Nov 11, 2017

Collecting log: GREETINGS US test pressing LP from the Pitman factory (and its comparison with Jim Cretecos's copy)

According to the labels on the wax, this copy is pressed at the Columbia Records' pressing plant in Pitman, N.J., and includes a stapled 10-page lyric sheet (the lyrics for Blinded By The Light are printed over 2 pages and the remaining eight songs on one page each). Inset, Each song is copyrighted by Sioux City Music Ltd., the music company derived from Laurel Canyon Ltd. (both run by Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos) that became the management-exclusive arm after separation of music division.
Original vinyl bootleg releases that feature early demo and studio
recordings as far back as the Steel Mill era. These titles were
already available by the early 1980's.
Springsteen has been a prolific music composer since his early career, as demonstrated by the existence of a number of recorded songs. Such early recordings mostly consist of solo acoustic performances recorded at home for song publishing purposes or at 914 Sound Studios in New York City for the debut and second albums, besides alternate takes or different mixes for the tracks that appear on the two albums. Small fractions of these have been released officially for the first time in TRACKS and recently in CHAPTER & VERSE. Surely way before these official releases, there were various vinyl and CD bootleg titles circulated (the most famous examples of which are a series of the PRODIGAL SON/BEFORE THE FAME CD releases).

BEFORE THE FAME was once officially released March 1998 in Japan
and several promotional items, such as the custom promo-only
CD and T-shirts, were distributed for the domestic market.
Surprisingly, a substantial number of such recordings, in the forms of reel tapes (21 items), acetates (10 items) and test pressing (1 item), are going to be sold at auction (currently previewed at the web site of Backstage Auctions, Inc.)*, together with associated paper documents such as copyright certificates for the nine songs on GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J. According to the web site, these recordings and paper goods come directly from the private collection of Jim Cretecos, then junior partner of Mike Appel in Laurel Canyon Limited, also known as then co-manager of Springsteen and co-producer credited on his first two albums, who has kept these collectibles in his possession for the past 45 years (i.e. 1972 to 2017). One amazing item (#1711; starting bid is $2500.00) among others is an early acetate disc for the first album that has a radically different track configuration containing the still-unreleased Visitation at Fort Horne, the final track on the acetate which is reportedly replaced in favor of It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City on the released album.
*It seems that the auction ended on November 12th, the next day this blog article was posted.

Due to a high starting bid set for each, obviously there is no chance for me to participate in any of the listed items. There is only one collectible listed on the auction that I own: a test pressing copy for the GREETINGS ... album (item #1713 on the above-mentioned auction site). I obtained this test pressing from a U.S. seller through eBay at its very early days in the late 1990's (By the way, having searched for the user ID, I found that he's still an active Florida-based seller). As shown at the top of this page, the disc comes in a white plain sleeve and carries white Pitman test pressing labels on both sides just like those for the BORN TO RUN script cover pressing, which represents a typical figure as a US Columbia Records' test pressing issued in the 1970's.

Comparison of the matrix numbers between the two GREETINGS test pressings.
Left, from Jim Cretecos collection (smaller images);
, from my collection (larger images).
Acetate and test pressing discs are a major victim of counterfeit activity among highly valued music collectibles. Although I was mostly convinced of the authenticity of the copy through the communications with the seller, still I had a little uncertainty as to the suffix codes for the matrix numbers, P AL 31903-1D on Side 1 and P BL 31903-2C Side 2, which seemed not to be old enough to be a test pressing (more specifically, I was expecting the matrix number suffices like -1A/-2A for this copy although -1D/-2C might also indicate an early pressing).

The web page of Backstage Auctions displays very clear images for individual auctioned items**. So, I came up with an idea to confirm the authenticity of my copy using Cretecos's disc as a reference because it must be genuine directly taken from the collection of one of the two ex-managers/producers of the artist. I thought it would be possible to know the matrix numbers of the auctioned test pressing from its JPEG images shown on the auction site. In fact, the matrix numbers were totally invisible on the black dead wax in the downloaded pictures. By adjusting tone parameter on Photoshop, however, the machine-stamped numbers emerged successfully, which turned out to be identical to those of the disc in my possession, as shown above. This was a small but long-time potentially critical issue for me regarding the highly valuable collectible in my collection, and I am now happy to have solved it. Finally, I almost forgot to mention that my copy is accompanied with a stapled lyric sheet for all the nine songs on the album, which is apparently missing in the auctioned one. So, is my copy valued more than the minimum bit ($750.00) set for Cretecos's copy?
**Upon the end of the auctions, all item descriptions and images were once removed from the web site, but are currently shown again with the results ("Sold" or "Not For Sale"; as of Nov. 15th, AM 8:30, local time in Tokyo).

Oct 2, 2017

DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN US LP variations: Supplementary Note to Hauppauge pressing (Pressing Plant run by Keel Mfg. Corp.)

