In Search of The Blue Train

Blue Train! Batten down the hatches, buckle up, we are going on a Deep Dive!  Mangled metaphor, LJC? It’s not a submarine or a plane, it’s a train OK. Woo-woo! Full steam ahead, Mr Sulu!  Scotty: Captain, Captain, our stocks of coal are running low!!

Blue Train cover courtesy of Rudolf F

One of most sought after  “original Blue Notes”  is the iconic Coltrane album Blue Train. Top copies now sell at over  $6,000, hitherto the territory of rarest Mobley 1568. It is hardly a rare record, with over 3,500 auctions captured on Popsike, but in the face of supply and demand, even lesser editions command substantial  sums, but top condition copies are at a serious premium.

Battle-hardened collectors and sellers know the insider signs of early provenance (“original 1st press, insanely rare, yada yada”), but as always, there is a lack of generally available information, though no shortage of Discogs entries – 224 entries when I last looked,  not all reliable, like the New York 23 label entry illustrated with a back cover address BLUE NOTE RECORDS INC. Come on slackers, pay attention!

The significance of the NEW YORK 23 address on one label side only, either 1 or 2, is documented precisely by our trusty Guide Fred Cohen. But what of all the lesser offerings, how to navigate through “everything else”? I decide to launch an LJC  Demystifying Blue Train Tour.

Tour Guide

Initially, only mono editions, which was largely how the world looked at records at the end of 1957. Also, limited to the original Blue Note editions, before the transition to Liberty. The rest we can do later.

Challenge: tackle the connection between labels and covers, and the pressing history of that recording, during years in which  Coltrane had signed to a series of other labels and become an even more major artist, which spurred more sales of Blue Train, the source of all those auction copies.

Method: comparative visual graphic  evidence from sweating auction results, how else? I looked at around five hundred higher value auction of Blue Train to reach my conclusions, though I could still be wrong, call me out.

Most important, I have nothing to say about the music here, we all know the music is great. We can talk about the music another time.This is adult-strength hard-core vinyl collector business.

Blue Train Labels and Covers

There is an established chronology of Blue Note labels, over time. The 47 West 63rd St. label was contemporaneous to the first issue of Blue Train, in November 1957.  

The NEW YORK 23 suffix address appears on the labels of 18 albums released between March and November 1957, which just includes Blue Train at the tail end.

It also appears on a small number of new albums released in 1958 and 1959, which is a useful reminder of the loose relationship between the time of label printing, vinyl pressing and release. We don’t know how many 1577 NY23 labels were printed, or how long they remained in use at a later date, though the presence of mixed label (NY23 on only one side) sets suggest they were in surplus and actively running down stocks. All is not what it seems.

The 1957 period is associated with fine text form in the printing of the label address by Blue Note’s long standing print supplier, Keystone Printed Specialties, Scranton, PA.

The first edition cover of Blue Train should have a blank spine Printed spines first appeared on albums released in April 1958, six months after the 1st Blue Train pressing. Blank spines did not feature in auction photos, just the sharpness of corners. They know how trophy hunters think, but the blank spine is the mark of original provenance. (UPDATE May 6, 2020 – ignore the “blank spine” issue, it seems all later copies of 1577 prior to Liberty are alse blank spine, and it seems, some other titles have no print on the spine, where Cohen suggests they should. It is a distraction for this purpose)

With Blue Note’s incorporation in late 1959, the company name changed to  BLUE NOTE RECORDS INC. on the label and the address on the back cover, with the symbol ® below NOTE. Fine text gave way to more heavily inked text.

Shortly after, around May 1961, the non-deep groove pressing die began to appear at Plastylite, and the plain white paper sleeve was replaced by the promotional picture inner sleeve. Towards the end of 1961, Blue Note introduced the New York  label address, which remained in use for the next five  years.

Navigating the label changes is comparatively easy. What is more challenging is the covers associated with these labels. There are certain common features of covers associated with certain Blue Note label addresses, but some exceptions which defy simple association.

