Blue Note Flat Edge: All You Need To Know

We have the full, complete, unassailable answer to all questions about Blue Note and the flat edge, thanks to the Blue Note expert Larry Cohn and Don-Lucky for reaching out to Larry. We will also be posting Larry’s comments on the deep groove as well. Here’s the information on the flat edge:

“Here’s some information on the Edges/Rims. The change from Flat Rim (aka Flat Edge) to Safety Lip occurred in 1957. It was in response to new industry standards, occasioned by the popularity of automatic changers, whereby disks were routinely stacked and would fall on each other, the way we recall handling 45rpm disks. To lessen the damage to the LPs, the Safety Lip, also called a Groove Guard by one of the companies, was created at the edge of each side of the disk to keep the actual surfaces of the two disks from touching each other when they came into horizontal contact. It also protected the needle, since

on a flat edge disk the needle can slip off the edge and drop down, hitting the platen when it is in Automatic turntable mode (you have to be a clutz to do this placing the needle at the beginning of the record manually!).

For Blue Note the changeover occurred during the 63rd NEW YORK 23 label era. ALL of the original Lexington releases were flat edge, both for the 1500 and the 1200 series, but the latter 63rd NEW YORK 23 albums were pressed and released after the switch to Safety Lip stampers, so they only exist in that format. I will get to the catalogue numbers in a minute.

What I discovered in my research was a very significant fact (which can be quickly verified by any collector by checking his collection of 1955-1958 era Blue Notes): The stamper itself causes the flat edge to occur on a disk, and likewise the Safety Lip, not some attachment or function of the press. So when Blue Note switched to Safety Lips they had to create all new stampers – both for repressing/reissues and for new releases. My ‘eureka’ moment for discovering this is when I compared the Runoff vinyl identification for each disk and found that NO flat edge Blue Note bears the same Runoff id of its stamper (namely the unique shape and positioning of the stamper’s inscribed P (for Plastylite) as a safety lip Blue Note of the same title! They are always different – new stampers had to be ordered for any safety lip pressing.

The catch is that the Old Stampers (flat rim stampers) for various titles were not thrown away immediately, but retained for a few months –then all were discarded. I ascertained this by correlating the various characteristics for each title to see what exists and what never existed, e.g., there is no such thing as a Blue Note flat edge disk with an R or INC on the label (characteristics introduced in 1959 after the label incorporated). Stereo was not introduced until 1959 so by definition no flat edge stereos exist at all. But within the mono sphere, it is impossible to find a NEW YORK USA disk with flat edge, or an INC 63rd NYC inscribed label with flat edge.

The timing of the changeover is (approximately) as follows:

(1) November 1955: 12” LPs were introduced by BN, using the old 767 Lexington Ave. blank foreground labels previously used for 10” LPs. All pressings flat edge. No more 10” LPs in the U.S., although later reissues in that obsolete format for European sales were made.

(2) January 1957: 63rd NEW YORK 23 labels were first printed, and flat edge disks pressed with them.  Already preprinted Lexington labels (for previously released older titles) were kept in stock and available for 2nd pressings –retained indefinitely (Lexington labels appear even on some Liberty (no P) pressings 10 years after being printed for this reason).

(3) July 1957: Safety Lip stampers created, first used for the release of BLP 1562 (Horace) and BLP 1561 (Sabu). That same month the previously manufactured Lee Morgan 1557 was also released to the stores but it was still FLAT RIM, the final  flat disk issued by Blue Note.

(4) August 1957: The newly redesigned labels, inscribed 63rd NYC, are introduced, first used for the release of Curtis Fuller 1567. As in #3 above, there was a coexistence with the old 63rd NEW YORK 23 label based on when a title was PREPARED for release as opposed to its ACTUAL debut in the stores. NO 63rd NYC label was ever used for a flat edge first pressing, though many show up on flat edge 2nd pressings.

(5) By mid-1958: No more flat edge disks were pressed, even for reissues/late pressings. All new releases had been Safety Lip disks since 8/57, but many older titles continued to be pressed and sold using the leftover Flat Edge stampers for their manufacture. At some point in 1958 these Flat Edge stampers were discarded.

The claim in #5 is established by inference. I looked through all the anomalies and they are mainly identifiable by FLAT EDGE DISKS bearing the 63rd NYC label. No original Blue Note first pressing was ever released in this format, combining 63rd NYC label on a flat edge disk. All such specimens occurred by using the in-stock flat edge stampers for an older title, but combining that with a newly-printed 63rd NYC label for that title –for popular records the need to replenish the labels was there. Among the many examples of these odd birds are notably the Monk LPs 1510 and 1511, both of which exist 63rd NYC flat edge. Others in this category include 1201, 1504, 1512, 1514, 1518, 1521, 1531, 1539, 1540, 1542 (all of these were issued originally as Lex, years before), plus 1544, 1548 and 1554 (63rd NEW YORK 23 originals).

Every Lexington Blue Note, ranging from 1201-1205 and 1501-1543, was initially issued flat edge.  Any Lexington seen with a safety lip is automatically a second pressing. Many of these titles (the more popular ones) were reissued as Lexingtons with safety lips using the new stampers created in 1958 and 1959. Had Blue Note (ever-frugal) retained the old stampers indefinitely, then such Lexington safety lip beasts would be few and far between, since recurring demand for new pressings would have been satisfied using the old stampers. By the time new stampers would be required the Lexington labels would have been used up.

I’ve already listed all the catalog numbers issued Lex flat rim. The 63rd NEW YORK USA flat rim original first pressings are: 1544-1550, 1554 and 1557. There are other 63rd NEW YORK 23 flat disks that are 2nd pressings (following Lex originals) such as the familiar 1502, 1503 and 1534.

The 63rd NEW YORK safety lip original first pressings are: 1551-1552, 1555-1556, 1558-1559, 1561-1563, 1565, 1575-1576 and the anomalies 1568 and 1577 which were issued with that label on one side only (!).

To understand these strange patterns you have to note carefully the step-by-step process of each record going from recording session to final release to stores, with various delays along the way causing the discrepancies. This was especially the case with most Volume 2 records –often unreleased for a year or two after the Volume 1 came out, but assigned a catalog number consecutive with Volume 1 and given initial preparation (mastering, design) back with #1. Delayed release of 1516 caused it to have its cover constructed in a new fashion, not matching its peers’ covers (much to the consternation of Japanese collectors).  Put simply, jacket for 1516 looks like the jacket of 1546, NOT its close-by numbered brethren –it lacks the Gakubuchi frame lines across the top and spine on front.  Delay of 1597’s release caused all the disks to be made without the dg, which was no longer the norm when it finally debuted to stores in October 1961 (when Midnight Special 4078 debuted), more than 3 years after the release of 1596. Its first pressing back in 1958 BEFORE it was shelved comprises only a handful of copies. Such delays occurred right through the Liberty era, causing the odd look and characteristics of many albums such as Andrew!!! 84203 and Delightfulee, Lee Morgan 4243 & 84243.”

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