The 12″ microgroove unbreakable record brought cover art to the fore, and developments in printing technology enabled these new generation covers to be laminated, and bear the artist name, title, label and catalogue number printed on the spine. With Blue Note records, each of these elements form a pattern which can be used to help identify original covers from later manufacture.
BLANK AND PRINTED SPINES
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 1964, the 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.
BLUE NOTE COVER ADDRESS AND INCORPORATION
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.
As well as the address changes, first appearing on BN 4013, the abbreviation for its incorporation, INC. is added to the company name BLUE NOTE RECORDS. From BN 4017, Horace Silver Blowin’ the Blues Away, along with the registered trademark “R”. INC. also appears in the company name on all record labels up to the redesignation of Blue Note Records as a BLUE NOTE RECORDS A DIVISION OF LIBERTY RECORDS INC.