Not enough is known about cover manufacture: how cover stocks were held, and how new batches of printed cover fronts were married up to stocks of the rear jacket slick. If knowledge of vinyl pressing is opaque, knowledge of cover manufacture is completely absent. Just as old printed centre labels were used years later, it is possible the mono liner notes (address without INC) was used with later printed front cover art, could explain cover anomalies. And stocks of covers used to house later pressings.

Blue is a fickle colour, add a little yellow light or ink and you have green. An examination of  vintage Blue Train covers associates a strong greenish tint in the very earliest and oldest jackets, then saturated blue, and then desaturated blue associated with the New York label period.

There is some yellow colour cast from domestic tungsten light, but looking at enough copies suggest a spectrum of blue-green.

As significant is the colour of text for the album title, the John Coltrane artist name, and the catalogue number. The catalogue number varies between light grey, and a variety of tints, ranging from pale orange to butter. The artist name is at the yellow end of the spectrum on some of the very earliest pressings, or mid bright yellow green associated with NY labels, though there are anomalies – a bright green artist-name with an NY23 label.

Do not discount the possibility of old label stock, even NEW YORK 23 labels, being used in the later pressing of records, when the cover art print had moved on to later print runs. Manufacture is a moveable feast.  Problem with auction photos, colour fidelity is impossible to vouch for.

Here is the best I could make sense of the relationship between the labels and their associated covers  including, anomalies which may have unknown explanation. Restricted to reasonable quality pictures with legible text and reasonably neutral white balance, and proper information.

All BlueTrain covers manufactured up to 1964 are laminated, so the presence of a laminated cover only distinguishes them from much later re-pressings.And all records manufactured before 1966 have the same etchings and stamps, all are RVG, and “Ear”. None are helpful in dating manufacture, irrelevant.

Manufacture of record jackets, and lamination

The internet (and coffee table publishing industry) is host to dozens if not hundreds of sites and books dedicated to the  art of record covers. Birka Jazz, LP Cover Lover, lots more, it is a cultural zeitgeist, a fascination with retro graphic design. I love covers too, but I wanted to know more about the actual manufacture of record covers, in particular, ’50s vintage processes, not modern computer electronica. We hold these marvelous artefacts in our collections, but know little of how they came to be made. There must be aspects of cover manufacture that offer valuable clues to the sharp-eyed vinyl detective.

After hitting search engines, seems I’m on my own, again. Aside from Printing Museums and Heidelberg Original machine enthusiasts, manufacturing LP covers was not thought sexy enough to document, only the cover art. If you find one, let me know. (I have viewed the Houghton site that manufactures Tone Poet covers, but it is not of use for this purpose)

Let’s take a quick detour on cover manufacture, before heading back to the search for  The Blue Train. Keep your eye on the Departure Board! I don’t want to miss the train.

Construction of a 1950s LP cover began with a single, flat piece of cardboard, cut, scored, folded and glued to create a “jacket”. Very early Blue Notes used the  “frame construction” method,  up to April 1957, so not Blue Train.

The front cover art and liner notes were printed onto paper, which was then glued on to the cardboard cover, a process known in the industry as a “tip-on” jacket, as opposed to printing directly onto cardboard, “direct-to-board”, a cheaper method which was widely adopted in the 80s, before the Evil Plastic Jewel Case™ killed it off. Serve them right.

Paper has a different texture to card. It shows a seam where the paper is folded over and glued to the cardboard underneath, and where overlaps occur. Which is why handling  a ’50s or ’60s  tip-on jacket feels very different to handling more modern covers. The artefact is more tactile, gives your hands and eyes more information. And we like information, don’t we.

The manufacture of jackets involves automation, repetitive-task machinery, long conveyor belts, cutting and folding machines, in factories, not unlike record pressing plants, but working paper and ink. I worked as a student holiday job in a factory printing and fabricating packaging for the food industry. It was noisy, full of cheery banter, and sometimes lewd talk, between the sort of ordinary people that worked in factories.Sometimes you learned more important things from your holiday jobs than in the college term.

