Prestige Bergenfield Years: Mono (Updated)

Updated May 1, 2021: Ivory/Black Fireworks promo labels (1962) added. Rare!!

PRESTIGE ORIGINAL PRESSINGS VOLUME III: MONO, THE BERGENFIELD YEARS

To accompany the recent Bergenfield Years – Stereo Edition, a new companion Mono Edition covering releases on the second yellow/black fireworks Bergenfield label, between mid-1958 and 1964. And also, the transition to the blue/ trident label, via the mystery gold label. And a few lessons learned from 7326 reissue of 7079, Saxophone Colossus.

The extended reference set includes the mono label of each title, some other detail on the way, but it does not attempt to identify individual  original covers. I have few if any original Prestige covers myself, all 80 are UK Esquire, and many cover photos on the internet are insufficiently sharp for necessary detail.

The earlier Illustrated Guide to the NY. Yellow/Black label (1956-Aug.58) can be seen here: Guide To Prestige Original Pressings / NY label .

Prestige Bergenfield Years

In August 1958, Prestige moved offices from 446 W. 50th St. NYC ( now Steve’s Barber Shop) to 203 South Washington Ave., Bergenfield, NJ. The change was marked by the second yellow/ black fireworks label, with the Bergenfield address. From PR 7142 to PR 7325 is a straight run of 180-odd titles issued on the second yellow/black fireworks label, and of course, many reissues.

At PR 7326, in 1964, Prestige adopted a new label design with the trident logo. Mono  editions effectively ceased around 1967 but the Bergenfield address remained in use until 1971, when the Prestige label was sold to Fantasy. The full yellow/black fireworks Bergenfield mono label Reference Set is at the end of this post.

Abbey Record Mfg. Pressings and the Deep Groove

Abbey Record Mfg. NJ. was a long-standing pressing plant of Prestige Records, a similar relationship as Plastylite to Blue Note. Abbey was an equally  high quality pressing plant in these early years, though around 1963-4 became involved in the disreputable use of recycled vinyl, which tainted several of its jazz label clients.(More on this later)

The distinctive signs of  pressings by Abbey in ’50s and early ’60s are the outer deep groove (like Blue Note and others), a small circular ring around the spindle hole of one side, and a small AB etching close to the edge of the label, sometimes under it.. These are found on most NY label pressings, and for the first few years, on the Bergenfield yellow label.

The marks were from a particular design of pressing die (dies which held the metal stamper in the press)  in use at Abbey  before the watershed of 1962, after which vinyl press mechanics changed. As with Plastylite, the gradual replacement of  worn-out older dies with a new grooveless pattern resulted in the disappearance of the deep groove (and central ring) a change which took place gradually over several years.

PR 7237 Larry Young’s Groove Street (appropriate choice of title!) released in 1962, was among the last appearances of the deep groove and centre ring, illustrated below.

The yellow/ black NJ. label itself would carry on until PR 7325, with the very occasional sighting of deep groove, often  just one side, from the last of the old pattern dies.

1958: transition to the second yellow/black label

Following the move of Prestige headquarters to New Jersey, the transition from the NY to the NJ label was swift: just one title, PR 7141, straddles both NY and NJ labels.

Ivory/Black Fireworks Promo Label (update May 1, 2021)

In 1962, an Ivory/ Black Fireworks label was introduced for radio station promos, found on selected titles between PRLP 7202 and 7216  (hat-tip TokyoJazzCollector Hiromasa)

These are extremely rare, some titles are not found, only 7202, 7205, 7209, 7212, 7213 and 7216

In late 1964, the  fireworks label was replaced by a new label featuring the new Prestige logo, the trident. The label was eventually a blue label, but first…

The Mystery Gold Label, 1964

In late 1964, out of the blue as it were, a gold/black trident label design appeared. The origin of the gold label has been a topic on both Hoffman (hat tip for the LJC mention, Aaron!) and Organissimo. but needs a more definitive account.

The gold/black trident label was used in late 1964 for mono pressings of selected new titles, though copies were also pressed simultaneously with the regular yellow/black  label. Some gold label pressings found themselves distributed as promos, but mostly found  in the general commercial release.

Initially about a dozen titles were issued on the gold label, adjacent catalogue numbers in the early 7300 series. As Billboard confirms, these were Prestige’s Autumn release programme, September / October 1964, manufactured a few months earlier while the yellow/black label was still in use. All the titles listed by Billboard are found with  gold label.

A few other titles were also pressed with the gold label, bringing the total to at least sixteen, possibly a couple more under the radar.

