May 21, 2017

BORN TO RUN US pressing LP variants: Clarifying pressing plant-specific matrix number suffixes 1A, 1B, and 1C

This post represents the 100th upload on this blog in two years and eight months of sharing my views and thoughts on what I have collected over the years, mainly focusing on vinyl collectibles of both official and bootleg records (but I haven't written about what I don't own - that's my policy). It is remarkable to me (as non-native) that I still continue and enjoy writing. Here I take this opportunity to thank all of you who have read and commented to this blog and those who have sent me private messages for whatever reasons.

Among 99 blog posts published before this one, the following are five of the most popular posts, according to the cumulative access number of visitors during the entire period starting from September 2014. The ranking results have revealed readers' view of what the general interests are.
  1.  BORN TO RUN US pressing LP variants: the script cover (posted January 25, 2015)
  2.  Classic Vinyl Bootleg Revisited: FIRE ON THE FINGERTIPS (posted October 24, 2014)
  3.  Classic Vinyl Bootleg Revisited: THIS GUNS FOR HIRE 5LP box (posted April 23, 2016
  4.  Classic Vinyl Bootleg Revisited: TEARDROPS ON THE CITY 3LP (posted February 15, 2015)
  5.  Classic Vinyl Bootleg Revisited: "E" TICKET (posted October 12, 2014)
It was somewhat a surprise to me that posts on old vinyl bootleg are way prevailing, occupying four positions in the top 5 list, even though the subject is admittedly one of the major features here. Probably, this ranking also reflects the interest and concerns of repeated visitors, since such visitors must have contributed to the increases in access numbers for certain specific topics they care about. It is noteworthy to mention that, on the third-ranked post (the most recent among those on the list), several comments provided by a knowledgeable visitor, who confessed that he/she knew who made a bootleg of the post's subject, have attracted a great deal of interest from blog readers. On a country-by-country basis, this blog is most frequently accessed from the United States, followed by Italy, England, France, and Spain. As expected, the access number from Japan is quite low until now, presumably because the native language is not used here, which I believe certainly decreases the chances of exposure to domestic collectors here.
The matrix number on Side A of the famous test pressing disc.
Inset image shows the enlarged "P" stamp which is a definitive
proof for
Pitman pressing copies (also found on Side B).
Despite high popularity on bootleg-related topics, the blog post ranked first is on the official release subject: the BORN TO RUN Script Cover LP. For the result, no comment needed, I think. Since I started writing about this masterpiece LP, not only that particular post, but also the other relevant posts such as those on the white label promo copies, have been ranked high in this blog. Having reviewed back a series of posts titled "BORN TO RUN US pressing LP variants," I found one thing that remains to be defined clearly: the relationship between matrix numbers and three major pressing plants (Pitman, New Jersey; Terre Haute, Indiana; and Santa Maria, California) back then used by the US Columbia Records for manufacturing this LP. So, on this occasion, I attempt to clarify and summarize this point.

As already known widely, and shown here previously, P AL-33795 and P BL-33795 are the matrix numbers hand-etched on Side A and B, respectively, for early US copies including the Script Cover pressing. These vinyl discs show variation in the suffix code that is either one of 1A, 1B or 1C, and there may be additional markings such as T1 and 1S on the dead wax space.

The matrix number on Side B of a white label promotional copy
 pressed at
Pitman. Inset shows the enlarged "P" stamp which is
also visible on Side A as shown in the above image of the test press.
P AL-33795-1A / P BL-33795-1A 
The suffix 1A is found in the matrix numbers for the famous Script Cover test pressing. This instantly means that "-1A" vinyl discs are pressed at the Pitman plant, because this pressing plant is mentioned on the white test-pressing labels (as "COLUMBIA RECORDS PITMAN, NEW JERSEY"; see here for the image). However, both promotional white and regular red COLUMBIA labels do not print any indications as to where a disc was pressed. The direct proof for the Pitman-pressing copies for BORN TO RUN LP is a small letter "P" that is stamped on both sides of the deadwax. This letter is often so faintly stamped that one may not recognize it easily on these vinyl copies. It does nonetheless occur on the deadwax if a given disc truly originates as the first press from the factory located in the Garden State. Note that not all vinyl discs pressed at the Pitman plant carry the "P" stamp (it depends on in what year a disc was pressed). By the way, "P" in "P AL" and "P BL" has nothing to do with Pitman, but refers to regular popular releases (and corresponding white label copies) from this record label.

The matrix number on Side A of a regular red-labeled copy that
originates from the
Terre Haute pressing plant, as indicated by 
the "T \"  hand-etching.

P AL-33795-1B / P BL-33795-1B
To my knowledge, the suffix 1B is always coupled with another hand-written mark "T1" or "T\", which precedes the matrix number on each side of the deadwax and refers to the Terre Haute pressing plant. I have white label promo and red label regular copies both of which show a combination of T1 and 1B hand-etched markings.

