Blood On The Tracks - US Stereo Vinyl Releases
This page has additional information from Craig Callahan and others about Blood On The Tracks US vinyl releases.
If you have any entries to add to the list or additions/corrections to existing entries, please let me know! Please note I cannot value your Dylan rarities - see the Mission page for reasons why. Contact the dealers on my Trading page for assistance!
Revised 01 January, 2023.
Promo "arrow" scan by Steven Fant
|Shown on left is a hanging double-sided promo display arrow
from Columbia US made from thick card measuring 24" x 11" and intended to draw attention in record stores to the rack
containing Blood On The Tracks. From its pristine condition it was
never actually used!
Information from Craig Callahan:
Well, I've finally obtained a first-printing jacket version of Blood On The Tracks (although if I'd just kept the one I bought back in '75 it would have been a lot easier!) ...actually two copies, due to some poor eBay strategy. This brings my total to five copies. But it wasn't a complete blunder, for it offers some interesting if trivial information.
So here's the scoop (all this assumes the LPs in the jackets are the original ones):
1. A first-printing jacket edition, from a source in the eastern US. The jacket and the heavy-stock inner sleeve use a textured, matte paper. The liner notes on the back are set in black type, but the title on the spine is in the same off-white or cream color used for the titling on the front of the jacket. Like Hans's white-label promo, the stamper codes are 2A/2AA, which suggests to me that this is about as close to an early pressing as we can get. (I don't know if I mentioned this before, but in an interview with Bob Irwin re: the Sundazed Blonde on Blonde I found on Sundazed's web site, the number is the tape and the letters are the lacquers; in this case tape 2 (I think tape one is the unreleased all-NYC version), and A indicates the first lacquer cut. What remains unclear is how far up the alphabet Columbia went before going to 'AA'; Bob Irwin indicates that for Blonde On Blonde the cutoff was around 'J' or 'K', but I have other Columbia titles that go as high as 'O' and 'R'.)
2. A second first-printing edition, this time from a seller on the west coast. The description is the same, except to note that the burgundy color used on the jacket is a bit darker (more purple), making the liner notes more difficult to read. There is a promo stamp in black ink on the back of the jacket ("Demonstration--Not For Sale"). The stamper codes are 2F/2K, and I mention the location of the seller because the stamped matrix numbers on this and on copy 3 (below) are more deeply etched than on the eastern copy, and also compared to most other Columbia LPs I have, which were pretty much all bought in the eastern US. I'm assuming that this copy and copy 3 were pressed at the same plant, possibly the one in Santa Maria, CA. (Gerry Mauriello has a copy with "PAL-33235-2F" on Side 1 and "PBL-33235-2J" on Side 2. This copy is stamped with "PROMOTION NOT FOR SALE" on both the rear sleeve and the labels. Dennis Conley's copy with the first rear sleeve has matrix numbers: Side 1 - P AL 33235 - 2C, Side 2 - P BL 33235 - 2J.)
3. A second-printing jacket edition, with the full-size "mural" back. The text on the back is in black type as is the text on the spine. The paper used for the jacket is smooth, almost glossy, and the burgundy color is quite red. However, the heavy-stock inner sleeve still uses the matte paper like the first issues. The stamper codes are the same as "2" above - 2F/2K, and as noted above the matrix numbers are deeply etched (or stamped, as you prefer). 4. A third-printing jacket edition, with the restored back-cover notes in white type; the spine text is white as well. This copy, which still has most of the original shrink-wrap intact, continues the use of glossy paper for the jacket, and now for the inner sleeve as well. The stamper codes are 2E/2J; the one on side 2 is more deeply stamped (looks "heavier") than that for side one - I don't know if this means anything, and I don't recall where the seller was located.
4. This is the Absolute Analogue (UK) reissue, which I surmise reproduces the original UK jacket with the liner notes in black type.
The U.S. copies are all PC 33235; none has a barcode.
I'm not sure what conclusions can be drawn from this sampling. Considering that--
1) Columbia had at least three pressing plants at the time;
2) they probably expected to sell a bunch of these and so probably cut quite a few lacquers at the first mastering session(s);
3) we don't know where the lacquers were cut, although since they're all from the same tape (tape 2) perhaps we can conjecture that they were cut at a single location;
[Luke Pacholski adds here: "While I won't speculate on where the lacquers were cut, I don't think they necessarily all came from the same physical tape. That is, I think it's quite possible/probable that a cut made from a copy of the master would have the same 2- marking. I think that number only changed when a new master was prepared for some reason - i.e., some songs were remixed. I think it has less to do with what physical tape was used (original or copy) and more to do with what version was used. Bob Ludwig's [below] comments seem to back this up, although he seems to assume that the letters are sequential for the album, rather than for the side, i.e. a "first" pressing would be 1A/1B in his mind, but I've seen pressings that were 1A/1A."