The more interesting part of vintage record cover manufacture is lamination. To laminate a cover, the printed paper artwork is covered with a thin sheet of cellulose acetate, a “natural plastic” derived from purified natural cellulose produced from cotton linters – fine, silky fibers from seeds of the cotton plant. The cellulose-layered cover art is heated in a laminating press, which melts the cellulose layer, and forces the cellulose acetate sheet into the imperfect surface of the printed paper – creating the dimpled reflective finish.

There, I enjoyed that digression. Now back to the Search for The Blue Train. Which platform are we looking for? Does it have a dining car? I’m famished.

How many pressings were there of Blue Train? The story told by Blue Note picture sleeves.

I have read sellers describing a copy as a “second pressing” or a “third pressing” because it had the next iteration in centre label corporate address, or addition of INC. This encourages thinking of pressing runs as a periodic large-scale manufacturing events, Omaha Beach. ” OK Plastylite guys, that includes you, Larry, shape up. Mr Lion wants 10,000 copies of Blue Train by the morning. Jump to it!  And make sure you are using the latest address label. This Mr Lion’s  second pressing! Don’t mess it up.

I guess I thought that way initially myself, fitting the record manufacturing process around historical signposts like label changes.  Then came an understanding of the use of stock and inventory  over time, the printing of centre labels  and jackets in batches, holding stock for further pressing, canibalising old stock before new, judiciously mixing old labels with new on one side, new records in old covers.  I see it now as a more continuous process, lags and overlaps, consumable items used outside of their apparent historical place. Always read the label, of course,  but some signposts are false friends.

Between 1961 and 1966, Blue note packed newly pressed records in picture inner sleeves, nine design changes over five years,  effectively date-stamping manufacture as the records left the factory.   Very few sellers include a picture of the front inner sleeve, either because it is missing, or because they don’t understand it’s potential significance (and a bit inconvenient, if it contradicts some claim) or they dismiss sleeves as result of swapping. Some are, some aren’t.

I found only a dozen out of hundreds of auctions looked at but they tell a story. I present you the world’s first inner sleeve column bar chart.

There is the evidence, imperfect, that copies of Blue Train were re-pressed continuously through the first half of the ’60s, as Coltrane rose to fame with Prestige, Atlantic and then Impulse . Eight of the nine unique inner sleeves are found with auctions of Blue Train, covering some 47W63rd and all NY labels. And a surge  associated with 1963, the year of Ballads, Impressions, Johnny Hartman and Duke Ellington. We would know with more certainty, if the majority of ebay sellers included a picture of the inner sleeve if present, but this is as much as I can find.

Poor Curtis Fuller

The final forensic on the provenance of covers is the degradation of the photographic plate, or negative to print the rear jacket slick, on the face of trombonist Curtis Fuller.

The original issues give Curtis  perfect clear skin. At the juncture of the Blue Note incorporation, adding the INC., poor Curtis suffers a facial growth, which by the Liberty era, resembled necrotising fasciitis – no don’t look it up, it is horrible.

When it comes to back covers, you have to know what you are looking for. The company address + INC at the bottom is well understood, the staging of Curtis Fuller’s graphic acne less so.

Printing technology in the late ’50s was mostly either letterpress or offset lithography, which  involved the creation of image of artwork and type on a flexible aluminium plate, which was wrapped around a roller and inked to transfer the image via an intermediate roller onto sheets of paper. Hence “offset”

It is my guess that the plate used for the mono liner notes of 1577 was damaged while being  updated with the incorporated Blue Note address + INC. , affecting reproduction of Curtis Fuller’s forehead. The “Fuller Face” is a good quick way of identifying earlier and later covers.

Mystery train – the Blue Train”promo”

The 1500 series has no other example of records stamped like this “For Promotion” copy below. If Blue Note had acquired such a stamp, and used it to stamp promo copies, where are other titles “For Promotion”?  The promo stamp helped earn the seller $3,420

Another mystery promo of Blue Train has popped up on Popsike, a Blue Train auction of a “SAMPLE  COPY . No other photos in Popsike, who  provide only the main auction picture . It sold for an extraordinary $6,343, a record for this record!

