Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland – Exposing The “Blue Type” Hype

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Since the advent of eBay, sellers have been hyping UK versions of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland with blue type and larger photos of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell as “true first pressings.”  We have long disputed this claim, and now we have evidence to refute it.  For those obsessed with minutiae like this, read on.  For the rest of you, we’d suggest listening to this album—Hendrix’s masterpiece—instead.

When “Electric Ladyland” was released, Jimi Hendrix was an international superstar, and the album sold huge quantities from the outset– yet there are very few examples with blue type.  If these were first pressings, logic would dictate there would be far more blue type copies than ones with white type.

Furthermore, I’m lucky enough to own part of Jimi Hendrix’s personal record collection, including his own copy of Electric Ladyland (sold at auction by his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham.) It’s not much of a leap to assume that Jimi’s copy would be a first pressing, yet it has the white type.

The streaky blue type on the covers in question is actually a result of a printing error—it’s made up of two shades of blue, a whitish-blue and a solid blue. This is the result of what’s called a “stripping error.” Without getting too technical, printing a full color image uses a process called “four color process printing,” which creates a color image by combining tiny dots of four different color inks. When the dots don’t line up perfectly, you get an error such as the streaky printing here. An imperfect print job like this would never have been approved and would surely have been corrected immediately (as former creative director at two major labels, I have first hand experience with this.)

Electric Ladyland  was originally issued in the UK as a double album and on two individual discs, Part 1 and Part 2.  The back cover of Part 2 has similar larger photos of Mitch and Noel and a solid blue type—strongly suggesting the error originated with confusion between this and the double album’s gatefold.

Now comes the interesting part.  Last month’s Record Collector magazine featured an interview with Edwin Pouncey, the English music journalist and artist also known as Savage Pencil.  Pouncey, an occasional Recordmecca client, mentioned buying Electric Ladyland on the day of release—so we contacted him to find out what color the type was on his copy, indisputably a first pressing.

He replied “Regarding my copy of Electric Ladyland. As I wrote in the RC article, I had ordered my copy in advance and it was bought on the day of release. The writing inside this copy (that I still have) is white with the two small photos of Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding underneath the larger photo of Hendrix – which in my copy is positioned on the left hand side of the gatefold cover. Until a few years ago I didn’t know that the blue text version existed.

Here’s something else to muddy the water still further.  A local record dealer I know once told me that he too bought a white text version on the day of release. In the shop that he bought his copy there were several empty blue text/large photo sleeves in the window. When he asked why the covers were slightly different, the shop owner replied that they had been supplied by the record company for promotional purposes. He asked if he could have one when the display came down, and the shop owner happily agreed. Unfortunately, through the passage of time, he has since lost this “promotional” sleeve, but it is an interesting story.

I also couldn’t help noticing that the UK single LP edition of EL2 is a version of the blue text inner gatefold.  The tale about the record shop does suggest that the blue cover/larger band member photos version was a printing error and that Track were giving them out as publicity items to get rid of them.”

Pouncey’s account leaves little doubt that the white type version was the original first pressing—sold on the day of release—and highly suggests, as we have long maintained, that the blue type is nothing more than an unintentional printing error.

There are many examples of insignificant printing variations or errors being hyped on eBay as true first pressings to boost the price—such as the ridiculous Sgt. Peppers “Fourth Proof” cover.  We’re happy to debunk one here.  If you want a true first pressing of Electric Ladyland, get one with white type.  And enjoy one of the greatest albums ever made.

-Jeff Gold

And by the way, have you noticed that “Electric Ladyland” has the word “Dylan” in it ?  Jimi certainly idolized him.

 

Comments

Dear Mr Gold
I read your article with interest, as I own a ‘blue text’ version which has been with me since release. You did not go into great detail in relating this auto-coupled release’s mysterious matrix corrections, which appear to strongly relate to both disc-side and the potentially original track-listing. You may wish to take a magnifying glass to an original press blue text copy. What you believe to be a registration error, with the cyan ‘out of whack’ (I was a visualizer, art director & creative director in my time) is in fact an attempt to overprint a previous track-list. For example: “3. Come on/ 4. Gypsy Eyes… etc.” can be seen through the black as a ‘ghost image’ beginning just above the (now blue) “Produced and… etc”. It is usual in the 4-colour process to run color under black, else it becomes ‘graphite’ in intensity. The ‘text ghosting’ can be seen in the overprint of black as a paler black.

Imperfection abounds on this Track Record version cover, which was pushing the ‘technology boundaries’ at that time. The hi-lux laminate does not fit the inner or outer cover, leaving expanses of un-laminated sleeve. The spine thickness was inadequate, resulting in the laminate ‘bubbling’ even by the 2nd opening of the sleeve and often before purchase. Also, as a 2-part sleeve with internal glue-tabs on the front spread, the gluing-in of the inner spread was much ‘to chance’. When opened, the Hendrix portrait is usually to the right on blue copies. However, inadvertent rotation of the inner spread when gluing can result in the portrait on the left. This, of course, generally goes unnoticed as the inner spread needs viewing vertically rather than horizontally – and there’s an ‘opening’ at both ends anyway! Incidentally, Mr Pouncey states for your article that he has a ‘left-hander’, whilst my blue copy is a usual ‘right-hander’.

