(Updated June 12, 2018 – see foot of post)
Saxophone Colossus overlooked (and that’s a tall order!) The mystery of RVG/ Prestige alphabetic stamp codes. Followers of The Evil Silver Disc might want to sit this one out. It’s deep vinyl.
Jim R has a jazz vinyl collection to die for. He and stalwart Van-Gelderophile and LJC Forum moderator DGmono have been grappling with something I confess I had completely overlooked: the presence on Prestige records of an alphabetic code next to Van Gelder’s hand etched initials, in this case on copies of Saxophone Colossus. What could they mean? Do they differentiate first pressings in any way? More importantly, to a revered global authority on all things vintage vinyl jazz, why don’t I know the answer to this?
Jim R drew my attention to the codes found on his two (yes, he has two!) original copies of Saxophone Colossus on the NY label (spit!). Jim R has the real deal and he noticed these codes differed from one copy to another. Here is what he found, in his own words (saves me rewriting them):
“There appears to be at least two versions of the release bearing the same 446 West 50th labels.
Version 1 has a true flat edge vinyl with a very small B stamped next to RVG on one side and a very small c stamped into the opposite side. This version came with the green tint jacket.
Version 2 has a very slightly raised lip with the letter A stamped next to RVG on both sides. This version came with a more blue jacket, but not nearly as bright blue as later issues on the Bergenfield labels”
Picture: an A stamp (which seems likely later):
Remember: Jim’s flat edge copy – which corroborating and circumstantial evidence suggests is the earliest – has a B and a C stamp. The copy that appears to be of later manufacture but still within the years of the New York label has an A stamp on both sides. Both pressed by Abbey Mfg. Holy Non-synchronicity!
I love it when “logical” assumptions lead you astray. Everyone thought the mighty Columbia worked in an orderly alphabetic sequence with Kind of Blue, as though following the order of the alphabet was part of process control. However when thirty cuttings were made simultaneously, all the same, sent to multiple plants, it didn’t matter who got which letter when.
Logic (intelligent guesswork as to how you think things ought to work) is an unreliable friend. Sometimes, possibly often, different from how things actually work.
The long-suffering Mrs LJC has a touching but misplaced faith in weather forecasts and railway timetables (train forecasts, really), unshaken by the number of occasions when something different happens. I am one of the “let’s see what happens” school of thinkers. There may be principles, hidden from view, which you don’t know of. Sometimes things have failed to work as intended (passenger taken ill, points failure, whatever) so different outcomes emerge. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, turn up and see what happens, it will be somewhere between the two. But I digress…
My Saxophone Colossus has feet of clay. It is a later pressing on the Bergenfield label. Intrigued, I fished out my Bergenfield copy, only to find yet more RVG codes:
Remember: Jim R has a flat edge original original copy which also has a C stamp on one side but paired with a B stamp. I have E. What gives?
Is it the same stamper code on both side A and side B consistently between other copies? Do the Side A/ Side B codes ever reverse (like KoB’s1D/1J and 1J/1D)
Plastylite ears, 9Ms and other etchings often appear randomly positioned around the central vinyl land, but in every case so far, the alpha code is positioned next to RVG’s signature. Not exactly the same position, some are before the RVG, some after the RVG, but always close enough to suggest by design, not randomness. Rudy was using a coding attached to his name. It’s a Van Gelder managed code: cut on a sequence of intermediate mothers perhaps?
Is there a D stamper out there? Does it go beyond E to F or higher?
Was it a control system Van Gelder applied to other Prestige titles, not just Saxophone Colossus. I have a sneaky feeling I have seen it a number of times, but thought little about it at the time. (See postscript)
Appeal for witnesses. Collectors: check your Saxophone Colossus copies for alpha stamps. Maybe other Prestige. No time for logic, we need to gather experience, find out what happened. Do you have knowledge that could contribute to solving this mystery? Tell us what you’ve got. If you already know the answer, share it.
My thanks to Jim R and DGmono for tirelessly chasing these fascinating vinyl mysteries, and giving me no peace. Who needs peace when there are mysteries to solve?
Oh, by the way, it’s a great album. Did I get round to mentioning that?
Jim R has sent in an analysis of the Van Gelder codes found in his Prestige collection. Alpha Madness, it seems a large number have a stamper code:
|Cat. No.||Side 1||Side 2||Flat Edge|
|7038||RVG B||RVG B||No|
|7043||B RVG||A RVG||Yes|
|7047||D RVG||D RVG||No|
|7058||RVG A||RVG A||No|
|7061||A RVG||B RVG||No|
|7063||RVG A||C RVG||No|
|7068||RVG A||RVG A||Yes|
|7079||B RVG||C RVG||Yes|
|7079||RVG A||RVG A||No|
|7080||RVG A||RVG A||No|
|7085||RVG A||RVG A||No|
|7088||A RVG||A RVG||No|
|7090||RVG A||RVG A||No|
|7102||A RVG||B RVG||No|
|7103||A RVG||A RVG||No|
|7115||A RVG||A RVG||No|
|7119||A RVG||A RVG||No|
|7129||RVG A||A RVG||No|
|7142||RVG A||RVG A||No|
UPDATE 2 – June 11, 2018 Pressing Matters
Peter dJ has sent in another Colossus oddity. On his NYC copy, in addition to A and C stamps, he found what I believe to be a pressing plant identifier, an arrow “this way up” symbol:
I have seen this symbol several times before, but I keep it in my “Unsolved Mysteries” file, as I have no idea who it is. Whilst Prestige’s preferred pressing plant was Abbey Record Mfg. as indicated by the frequent presence of an AB stamp or etching,
this looks like someone else’s work*. When records sold in record numbers, and more copies were needed quickly, other plants with any spare capacity would be brought in, as possibly here? Any owners of the NYC label copy have other indications of pressing plant origins? It might throw up some previously unknown association with the stamper codes.
My thanks to Peter dJ for sending this in.
UPDATE III, June 12, 2018 – *Peter dJ tells me the pressing with the “This Way Up” mystery symbol also has an AB stamp, so it is connected with Abbey Record Mfg. in some way. Now I am totally baffled.