Perhaps it to has the “For Promotion” stamp, who knows. Release and recording  year is stated as June 1960, which is the stereo release date, a simple mistake. The seller is from South Korea, which is possibly why he refers to the record as a “Sample Copy”, as was customary on Japanese white label issues, stamped “Factory Sample” .UPDATE May 2,2020

First time for everything, I stumbled on another title, 1540, which has “SAMPLE COPY” stamps on the back of the jacket. Impossible to verify.

R-4005186-1352047443-4072.jpeg

The 1577 cover does not look like it belongs with other earliest copies. It actually looks more like the early ’60s covers. Assuming the vinyl is genuine New York 23, and I guess it must be, then it could stll be a later jacket, not from 1957 but later, before the back address INC was added. I did find a couple of early pressings where the jacket looks definitely  a couple of years later.

Who can say there wasn’t a stock of pre-INC liner notes applied to later manufactured jackets? Mere speculation. A vinyl detective never rules out any possibility, though they may occasionally cut themselves shaving with Occam’s Razor, and spend the rest of the morning with a little piece of toilet tissue attached to their chin to staunch the bleeding.

Top twenty Blue Train auction prices

If you think I’ve got something not quite right, corrections welcome, grow the knowledge. If you can add any insight, like you are a world authority on cover lamination, great, go for it.

Now it’s your turn

I would like to compile a reference set of jacket weight and bare vinyl weight for vintage copies of Blue Train covered in this Guide. I want your measurements. I phrased that badly, I want you to weigh your jacket and record bare. No, put your clothes back on, the record and cover bare, not you.

For context I need to know the label characteristics – address side 1/ 2, INC +® or not, Deep Groove x0, x1 or x2 – weight in grams of the vinyl, and weight of the jacket. And anything else worthy of note, you might even want to email some photos if you have a real trophy copy. I’ve designed a data collection form, at the end, below

Collector Rudolf has kindly started of with his treasured first edition:

Vinyl: 47W63/NY23, no INC no  ®, DGx2:    weight 180 gm

Jacket: no INC.  – strong greenish tint            weight  140 gm

____________________________________________________

My own copies;

Vinyl: 47W63 x2, +INC + ®, DGx2:             weight 179 gm

Jacket: + INC. saturated blue,’62 inner:        weight  121 gm

__________________________________________________

Vinyl: NY x2, +INC + ®, DGx2:                           weight 168 gm

Jacket: + INC. desaturated blue,’65 inner:     weight  116 gm

___________________________________________________

I’ll pool the answers as best I can and publish. Over to you. You should be able to copy and paste the form into the comment field below this post, and edit the choices for your copy. Alternatively email to me.. Not tried this in a long time, hopefully it will work. If it doesn’t we will try again.

MONO pre-1966 BLUE TRAIN

BARE VINYL WEIGHT (grams)
JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY (grams)
LABEL ADDRESS S1 NEW YORK 23 47W63rd NY
LABEL ADDRESS S2 NEW YORK 23 47W63rd NY
SIDE 1 INC. + ® YES NO
SIDE 2 INC. + ® YES NO
GROOVE S1 DG no DG
GROOVE S2 DG no DG
EAR YES NO
RVG STAMP YES NO
JACKET BACK ADDRESS INC. no INC
SPINE BLANK PRINTED
INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE numbers WHITE PICTURES TYPE 1- 9
https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/record-labels-guide/labelography-2/the-blue-note-inner-sleeves/

And you thought surfing was all take and no give. Your Blue Train information and any thoughts,  welcome.

