Arrival of the Blue Note printed inner sleeve, January 1961
(Page last updated: July 22, 2021)
Newly pressed records were placed in the inner sleeve at the Plastylite plant, before being shipped in large boxes to Blue Note, to be matched with the outer cover.
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.
Between 1961 and 1966, Blue Note records were bagged in a new printed inner sleeve, which promoted 72 current releases, 36 covers pictured each side. The sleeve design changed from time to time, updated for new releases. Starting in September 1964, these printed sleeves began to carry the headline “25/ 26/ 27 YEARS BLUE NOTE. Around half of Blue Note’s catalogue of 350 titles were released with a picture inner sleeve, found on both new title and repressings in that period.
In the Summer of 1966, with the purchase of Blue Note Records Inc., a large stock of the last design,”27 YEARS BLUE NOTE”, came into the hands of Liberty, and this last inner sleeve was used with early Liberty pressings of Blue Note records until late 1967.
Confirming date of LP manufacture
Despite the limitation of sleeves being sometimes missing, and the possibility of being swapped with that of other records, the “correct” Blue Note inner sleeve can be helpful in confirming the provenance of a Blue Note record as an original pressing, particularly important in a premium price auction, where a record may have been repressed many times, and the “wrong” inner is a warning flag.
LPs were bagged after pressing. A particular title, pressed at a particular time, should have the inner sleeve design that was in use at that time. Similarly, a later subsequent pressing, at a later time, will have been bagged in a later inner sleeve. Effectively, the inner sleeve is a “date stamp” of manufacture sometimes narrowing it to as little as to a three or four month period, comapered to the ubiquitous NY label, which was in continuous use for four years.
Nine unique designs
Fred Cohen’s Guide to Blue Note First Pressings identifies nine unique inner sleeve designs. Each sleeve design, front and back, displays a 6 x 6 grid of Blue Note releases , 72 titles in total. Among the 36 covers pictured on the address-bearing side is one unique record title which does not appear on any of the other inner sleeve designs. The unique title, which identifies each of the nine designs, is in a different grid position (column and row) on each design.
Each inner sleeve design is linked to a pressing run of Blue Note titles being prepared for release. Titles were often released out of catalogue number order, some by several years. At best, a recording took 3 to 6 months to prepare for release, and more typically a year after being allocated a catalogue number. The timing of release was the province of Blue Note boss Alfred Lion, who reckoned to give popular artists two albums a year, six months apart. Often the musicians recorded at at one pace, Lion released at different pace.
Schwann Catalogues (unfortunately, not an online resource) give the official release month of each Blue Note title, hence identifying the approximate dates that sleeve was in use, and the likely date it left Plastylite probably a month before official release.
Cheat Sheet “catalogue numbers in range” – between highest and lowest for that Sleeve Type. See full table for specific titles.
Between 1962-6, several hundred new titles were released and thousands of copies re-pressed. The Blue Note NY label remained a constant over the four years, but there were nine changes of inner sleeve design during those four years. You may think you have the 1962 “original” pressing, but what if has a late 1964 inner?
When I went through all my Blue Notes, the first thing I noticed was a number of Blue Notes dating from the time when sleeves were plain, that a seller had added a Blue Note picture inner sleeve to make it look “more authentically Blue Note”. Many titles, ones I thought to bean original, had a wrong inner sleeve and almost always a wrong later sleeve.
Chronology of Blue Note inner sleeves
There are four basic headings- the undated, and the annual dated 25 – 26 – 27 years. However the undated has four unique variations, and the 27 years two, accounting for nine unique designs.
Much store is set by collectors on a Blue Note title bearing the correct record label design/address of its original release i.e. 47 West 63rd with or without ®, NY etc However we know labels were printed in batches (by Keystone Printed Specialties, Scranton PA) and after the initial pressing run of a title, a stock of any surplus labels held in inventory for use on further pressings and re-pressings of that title. The presence of an “original label” on a record is not proof it is from the original pressing run, and in some cases, it conceals a later pressing.
Over the last five decades many inner sleeves have parted company with the vinyl, but where it is still present, it is a potentially useful indicator of provenance.
Evidence from a Blue Note Collector
Around half in my Blue Note collection have a picture inner sleeve, but very few had the “correct” first release sleeve. I found a disproportionate number of records with inner sleeves later than that of the original release. The mismatches were not “random”, which would have suggested accidental mixing up, they were almost always later inners.
