Arrival of the printed inner sleeve, January 1961
(Page last updated: December 30, 2017)
Between 1956 and 1960, Blue Note 12″ LP records were packed with a plain paper inner sleeve. This took various forms over time, and pictured below is an example of the last type of plain paper sleeve, from my collection, accompanying BN 4019, released December 1959. An identical plain sleeve was found accompanied BN 4029 released May 1960. My remaining pre-4050 titles had all been rehoused in later Blue Note, modern generic or unrelated inner sleeves.
Newly pressed records were placed in the sleeve at the Plastylite plant, before being shipped to Blue Note.
Between 1961 and 1966, a printed inner sleeve was used, promoting 36 other Blue Note titles each side. Starting in September 1964, these printed sleeves carried the headline “25/26/27 YEARS BLUE NOTE The First Name In Jazz”.
NOTE: Liberty acquired a large quantity of inner sleeves with the last sleeve design,”27 YEARS BLUE NOTE” and as a result this is commonly found paired with early Liberty pressings of Blue Note titles, many of which also bear previously printed “original” Blue Note labels, NY address or even earlier. 27 YEARS inner and no “ear”, something look out for.
Confirming date of LP manufacture
Blue Note inner sleeves can be helpful fixing the provenance of Blue Note records as original pressings, despite obvious limitations which are, I think, incorrectly dismissed. Often over-looked due to sometimes being missing and the possibility of mixed up inner sleeves, having examined the evidence in my own collection, I conclude that they are a useful diagnostic tool, in the same class as vinyl weight. Not perfect, but helpful circumstantial evidence.
Nine unique designs
Fred Cohen’s Guide to Blue note First Pressings points to nine different inner sleeves, each identified by a unique cover thumbnail, of a record which does not appear on any other inner sleeve, in any of the total 72 covers displayed front and back. Each variation is linked to a run of Blue Note releases, which themselves can be linked to approximate release dates, aidentifying the approximate time that sleeve was in use.
(Updated September 12, 2014)
The main value of these sleeves is for identifying probable date of manufacture of a particular copy of a record during the four years of the NY label 1962-6. In this period, hundreds of titles were released and hundreds more re-pressed. The label remains exactly the same, but you now have eight discrete changes in inner sleeve during those four years. You may think you have the 1962 “original” pressing. Then why has it got a 1966 inner? Yeah yeah,sure, “people mixed them up”, sure, but how do you know?
Record sellers “tricks”
When I went through my Blue Notes, the first thing I noticed was the number of Blue Notes below catalogue number 4050, when sleeves were plain, that a seller had added a “real” later Blue Note inner sleeve to make it look “more authentically Blue Note”. Now there is no excuse. The knowledge is here now, and freely available.
Each inner sleeve in the Cheat sheet can be viewed individually in the guide below.
Chronology of Blue Note inner sleeves
Prior to 1962, Blue Note inner sleeves were a simple plain white, now yellowed with age. I have only a few originals in the 1500 series, and none with an original inner sleeve.
Between 1962-6, inner sleeves were used to promote the Blue Note catalogue, 72 thumbnail covers in total, headed simply “Blue Note” bearing the legend “27/26/25 Years of Blue Note” for the years 1964, 65 and 66 respectively.
Within this broad structure – no mention of year, and the years 25-26-27, there are nine variations which Fred Cohen has identified in his Guide to Blue Note First Pressings. Most interesting, Fred asserts different inner sleeves were linked to the release of specific catalogue numbers. How this worked in practice is intruiging. We know stocks of labels and covers were used for many years after printing, until stock ran out and more needed to be printed. Hence labels and covers are “lagging indicators” of provenance
The inner sleeve is a generic consumable item, designed to promote the latest releases. It isn’t tied to any particular title, so it could be used for any pressing, and is therefore potentially a leading indicator. The business rationale is to use the most recently printed inner sleeve to promote the most recent releases, as the record sails out the factory gate. It is, I think, a more accurate date-stamp of manufacture than labels or covers (used with caution, as may be different due to unknown circumstances.)
An original pressing should have a matching inner sleeve. If not, that record may have been pressed much later than the labels or jacket indicate.
