May 14, 2022

Collecting log: BORN TO RUN Japanese original LP with an oval-shaped sticker

Finally, the shrink-wrapped, stickered copy joins my collection. All the
others obtained
previously are shrink-removed without the sticker.
As you can know from my blog title, I was born and raised in the Far East country of Japan, collecting vinyl and CD collectibles of my favorite artist for many years. So, you might assume that I own, if not all, nearly all of the official rare collectibles released here under his name, from major items like custom promo-only stuff from the 1970s and 1980s to minors such as cheesy CD-R samplers released in the current century (see the image below for some examples from 2007 to 2009). But, no, that is not true. My official vinyl/CD collection is rather limited in variety and far from perfection, still lacking this and that sort of major domestic rarities, whether promo or regular releases. Why? Although paradoxical, that is right because I live in Japan and have spent all of my life here (except for a one-year stay in the U.S.).

I've lost my interest in collecting CDs considerably
since CD-R became a main promotional medium.

Like many collectors, I was (and still am) attracted to overseas items that are often the mystique of something not of my homeland. In fact, in the first place, I started this practice by collecting vinyl bootleg imports from the U.S. (see 8/14/2015). On the other hand, I tended to rely on an unwarranted or unfounded assumption that I could somehow locate and get domestic collectibles at any time if I really wanted. In this way, my collection has been expanded to obtain mainly foreign official releases (and vinyl bootlegs) while I disregarded or underestimated Japanese products to a relatively large extent.

Although slightly discolored (but who cares?), the hype
sticker says that the album charted number one in the

U.S.
without mentioning the source (i.e., Record World
magazine); it peaked at number three on the Billboard
200
album chart in October 1975.

Shown here is one of such Japanese collectibles I had tried to find but failed for years to add to my collection. This is the first issue of his masterpiece released here 47 years ago, widely known to collectors for its catalog number CBS/SONY SOPO-96 and the top red obi. Even in Japan, it's not easy to find pristine copies since many in circulation show ages with the white sleeve often spotted or stained here and there. Moreover, even if the sleeve is fine, the red stripes of the spine part of the obi are discolored mildly to severely, depending on storage conditions. Generally, red color is more prone to fading under sunlight or fluorescent light due to the absorption of higher-energy wavelength light such as blue, violet, and ultraviolet. You can probably find other examples of such discoloration on the spine of LP sleeves for NEBRASKA, HUMAN TOUCH, LUCKY TOWN (red lettering) and BORN IN THE U.S.A. (red stripe).

However, from my experience, the toughest one to locate and obtain is the shrink-wrapped copies with the oval-shaped hype sticker. As far as I know, the most recent case where such a copy (w/ sticker & obi) appeared here on a major domestic auction site was in late November to early December 2017 and fetched 67,691-Yen with 33 cumulative bids (see the table above; although the disc was a regular pressing, the auctioned copy contained a promo info sheet, which must have increased the final bid further). I don't know whether all or some of the initial copies were shrink-wrapped and stickered when they were first released here on October 21, 1975 (cf., the U.S. release date is August 25). Nowadays, the stickered stock copies are much rarer than the white-label promotional edition without the sticker. The white-label promo with the shrink, sticker, and info sheet is impossibly rare, although I've seen it once (see the table for the auction on December 26, 2013).

Upper left : The obi is in perfect condition, including the spine part, which generally suffers the most from discoloration.
Lower left
: The label is rubber-stamped "Mi-hon-ban" in three Kanji characters referring to "Sample disc" (only on SIDE B).
Right
: The regular stickered copy is much rarer than the white-labeled promotional edition without the sticker.

Last month, I searched for some information on CBS/SONY's stamper numbers on Google to write about the relationship between Asian and Japanese NEBRASKA pressings (see 4/17/2022). Then, surprisingly, I happened to come across a shrink-wrapped copy being sold at a used vinyl shop located in the northern city of Kyushu Island (the third largest of Japan's four main islands). Further to my surprise, it was not auctioned but available for a set sale priced at 2,800-Yen (circa US $22) excluding tax, one order lower than the final bid amounts of domestic auctions above. 

