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.
And by the way, have you noticed that “Electric Ladyland” has the word “Dylan” in it ? Jimi certainly idolized him.
From reader Warren Wilson, June 2016: I just wanted to add a little curio here that might be connected somehow – I actually own a ‘Blue Text’ version of The Who’s ‘Tommy’ on the Track label. It’s the first press with laminated sleeve etc but the writing on the rear of the sleeve, which is usually white, has been corrupted with blue. The effect is not quite the same as on EL though because the print is much smaller, resulting in it just being difficult to read ( with the black background) but it’s essentially the same type of printing error.
Fascinating Warren, especially as the Track catalog numbers from Electric Ladyland and Tommy are only 5 apart, and the Tommy was released about six months after Electric Ladyland. Below is a cell phone photo Warren sent of his album; clearly it has the same kind of printing error as the blue Electric Ladyland copies. Clearly the printers were having problems!