Composite image from the actual auction page
(originally shown as three separated images)
This short post is just following up on early U.S. copies of the DARKNESS LP (JC 35318) that are pressed at the Keel manufacturing factory, located in Hauppauge, New York. Two months ago, I won a domestic auction of vinyl collection sold as "junk records," consisting of early six LP titles (five official and one bootleg albums; total eight discs). Although the seller did not provide any information on these records, especially on the official releases such as countries of origin, I was tempted to join the auction (and did so) because I knew that this kind of auction would usually not cost high (It actually cost me 300 JPY per disc, which exceeded a little bit my expectation, though). Another reason was that this volume contained one of the all-time classic bootlegs with an original orange slick insert. Finally, in a small picture displayed on the auction page, I spotted a gold stamp on the upper left corner of the rear sleeve of DARKNESS. Normally, it would be a "promo" stamp but I just couldn't read what was stamped exactly. Having received these records, I found that all but BORN TO RUN (which was a Japanese reissue missing an obi) were U.S. pressings, with DARKNESS originating from the Keel plant. The remaining were second pressing copies for GREETINGS ... in the postcard gate-fold sleeve (PC 31903) and THE WILD ... with the yellow/cream cover title (PC 32432), and an original THE RIVER from the Pitman factory (PC 36854).

Unique outline words found on the dead wax: "ONE" on SIDE 1 (left) and "THREE" on SIDE 2 (right)
A gold stamp on the rear sleeve turned out to be
"For Governmental Sale Only"
As shown previously, vinyl DARKNESS discs pressed at this Long Island-based factory are distinguished from the other pressings by a dead-wax stamp of the UK Union Jack flag on both sides. In addition to this, my first Keel copy carries another unique marking which depicts an outline word "ONE" on the run-off groove area of Side 2 (There's no outline words on Side 1). The copy included in this auction lot adds a variety to this outline character, showing "THREE" on Side 2 instead of "ONE" which appears on Side 1 of this disc. The exact matrix inscriptions can be read as follows (hand-etched, oblique; stamped, straight; ∋∈, Union Jack stamp):

  • Side 1:  A    ONE      ∋∈    PAL-35318-1AB  PK           TML-S
  • Side 2:  THREE   C   ∋∈    PBL-35318-2K   PK            TML-M

Although what is meant by these outline words remains unknown to me, they are almost probably unique to Keel pressings together with the UK flag stamp, as I have never seen such matrix characters on any copies of the U.S. DARKNESS album from other pressing plants.

Sep 24, 2017

Thoughts on My Father's House on NEBRASKA LP (addendum)

About a year ago, I wrote my thoughts on a longer, alternate version of My Father's House in four consecutive posts (here to here). On this subject, I had, and still have, one trivial question to be answered: Which version, standard or alternate, was originally included on the cassette tape (CBS/SONY 25KP 868) released in Japan?  Commercially, the alternate version first appeared in 1985 on the Japan-pressed copies of NEBRASKA CD,
  Various Japanese releases of NEBRASKA and an official poster
distributed for the
promotion in 1982.
including those exported to the U.S. and Europe where they were manufactured as the first edition. According to the Brucebase website, this was because the U.S. Columbia Records have mistakenly sent the different master tapes (pseudo-stereo mix) to CBS/SONY for pressing CD in Japan. So, logically, the version on the cassette, which is released in 1982, must be the standard, shorter take without a synth code, just like that on the vinyl album. So, why I got to think about this?

Years ago long before starting this blog, I noticed the following interesting posts concerning the take on the Japanese cassette, which are still readable in a Steve Hoffman Music Forums' thread that has been initiated in 2004 (Does my Springsteen Nebraska CD have the long version of "My Father's House"? ; here). In this thread, someone made an inquiry post (found as post #14) as follows:

    This thread forced me to play my 2 copies of Nebraska, my original 1982 JPN. vinyl press and my
    1999 JPN. paper sleeve CD. Neither has the long version of MFH. 
    Would ANY original vinyl have this long version?
    Would the JPN. orig. CD have the long version?
    Would the US orig. CD (made in Japan?) have the long version?

Then, there was a response by someone to the above (post #16):

    1: No. It only came out on a Japanese promo cassette. (the underline made by this blogger)
    2: Yes
    3: Yes

This reminded me of those old days of air-checking
FM-radio program back in high school.
The responder responded to the inquiry post confidently, and based on his other posts on the thread, seemed to be very knowledgeable about these stuff (and so what he said seemed believable). This has made me try to seek and examine the promo cassette version of the track. So far, I haven't got the answer yet. This is simply because I have not been able to locate the promo version of the cassette which must be extremely rare even if it existed (The oldest promo cassette in my collection is for BORN IN THE U.S.A.; see here). OK, then what about the regular commercial version of the cassette?  I own few of regular cassette releases for Springsteen titles, and recently obtained a worn-looking used copy at 300 JPY. Fortunately, the 35-year-old tape was not worn or damaged, replayed well on my equally old Nakamichi deck (a low-end model, BX-2, also released in 1982), and sounded still excellent. However, what I heard was exactly the same as the standard take, although on this occasion I enjoyed listening to the whole album in a long autumn night.