Arrival of the corporate inner sleeve, 1961
Prior to 1961, Blue Note records were packed with a plain paper inner sleeve. Then, between 1961 and the sale to Liberty Records in 1966, the opportunity was taken to promote other Blue Note titles, including the most recent releases, with a corporate advertising sleeve. Note: Liberty acquired a large quantity of 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.
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 else 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 4045, 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 Cheet 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 so could not say with any confidence how early “original” plain inner sleeves can be identified.
Between 1962-6, inner sleeves were used to promote the Blue Note catalogue, 72 thumbnail covers in total, headed simply “Blue Note” for 1962-3, and 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. Very few Blue Notes which had an accompanying inner sleeve (around half in my collection have a corporate inner sleeve) had the “correct” inner sleeve, and in the majority of cases it was a later inner sleeve than the labels suggested.
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.
A fair number of final 1966 stock turn up on re- issues by Liberty, who parsimoniously used up all pre-printed Blue Note stocks before printing their own corporate inner sleeve in a brave attempt to emulate the Blue Note approach.
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 in the jacket, and the record placed in modern inners ie archivally inert mylar antistatic inner (Nagaoka-style) sleeve, and 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 best avoided.