Some “prestigious” names make up the gold list, including reissues of Rollins, Dolphy, and Coltrane. The label text prominently features the artist name, but curiously, without an album title or the Prestige address. They are pressed with original Van Gelder master metalware. Each title is more commonly found on the regular yellow/black Prestige label, maybe only one copy in five is gold label, possibly less with some titles.

Towards the end of 1964 the last titles were issued on the yellow/black label, as mono format  became increasingly the preserve of radio station promos.

By the end of 1964 year, the trident became the new logo of Prestige. Gold was only briefly a candidate for the new design, and discontinued.

Abbey Record Mfg. and the gold label

Forum speculation that the gold label pressings were “contracted to a third party” or “for export” is an understandable search for explanation but on closer inspection the story is more mundane. Blue/trident label pictures for PR 7326 (reissue of 7079 Saxophone Colossus, one of the last gold label titles) helpfully include runout detail, which confirm it is simply a conventional  Abbey pressing.

Runout Spiral Groove Watchers (sad, only at LJC!) regular readers will recognise the early Scully lathe runout groove preset Van Gelder used on mastering the Rollins recording  PR 7079 in 1956, two years  before the three ring lock groove.

To press PR7326 in 1964, Prestige /Abbey used metal from the original 1956 Van Gelder master 7079, Rudy’s open hand writing the catalogue number, but there are some extra symbols added  by a metalware shop: a drunken  letter C flat on its back, two cricket stumps with no bails, and next to those stamps, a set of exploding bowling pins, above an unstable two-legged milking stool. Or choose your own interpretation, it’s all cultural projection.

These stamps change on different editions of that recording. My Bergenfield yellow label copy of 7079 has the same RVG hand-written 7079A but no symbols stamped after it. However it has a letter  “C” letter stamp next to RVG.

The UK Esquire pressed by Decca from US stampers has a different metalware symbol after the 7079A, an upward arrow, and an etched AB and remarkably. the Abbey one-sided central ring, which must be an impression on the stamper, perhaps not from a pressing die after all.

What you see is on the Prestige reissues is the product of a fresh stamper made from a mother of the original Van Gelder master acetate. You might want to check marks on your Saxophone Colossus, give us a shout if you find anything interesting.

Vintage Vinyl For Dummies, The One Minute Expert.

The added metalware symbols on the gold label edition are embossed, raised above the vinyl surface. Rudy’s catalogue number, written onto the original acetate, is the opposite, pressed below the surface of the vinyl, indicating a reverse  image intermediate process. The added stamps, which stand proud on the mirror image vinyl, must be pressed down into the metal of a newly made stamper. Different stamps on different stampers indicates they were made at different  times or by different metalware shops. 7079 was busy.

There are two wrong places for the aspiring audiophile to be: one, the sonically-dead digital product, and two, the vinyl-defective. Avoid those and happiness is yours for the asking.

Warning! Recycled Vinyl Ahead!

Around 1963-4, Abbey made some pressings with recycled vinyl, affecting some titles for Prestige, New Jazz, and Riverside. My only Prestige  gold label, 7326 Saxophone Colossus reissue of 7079 , is pressed by Abbey  with a good dose of recycled vinyl, intrusive hiss throughout, not really “gold” quality at all.  The run-out pictured below, which should be a glossy smooth reflection, shows the paper fibres and general detritus added to the raw vinylite.

The shadow-lines show those fibres lying across the direction of vinyl rotation, but overall are distributed at random. It is not just “the normal sound of vinyl”  as one seller told me feigning ignorance. Ignorance is bliss, recycled vinyl is hiss. A cartridge stylus  “reads” the surface irregularities as signal: noise, during the music and between the tracks.

Question is, who knew? Possibly Abbey offered Weinstock a lower cost pressing option (adulterated vinyl) or pocketed the saving themselves, or Abbey fell victim to rogue vinyl biscuit supplies. However according to this Discogs link, the three founding partners of Abbey Record Mfg. each held a third of the stock of Sound Plastics, Inc., a company that manufactured vinyl biscuits, presumably supplying Abbey themselves  No detective work required, they had to have known, it was their business.

To be clear, not all Prestige pressings are pressed with recycled vinyl. It appears to have been a practice mainly in 1963-4, and probably not unique to Abbey/Prestige (but never Blue Note, Liberty, Contemporary, Columbia.or any other quality operation) There were other questionable vinyl pressing practices, and adulteration is not unique to the record business. The practice of adding sawdust to automobile transmission fluid  (thanks Larry) helped keep secondhand cars on their last legs sounding sweet, whilst ironically, the practice of adulterating heroin kept many jazz musicians alive: it was unexpected purity that caused so many deaths, through overdose.