Not to mention, the copy is now sitting on my record shelf (and shown here). All I can say is that I was just lucky, and hunting rarities in this unexpected way is one of the best parts of collecting vinyl!


May 5, 2022

DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN US LP variations: Notes on the late pressing labels and deadwax

Even a barcode-bearing, very late issue comes with the hype sticker
as viewed in the mirror (This one is a
Pitman pressing with the matrix
numbers G2C/G1C
). See my thoughts on DARKNESS stickers posted
previously (8/24/2020 and 8/29/2020).

The DARKNESS label variation continues. Here are some notes for the U.S. late pressing, although I don't own as many copies as the early pressing. With the shutdown of the pressing plants in Santa Maria, CA (1963 to 1981), and Terre Haute, IN (1953 to 1982), in the early 1980s, vinyl releases after that from Columbia Records were manufactured at the old Pitman factory, NJ (1960 to 1986), and the newly launched facility located in Carrollton, GA (1981 to 1991). As the major differences from the early releases, at first, these late issues came in the sleeve with the small tracklist/white credit on the rear side, often accompanying the barcode on the upper right corner. Second, the inner sleeve is made of thin paper with poor-quality pictures. Finally, the discs do not carry TML-M or TML-S stamps on each side of the dead-wax space.

Left : An early Pitman pressing (variant two, see 4/23/2022). The label image is taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers 1AD 1AG/2AB.
Center : A late pressing from
Carrollton. Taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers G2A/G2A.
Right : A late
Pitman pressing with a "upside down" triangle symbol (printed on SIDE ONE label only). Taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers G2H/G2F.

One of the late pressings (matrix G2A/G2A) in my possession comes  
in a stickered sleeve and
is cut by Chet Bennett,
as authenticated by 
the inscription of his first name on both sides (shown is SIDE TWO;
encircled with dashed line).
Another hand-etching CBS GA refers to
CBS Records
' plant in
Carrollton, GA
As shown immediately above, the label design of the late releases (center and right) was further changed from that of  the Pitman pressing variant two (left), which came last among the early issues based on the matrix numbers (see the previous post on 4/23/2022). The artist's name is reverted to the original single-line format (as found on Santa Maria and Terre Haute pressings; see 4/23/2022), while the album title is yet differently split into two lines. The sole difference between the two late-issue labels is whether an inverted-triangle symbol is present or absent, as mentioned previously (3/4/2018). Interestingly, it remains unsolved for a long time among collectors circle about what this symbol means or refers to (for example, see the long-surviving thread titled "Symbol on mid-80s CBS Records releases... ???" on Steve Hoffman Music Forums).

Chet Bennett's cutting (bottom) results in about a two-time larger dead-
wax width on SIDE TWO than that of the original pressing mastered by
Mike Reese
(top). Another late pressing (
middle; handled by an unknown
mastering engineer) also has a slightly wider deadwax than the original.
I don't know if there are more examples of U.S. label variations for the standard DARKNESS pressings, except for the audiophile releases such as old Half-Speed Mastered and recent Plangent-processed remastered reissues. A possible variant could be the red-label repress without the yellow Columbia rim, just like the very last pressing of BORN TO RUN LP (see 9/13/2015 and 12/18/2016). I have thus far not seen any such copy for the fourth album, though.

One last note: Although DARKNESS was originally mastered by Mike Reese at The Mastering Lab (as indicated by the run-off groove stamps TML-M and TML-S), another notable sound engineer cut the masters for the late issue. Chet Bennett had worked at CBS Records in the 1980s and redone some of Springsteen's titles, such as this and THE RIVER (see 12/22/2019 for his inscription on the DISC ONE/SIDE ONE dead wax). His pressings are easily recognizable, as he generally inscribes his first name on vinyl discs, and particularly for the DARKNESS LP, the SIDE TWO dead wax is considerably wider than those of the early and other late pressings (see the images on the right). It might be interesting to compare and listen to the two mastering engineers' sounds if you own both analog records.

