Blue Note covers: frame construction

The Gakubushi Frame Cover (left), circa 1956

The covers of very earliest Blue Note,  Prestige, Atlantic and no doubt others labels have a cover construction method referred to by the Japanese word “gakubushi” meaning a “frame cover”. They appear in the mid Fifties, and the evidence of frame construction can be helpful in determining the issue date of a pressing, being a first or later pressing.

In a “frame cover”, the paper from the back sleeve has been folded around the cover and appears in front, under the art sleeve paper, creating a shadow line not unlike a frame, about a half inch wide, along two edges.  The frame cover is with two frame stripes only, never four all around.

On Blue Note records (12″ LP)  the gakubushi frame cover is found on the earliest releases of 1500 to 1543, with Lexington label, from 1956 to 1957. The cover is not laminated like later covers in the Sixties, and there is no printing of the record title on the spine, a practice which came later with more sophisticated printing technology. The records themselves are heavy flat-edge vinyl with the characteristic deep groove die impression within the label, and hand-written initials RVG in the run-out.

Gakubushi frame covers were replaced by more sophisticated printing and assembly methods a short time later, where the front cover appeared flat and level.

3 thoughts on “Blue Note covers: frame construction

  1. Fred Cohen makes mention of “The Notch”: short internal reinforcement strip inside the cover either at the top and bottom centres or opening corners. Of my miniscule number of 1500 series Lexingtons, only one looks like the a first press and it has no notch, and, as you might expect, a complete seam split on the bottom edge. My others Lexies are probably later pressings, with Blue Note using up inventory stock of surplus older labels. No notches, nowhere. 😦

    • The Notch: I like that one. Never felt the need to buy Fred’s book. Too frustrating to be confronted with my own conneries, in exchanging blindly my original purchases against later, new copies.

  2. According to Larry Cohen, the other authority on Blue Note and vintage jazz recordings of the fifties, there are three types of original Blue Note sleeves:
    – the frame cover;
    – the protection knob design. The laminated sleeve gets an extra protection in the middle of the top and bottom seam, where the record rim touches the cover. This reinforcement is visible under light. On light coloured sleeves, the protection knob shows effects of browning. The white on “Peckin’ Time 1574 is an example in my collection. Sometimes the right top and bottom corners are also visibly reinforced. A manifest example right here in my hands: 4001 (Newk’s Time). This protection feature was later abandoned. (Original Verve albums had this feature too.)
    – the lean, just laminated, sleeve, without protection.

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