To add ‘interest’, there are 2 versions of ‘blue text’ issues; (Both with the print credit to the left) One with all the text & logo blue, the second with the track-list blue and print credit & logo in white. There are then 2 further versions of the sleeve, one a Track Record with white text, now with a centered print credit & reduced images of Redding & Mitchell. The other is the same, but has the Track logo replaced by that of Polydor and is the most common of the UK releases.

As you have not mentioned the differences that also exist in the auto-coupled disc labels I shall put those to one side for now. Meanwhile, as you postulated that it was ‘unlikely’ that Hendrix would be provided with a non ’1st issue’, is it not also just as likely that the manufacturer was loathe to give the client himself a duff sleeve? Those errors and quality must have caused the Ernest J. Day Company some short-term embarrassment. Yes, it’s likely that – having solved the cover problem prior to release and shifting a truckload or two of the ‘blue ‘uns’ in the meantime – they off-loaded the duff stock as ‘window display & POS’ goodies. But, now I’m postulating too and remain unconvinced of your ‘exposure’.

Thanks for your comments Bob. In brief, as my blog is a general record and memorabilia collecting one, I didn’t want to cause too many readers to tune out with trainspotting details about the coupling, matrix numbers, inverted catalog numbers, cover and label variants, etc–all of which I’m very familiar with (having seriously collecting Hendrix since ’71.) My main point was that many dealers were engaging in fantasy (or ripping people off) by claiming that the blue text was the first pressing and the white text the second pressing–and that the blue text is nothing more than a printing error. Enough said; thanks for weighing in.

Appreciate your need not to be too ‘geeky’, but I think I should really stress that it’s not exactly a ‘printing error’, but an intentional resolution to a pre-release problem. (i.e. Not like a simple ‘out of register’ cover print, which I’ve seen folk try to sell for megabucks and is just ‘par for the course’ in print – although it shouldn’t really escape QC at the printers).

The ‘blue text’ versions are a printing solution to the fact that the track listing was printed in a different order prior to release. If left unaltered the album would have begun with “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” (aka the D-side) etc. This adroit ‘about face’ of the listing thus relates to the need for the disc run-out matrices to have been amended by hand. Just hold a genuine ‘blue text’ sleeve up to the light and you can clearly see what was underneath. The blue text and those matrices are thus synonymous, thus placing some greater value on the issue rather than the reissue with white text.

Yes – A blue text sleeve has 1st presses and a white text sleeve (ergo, later issue) can have first presses, but then we start to enter the world of potential ‘reissue’ – especially when one begins to also examine the label text layouts of aforesaid versions. It’s clearly not the blue text sleeve that’s the crux of the matter, but what is inside an EL sleeve. Perhaps ‘Exposing the EL “First Press” hype’ would have been more accurate?

On a slightly different note regarding print errors, how often I see CD issues of old auto-coupled LPs, where the art director (or printer) has unwittingly transcribed the track order from A,D & B,C as an A,B, C, D tracklist.

I was delighted to find this article regarding the myth of the earliest pressings of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Electric Ladyland’ album being only those with the ‘blue type’ on the inner gatefold cover.

I’ve read this being constantly regurgitated on Ebay and have long been absolutely certain that this was untrue, because my copy has the white type and has the smaller pictures of Mitch and Noel…and was the personal copy of David Ruffell – Who?

David Ruffell was my first cousin and he was the Publicity/PR Executive at Track records at the time. It was him who wrote the pre- launch press releases to all the music press, TV and radio stations, journalists etc. before the records were even in the shops, not only for Jimi Hendrix but also for The Who, T Rex, Joe Cocker, and Marsha Hunt (who he also managed and was her personal adviser).

He gave his copy of Electric Ladyland to me as he did with many albums after he’d finished writing the press releases. Mine has all the well documented corrections and crossings out on the matrices plus the upside down text on the labels etc. that identify it as a first pressing, and on the inside of the gatefold cover…WHITE TYPE!

I would deduce that a copy used to write the press publicity before it even went on sale was likely to be one of the very first produced, wouldn’t you? Just to illustrate how early David received stuff from the artistes on the label, he used to get demos of songs even before they went into the studio…he gave me a lot of Pete Townsend’s home demos on tape.

David Ruffell is mentioned and quoted in Andrew Motion’s excellent 1986 book: The Lamberts, George, Constant and Kit, and also “The Complete Chronicle of The Who” by Andrew Neill, Mathew Kent, Roger Daltrey & Chris Stamp.

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