Blue Note Inner Sleeves

Arrival of the Blue Note printed inner sleeve, January 1961

(Page last updated: April 22, 2019)

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 inner sleeve at the Plastylite plant, before being shipped in large boxes to Blue Note, to be matched with the cover.

Blue-Note-white-plain-inner-sleeve-BN 4019-Dec-1959

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”.

In the Summer of 1966, with the purchase of Blue Note Records Inc., a large stock of inner sleeves , bearing the last design,”1939-1966  27 YEARS BLUE NOTE”,  came into the hands of Liberty. These last inner sleeves were used to pack early Liberty Blue Note pressings, until used up, and a formal Liberty inner sleeve printed to replace it. As a result, the last inner sleeve is commonly found with early Liberty pressings  from the latter part of 1966, including reissues and records in preparation for first release by Liberty.

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. A particular title, pressed at a particular time, bagged as it left the Plastylite pressing plant, should have the inner sleeve design that was in use at that time.  Similarly, a later subsequent pressing, at a later time, will have a later inner sleeve. Effectively, the inner sleeve is a “date stamp”, narrowing the date of manufacture to a three or four month period.

Nine unique designs

Fred Cohen’s Guide to Blue Note First Pressings  identifies nine different inner sleeves. Each sleeve, front and back, displays a 6 x 6 grid of Blue Note releases , 72 titles in total.  Among the 36 releases on the front of each inner sleeve is one unique record title which does not appear on any other inner sleeve. The unique title, which identifies each of the nine designs,  is in a different grid position on each design.

Each inner sleeve design is linked to a run of Blue Note releases. Titles were released in broadly chronological sequence over the four years, not exactly sequential, occasional anomalies,  but broadly. Schwann Catalogues indicate 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 the factory. It is a better guide to the date of manufacture than the date of the original recording session, which could be anywhere between six months and several years earlier.

Blue-Note-Inner-Sleeve-Cheatsheet-20140912

(Updated September 12, 2014)

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 the large number of Blue Notes dating from the time when sleeves were plain, that a seller had added a Blue Note picture inner sleeve, I guess to make it look “more authentically Blue Note”. Many titles, ones I thought to be original,  had a wrong inner sleeve and almost always a wrong later sleeve.

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 plain inner sleeve.

Between 1962-66, inner sleeves were used to promote titles in the Blue Note catalogue, headed simply “Blue Note”  bearing the legend BLUE NOTE (plain) / 25/ 26/ 27 YEARS BLUE NOTE, for the years 1962/3, 1964, 1965 and 1966. Within these four annual variations are a total on nine unique designs .

bninnersleevesetx1600-ljc

Inner sleeve vs label on record

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.

The picture inner sleeve commenced use in 1962, so is of use in dating only records manufactured from 1962 onwards. The inner sleeve was a generic consumable item, designed to promote the latest releases from Blue Note,  as the record sailed out the factory gate. It wasn’t tied to any particular title, so it could be used for any pressing. Inner sleeve designs were updated periodically, to promote the most recent releases, fresh batches of inner sleeves of the latest design supplied to Plastylite.  .

The inner sleeve is an indicator of the time of pressing.An original pressing should have a matching inner sleeve, plain, or correct picture sleeve. If not, that record may have been pressed much later than the labels or jacket indicate.

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 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, 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

Using Fred as a guide, I identified all the nine inner sleeve variations. The titles have approximate dates of release originating from Schwann catalogues. 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)

The first six inner sleeve designs are simply headed BLUE NOTE, The Finest In Jazz Since 1939. (with no mention of cumulative years since 1939) but with a unique title in their 6×6 grid.

Sleeve 1: BLP 4050 – 4078 (releases mainly in 1961)

 

Inner-Sleeve-Flight-to-Jordan-4050-4078

Inner-Sleeve-Flight-to-Jordan-4050-4078-opacity-33

 

 

Unique Identifier

BLP 4046 Duke Jordan Flight to Jordan

Column 1 Row 2

 

 

Sleeve 2: BLP 4079 -4088 (releases in 1962)

As sleeve 1, simple BLUE NOTE  header, no mention of number of years.

Inner-Sleeve-Roll-Call-4079-4088

Inner-Sleeve-Roll-Call-4079-4088-opacity-33

 

 

Unique identifier:

BLP 4058 Hank Mobley Roll Call

Column 4, row 5

 

 

Sleeve 3: BLP 4089 – 4114 ( late 1962 early 1963)

Sleeve-3-4084-Baby-Face-Willette-stroke--1800-LJC-

Sleeve-3-4084-Baby-Face-Willette-stroke--1800-LJC-opacity25-

Unique identifier:

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)

Inner-Sleeve-Preach-Brother-4117-4131

Inner-Sleeve-Preach-Brother-4117-4131-opacity-33

 

 

Unique Identifier:

BLP 4107 Don Wilkerson Preach Brother Preach

Column 1, Row 5

 

 

Sleeve 5: BLP 4134 – 4158 (late 1963 – through 1964)

Inner-Sleeve-African-HiLife-4134-4158

Inner-Sleeve-African-HiLife-4134-4158-opacity-33

 

 

Unique identifier

BLP 4136 Solomon Ilori African High Life

Column 1, Row 5

 

 

Sleeve 6: 25 Years – BLP 4159 – 4177 (late 1964 – mid 1965)

First mention of cumulative number of years, since 1939.