LJC

39 thoughts on “In Search of The Blue Train

  1. Hi! Thank you very much for this great and useful article! I’ve been capable to identify my newly acquired copy of Blue Train with your help (weird pressing from 1962 with “”47 West 63rd” on side 1 and “New York USA” on side 2).
    I’ve started a little blog about collecting Blue Note records and your site his a great help for it!

    http://mesbluenote.canalblog.com/

  2. You didn’t mention much about early stereo copies, but I assume most or all came in mono jackets, with a stereo sticker. That’s how mine is, and that of another poster here.

  3. Absorbing reading! My copy has the following attributes –
    BARE VINYL WEIGHT – 170G
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY – 140G
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 – 47W63rd NY
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 – 47W63rd NY
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® YES
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® YES
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 DG
    EAR YES
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS INC.
    SPINE BLANK
    INNER SLEEVE PICTURES – TYPE 2 (Dec 61 – Apr 62)

    Plus – Type 3 C Fuller photo.
    C.R.D “American pressing in the American sleeve…” sticker on rear sleeve at top left and Chappell & Co “postage style” style stamp with “6” handwritten inside the circle at upper right (right below the 1577)

  4. Superb work again thanks. Do you mind me lobbing a massive handgrenade in to the price of Blue Notes as bought up by you in the opening para?. Popsike is the problem. I know I went on at length about that Uk sold £7k 1568 not actually selling, but I just went in to popsike again to check something, and lo and behold, the high priced listings have a massive repeat rate a few weeks later for the same title where the background to the image are identical – same seller same lp. Everyone can see my own items in there from the antique wooden music stand I place the lps on, so when I’ve gone in to check how I did on previous copies, I notice those other peoples backgrounds. What this tells us is the sale did not go through, sometimes 3 and 4 times, same lp decreasing in final price each time . When I wrote to Popsike to point this out they ignored me, but what we have is an artificial inflation of the state of the market – making them in effect false reporters by turning a blind eye to the obvious. Does that not make their whole reason for existing pointless? I once had an Lp sell for £1700, and the winner wrote quickly to pull out of the sale. All the three other bidders below him took no interest in completing the sale either. In effect that lp was now a low three figure lp at best.

    • I feel your pain Mark. Popsike and derivative publishers of Ebay auction results are not cleaned of non-payment. Though I screen grab the top twenty, I should add a note of caution, true, I imagine quite a few high-end bidders suffer bidder’s remorse.
      One way I found to check is if the auction is relisted within a month at a slightly lower price, meaning the second-placed bidder was offered winner status on payment default by the previous winner. It is a failsafe.

      • In the cases of a high bidder opting out (“I made an error, I am awfully sorry”), or just disappearing, I have never seen the second highest bidder gladly accept the chance of buying instead.

  5. Anders W throws in his very early pressing, fabulous!

    BARE VINYL WEIGHT 179g
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY 130g
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 47W63rd
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 47W63rd
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® NO
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® NO
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 DG
    EAR YES
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS no INC
    SPINE BLANK
    INNER SLEEVE WHITE (Plain Blue Note style without any Print)

    Note: All the trimmings for a 1st pressing but without the New York 23. Cover is 1st with greenish tint etc.

    • Thanks! I wish it was NM but more VG or the cover and weak VG+ for LP. Sound is exploding out of the speakers though! On of the most dynamic OG’s in my collection.

  6. Luciano D from Italy has a monster 191 grams. Toooo much pasta, mama.
    Grazie mille, Luciano.

    BARE VINYL WEIGHT (grams) 191 g
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY (grams) 135 g (but has been restored a bit)
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 47W63rd
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 47W63rd
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® YES
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® YES
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 DG
    EAR YES
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS INC.
    SPINE BLANK
    INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE numbers No original IS

  7. From our friends in Tokyo. Oh my God, a “For Promo” copy! Uploaded for safe keeping to the comments section.

    MONO pre-1966 BLUE TRAIN with “FOR PROMOTION” STAMP
    BARE VINYL WEIGHT (grams)170
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY (grams)130
    strong greenish tint
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 47W63rd
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 NEW YORK 23
    “FOR PROMOTION” STAMP on both S1 and S2
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® NO
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® NO
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 DG
    EAR YES 9M hand etched on S2
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS no INC
    SPINE BLANK
    INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE numbers WHITE