The New Prestige Label: Blue/ Trident

The gold/black trident was clearly a candidate to succeed the yellow/black fireworks design, but perhaps there were printing difficulties associated with metallic gold paper stock, less absorbent, we know that lengthy ink-drying time increases print costs, and gold may have proved impractical or expensive. Whatever the reason, the gold variation, and its black silver trident stereo companion, were abandoned in favour of the blue/trident, which thereafter graced both mono (below left) and stereo (right) labels.

Starting in 1964, Prestige went through the Bergenfield catalogue to issue a second pressing of most titles, on the Blue/Trident label, reprinting the original art and liner notes, Example, 7142 Coltrane’s Soultrane first and second mono issue, thereafter,  in the late 60s electronically remastered for Stereo.

By the later ’60s promos also moved to stereo, but until this time, radio station preview copies remained the collector’s limited source of mono first editions. 1967 effectively signalled the end of mono as commercial release format.

Soul Food, Soul Outing, Soul Book, Soul…mm…Jazz anyone? The concept of “soul”,  authentic  inner sprit, tied to rhythmic allegiance more below the waistband rather than above, whatever it means, it is found in abundance, everyone wanted to hitch their wagon to Soul.  Coltrane took the Soultrane, Hank Mobley’s train stopped at Soul Station, what kind of person could be against Soul – an r-soul? (joke, bad taste).

Today, you know where to find rare mono Prestige, where else – our friends in Tokyo. Got to love these guys, they know.

Postscript

One of the biggest gift to vinyl collectors and jazz fans, to be celebrated, are the second and subsequent pressings on Prestige. There is a mountain of good stuff on the Bergenfield Yellow/Black and Blue Trident labels in mono, provided you look out for RVG metal, avoid recycled vinyl, and don’t stray beyond the later 60s. Arguably  collector’s “second best”, but more accessible and more affordable. More more is good.

APPENDIX: VISUAL REFERENCE GUIDE TO BERGENFIELD ORIGINAL PRESSING  MONO LABELS

All titles PR 7142 – 7325 (1958-64)

A Reference Set is not really for reading, like reading a telephone directory, it is for reference when you need it

In the Bergenfield Label Visual Reference Guide there are around 180 titles in all; ten “pages” with twenty titles per page, showing the Side A label. Label pictures are sourced partly from the Discogs Master Release, but not infrequent gaps supplemented by other sources, including Popsike, and Ebay some specialist vinyl sellers in Japan. Each page can be viewed at full screen, with each label still readable.

Note:The text “HIGH FIDELITY” is sometimes spelled “HI FIDELITY” and occasionally “HI FI” or “LONG PLAYING MICROGROOVE” according to the whim of the compositer that day. Otherwise the label typesetting and layout follows the set formula. The A and B sides are are a suffix to the catalogue number, until towards the end of the yellow/black series, a later form SIDE 1 and SIDE 2 appears

Internet label picture sources are not a reliable guide to exact label colour. Colour variation may be differences in the original paper stock between first label print runs and subsequent printing, but also the influence of varying colour temperature between tungsten, flourescent or daylight souces, and over/under-exposure resulting from use of camera automatic setting on black vinyl..

These are the label of the original Prestige release. If you have a record on a later label, NYC takes precedence, then Bergenfield, then Blue/Trident, you have a later edition.


A few titles towards the end of the series are not found on yellow/black, probably prepared for issue at a slightly later date than the catalogue number sequence suggests.
Here on, the blue/Trident is the only Prestige mono label, the trident moving from 3 0’clock to 12 o’clock on stereo editions.There doen’t seem much value added in extending the visual reference another few hundred releases on Blue/Trident, basically they all look the same above.

If there are errors, ommissions, even miss-spelling (Pedant Alert!) and there are bound to be some, send them in, there is nothing that cannot be improved (including my grammar, spelling and punctuation)

After any updates, this Guide will be moved the the permanent reference pages of LJC.

LJC

12 thoughts on “Prestige Bergenfield Years: Mono (Updated)

  1. Thank you for the information regarding the gold/black trident label version. I now understand that 16 or so originals were pressed with the gold/black trident label during the latter half of 1964. A short life indeed.

    I wanted to share with you that I own a gold/black trident of Miles Davis Steamin’ PRLP7200 on RVG metal and pressed by Abbey. Original cover too. So they apparently used the gold/black label for some reissues too. I would think there are not many reissues with gold/black since they moved to blue trident so quickly. The label looks really cool in my opinion.

  2. I should be able to help here after recently inheriting a few hundred original Prestige albums – I know it’s a tough life – unfortunately most of them are in my garage, and inaccessible for a few weeks. A quick note that my Joe Dukes gold label has no RVG or Abbey marks in the run-out grooves. If I can get to it I feel a comparison with my black label stereo is in order.