Inner-Sleeve-25-years-Little-Johnny-C-4159---4177

Inner-Sleeve-25-years-Little-Johnny-C-4159---4177-opacity33

 

 

Unique Identifier:

BLP 4144 Johnny Coles Little Johnny C

Column 1, Row 5

 

 

Sleeve 7: 26 Years – BLP 4178 – 4201 (releases mainly 1965)

Inner-Sleeve-26-years-Andrew Hill Judgement 4178-4201

Inner-Sleeve-26-years-Andrew-Hill-Judgement-4178-4201-opacity-33

 

 

Unique indentifier:

BLP 4159 Andrew Hill Judgement

Column 1, Row 4

 

 

Sleeve 8: 27 Years 1st variation BLP 4202 – 4226 (releases mainly last quarter 1965)

Inner-Sleeve-27-years-Larry-Young-Inta-Something-4202-4226

Inner-Sleeve-27-years-Larry-Young-Inta-Something-4202-4226-opacity-33

 

 

Unique Identifier:

BLP 4187 Larry Young Into Somethin’

Column 6, row 4

 

 

Sleeve 9: 27 Years 2nd variation – BLP 4227 and higher ( early 1966 )

Inner-Sleeve-27 years -Dexter-Gettin-around-4227-and-up

Inner-Sleeve-27-years--Dexter-Gettin-around-4227-and-up-opacity-33

 

Unique Identifier:

BLP 4204 Dexter Gordon Gettin’ Around
Column 6, row 4

This is the last and final Blue Note inner sleeve.

 

 

Liberty Records Inner Sleeve

Liberty inherited a large stock of the final 1966 Blue Note “27 Years of” inner sleeve. After this stock was used up, Liberty produced their own corporate inner sleeve, Liberty: The First Family Of Recorded Entertainment.

This inner 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 1969. It lists all of the new titles issued by Liberty as well as back catalogue reissues,  the full  catalogue of around 400 titles :

Blue-Note-final-inner-sleeve-c.-1969-Division-of-Liberty

United Artists Inner Sleeve

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.

 

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.

The-Blue-Note-Story---1-1800-LJCThe-Blue-Note-Story---2-1800-LJC

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.

20 thoughts on “Blue Note Inner Sleeves

    • Great series, almost all outstanding recordings and mastering, get them all. As best I recall, I’m not with my collection, most have the white sleeve pattern with blue arrows, and a polythene inner . In any event, I file the historical inner sleeve inside the cover, and re-sleeve the disc in a fresh mylar plastic inner and fresh white paper outer, after ultrasonic cleaning. You do not want vinyl surface in contact with polythene. Bad things happen over time.

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    • Original inner sleeves prior to 4050? Now there’s a challenge, Jens!

      I have a couple of dozen “original pressings” in that range, but on closer examination I found only two that had a credible “original” plain white inner sleeve. The rest had a more recent replacement inner, whatever the seller or previous owner had to hand. None of my 1500 series have a credible original inner, so no photo so far, but I have uploaded above a picture of what I believe is the last plain sleeve, your “c”, in use at least 1959-60.

      Taking a photo of a white sleeve requires manual focus and exposure, not something straightforward, but if anyone has earlier versions of Blue Note plain sleeve and can take a picture succesfully, email me and I’ll further update this post.

  2. For me the question of white sleeves in the BLP1500s and early BLP4000s
    series should be discussed in more detail, perhaps pictures would help.
    Last night I tried to organize my collection according to the list of Fred Cohen
    and it worked properly with exception of c):

    a) BLP 1501 – 1560 thin white with bottom fold – ok
    b) BLP 1561 – 1586 thin buff with small side fold – ok
    c) BLP 1586 – 4049 “blank thick translucent paper” – this I could not find

    First of all, as mentioned above there is no rice or onion paper at BN.
    What I found most for BLP 1586 – 4049 are inners similar to b) but
    with a wider fold on both sides.
    Jens

  3. Hi – thank you for amazingly informational posts. I recently picked up a copy of Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder – Mono pressing BLP 4157. this one is throwing me for a loop. It was released July 1964, and is 1 catalog number away from the last title falling under Sleeve 5: (BLP 4134 – 4158 (late 1963 – through 1964)). the copy i purchased came with sleeve 6: 25 years of blue note (BLP 4159 – 4177 (late 1964 – mid 1965)). the second pressing i can find on discogs is from 1966 which would have come with a “27 years of blue note” inner sleeve. i read an anecdote that blue note sold out of the original run of 4,000 copies of the sidewinder in just a few days. i’m wondering if, since this particular release is so close to the end of its original inner sleeve’s run, that subsequent re-pressings would be issued with later 25, 26, 27 years inner sleeves? or if there is any overlap between the 2 innersleeves? any light you can shed on this? thanks!!

