haute, IN

    These with the location of Columbia principal record plants East and Central US, which makes good sense, but not from the point of view of West Coast distribution. There has to be a 1 code and it is almost certainly located around L.A.

    • A lot of the earliest editions, including promos, have “4” on the cover, which is consistent with my thinking that Terre haute IN was the pressing plant which produced the first production run, covers printed locally, mostly it seems Imperial Packing Co. Circumstantial, but at least evidence based.

    • Probably no-one knows factually, which leaves us in the educated guess territory. It is a reasonable question, let me think out loud.

      First, the initial 1959 year of release, in the US? Though Miles was a big seller by jazz record standards, its still small beer, I guess may be 20,000 copies? Sidewinder was a much bigger seller. 20,000 would put it x5 bigger sales than the average jazz first release of 4,000. If you don’t like that figure, choose any other: 30,000?

      In the four years of the six-eye period, may be 100,000? There are around 1,000 copies a year coming to auction, that would be 1% of total, not an unreasonable ballpark figure.

      Columbia’s vinyl reissues were (from memory – the fact-checker is on leave) 1963 (two eye) and 1971(red Columbia all round). Vinyl production petered out later in the ’80s. That is 30 years of vinyl sales, guess an average 10,000 copies each year would mean total 300,000 vintage copies on vinyl. Again, pure guesswork., I think may be that’s a bit high side.

      Columbia/Legacy say they are currently selling around 20,000 a year on vinyl, as part of the “vinyl revival – the record everyone should own”. According to Billboard, KoB is the fifth largest-selling album on vinyl since 2010 (143,000 total over six years).

      The much touted all-time multi-platinum sales figure is 4 million to date, in all formats including CD and download, I imagine worldwide, but I don’t think that figure is helpful in getting to vinyl sales.

      Anyone with any better idea, welcome take a punt.

  8. Great post.

    Here is the complete information of my six 6-eye copies.

    mono/stereo / DG / label track listing error / label typography / matrix / inner / back cover code (manufacturer) / back cover track listing error / Adderley mis-spelling

    mono / yes / yes / wide / 1J/1J / B&W / 6 / yes/ yes
    stereo / yes / yes / wide / 1AA/1AA / B&W / 6 / yes / yes
    stereo/ yes / no / narrow / 1AA/1BB / vinyl / 6 / yes / yes
    stereo / yes / no / wide / 1AG/1AJ / – / 2 / yes / yes
    stereo / no / no / narrow / 1AL/1BH / red polka dots / 6 / yes / yes
    stereo / no / no / wide / 1AJ/1BH / color / 4 / yes / yes

    Poll is also a good idea, but combination of other info might be helpful in deterring which is earlier.

    • I agree, Polldaddy is a very limited tool, one dimensional, but its free and available. There are 1200 possible unique s1/s2 matrix pairings, multiplied by at least ten variables (promo/regular; label misprint/correct; mono/stereo;six-eye/other label, inner sleeve type, typography) that is tens of thousands of unique possibilities. The data capture is industrial scale, outside my capacity, but if anyone wants to build a data capture tool, I’ll happily front it.

  9. I have a stereo 1H/1J copy with the incorrect track order, dg, no CBS, “6” on the back cover. I’m guessing this is a fairly early pressing. I do disagree with the tag that promos are always first pressings. Atlantic, for example, pressed at least two versions or Krik’s “Whistleman”, one with a white fan label and one with a later black fan label. While all labels may not have done this repress of promos, it may explain the discrepancy in the matrix numbers of the KOB you’ve mentioned, as well as the promos of Drew’s “Undercurrent” without a dg. While it is unclear examples such as these were pressed simultaneously, there is clearly a difference in identifying characteristics that requires more research. /d

  10. Thanks LJC, super job! I was happy to discover my mono DG 6-eye has the misprinted side 2 label and 1D / 1D in the matrix. It sounds great, regardless, which is more important, of course.

    • Also, my copy has the black and white inner you associate with the earliest pressings. Just one more tiny bit of backup evidence for you.

  11. Another terrific and near-obsessive effort, LJC. Thank God my copy is Classic Records QuiEx repress from 2000 or whenever it was done and none of this applies or need worry me…

  12. Just spoke to my buddy Joe who owns a record store close by ( I am in Florida USA ) and he has a mono 6 eye kind of blue with the uncorrected side 2 label with codes of :
    Side one 1AC
    Side two 1AA

    He says he has a couple more at home, I will post those when I get them

  13. LJC, thank you for a thoughtful and thoroughly engaging presentation of your label research. It actually kept my attention away from the election last night.

    My stereo KoB is 6-eye, no CBS, deep groove, correct title listing on label, 1AG/1AJ. So likely a middle-term pressing.