    Hiromasa Noguchi Disc2

    MONO pre-1966 BLUE TRAIN
    BARE VINYL WEIGHT (grams)175
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY (grams)133
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 47W63rd
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 47W63rd
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® NO
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® NO
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 DG
    EAR YES 9M hand etched on S2
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS no INC
    SPINE BLANK
    INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE numbers non

  8. MONO pre-1966 BLUE TRAIN
    BARE VINYL WEIGHT (grams) 189
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY (grams) 138
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 47W63rd
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 47W63rd
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® YES
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® YES
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 DG
    EAR YES
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS INC.
    SPINE Blank
    INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE numbers no original inner sleeve
    Kind regards Jan

  9. My copy looks like the 1960-61 pressing (I’m delighted with it, by the way, plays a treat):

    BARE VINYL WEIGHT 167
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY 130
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 47W63rd NYC
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 47W63rd NYC
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® YES
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® YES
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 DG
    EAR YES
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS INC.
    SPINE BLANK
    INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE numbers N/A

    Also, Curtis on my jacket is your 1960 photo.

  10. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I have the first jacket you have pictured in the upper left. The Green Coltrane name with the green shaded unlit face. My vinyl copy is your example 2 with no New York 23. I will say this, there is no evidence that I have seen that shows that the New York 23 label is the only first. Knowing that it’s stated in the Cohen book obviously obviously lends merit to the truth. However, I would point you towards a series of three listings on Popsike in succession that state the New York 23, my pressing (your example 2) and then the promotional copy all as being the very original copy. Followed by the staple “perhaps played only once.” I have nothing but the deepest respect for the seller and have known him for over 20 years so I’ll just say that we all protect our financial interests as we approach retirement. It’s all about the jazz anyway.

    MONO- 1577
    BARE VINYL WEIGHT (grams) 184
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY (grams) 140
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 47W63rd NYC
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 47W63rd NYC
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® NO
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® NO
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 DG
    EAR YES
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS no INC
    SPINE BLANK
    INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE numbers WHITE (I don’t think original)

  11. My Blue Train :
    BARE VINYL WEIGHT (166g)
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY (130g)
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 NEW YORK USA
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 NEW YORK USA
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® YES
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® YES
    GROOVE S1 no DG
    GROOVE S2 no DG
    EAR YES
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS INC.
    SPINE BLANK’
    INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE 1962 May-Nov

  12. Great diving , hope you don’t end up with the bends.
    My copy is a bit of a dog’s breakfast but it could add to another dive
    BARE VINYL WEIGHT (180 grams)
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY (120 grams)
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 47W63rd
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 47W63rd
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® YES
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® YES
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 DG
    EAR YES
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS INC.
    SPINE BLANK
    INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE numbers WHITE
    OTHER – Gold Stereo sticker on front, cover and back printed mono, laminate finishes 2mm before open sleeve edge, Green tinge to front cover , thin spine –no print, Fuller photo same as 1960 example.

  13. I’m posting Aaron’s data here into the comments as a safer place to keep it than my desktop, which is, frankly, a pig’s breakfast right now. My thanks to Aaron and all readers throwing in their details, and those who will do soon.

    BARE VINYL WEIGHT (grams) 180
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY (grams) 125
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 47W63rd
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 47W63rd
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® YES
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® YES
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 no DG
    EAR YES
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS INC.
    SPINE BLANK
    INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE N/A

    Major egg on face, my ’62 and ’65 jackets have the thin blank spine, I never looked, just assumed, wrongly, it would have print. Suggests that though the printed spine arrived in April 1958, it is not a feature of every title. Damn. Just when you think you have everything documented, this happens. We have another sleuth on board, Cellery. (He must be from the dining car) Thick and thin spines, late discovery. I need a drink.