The matrix number on Side B of a white label promotional copy
pressed at the
Santa Maria factory, with the "1 S"  handwriting.
P AL-33795-1C / P BL-33795-1C
Finally, the suffix 1C comes with a scratchy handwriting "S1" that is backwards on the deadwax. As already mentioned here, this matrix etching specifies vinyl copies that were pressed at the Santa Maria plant. Although I have only white label copies for this West Coast pressing and don't own the regular copy, I am almost certain the association between "S1"  and "1C".

Finally, the major aspects of matrix numbers for early US pressings of BORN TO RUN LP are summarized as follows (hand-etched, oblique; stamped, straight):
  • Pitman              P    P AL-33795-1A      MCRI   /      P    P BL-33795-1A      MCR
  • Terre Haute   T \    P AL-33795-1B      MCRII   /   T \    P BL-33795-1B     
  • Santa Maria    1 S    P AL-33795-1C      MCRIII  /   1 S    P BL-33795-1C      MCR
My conclusions are that: (1) the number given to the suffices ("1" of "1A", "1B" and "1C") denotes the first stampers used for vinyl pressing; and (2) the letters indicate where a given vinyl was pressed (A, Pitman; B, Terre Haute; C, Santa Maria) but not specify the generation of pressing (i.e. 1st, 2nd, and so on). Thus, any vinyl disc with either of the three suffices is regarded as the first pressing, or to have been pressed with stampers made from the very first lacquer originally provided to each pressing plant. For MCR (Master Cutting Room) hand-etchings, refer to the previous posts (this and subsequent two). Note that each of the roman-number subscript given to this mark also seems to be specific to pressing plant (I, Pitman; II, Terre Haute; III, Santa Maria). Curiously, my Terre Haute copies do not have an MCR mark on the B-side dead wax.

May 19, 2017

HUMAN TOUCH / LUCKY TOWN Japanese collectibles (not vinyl): On the 25th anniversary of the twin album releases (continued)

Text-only sleeve is often used for advanced promo releases especially in the
regions outside the U.S., like Japan, as any picture material is not
available or 
not allowed to be used when discs are ready for distribution. A combination
of two small Kanji characters in a parenthesis means "planned" or "scheduled."
The second selection from what I consider Top 3 Japanese rarities from HUMAN TOUCH and LUCKY TOWN is probably the rarest and most sought after among all the Springsteen's 3" CDs. The Boss Is Back!!: Human Touch c/w Better Days (SONY XDEP 93043) is an advanced promotion-only single release for distribution to radio stations and music critics/reviewers before it is available for regular sale in Japan on March 19, 1992. For this reason, and owing to the unique, now defunct disc format and custom-designed black & red title sleeve, this CD has become highly demanded by collectors all over the world. Back in 1992, the Backstreets magazine was (at least to me) the primary media source for collector's items, but missed to mention this "Mega Rare" promo disc on any of the issues (#39 to #44) that cover the releases of the twin albums and associated singles, and the US/Europe promotion tour during 1992-1993. This was probably because of the limited quantities released exclusive to a Far East country. Curiously, despite its rarity and popularity, this item is undervalued and placed outside the Top 40 Worldwide Springsteen Rarities that is featured in the number 329 issue (November 2006) of the Record Collector magazine (although, of course, it is fascinating and quite a useful guide to the subject and I do appreciate the effort put out by the authors).

The advanced promo is completely different looking from the regular snap pack release. When triple-folded, the accompanying lyric/information sheet, that is missing from most of the circulating copies, becomes almost identical in size to a slimline jewel case, which still is not small enough to set it inside the plastic case. 
Wherever found in collectors' market or at auction, circulating copies are rare enough; generally, such copies are housed in a 5" plastic jewel case with the aforementioned sleeve insert. Even rarer, however, are those coming with a lyric/information sheet; the CD is originally accompanied with a triple-folded, pale yellow/dark indigo paper that is lost from most copies in circulation. The fact had remained unknown even to veteran collectors until recently when I posted this somewhere on collectors' forum some four years ago (which drew the notice of the Lost In The Flood website eventually to update the relevant information there). I don't know whether all the individual copies came with this extra sheet or only the small number of copies did so. In my opinion, the former is more likely the case because originally the CD must have been issued in a small limited run of probably at most 100 pressings. Luckily, early in its release year (1992), I was able to obtain one copy, then another one a couple of years later, both in the intact form with the sleeve and folded sheet.
A long outdated format. Left, promo-only release; right, commercial release. In contrast to packaging, both CDs share essentially the same writing except for catalog number, playing time and promo notification. 
Then, you may wonder why most of the copies lose this paper sheet. The size of the sheet measures approximately 12.4 cm x 42.2 cm, which even in a tri-folded state, hardly fits inside the slimline jewel case. So, as you can see in a photo image above, each sheet included in my copies
has been further folded in order, probably,
Hand-written on the promo sheet is the catalog number for the regular
3" CD single (SONY SRDS-8226) as printed on the flip side of the snap
pack sleeve in white background.
to try to put it inside the case. I guess because of this inconvenience, most of this sheet were thrown away at radio stations or kept separately from the jewel case holding the CD. It features the lyrics of the two tracks in both English and Japanese translation, the track list and credits for each album with the front sleeve picture, and a live shot from the 1984-85 tour. There are four short notes in Japanese regarding the forthcoming tour, which were unconfirmed leads back then and have turned out to be mostly incorrect, as translated below:
  • Showcase live is planned in Europe around May.
  • The tour would begin this summer in the U.S. and then Europe.
  • Rumors have it that there would be a major concert in Central Park.
  • The Japan concerts are also planned, possibly the next year or thereafter.