    • I would not be surprised if Sidewinder had many many additional pressing runs, It sold in quantities quite unlike other titles, entered the Billboard charts – in the Top 25 of the pop LP charts, and the Top Ten on the R&B listing.

      According to Wiki, Blue Note issued only 4,000 copies upon release, and ran out of stock in three or four days. By January 1965, the album had reached No. 25 on the Billboard charts” So it was selling over a long period of time, and quite likely received further pressing runs, possibly over a number of years.

      It should appear with either Sleeve 5 or Sleeve 6, and some possibly Sleeve 7 for copies pressed towards the end of its big sales run in later 1965. Since records were not pressed in catalogue number order, and re-pressings were squeezed in between new pressings, the attribution of a particular catalogue number to a particular sleeve is only approximate. Release dates from Schwann Catalogues can also be a bit adrift!

      An inner bag 5 or 6 has the greatest likelihood of being among the first four thousand pressed. As much as I know, the Oracle is on his Christmas break.

  4. Does anyone know if Blue Note used glassine inner sleeves for early 1500 series? At what point were they using glassine or just plain paper inner sleeves? Please help, I have seen early Lexington Ave pressings with the old rice paper style inners, not sure if that is how it was issued. Thanks people!

    • Onion skin, or rice paper, if you prefer, inners were never used by Blue Note. There are several textures of plain white paper used for early Blue Note inners. I will not bother you with the détails as they are difficult to describe. It is more a question of “feel” and appearance of the material and also the way they are folded. I have spécimens where the paper is so thin that the blue of the label is visible, barely though

  5. To be or not to be the exact match between inners and catalogue numbers?
    today I found a BN inner, without cover or record: mmmh, I said, let’s see to match it with one of my BN that can be without it.
    mission impossible, unless some experts can turn the light on.
    I’ve checked ALL my BN, I’ve read and re-read this post, I’ve read and re-read Cohen’s book and I’m more confused than ever.
    one example: my inner is # 3: 4089-4114, the one pictured above.
    Fred says this inner has been matched with 4062, 4079, 4084 and 9001 too, but NOT
    with these exceptions: 4091, 4093, 4098, 4104, 4106, 4111 that match with inner # 4 (4117-4131).
    4091 is pictured on inner #3.
    first question: and 4115 to 4116?
    second question: there is no way to know which inner is related to a given catalogue number.
    how to match the different inners with correct cat numbers?

  6. Something else to add

    When I went back to look again, I noticed that one of the pictures matched the Sleeve 8: 27 Years 1st variation BLP 4202 – 4226 (mid – late 1965), but the series numbers don’t match for BLP-4169, which was released in 1966, no? I’m so confused.

    The copy I’m looking to buy is on mono, by the way.

    Thanks for all your help.

    Kristina

    • There is a grey area with the last year or so of Blue Note, where the information on release dates gleaned from Schwann Catalogues runs out. It is good for early titles, not so good for later titles. What little we know is plagiarised from Cohen here:

      https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/record-labels-guide/labelography-2/blue-note-session-dates-release-dates-mono-and-stereo/

      4169 (Lee Morgan Search for New Land) was recorded February 15, 1964. Exactly when it was released is not known (to me) and no release date is given by Cohen. A lot of titles were released out of chronological sequence around this time, and catalogue number is only a rough guide. It is probably not as neat and tidy as the Cohen sequence suggests.

      Inner sleeve dating may not be entirely accurate but it is the best indication we have. There is always a risk of anomalies. Confusion is a normal state of mind with some of these Blue Note things.

  7. I am looking at a getting a copy of BLP-4169 but it comes with an inner sleeve that says “27 Years of Jazz” and I can’t find the match on here anywhere. The label and addresses all seem to match on the label and album cover, but this inner sleeve is bothering me now. Shouldn’t it have a “25 Years of Jazz” inner sleeve? Please help if you can!! Somebody! Anybody! 🙂

  8. to your knowledge, did BN deliberately used old liberty records, inc – sleeve covers stock for later dark blue records/wallpaper BN or is it a previous customer/seller swap for the best/worst/whatever?

    • I have only the vaguest idea what motivated United Artists. I don’t think they cannibalised old stock inventory in the same way that Liberty and Blue Note did. At a certain point in the early ’70s, it became simpler to commission new than reuse old. Simply guesswork on my part.

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  10. Hi – I have a Blue Note Jamaican pressed single & a JA reggae single with a recycled Blue Note inner sleeve as the label. Happy to send scans for your fine site. Best Jeremy

    • A Jamaican-pressed Blue Note? sleeve as label? Eh? A scan or photo would be most welcome, see if I can fit it into any of the stories here. For photos/scans my optimum working size is 1600×1200 pixel at 72 dpi, but a can work with anything, no problem just email to

      andrewsouthlondon (onewordwithnospaces) ( at ) hotmail dot co dot uk

      btw, what does it sound like?

      Cheers!

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