    • I’ll share the egg, both of mine have blank spines, I forgot to check and like you assumed they’d be printed, you can update my previous post accordingly.

      • Yeah, it’s funny you mention the blank spine … In your article on cover variations you give Whims of Chambers as an example of a record that got reissued with a printed spine. That’s correct, pretty much every post Lexington repress of that seems to have a laminated cover with a thicker, printed spine.

        Thing is though, that might just be unique to that title! Repressings of every single other blank spine title I’ve held retained that feature up until the Liberty years. Not that I’ve seen all of ’em, but I’ve seen quite a few: the Miles, Powell, J. J. Johnson and Monk compilations, Messengers at the Bohemia, Horace Silver Trio and with the Messengers, Dorham at the Bohemia, Mobley 1540 and 1544, Lee Morgan 1541, Rollins 1542 and 1558, Bass on Top, City Lights, Blue Train, The Cooker, Sonny’s Crib, Sonny Clark Trio, Rollins at the Vanguard … I’ve held copies with NY labels or Lexington / 47 labels without ear of each of these and can confirm all had blank spines. I’ve held Liberty pressings with printed spine of a few as well, but those all had the Liberty logo on the front slick. Seems that for these at least, the printed spine was only introduced when Liberty started printing their own covers. Or does anyone have any earlier copies with printed spines?

        Now if you’ll excuse me – there’s this wonderful buffet laid out in the dining car …

        • Put the fork down, Cellery.

          The printed and blank spine classification is lifted straight from Cohen, ps, printed spine, bs, blank spine. My collection includes very few 1st Edition Lexingtons and just a few early 63rds so I took it on trust. It is quite possible that my photo example is the only one that fits the pattern. I’ve had a quick look at the BNs on the shelves and it’s all over the place.

          The jacket spine is quite often blank when it should have print.While some jackets have been manufactured with a broad spine, other are simple a foldover of the cover art with no spine to speak of. I think the spine is not an especially helpful feature of establishing provenance, and definitely not in the case of 1577.

          To be revisited at a future date.

  14. A fascinating deep dive, as always – I salute your detective work. But I’m missing one detail regarding the cover: the thickness of the spine!

    My previous, somewhat scratchy copy, a double DG without INC and R, had what I’d guess was a ‘second’ cover: blueish tint, 47 West, no INC, untainted Fuller photo. This cover had a thin or ‘flat’ spine, as thin as the top and bottom seam. This is consistent with other early pressing jackets from this era that I’ve held, among others Mobley 1550, The Cooker and Bass on Top. I’d guess the greenish tint cover has the same type of thin spine (Rudolf?).

    My current copy, a minty double DG with INC and R, has a cover with a somewhat thicker spine, seems like a thin extra strip of cardboard added between the front and back cardboard pieces for reinforcement. Adress on back is 43 West, tainted Fuller photo, looks like the 1960 variant. Note that the spine is still blank, as with all pre-Liberty Blue Train covers I’ve seen. This type of thicker spine likely started apearing right before or after Blue Train’s release – earliest catalogue number I’ve seen it on was 1570 Dial S for Sonny.

    Interestingly some repressed titles adopted this type of reinforced spine, while others didn’t: for instance, I’ve held several New York label Plastylite pressings (with 26 Years inners) of Bass on Top and Rollins 1558 that all had the thin, non-reinforced spine.

    • cellery: indeed, mine has the thin blank spine you describe. The Cooker, standing next to Blue Train, has the same type, whereas 1576, which I ordered from Blue Note in the early sixties, has a thicker spine.

  15. My blue train copy:
    Vinyl: 47W63 x2, +INC + ®, DGx2:weight 179 gm
    Jacket: + INC. saturated blue weight 129 gm

    No inner sleeve where included…or rather the seller had provided a new sleeve. So probably the original sleeve where lost as this seller always include if there is a label sleeve.