  3. I just received a message regarding a certain ‘Tyrone’ & his comment, which contributes nothing to the wonderful archive & absolutely exhaustive work that LJC does & has done.
    Saying its incredible is completely deserved.

    It was meant to only cause trouble & the choice of the phony name “Tyrone” indicates what was going through the useless mind of that person. All I can say is this vermin is lucky he can hide behind an electronic screen, because in-person, things would be disturbing very quickly.

    • Thanks Victor, first thing I saw this morning when I logged on, deleted and ip address blocked, posting racist abuse from vanderbilt.edu – University, Nashville, Tennessee. Either Vanderbilt is admitting people of very low educational attainment, or it smells of a false flag operation, way too obvious. Everyone online has to deal with a tiny number of idiots, it is suprisingly few all things considered.

  4. Great work Sherlock ,interesting to see that apparently 7320 Velvet Soul was issues with blue trident mono but with fireworks label in stereo. I can also add a little curio from my own collection, a deep groove ,gold label New Zealand pressing by Peake Records ( licenced from Prestige ) wax marked PRLP-7449 with the vangelder stamp..Looks like they didn’t get the memo to change to blue. ( sent photos ).

  5. Fantastic work, as always, on this deep dive! One thing stuck in my mind though, I don’t think we can be too confident that the gold and blue label records were pressed by Abbey just because they have “AB” etched in the deadwax. My understanding is the “AB” can be found on UK Esquire, Danish Metronome and French Barclay pressings from original RVG metal and these definitely weren’t pressed by Abbey.

    The thing would be to find “AB” on Prestige titles that weren’t previously released on Abbey-pressed yellow/black fireworks labels, like PR 7315. My blue label copy does not have an “AB” but a very, very small stamp that is on the handful of other blue label copies I just pulled out. My blue label Soultrane has this tiny stamp as well as the etched “AB”. I’ll send over an image.

    Lastly, I don’t have any Esquire’s to check but from online images it appears the Esquire pressing ring is smaller than the one found on one side of Abbey pressings.

    Cheers on taking on this herculean task!

    • My Esquire 7079 Saxophone Colossus has a clear AB and circular indent around spindle hole, as well as RVGe and a tiny stamp I cant figure out. We know these were pressed by Decca, New Malden, so all these marks must have their origin on the metal supplied to Decca. I assume that Abbey were responsible for procuring the metal parts and that is the origin of the AB, on the intermediate metal, unlike the Plastylite ear which was applied to vinyl only during pressing. It’s the only explanation that fits, but I keep an open mind.

  6. A tremendous chunk of work! Bravo LJC.
    The re-issued gold label Saxophone Colossus is to be avoided. A low quality pressing.

  7. Digressing a bit, folks never added sawdust to engine oil (it’d surely clog up ‘the works’); supposedly they added it to [rear-end] differentials to quiet the wear between the ring and pinion gears. Correct, Plastylite never used recycled vinylite , as such, other than re-using the circular edge trimmings from pressed records and vinyl from rejects after the center label section was chopped out. As I’ve mentioned, Plastylite was not the cleanest environment, it was super-dusty mainly from the Bakelite grinding. Some finished Bakelite moldings needed the ‘slag’ ground off; this was done not too far from the vinyl -pressing area. I can’t imagine this hard non-melting crap NOT getting into the pressings. And each pressing station had an air hose that we operators were constantly using to ‘blow off’ our work area (and body/clothing.) Dusty, dusty, dusty. At age 75 my lungs, tho, don’t seem the worst for it (hopefully.)

    • Rear-end differentials? Ooo-er missus, we are strictly missionary around here! Though I drove a car for many decades, I don’t think I ever lifted the bonnet, had garages do everything, so I’m guessing, the gearbox transmission fluid? No matter, the principle is the same. Thank you for the correction.

      • No, LJC was completely correct. It was an all too common practice by used car dealers in the US, prior to World War 2, pre-war. They’d add relatively fine sawdust to the engine oil which would thicken it to the degree that it resembled whats known in the US as STP Oil Treatment. The whole point being it would mask & quiet down worn internal engine bearings from knocking or making tapping, clunking noises. A buyer would think the engine quiet & therefore good condition, for a week maybe. Then all the bad sounds would return & realize they were fooled.
        A later practice was to fill the entire engine with the aforementioned STP Oil Treatment, same trick with the same results. They couldnt use sawdust easily in post-war cars because oil filters started appearing more, they would clog immediately.
        The sawdust trick was used in engines, manual gearboxes, rear-end differentials & steering boxes too sometimes.

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