— Back to Summary of the early pressing labels.


Apr 23, 2022

DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN US LP variations: Summary of LABEL variations found in the early pressing

Typical early (upper) and late (lower) DARKNESS releases.
The differences are evident in the photo-image quality of
the inner sleeve (left half) and the
rear-side lettering of
the outer
sleeve (right half). Note that there are "hybrid"
copies
housed in the combination of the late-outer and early-
inner sleeves (but no alternative combination circulated).

Hunting the early U.S. pressings* of his fourth official album, released in June 1978, provides a unique opportunity for expanding your collection of Springsteen's vinyl albums relatively at low costs. In the spring of that year, the Pitman factory in NJ, one of the three vinyl-pressing plants Columbia Records owned (cf., the other two are located in  Santa Maria, CA, and Terre Haute, IN), ceased the operation temporarily due to labor disputes until right before the album release date (originally scheduled late May). Therefore, the company needed to take action to compensate for the anticipated shortage of the album supply in the East Coast area.

According to my survey results, at least five unusual pressing plants that would have otherwise never handled Columbia label's products got involved in the album production. These five were located in NY (three), PA (one), and IL (one). Consequently, the standard copies issued in 1978 display more variations in record label and dead-wax stamp/inscription than any other his albums released before or after, as featured in the blog series "DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN US LP variations." 

Eleven months ago, in the last post in this series (5/23/2021), I made a concise summary table for the run-off groove/matrix information of these vinyl pressings. This post mainly focuses on the label variations (thus far counting nine), as listed below in an order based on matrix codes on SIDE ONE (the current list starting from 1A to 1AG).

*The early U.S. pressings, as defined here, meet the following conditions:
   1.  Most, if not all, early copies in circulation came in the sleeve with no hype sticker (see 8/24/2020 and 8/29/2020) on the front, and the rear side features the large-letter tracklist and black-letter credits on the upper and lower of the left corners, respectively (see the photo images on the top right). Especially, I have never seen any copies pressed at five non-Columbia plants, which are housed in the small-letter tracklist sleeve.
   2.  The inner sleeve is thicker paper with higher resolution images than that for later pressings.
   3.  The main matrix numbers are hand-etched PAL-35318 and PBL-35318 on SIDE ONE and TWO, respectively.
   4.  Each side of a vinyl disc is stamped TML-M or TLM-S (meaning The Mastering Lab-Master or Slave lathe; see
3/18/2017) on the dead-wax space.


1. Santa Maria pressing

Location of pressing plant:
Santa Maria, California
Pressing plant owner: Columbia Records

Label printing and stamper ring
  (1) Rim-text color: orangish yellow**
  (2) Artist name/Album title: single line/single line
  (3) Stamper ring: single, large (Ø = 69 mm)

Deadwax stamp and inscription (straight, stamped; oblique, hand-etched)
  (1) Confirmed SIDE ONE/TWO matrix codes : 1A, 1B, 1C/2B, 2C
  (2) Plant-specific matrix code: 1S, 2S
  (3) Plant-specific matrix symbol: (none)

Note: Probably, the most abundant pressing before the Pitman plant resumed the operation on the right tracks upon resolving the labor issues on May 17th (cf., the DARKNESS album is released on June 2nd), and possibly even after that until 1981, when this West Coast facility shut down. The label image is taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers 1B/2B.

