Blue Note covers: spine, lamination, and company address

Last Updated: December 5, 2019


The 12″ microgroove unbreakable record brought LP cover art to the fore, and Blue Notes cover designer of choice, Reid Miles.  Developments in printing technology enabled these new generation covers to be beautifully  laminated, and  printed on the spine with the artist name, title, label and catalogue number . With Blue Note records, each of these elements form a pattern which can be used to help identify original covers from later manufacture.

Beware! Covers can be a false friend in identifying original pressings. With some titles, a stock of covers (along with labels) surplus to the first pressing were held in the inventory, for use in the event of further repressing. Worse, over time, original vinyl has sometimes been teamed up by sellers with a later cover, because the original cover was no longer in acceptable condition.

The method of manufacturing covers in the early days made seam-splits a risk, and some record owners would use clear now yellowed Sellotape to bind the edges together. Sellotape after 40-50 years doesn’t look great, and will often lift the printed surface if you try to remove it. On rare occasions, record owners would use industrial fabric tape to bind split edges, which is unsalvageable. For these reasons, sometimes cover substitutes were made, though most times the cover is synchronous with the pressing. It is worth being aware, not always in the wild.



Manufactured in the two years between 1956-58, BN 1501 to BN 1586, all Blue Note original covers have a blank spine, and from BN 1587 onwards, a printed spine. The presence of a printed spine is useful to distinguish early from later printed covers of early titles.


In the examples above, BN 1508 Jazz Messengers at the Café Bohemia Volume 2 is an original first cover. Not only does it  have the frame cover construction (shadow lines top and left) and Lexington address on the back, it has a blank spine.

The cover behind, BN 1537 Paul Chambers Whim of Chambers, is alas  not a first cover. With a catalogue number below 1568,  the original should have a blank spine and be un-laminated. This cover has a printed spine, is laminated, and carries the 43 West 61st New York 23 cover address which was in use around 1959-60. Beautiful, but a second or later cover, not the 1956 original.


Original covers numbered between BN 1501 and 1546 are un-laminated with a slightly matt printed finish. Lamination of covers commenced with BN 1547  A Date with Jimmy Smith, and with a small number of exceptions, effectively ceased in early 1964the last being BN 4149 Hank Mobley No Room For Squares.

With their thick card base, a laminated Blue Note cover, with its dimpled glossy surface and hopefully still sharp corners is a truly beautiful artefact to hold. Born of printing technology of its day, no one has achieved a successful modern replication, though I have read Sawano Brothers in Tokyo have restored a 1950’s colour printing machine in an attempt to replicate vintage quality. Got to love them for that.


In 1964, from BN 4150, the high gloss surface cover art is replaced by a  low sheen flat print finish. The weight of the cover drops from around 125 grams to 115 grams on my sample, only 8%, but feels more in reduced emotional impact.


The cover address solicited prospective record buyers to send for a catalogue, to the current Blue Note addresses as printed at the bottom of the liner notes.

Blue Note Catalogue cover

The principal changes to note are:

  • Company Name, “BLUE NOTE RECORDS,” adds letters INC. following incorporation in late 1959, to become “BLUE NOTE RECORDS INC.”
  • Company address changes from 47 West 63rd  to  43 West 61st  at around the same time in late 1959.
  • After the end of the Lexington Ave. address, New York postal District 23 is used consistently on cover addresses,which appears only fleetingly on the equivalent address on the labels
  • Address adds US postal code,  10023, in the final two years of Blue Note, before sale to Liberty, and then to 10019 two years into Liberty ownership, and entrance of Transamerica Corp.



Catalogue numbers and address changes:


I am indebted to Dottor Jazz, our resident First Pressing Fundementalist, for his tireless research on the holy grail of Blue Note original editions.





8 thoughts on “Blue Note covers: spine, lamination, and company address

  1. Hi
    I have seen Blp 4196 with laminated Sleeve (Freddie Hubbard) There are also an unlaminated version. Witch are the org?


  2. Something I’ve noticed and might be interesting to add to the article, is that pre-Liberty reissues don’t always have a laminated cover when the original did (though they do seem to retain the blank spine for early titles). I had an ear New York USA copy of Jimmy Smith at the Organ vol. 1 with a non-laminated cover, while the West 63rd issue was laminated. I’ve also seen multiple ear New York USA copies of Blue Train on eBay with non-laminated covers. I’ve made a habbit of asking sellers wether a cover is laminated or not before bidding / buying, as it’s often difficult to see on photographs unless the cover catches the light.


