More UPDATES at foot of post, added Monday March 16
Health Warning! Post for Pixel-Peepers™ only!
May Definitely contain nuts.
Just when things were getting clear on how first pressings of the New Jazz 8200 series looked between 1958 and 1963, LJC reader Anders throws a spanner in the works. (Great! I love spanners, keep ’em coming) His copy of the very wonderful modal masterpiece “Cracklin’ by Roy Haynes with Booker Ervin has a deep groove, not what I predicted for a late 1963 pressing.
He sent me photos, and sure enough, one side of his copy of 8286 has a “deep groove”, Side A (below, left).
Photo courtesy of Anders W
The “deep Groove” is not quite as deep or pronounced as those of the deep groove era of the late 50s (below, left) but similar to the “narrow deep groove” that began appearing in 1962. It is what anyone apart from a pixel-peeper would describe simply as “deep groove”. The other B side Anders describes as a “ridge” (or “single step”) – no groove and not a “matching pair”. Remember the phrase matching pair. It will come in useful later.
Below illustrates the variety of “deep groove” found on different labels and dies used at pressing plants around the USbin the ’50s.
Some pressing plants kept the old-style Deep Groove dies in use for several years after the new grooveless dies arrived. At Plastylite, who pressed Blue Note, new-style non-DG dies first appeared in Spring 1961 (4059 Kenny Drew Undercurrent) Prior to that every Plastylite pressing was deep groove both sides.
The old-style DG dies, being functionally interchangeable in the press, continued in use side by side with the new dies chosen at random. As a result, some Blue Note original pressings appeared with DG on one or other side only, both sides, or none, until the very last old-style die finally gave up the ghost, in 1965.
With Blue Note, deep groove presence had been meticulously documented, but not so well-documented with other labels like New Jazz (though some wise old birds know this stuff from living through all this at the time). It seems obvious with hindsight that the same might have been happening with dies used at other plants. In situations like this, there is only one direction to go: down, deep dive, see what collector pearls can be found on the ocean floor. And cracking Cracklin’ , sweating just one title, might be most revealing way to do it.
Popsike was helpful, yeilded up seller descriptive text but very little in the way pictures to verify the description. It was however a useful reminder of the desirability and value of this title, and the financial premium collectors place on original pressings in excellent condition. If you are wondering what all this deep groove business is about, it is not about grooves, it is about the search for the most desired object: the “original pressing”. This is a beautiful artefact in its own right, it sounds sensational (Van Gelder recording and mastering), and you are holding a piece of history, not a later copy of a piece of history. These guys know what it’s all about.
“Original pressing”, mono, RVG, fancy purple label, sure attracts a lot of bidders, and fancy prices. A little closer examination found claims of “double deep groove“. Is that proof of “oldest” and therefore “the original”? On this dive, we want to find out.
“Double deep grooved purple labels…” ($410)….
In the short space of time between late 1963 and 1964, the last year in which the New Jazz label was active, there was not one, but at least three pressing runs of Cracklin’, possibly more. That is revealed by label type-setting and print, and pressing die variations to be found. Labels pictured below are in their respective record A/B pairs, or just a single side found, to the right. Some are very good pictures, though sadly not all. As usual, grouping like labels with like reveals a previously unnoticed patterns. Well, unnoticed by me, Anders had an inkling, he confided.
Low Resolution graphic: full screen 1920 pixels wide. (Pixel-peepers™ go to HD one below).
Anders deep groove Side A copy is pictured top left, in what I call the Type 1 centre labels, copies of which have features in common of type-setting and text: title and artist are set high on the centre label, and the text “HIGH FIDELITY” set on the right. A good number of examples can be found, and fortunately a few A/B pairs, which revealed the disconcerting fact that only some copies pressed with labels from this print batch are deep groove side A, none are double matching deep groove (as claimed in some auctions), and others, both sides have no deep groove. What gives? It’s not the classic identical “2,500 copies Blue Note first issue”, it suggests World of Weinstock drip drip drip just-in-time manufacture.
How do we know which is “the original”?
It is quite possible Type 1 label is from the “original pressing”, but the stock of labels from this print run had been stretched over multiple pressing runs, with changes in dies between batches. Same label, different dies fixing the stampers in the press for that batch. It is entirely possible that the deep groove die was randomly picked during one of these runs, which may or may not have been the first run. I am still haunted by the test pressing of 8286 seen in the previous post, which has the pictured side without groove, exasperatingly ambiguous, what does the other side look like? (But at least we know it is not “double deep groove”)
From what we understand of record pressing in the early 60s, centre labels were printed locally and associated with a particular pressing plant, who held stock, and repressed more copies of titles as required.
The existence of Type 2 and Type 3 labels, with differences in typesetting and text (“HI FIDELITY”) suggests another plant and printer was involved in manufacturing copies of Cracklin’ , possibly at the same time, or another time.
All the Type 2 labels found were, on both sides, without deep groove. May be there are some out there with a groove, it would take a larger sample to know. Type 2 is less common than Type 1, in the numbers found. The abbreviated form “HI FIDELITY” is an anomaly from earlier years, suggesting amateur night typesetting. My copy with recycled vinyl was with this type of label. May be co-incidence.