2. Terre Haute pressing

Location of pressing plant: Terre Haute, Indiana
Pressing plant owner: Columbia Records

Label printing and stamper ring
  (1) Rim-text color: bright yellow**
  (2) Artist name/Album title: single line/single line
  (3) Stamper ring: single, large (Ø = 69 mm)

Deadwax stamp and inscription (straight, stamped; oblique, hand-etched)
  (1) Confirmed SIDE ONE/TWO matrix codes : 1D, 1E, 1H/2E, 2H
  (2) Plant-specific matrix code: 1T, 2T
  (3) Plant-specific matrix symbol: (none)

Note: Indistinguishable from the Santa Maria pressings by label design and stamper ring, although, as an exception, I've once seen a 1T-etched disc with the Pitman label (Variant Two; see below). As far as I've seen, many of the white label promotional copies in circulation are from this pressing plant. The label image is taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers 1D/2E. Check also 12/30/2017.

3. Scranton pressing (also known as NAMI pressing)

Location of pressing plant:
Scranton, Pennsylvania
Pressing plant owner: North American Music Industries (NAMI)

Label printing and stamper ring
  (1) Rim-text color: bright yellow**
  (2) Artist name/Album title: single line/single line
  (3) Stamper ring: single, middle (Ø = 35 mm)

Deadwax stamp and inscription (straight, stamped; oblique, hand-etched)
  (1) Confirmed SIDE ONE/TWO matrix codes : 1G, 1H/2S, 2T
  (2) Plant-specific matrix code: PN
  (3) Plant-specific matrix symbol: (The U.S. Capitol building)

Note: Easily recognizable by the middle size-stamper ring that is unique to this pressing plant. Before NAMI, Capitol Records owned the Scranton plant, which explains why the American Capitol is symbolized and stamped on the dead wax (Capitol sold NAMI the pressing plant in 1973). The label image is taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers 1G/2S. Check also 3/21/2017.

4. Gloversville pressing

Location of pressing plant: Gloversville, New York
Pressing plant owner: MCA Records

Label printing and stamper ring
  (1) Rim-text color: bright yellow**
  (2) Artist name/Album title: single line/single line
  (3) Stamper ring: single, small (Ø = 25 mm)

Deadwax stamp and inscription (straight, stamped; oblique, hand-etched)
  (1) Confirmed SIDE ONE/TWO matrix codes : 1J, 1K/2Q, 2R
  (2) Plant-specific matrix code: PMN
  (3) Plant-specific matrix symbol: ⧈-G-⧈

Note: One of the two vinyl-pressing variants manufactured at MCA Records' plants located in NY and IL. Both share the small stamper ring and are distinguished by different letter fonts printed on the labels and unique matrix codes/symbols on the deadwax space. The label image is taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers 1J/2Q. Check also 7/29/2017.

5. Pinckneyville pressing

Location of pressing plant: Pinckneyville, Illinois
Pressing plant owner: MCA Records

Label printing and stamper ring
  (1) Rim-text color: bright yellow**
  (2) Artist name/Album title: single line/single line
  (3) Stamper ring: single, small (Ø = 25 mm)

Deadwax stamp and inscription (straight, stamped; oblique, hand-etched)
  (1) Confirmed SIDE ONE/TWO matrix codes : 1L/2N, 2P
  (2) Plant-specific matrix code: PMI
  (3) Plant-specific matrix symbol: ◈-P-◈

Note: Another pressing with the small stamper ring from the MCA Records' plant in IL. The Pinckneyville pressing adopts a different font from all the others for label lettering, representing the most distinguished among the DARKNESS labels. The label image is taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers 1L/2N. Check also 3/18/2017.

6. Hauppauge pressing (also known as Keel pressing)

Location of pressing plant: Hauppauge, New York
Pressing plant owner: Keel Manufacturing Corp.

Label printing and stamper ring
  (1) Rim-text color: bright yellow**
  (2) Artist name/Album title: single line/single line
  (3) Stamper ring: dual, large (Ø = 69 mm); very small (11 mm)

Deadwax stamp and inscription (straight, stamped; oblique, hand-etched)
  (1) Confirmed SIDE ONE/TWO matrix codes : 1AB/2K, 2W, 2X
  (2) Plant-specific matrix code: PK
  (3) Plant-specific matrix symbol: Union Jack flag

Note: By appearance, almost indistinguishable from the Santa Maria and Terre Haute pressings, except for a minor difference in the stamper ring, which is dual, consisting of the large and extremely small ones. The latter ring is found only on SIDE ONE but not on TWO. The Hauppauge/Keel discs are well-known for Union Jack symbol(s) etched in the run-off groove area. The label image is taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers 1AB/2K. Check also 6/30/2017 and 10/2/2017.