We know thanks to reader Larry C 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 sleeve current at the time. There is some evidence to suggest the total first pressing runs for a typical a Blue Note title was about 2,500, to possibly 4,000. (evidence: photo of Lee Morgan in the stockroom surrounded by boxes of numbered Blue Note titles shipped in from Plastylite, record in inner sleeve, waiting jackets)
Further copies were pressed according to sales, which would explain the appearance of later inner sleeves on popular records
The Nine Unique Sleeve Designs (1961 – 1966) in detail
As per Fred Cohen’s guide, there are nine inner sleeve variations. Each design is identified by one unique record cover among the 36 covers pictured each side, in a specific column and row position. The unique cover picture is on the side of the sleeve which has the blue note address at the foot. Record sellers please note – only the side with the address at the bottom can identify the design. The side without the address contains no helpful information, neither does a photo showing the banner top of the inner sleeve peeking out of the cover.
The first five inner sleeve designs are simply headed BLUE NOTE, The Finest In Jazz Since 1939. (with no mention of cumulative years since 1939) Of the other for, there is one 25 Years and 26 Years, and two different 27 Years.
Cohen lists a range of catalogue numbers for each design, less exception plus additions. I have translated this into a simple list of catalogue numbers, in numerical order, indicating the associated sleeve. When you observe the number of sleeves out of catalogue sequence, you are witnessing the real chronology of the Blue Note release schedule, and Alfred Lion’s judgement on who to release, when.
MONO INNER SLEEVE LJC REFERENCE TABLE
The sleeves, in detail:
Sleeve 1: (releases between Jan – Oct 1961)
4037 4038 4045 4046 4048 4050 4051 4053 4054 4055 4056 4057 4058 4059 4060 4061 4063 4064 4068 4069 4071 4072 4073 4074 4076 4077 4078
Unique Identifier –
BLP 4046 Duke Jordan Flight to Jordan
Column 1 Row 2
Sleeve 2: Releases between December 1961 and April 1962
Design as sleeve 1, simple BLUE NOTE header, no mention of number of years. Unique identifier BLP 4058 Hank Mobley Roll Call, Column 4, row 5
4066 4067 4075 4080 4081 4083 4085 4086 4087 4088 4091 4093
BLP 4058 Hank Mobley Roll Call
Column 4, row 5
Sleeve 3: Releases between May and November 1962
Unique identifier: BLP 4084 Baby Face Willette Stop and Listen in column 4 Row 5
4062 4079 4084 4089 4090 4092 4094 4096 4097 4099 4100 4101 4102 4105 4107 4108 4109 4110 4112 4113 4114
BLP 4084 Baby Face Willette Stop and Listen
in column 4 Row 5
(Sleeve picture courtesy of DottorJazz)
Sleeve 4: Releases between December 1962 and September 1963
Unique Identifier: BLP 4107 Don Wilkerson Preach Brother Preach Column 1, Row 5
4070 4082 4098 4104 4106 4111 4115 4117 4119 4120 4121 4123 4125 4126 4128 4129 4130 4131 4136
BLP 4107 Don Wilkerson Preach Brother Preach
Column 1, Row 5
Sleeve 5: Releases between December 1963 and April1964
Unique identifier – BLP 4136 Solomon Ilori African High Life Column 1, Row 5
4124 4127 4132 4137 4138 4140 4141 4144 4146 4147 4148 4149 4151 4152 4153 4154 4155 4156 4158
Unique identifier –
BLP 4136 Solomon Ilori African High Life
Column 1, Row 5
Sleeve 6: 25 Years Releases between May 1964 and January 1965
First mention of cumulative number of years, since 1939.