Type 3 label is once again a different printing batch, using the anomalous Side 1/2 instead of A/B , though it also uses the same abbreviated text “HI FIDELITY” as Type 2. Same printer, different type-setter? More worrying, some of these copies are with a narrow deep groove on one side, similar to Ander’s Type 1 label, others are definitively both sides without groove. My copy on this Type 3 has no groove, no recycled vinyl, excellent surface bliss, and it’s VAN GELDER stamped, and plays beautifully.
According to auction sellers, all these copies are VAN GELDER stamped, whatever the label type. So Bob Weinstock was creeping around pressing plants late a night, with pairs of Van Gelder metal stampers under his arm.
Which leaves my with two big questions. All these variations, multiple plants and printers, and pressing runs, over a short space of time, how come copies of Roy Haynes Cracklin’ are so rare and damned expensive?
And also, why wasn’t there a stereo edition at the time? Perhaps Weistock didn’t want to pay Van Gelder to prepare a stereo master. We had to wait for Fantasy to issue it in Stereo for the first time, under the title Bad News Blues (1980).
Go listen to a copy, whatever the label, what a wonderful record.
My thanks to Anders for sending me off down this particular rabbit hole.
I think I learned a few things, among others, to be skeptical of auction descriptions. And in some circumstances it doesn’t always matter whether a copy is deep groove or not. The trick is to know when.
This record does not hail from the ’50s era of the original deep groove, but late 1963. All these pressing with Van Gelder metal over a short space of time, with different die permutations. Which is “the original”, and how does anyone know? Or perhaps there is a collector who does, get your spanner ready.
If you have a vintage copy of Cracklin’ on purple labels, I’d welcome label pictures, may be find more suprises,you never know, I may be wrong again. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Anders makes another discovery! A stereo edition of Cracklin’ was on the cards. In the early days of stereo, to save on the cost of printing two covers, one for mono the other stereo, the trick was to print the cover art with a “stereo” banner at the top, which could be positioned to display on the front of the stereo record, or folded over onto the back and concealed by the pasted-down liner notes for the mono.
Anders spotted a tear in the rear slick (or here’s one he destroyed earlier) revealing the stereo banner underneath, folded over the top edge. For some reason it was never issued in stereo at the time.
Photo courtesy of Anders W
This is groundbreaking detective work, Anders! This could win you promotion big time at LJC, Acting Deputy Assistant Vinyl Detective. Imagine that on your business card. No, you don’t get a bigger office, or a secretary. Or a reserved parking place. Key to the executive washroom? Yes, I think we could run to that. See Helen in HR in the morning.
UPDATE 2 March 15
Nicolas R from France has thrown in his copy of Cracklin’. Type 2 I think, title/artist set low, and HI FIDELITY, deep groove none. Thanks Nicolas. Best wishes to France. Indeed all Europe, we are going to need it.
UPDATE 3, March 16: Cracking up!
Many years before mobile phones were invented, a popular London evening newspaper featured a brain-teaser to help while away the monotony of the train journey home, next to the crossword. “Spot The Difference”. Two seemingly identical drawings, but a number of stealthy alterations made to one of the pair, which you had to spot. It was a great time-waster ideal for those who found the crossword too
demanding chllenging difficult.
Well this is the same, only even easier. Spot The Difference? (it’s not the colour)
Easy one. The catch here is the follow up question: how the heck did this happen? Not so easy to explain, because Cracklin’ was issued on the New Jazz label, NJLP 8286, not Prestige. However if you put the screw-up one against the other, you notice things:
In 60’s printing, each print shop had its own preferred make of hot metal press, and a range of proprietary fonts in a limited range of point sizes. This was where the metal foundries made their money, and it was uneconomical to stock too many different typefaces, just sufficient to meet the needs of their clients. The chances of different printers having an identical suite of fonts like these is not high. They use the same artist/title font, though set centrally to allow headroom for the Bergenfield address on the fireworks label.The track titles/composer credits are typeset identically, likely the same block of hot metal linotype. Ergo, same printer and probaly, same pressing plant were involved in manufacture of the dodgy copy.
Anything else to learn? The manufacturing dates here are all pretty close. Freedom Book was recorded by Ervin on December 3, 1963, and released in March 1964, manufactured perhaps just six months after Cracklin’ in late 1963. Was the A/B correct label pair the original issue of Freedom Book, or is the mixed up label the original? I own a copy of the mixed up label edition (review here), and it is pressed on hissy recycled vinyl: Weinstock was up to his tricks in 1964.
I think I have spotted all the differences, I just can’t explain them, maybe you can. Anyway, this is my stop, I get off here. Oh look, someone else has half-done the crossword, but just the easy ones. Enjoy the rest of your journey.
Thanks to David S for the picture of Freedom Book mixed labels. A strong candidate for Acting Assistant Deputy Vinyl Detective post. In the mean time, I have a number of unpaid intern opportunities available. You know, make coffee, fetch donuts.