7. Holbrook pressing (also known as Goldisc pressing)

Location of pressing plant: Holbrook, New York
Pressing plant owner: Goldisc Recordings Products, Inc.

Label printing and stamper ring
  (1) Rim-text color: bright yellow**
  (2) Artist name/Album title: single line/single line
  (3) Stamper ring: single, large (Ø = 69 mm)

Deadwax stamp and inscription (straight, stamped; oblique, hand-etched)
  (1) Confirmed SIDE ONE/TWO matrix codes : 1AC/2J
  (2) Plant-specific matrix code: PV
  (3) Plant-specific matrix symbol: GOL

Note: Virtually identical looking to the record labels of Santa Maria and Terre Haute pressings and only distinguished from these copies by the presence of two hand-etched inscriptions, PV and GOL, on the dead wax. For this reason, the Holbrook/Goldisc pressings are not easy to identify and rather difficult to find. Check also 5/23/2021.

8. Pitman pressing  Variant One

Location of pressing plant: Pitman, New Jersey
Pressing plant owner: Columbia Records

Label printing and stamper ring
  (1) Rim-text color: bright yellow**
  (2) Artist name/Album title: Double line/Double line
  (3) Stamper ring: single, large (Ø = 69 mm)

Deadwax stamp and inscription (straight, stamped; oblique, hand-etched)
  (1) Confirmed SIDE ONE/TWO matrix codes : 1AD/2AA
  (2) Plant-specific matrix code: P
  (3) Plant-specific matrix symbol: (none)

Note: Most probably, the very first pressing at this NJ plant based on the matrix codes, and rarer than Variant Two (see below). Although the stamper ring is the commonly seen single large, Springsteen's name and the album title are printed differently on the labels in a double line each (cf., the later pressings change his name in a single line; see 3/4/2018). The label image is taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers 1AD/2AA. Check also 5/15/2021.

9. Pitman pressing  Variant Two

Location of pressing plant:
Pitman, New Jersey
Pressing plant owner: Columbia Records

Label printing and stamper ring
  (1) Rim-text color: bright yellow**
  (2) Artist name/Album title: Double line/Double line
  (3) Stamper ring: single, large (Ø = 69 mm)

Deadwax stamp and inscription (straight, stamped; oblique, hand-etched)
  (1) Confirmed SIDE ONE/TWO matrix codes : 1AF, 1AG/2AB, 2AC
  (2) Plant-specific matrix code: PPP
  (3) Plant-specific matrix symbol: (none)

Note: The major difference from the Variant One label is the spacing between the album title and tracklist, which is noticeably wider by about 10 mm. The label-design change is accompanied by alterations in the matrix numbers (i.e., the old one is scratched out on SIDE ONE) and plant-specific code (from one-letter stamp to triple-code hand-inscription). The reason for revising the label and matrix information is unknown. Some copies do not carry the plant-specific code PPP on SIDE ONE. The label image is taken from my personal copy with SIDE ONE/TWO matrix numbers 1AD 1AF/2AC. Check also 11/19/2018 and 5/15/2021.

**A first, I thought the rim-text color was specific to regional printing factories (accordingly, pressing plant-specific), but its tones can vary depending on the printing lot, so it may not be a good guide to distinguish these pressings.

This survey is, as always, still work-in-progress. There may be more label variations or exceptions. In addition, the matrix-number information must be fulfilled to represent comprehensive, thorough data collections. So, I welcome any addition, correction, question, or suggestion.

— To be continued to Notes on the late pressing labels.