4) we don't know whether the metal masters were made at the same location as the lacquers were cut (although this seems likely--my impression is that the ideal was to make the masters as soon as the lacquers cured) and then sent out to the plants, or whether even the stampers themselves were made at a single location and then sent out;
5) we can be pretty sure that the record companies weren't too concerned to keep the actual pressing of the LPs sequential or their stampers in matched pairs;
6) There's no necessary correlation between the printing of the different jacket versions and the cutting of additional ("second-pressing") lacquers:
Considering all that, it would probably be unwise to try to decide which of these LPs was actually pressed first. However, what we can note is that LPs with 2F/2K stampers were apparently pressed around the time of the transition from the first to the second jacket variation . . . although whether these two copies were pressed at the same plant or from stampers sent to two different plants probably can't be known. Logic suggests that having this exact configuration of stampers from the 6th and 11th lacquers being paired together in two different plants would be an unlikely coincidence, but then until I read the interview with Bob Irwin I thought logic suggested that the number in the 2A code was the lacquer rather than the tape. . . . :-)
The other interesting thing is that in terms of the sequence of lacquers, the third-jacket copy is actually earlier than both one of the first-jacket copies and the second-jacket copy: the fifth and tenth lacquers, compared to the sixth and eleventh for the other two. To me this strongly suggests LPs from different pressing plants. Of course, if they cut ten or twelve (or fifteen--whatever) lacquers at the original session(s), then this could just be an artefact of the the random distribution of metal parts to the pressing plants. The thing to keep in mind is that certainly the first two jacket variants and possibly the third as well all date from the first year the LP was released, and for those who care about these things, getting a copy with a third-edition jacket can still mean having a first-pressing LP.
Here's some info from mastering engineer Bob Ludwig about Columbia's mastering practices back in those days (from the Phonogram mailing list archives, taken from a letter from Ludwig published in the audiophile magazine The Absolute Sound, issue 68):
"The 1A, 1B, and 1C under Columbia, for example, means that three different lacquers were cut. Sometimes from the original tape, sometimes from an 'EQ copy' tape. At one time, when we did mastering for Columbia, the 1A and 1B would go to the Pitman, New Jersey pressing plant; the 1C and 1D would go to the Terre Haute plant, and the 1E and 1F would go to the Santa Maria, California plant. Further recuts to any plant would be numbered 1G, etc., up to 1L, I think, and then they would go to 1AA, 1AB, etc. These had nothing to do with the amount of stampers made from each cut... Sometimes a 1AC would mean a cut done many years later, and sometimes, with a big release like Bruce Springsteen, it might mean the original cutting!"
Because only a limited number of mothers and stampers can be derived from an individual lacquer, if a record company expected to sell a lot of copies in a relatively short time, a lot of lacquers could be cut at the time of the initial mastering (not to mention lacquers or masters that were damaged or otherwise unusable for QC reasons and had to be recut). While no two lacquers are precisely identical even if cut using the same settings by the same engineer, under such conditions the differences are probably inaudible except perhaps for those few with ultra-resolving megabuck systems, so for all practical purposes there may be no reason for my various copies of Blood On The Tracks to sound different from one another in any significant way (although making too many stampers from a mother or too many LPs from a stamper will definitely have an adverse affect on sound quality).
Note that while Ludwig mentions L as the point at which the lacquer letters switched to double figures - AA, etc. - and Bob Irwin cites J as that point in his interview regarding Blonde on Blonde on the Sundazed website, I have a Leonard Cohen LP with the codes 2O/2R. I will say though that this is the only Columbia or Epic LP I have with a lacquer letter greater than L (although I do have several Ls). Basically, the number is the tape number and the letter is the lacquer; hence, because Blood On The Tracks had to be remastered with the Minneapolis takes after its initial mastering, resulting in a new master tape, all US commercial pressings will be 2x or higher, 1x of course being the mid-December '74 pre-release pressing with all NYC takes, from the first tape.
I suspect that for sound quality in US pressings, one of the first-jacket-variant pressings would be most desirable. Frankly, I don't hear any real differences between the Columbia pressings I have, but I will say that 2A/2AA copy sounds really good (I just played it yesterday, using my newly-retipped cartridge).
William Brown adds:
Though the comments already on this page hit the nail on the head, I have a few add-ons: Namely, that at the time of Blood on the Tracks, Columbia had exactly three pressing plants. CTH was Terre Haute, IN; CSM was Santa Maria, CA – and the code for Pitman, NJ was CP (SP actually indicated Specialty Records Corp. of Olyphant, PA, which pressed copies of Mr. Dylan's two Asylum LPs and the few 45's released therefrom). All Columbia LP pressings had a 211/16" ring around the label area.