Unique Identifier: BLP 4144 Johnny Coles Little Johnny C Column 1, Row 5
4133 4139 4150 4157 4159 4161 4163 4164 4165 4166 4168 4172 4173 4174 4175 4177 4180 4185
BLP 4144 Johnny Coles Little Johnny C
Column 1, Row 5
Sleeve 7: 26 Years Releases between February and December 1965
Unique indentifier: BLP 4159 Andrew Hill Judgement Column 1, Row 4
4145 4162 4167 4170 4176 4178 4179 4181 4182 4183 4184 4186 4187 4188 4190 4192 4198 4199 4200 4201 4205 4207 4224 4225
BLP 4159 Andrew Hill Judgement
Column 1, Row 4
Sleeve 8: 27 Years 1st variation: Releases between December 1965 and July 1966
Unique Identifier: BLP 4187 Larry Young Into Somethin’ Column 6, row 4
4160 4169 4189 4191 4193 4194 4195 4197 4202 4208 4209 4213 4214 4215 4216 4220 4221 4226
BLP 4187 Larry Young Into Somethin’
Column 6, row 4
Sleeve 9: 27 Years 2nd variation – Releases between July and November 1966 (Liberty era)
Unique Identifier: BLP 4204 Dexter Gordon Gettin’ Around Column 6, row 4
4118 4171 4196 4204 4206 4217 4218 4219 4222 4227 4228 4229 4230 4231 4232 4235 4237 4238 4239 4240 4242 4243 4244 4245 4246 4247 4248 4249 4250
Only a handful of these titles are associated with Plastylite era Blue Notes. Most are found on All-Disc pressings for Liberty, which includes the 35 deferred first releases by Liberty .
BLP 4204 Dexter Gordon Gettin’ Around
Column 6, row 4
Inner sleeve of The Liberty Years
As a reference source, these are all the non-Plastylite Blue Note pressings listed by their place in the Liberty release schedule, all up to November 1967 have the lastBlue Note 27 years inner sleeve.
|CATALOG/TITLE/ARTIST||LIBERTY RELEASE DATE|
|4229 John Patton Got a Good Thing Goin’||Jul-66|
|4209 Hank Mobley Dippin’||Jul-66|
|4204 Dexter Gordon Gettin’ Around||Jul-66|
|4193 Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Indestructible||Sep-66|
|4240 Stanley Turrentine Rough ‘n Tumble||Oct-66|
|4237 Cecil Taylor Unit Structures||Oct-66|
|4235 Jimmy Smith Bucket!||Oct-66|
|4219 Wayne Shorter The All Seeing Eye||Oct-66|
|4118 Donald Byrd Free Form||Oct-66|
|4227 Joe Henderson Mode for Joe||Nov-66|
|4215 Jackie McLean Right Now||Nov-66|
|4213 Bobby Hutcherson Components||Nov-66|
|4248 The Three Sounds Vibrations||Jan-67|
|4231 Bobby Hutcherson Happenings||Jan-67|
|4222 Lee Morgan Cornbread||Jan-67|
|4206 Sam Rivers Contours||Jan-67|
|4196 Freddie Hubbard Blue Spirits||Jan-67|
|4171 George Braith Extension||Jan-67|
|4217 Andrew Hill Compulsion||Feb-67|
|4250 Horace Silver The Jody Grind||Mar-67|
|4228 Blue Mitchell Bring it on Home||Mar-67|
|4246 Ornette Coleman The Empty Foxhole||Apr-67|
|4239 John Patton Let ‘Em Roll||Apr-67|
|4247 Don Cherry Symphony for Improvisers||Aug-67|
|4245 Art Blakey Like Someone in Love||Aug-67|
|4242 Larry Young Of Love and Peace||Aug-67|
|4230 Hank Mobley A Caddy for Daddy||Sep-67|
|4218 Jackie McLean Action||Sep-67|
|4238 Donald Byrd Mustang!||Oct-67|
|4249 Sam Rivers A New Conception||Nov-67|
|4243 Lee Morgan Delightfulee Morgan||Nov-67|
|4232 Wayne Shorter Adam’s Apple||Nov-67|
|4244 Bobby Hutcherson Stick Up!||Feb-68|
|4203 Andrew Hill Andrew!||May-68|
|4212 Lee Morgan The Gigolo||Jun-68|
Liberty Records Inner Sleeve
After The 27 years stock was used up, towards the end of 1966, Liberty produced their own corporate inner sleeve, Liberty: The First Family Of Recorded Entertainment.
This sleeve had just the one design, and was not updated seasonally with new releases.
A further inner sleeve design The Definitive Catalogue, appeared, probably around last quarter 1971 (hat tip René). It lists all of the new titles issued by Liberty as well as back catalogue reissues, the full catalogue of around 400 titles :
United Artists Inner Sleeve
United Artists 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.
Capitol/EMI Inner Sleeve
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.