  16. This is a fascinating posting. Not so much for the Coltrane record itself but for your description of the approach you’ve taken to attempt to identify the “pressings”. This year I’m working on a personal project to research Strata-East records and my research methodology has been evolving as I collect data. So far, the biggest lightbulb moment is that, like you say, pressings were not really distinct discrete events but rather it seems like there was an ongoing continuous stream (or trickle – depending on sales volumes) of records being pressed. As time progressed, various elements in the mix would change based on available supplies/information/budgets etc – be it the label stock, the address printed on the cover or the application (or not) of lamination and other variables.

    Given this, I’ve started to become wary of terms like “first pressing”, “second pressing” etc. Instead I’ve started to think in terms of what I’m calling “variants” which can be identified by unique combinations of a range of attributes of the cover, labels and vinyl (and I suppose inner sleeves for some labels that used printed ones like Blue Note, Prestige and Impulse). My research approach has been akin to an archeologist unearthing skeletons of dinosaurs and attempting to classify each one into a species based on the remains uncovered. In other words, I’ve been documenting details (i.e. the attributes I mentioned above) of each example record I’ve found in the wild in a large spreadsheet. Obviously, I can’t find a sufficiently large sample size to be statistically valid by myself but I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of LJC regulars volunteer to share details of Strata-East records in their collections. I’m gradually supplementing that with data from Discogs, Popsike and other sources that look as through they provide sufficiently reliable evidence.

    As the sample dataset has grown, I’ve been able to start analysis of certain attributes across the label’s whole catalogue that enables me to identify certain chronological patterns. For example, I’m now more than 95% confident that I have an accurate ordering for label designs from earliest to latest. Once I’ve completed the catalogue attributes overview, I’ll be in a position to identify the individual variants for each record (luckily there are less that 60 records in the whole catalogue). Then the final step will be design good visualisations that make the data easy for people to understand.

    If anybody else here is interested in helping out, please feel free to reply here so that we can make contact.

        • Martin,
          I find this stuff fascinating and significant, even if it is something I also find frustrating, because collectors like to put absolutes on things, when the whole process of running an independent label is chaos. I like that the research on LJC always is deep enough that it points towards this.
          And if I can, I’d be happy happy to give any details you can gain from my slim collection of SE titles – maybe six or seven titles.
          Dean

  17. For Promotion is definitely the correct promotional stamp for the era. The seller of “Sample Copy” has many suspicious promo stamps never seen before or since.

  18. Not only are my two copies identical it would appear they were imported to the UK at the same time, maybe even the same box, as well as having the usual stamp both have an identical sticker stating: THE AMERICAN PRESSING IN THE AMERICAN SLEEVE
    Please note that records mentioned on this sleeve are not necessarily available in this country at the present time – however your enquiries are always welcome – send for our lists
    C.R.D. Ltd 10 Rathbone Place, London W.1

    BARE VINYL WEIGHT (grammes) 175 and 176
    JACKET WEIGHT EMPTY (grammes) Both 134
    LABEL ADDRESS S1 47W63rd NY
    LABEL ADDRESS S2 47W63rd NY
    SIDE 1 INC. + ® YES
    SIDE 2 INC. + ® YES
    GROOVE S1 DG
    GROOVE S2 DG
    EAR YES
    RVG STAMP YES
    JACKET BACK ADDRESS INC.
    SPINE PRINTED
    INNER SLEEVE SEE TYPE N/A
    1960 type 3 Curtis Fuller photo on both.
    Both sleeves are identical with darker blue Coltrane and green text.

    • My original pressing of Freddie Redd “The Connection” has the exact same sticker at the back, red letters on white background!

    • CRD were Central Record Distributors the first (as far as I know) UK licensed distributors of Blue Note. Run by somebody called Ken Lindsay. They initially distributed the UK pressed Riverside and Esquire records before Lindsay managed a deal with Alfred Lion to import Blue Note directly to the UK, first available here around 1962.

      • Good to know and assuming my “Blue Trains” are from ’61 they were likely in the first batch of Blue Notes he imported, I assume CRD made Blue Notes more affordable over here, based on adverts in 1950s magazines they were prohibitively expensive.

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