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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.