When I started to check, I found a disproportionately large number of later inner sleeves with what appear to be earlier pressings. If the mismatches were a result of Blue Note afficionados “mixing up” sleeves during play, there should have been an equal number of later pressings accompanied by earlier inner sleeves, but that was not the case. Around half in my collection have a Blue Note corporate inner sleeve, but very few had the “correct” first release inner sleeve. In the majority of cases it was a later inner sleeve than the labels suggested.
We know thanks to a reader who worked as a press operator at Plastylite at that time that Blue Note pressing runs were in small batches, and paired with the inner current at the time. There is some evidence to suggest the first pressing runs for a typical a Blue Note title was about 2,500. Further copies were pressed according to sales, which would explain the mismatch of inner sleeves.
Using Fred as a guide, I identified all the nine inner sleeve variations except one, which I could not find, for which I created a placeholder. The titles have approximate dates of release originating from Schwann catalogues. They are a bit all over the place as it took anything from just a month to several years from recording date to release, so consider everything as approximate. All inner sleeves are pictured as seen from the front with the opening to the fore and the Blue Note Address at the bottom (the reverse taller side has no address)
Sleeve 1: BLP 4050 – 4078 (releases mainly in 1961)
Unique Identifier –
BLP 4046 Duke Jordan Flight to Jordan
Column 1 Row 2
Sleeve 2: BLP 4079 -4088 (releases in 1962)
BLP 4058 Hank Mobley Roll Call
Column 4, row 5
Sleeve 3: BLP 4089 – 4114 ( late 1962 early 1963)
BLP 4084 Baby Face Willette Stop and Listen
in column 4 Row 5
(Sleeve picture courtesy of DottorJazz)
Sleeve 4: BLP 4117 – 4131 (mostly 1963 releases)
BLP 4107 Don Wilkerson Preach Brother Preach
Column 1, Row 5
Sleeve 5: BLP 4134 – 4158 (late 1963 – through 1964)
Unique identifier –
BLP 4136 Solomon Ilori African High Life
Column 1, Row 5
Sleeve 6: 25 Years – BLP 4159 – 4177 (late 1964 – mid 1965)
BLP 4144 Johnny Coles Little Johnny C
Column 1, Row 5
Sleeve 7: 26 Years – BLP 4178 – 4201 (releases mainly 1965)
BLP 4159 Andrew Hill Judgement
Column 1, Row 4
Sleeve 8: 27 Years 1st variation BLP 4202 – 4226 (mid – late 1965)
BLP 4187 Larry Young Into Somethin’
Column 6, row 4
Sleeve 9: 27 Years 2nd variation – BLP 4227 and higher ( early 1966 )
BLP 4204 Dexter Gordon Gettin’ Around
Column 6, row 4
This is the last and final Blue Note inner sleeve.
Liberty inherited a large stock of the final 1966 Blue Note “27 Years of” inner sleeve. These are often found with the Blue Note titles in preparation at the time of the sale, subsequently released by Liberty, who later went on to produce their own corporate inner sleeve:
This inner sleeve had just the one design, and was not updated seasonally with new releases like Blue Note. This final inner sleeve design appeared probably around 1969, and includes all of the new titles issued by Liberty as well as reissues, and looks like the full catalogue of around 400 titles :
United Artists tenure from 1970 produced the stylish Blue Note Wallpaper sleeve with inbuilt polythene lining, introduced in 1973. Collector advice: polythene lined sleeves have a notorious record for causing vinyl to “sweat” causing irreparable damage, and should be archived inside the jacket, and the record placed in modern inner sleeve, preferably nagaoka-style archival inert mylar sleeve with an acid-free paper outer.
The wallpaper inner sleeve was used up to the 1980 take over by EMI, who replaced it with the “Blue Note Story” inner sleeve. The EMI sleeve gives an illuminating history of Blue Note written by Michael Cuscuna.
Sadly, EMI Capitol Manhatten pressings in the mid-80’s which accompany this inner sleeve – label: “The Finest In Jazz Since 1939” – are often Direct Metal Mastering (DMM) and are generally best avoided, though as always there are exceptions.