Nowadays, the copies with this folded sheet is quite difficult to find even here. I have not seen for long either complete copy or that missing the sheet in the domestic market and auction.

May 14, 2017

HUMAN TOUCH / LUCKY TOWN Japanese collectibles (not vinyl): On the 25th anniversary of the twin album releases

This year marks the 25th anniversary of HUMAN TOUCH and LUCKY TOWN that are simultaneously released here in Japan on April 8th, 1992 (about a week behind the US release date). I remember that his new moves (recording without the E Street Band and touring with "the other" band) were highly criticized by many, especially by those who saw themselves as old-guard and long-time fans. In this regard, I was rather in a minority because several of the performances they played during 1992-1993 were (and still are) my favorites, that included uptempo rocking Atlantic City (as mentioned before), the 1992 version of If I Should Fall Behind performed in the original folk-rock arrangement, and the 1993 rendition of Lucky Town with the extended guitar outro. Moreover, I was in the audience at the Madison Square Garden show on June 26th 1993, one of the two benefit concerts to conclude the HT/LT tour along with the Meadowlands show, which makes these albums something special to me. I well remember a spontaneous audience sing-along on Bobby Jean without Bruce's vocal when he failed to grip and dropped a handheld microphone shortly after singing the first line of this penultimate encore song. Having recognized the audience singing, he did not resume singing immediately and let the audience sing further for the whole first verse, a memorable incident of the night. The MSG concert is also known for another incident: Terence Trent D'Arby as one of the special guests got booed by a certain fraction of the audience against whom Bruce expressed his fury.

HUMAN TOUCH/LUCKY TOWN for the first time deliver a variety of promo-only and
limited edition CD albums of Springsteen, as noted in the text, including the
wooden casket set (before these, there was only one compilation promo CD entitled
THE FUTURE OF ROCK'N ROLL released in Japan). The bottom two are impossibly rare
regular 1999 paper sleeve copies (SONY JAPAN SRCS 9472 and 9473).
Back in the early 1990's, compact discs already became the standard medium for distributing music, which led to the release of various promotion-only CDs (pressed, not burned CD-Rs frequently used with the release of TRACKS and thereafter). As far as the album format is concerned, the U.K., Sweden (two issues), Canada and Japan have released their own versions of greatest-hit type, promo-only CD compilations that differ one another in track listing and sleeve design. Moreover, 2,000 copies of the regular twin CDs are numbered and housed in a special wooden case to issue the promo-only package in European countries. The limited picture CD editions are also available commercially in the U.K.
Still, despite the rise of CD releases, LP, 12" and 7" discs continue to be manufactured in the U.S. and Europe. Sony Japan, however, has stopped pressing Springsteen's vinyls in any formats since the release of the 1992 twin albums. TUNNEL OF LOVE LP and One Step Up 7" single are his last vinyl discs pressed here, and disappointedly, the Japanese vinyl edition of CHAPTER & VERSE released late last year uses the European pressing and package as reported previously. So, my focus on Japanese rare collectibles from these albums are mostly limited to custom promo-only CD and cassette tape releases.

Mine is still sealed, wrapped with polyethylene plastic that becomes tightly shrunk now.
The labels on the cassette is orange-colored, just like those of the promo-only LIVE cassette.
Released in 1992, A WHOLE BUNCH OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (SONY XCTS 92005) is one of my three selections on Japanese rare collectibles from this era (I don't include hastily withdrawn, regular CD copies for the 1999 miniature LP paper sleeve series because the two CDs are reissues but not released in 1992-1993). If my memory is correct, CBS/SONY, and SONY after taking over Columbia Records, had continued to issue promotional album cassettes until the release of DEVIL & DUST in 2005, containing an identical set of tracks from each album and usually with simplified text-only paper sleeves, although some titles come in an ordinary plastic holder like multi-disc albums such as TRACKS and LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY. To my knowledge, however, only a few are made of custom promo-only cassettes in Japan up to 2005.

The folded insert has one side for track listing and discography, and the other for
biography and a liner note by a music critic who also pens that of
(not from my copy as it is sealed; the image quality is not good)
This 12-track cassette tape is certainly pale in comparison to another custom promo-only THE "LIVE": The Legend Comes Alive cassette, at least in terms of its appearance. However, this item might appeal to collectors for some points, such as the unique track listing (different from that of the self-titled Japanese promo-only CD compilation [SONY XDDP 93084] as seen in an above image) and packaging (though a rather simple paper holder sleeve), and an accompanying folded, two-sided insert. In addition, it's a rare Japanese release. I had not seen this promo cassette for years in the domestic market, until last March's Yahoo! JAPAN auction for which someone put up a sealed copy. Beginning with a starting bid of 5,000 JPY, the auction ended by the winning bid that fetched 20,500 JPY (= an approximate US $180 with the exchange rate as of today) with a cumulative bid of nine.