  3. Hello,

    We must keep in mind that there are some exceptions in lamination : for instance, Freddie Roach “Down the Eearth” (4113), McLean’s One Step Beyond (4137) Grant Greent “Am I Blue” (4139) were originally issued unlaminated. Other exeption is Byrd ‘Free Form” (4118) which was issued later with an old catalog number : not laminated cover. I have a doubt about 4067 being or not laminated. If someone xould be m advice, i would appreciate.


    • Jackie McLean’s One Step Beyond – Blue Note 4137. In that realm of the LP cover as art, this truly was one that cried out for lamination. Lamentation instead. One Step Beyond – off into the future, and yet back. Despite Jackie’s heavens above/blue skies, heading against the wind outlook, perhaps the accountant(s) had given Mr. Lion or whomever, the me$$age –
      “Cutting edge music is enough; cut cost.” Glossy covers followed up to that 4150 chopping block, but maybe this one was meant to send buyers of the time into preparatory subliminal shock. Here’s some NEW music that glistens, it is it’s own lamination. Blue skies, you may not see it shining, but you’ll feel a futuristic wind.
      My favorite Blue Note cover, even though… If ever this one gets hung up in the Heavenly Jazz Art Gallery it will be LAMINATED.


      • Nice appreciation of the Mclean cover, a perfect metaphor for changing times in musical direction.

        Fred Cohen’s guide picks up the detail of which titles had laminated covers. The 4150 cut-off I mention has exceptions which he details, for titles prepared out of chronological sequence.

        The abandonment of lamination is probably the one and only “mistake” in the Blue Note heritage. Some of my laminated original covers are themselves enough to bring a tear to the eye, they are such a perfectly beautiful artefact.

        Lost manufacturing technology, no amount of smooth glossy plasticised finish can match the dimpled reflective surface of a vintage laminate on heavy card.


        • Hello LJC
          I’d add the following to the “mistake” department – no timings to be found for the songs. That was something that did improve with Liberty/UA. I like to know if I’m getting a 15 minute side or a 22+ minute side. It seems that there would have been more people buying the records if that info was listed on the back of an LP. All those times I spent with the stop watch trying to record those times.

          Composer credits are a plus too, and while those were sometimes listed on the outer, they were often only on the label. Maybe these two bits are not a big deal to most, so back to the misery of my previous post; try to imagine the majesty of Wayne Shorter’s Night Dreamer – laminated!


  4. Hello: Not sure if this is the right place to post this, but have not read alot about proper storage for original Blue Note albums with covers. I am specifically looking for advice on albums at least 50 years old. I have a number of original Blue Note Mono albums and I store the records in using the following guidelines that I have figured out for myself:
    1. Store record and cover in a plastic sleeve separately
    2. Store records upright with a little space after every 30 albums in a nice wood shelf
    3. Keep humidity level between 25% and 35%
    4. Room temperature is between 65-70 degrees

    Please help me, I have encountered a major problem with older blue note album covers and also some older jazz covers from Atlantic, Prestige, and Riverside. My albums covers are starting to curve and bend. I am starting to think that I should store them with the vinyl inside the cover. This does not happen to every album, but a fair amount are doing this. Should I adjust the humidity level or temperature? I am wondering if these are just albums that saw a lot of temperature changes over the years and have some water in the cover and it is affecting the album. I have a large valuable collection (TO ME!), enough to make drastic changes if I need to. The vinyl is fine, just concerned about the covers. Please help, what is the perfect storage recommendation for old albums.



    • Bearing in mind this is April 1st, nonetheless, I can’t say I have ever encountered the problem you describe. The plastic outer sleeve I recommend is 400gm polythene, which is slightly oversize for an LP and a loose fit.

      Discard any shrinkwrap, which definitely will cause the cover to bend.

      Early cardboard covers are prone to seam splits and the action of taking the record and inner bag in and out of the cover will only stress already fragile seams. The balance of advantage is to keep the record separate from the cover.

      My advice on record storage is much the same as your method. More detail here

      Hope this helps.


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