As for lacquer cuttings: I have studied the codes used by Columbia over the years. Such numbers as "2O" and "2R" were more unique to, say, Columbia's short-lived studios in San Francisco. I also have a back-catalogue LP on Columbia Masterworks which indicated the lacquer on one side as "1ABC" – meaning that that went way back down the line. And from what I've read, much of the lacquers for Blood on the Tracks were cut at Columbia's New York studios, then on East 52nd Street where they had been since August of 1966 when they vacated the 799 Seventh Avenue studios where their recording, editing and mastering facilities had been prior. (As were the majority of lacquers cut for his follow-up LP Desire.) The codes themselves indeed went from -A to -L (-I, for obvious reasons, was never used), then -AA to -AL, -BA to -BL, and so forth. I've seen some copies of other records where lacquers had a -KB indication.
And around 1965-66, 1A through 1C or 1D would usually fall into Terre Haute's or Santa Maria's lap, with the earliest Pitman lacquers being 1E or thereabouts. And let's not forget their plant in Bridgeport, CT, which closed in early 1964, or a factory in Hollywood which shut down around the same time. (Stock copies of Dylan's 1962-63 singles that were vinyl, usually emanated from Pitman; the other three plants then operating used styrene.)
And if an LP or 45 started out being mastered at other Columbia studios (i.e. Nashville or Hollywood), the usual practice was for the first five or six lacquers to be cut at the "other" studios, then shifted thereafter to New York. This may be helpful in terms of, say, Nashville Skyline and the singles I Threw It All Away, Lay, Lady, Lay and Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You.
And a pointer on the LP labels, I have found that the "red" used on the Columbia LP labels post-1967/68 (when they switched from uncoated to coated paper stock) was mostly Pantone 199 Red (though some West Coast-pressed albums from c.1971 appear to use Pantone 186), with the light orange color on the post-1970 label design being Pantone 150 (changed around the late 1970's to Pantone 136). Post-1973 45 labels used Pantone 123 mixed with Warm Red. And the red of late 1960's singles varied from Pantone 185 to 192. (This, from research I have done at Sony Music's vaults for a book I wrote, compiled and published several years ago on Columbia's pop singles from 1939 to 1974.)
Information from Jim Perlman
For what it's worth, a bit of mostly redundant info to back-up what you write. I purchased my copy of Blood On The Tracks the day it was released in Chicago IL. The matrix numbers are: Side 1 - P AL 33235 - 2A, Side 2 - P BL 33235 - 2AA. Etched on side one, just after the matrix, is 2T and on side two, after the matrix, is 1T. For obvious reasons, most of the Columbia pressings we'd get here in Chicago were from the Terre Haute plant. So, I'd surmise, the "2T" and "1T" mean that my copy was pressed in Terre Haute, IN.
Information from Chris Hood
I just wanted to let you know what I just found out so you could include it to keep others from getting their hopes up. I just purchased my 4th copy of Blood On The Tracks because BOTH sides had 1-A matrix numbers and I thought all 1-A matrixes contained the outtakes. NOT SO!!! This one is the same on both sides as every other copy I own. It came in the third release sleeve ( which I should have noticed), and has a PC Cat. number with no bar code. The matrix numbers are Side 1- AL-33235-1-A -2-G2 (handwritten) Side2- BL-33235-1-A -2-G2 2 inside a circle (handwritten). I was broken hearted of coarse since I'd never heard of a 1-A without alt. takes. I guess it must have been a flub by whoever engraved the matrix numbers....who knows...??? I just wanted to fill everyone in on this find and save them the disappointment I just experienced.
Regular Album with Test Pressing on Side 2!
I now have reports from Dale Hargraves and Sascha Kossjak of copies of the first pressing of the commercially released album, Columbia PC 33235, with matrix number PBL-33235-1A on Side 2 that has the released Side 1 but the test pressing on Side 2 with alternate versions of If You See Her, Say Hello (R-0119) and Lily, Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts (R-0116) (see 1974). Thanks to Harold Lepidus for the link to "Goldmine" magazine's web-site for an article by Tim Neely dated 28 May 2009 recording the discovery of a third copy with the original Side 2. Steven Fant gives the matrix numbers as follows:
1st pressing: Side 1 - P AL 33235 - 2A, Side 2 - P BL 33235 - 2AA.
2nd pressing: Side 1 - P AL 33235 - 2C, Side 2 - P BL 33235 - 2AH.
There is also a hand etched “T” on both sides.
3rd pressing: Side 1 - P AL 33235 - 2A, Side 2 - P BL 33235 - 2AH.
There is also a hand etched “2T” on side 1.
A Flying Pig production
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