    As you mentioned, title listing and Adderley spelling on the cover are incorrect across all my copies of KoB, including PC8163. I’m trying to think of why Columbia would notice and immediately fix the error on the label listing, but then allow the cover error to continue. Were covers too big of an investment to discard and reprint? Surely they noticed the cover errors.

    Where does this leave us with the remainder of our cherished Columbia 6-eye collection where likely we don’t have the luxury of a label listing error to help sort out pressing status? It seems that all we have left is early matrix code, deep groove, and no CBS.

  14. A great insight, thank you LJC for this meticulous research. After having lived many years comfortably with a stereo and mono version of KoB on Dutch Fontana. I bought a US stereo copy only in the nineties. Found it for a reasonable price in Fred Cohen’s Jazz record Centre).
    The Fontanas have Flamenco Sketches and All Blues (in that order) on the labels and the sleeves.
    Now my US Columbia:
    DG, no CBS, label side 2: a) All Blues, b) flamenco Sketches; sleeve: Flamenco Sketches, All Blues, plastic bag inner.
    Dead wax, side A: XSM 47326-1AH, TA, followed by 1/11 hand etched. Side B: ditto 1AJ, no TA and/or hand etched formula.
    The sound of the stereo Columbia is better than the stereo Fontana.

  15. Bravo Andy! You must have put many hours of hard work into this poring over Popsike data and cover/label photographs. I’ve been toying with some “Collector’s Guide” style postings for my blog and one of the things I quickly realised is that I’d need to keep each one’s scope narrow and precise to avoid months of effort. So a big tip of the beret to you!

  16. Did you notice any consistency with the typography of the incorrect side 2 song order labels? Some have narrow type, some wide like most (all?) pictured. Maybe if only one plant had the incorrect labels it would explain why they still appear on pressings with higher lacquer numbers? Just a guess.

  17. Great !!!
    I just checked my 6 eyes stereo kind of blue.
    Side 2 has the correct listing : 1) all blues 2) flamingo sketches,
    Back cover uncorrect : 1) flamingo sketches 2) all blues
    non-DG, no CBS on label
    Black and white inner sleeve.
    Codes are side one 1AL and side two 1BL

    The sound of my 2010 reissue from Sony is far better than my original US six eyes.

  18. Great info here. I just checked my 6 eye mono kind of blue. Looks like I have an early pressing. Side 2 has the uncorrected listing : 1) flamingo sketches 2) all blues, DG and black and white inner. Codes are side one 1C and side two 1A

      • mine: six eyes, deep groove, no CBS:
        side two, XLP47325-1j, machine-etched; a small H, if horizontal (or I, if vertical), hand-etched
        side one; xlp-47324.1bc, hand-etched; same H or I, hand-etched

            • I was just at my friends record store and he had a miles davis porgy and bess 6 eye mono with a stamped number on one side and a hand etched number on the other just as you described. it was a 1D and 1G

  19. For better or worse (worse right?), I can top your highest stereo matrix code. Mine’s 1BH on side 1 and 1BK on side two. No CBS overprint, by the way. There is an original (?) black and white inner sleve, but different than the ones you’ve show above.

    Aother question, you mentioned the mis-ordered side two songs on the lable, but what about on the back cover? My copy has the correct running order on the label, but incorrect order on the back cover.

    I can send pictures if you’d like…

    • Hi – some of those high matrix codes are found both with and without CBS overprint -1BB/1BG: one CBS to five without, BG/BJ one CBS one without, so I guess a supply of CBS overprint labels were loaded into the hopper one day, with the same lacquers in use.

      Damn, you are right. I overlooked the back cover order. I’ve done a stealth-edit, fixed, thank you.

      If you have an inner sleeve linked to early pressings, happy to update, send or point me to it.#

      Other people have covered all the human interest stuff, the history, the musicians, the music, and the record engineering side, all the really important things. My ambition is more shallow: I want to produce the definitive Vinyl Collector’s Guide, which I don’t think has been done, or at least not for free. And annoy the “INSANELY RARE!” school of record sellers, as a bonus.

      We are off to a good start.

      • Just checked my stereo copy. Cover has incorrect track sequence; label has correct sequence. Stamped “1AD” and 1AE”..deep groove. Small handwritten letter “2” on bottom right rear cover. Maybe not first issue but early enough and it sounds great, but my Sony SACD sounds just as good I’ll admit. I will comment that I sold my mono 6 eye many years ago; I definitely prefer the stereo mix!!

        • Playback equipment influences how things sound, you can’t separate the two. All my digital streaming sourced stuff sounds lame. The vinyl is testosterone-charged. Is it the medium, or the source.? I honestly can’t say. Whatever works for you.

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