[This is a re-do of an article Morten first published here in September 2015. It had been updated in February 2016, but now an additional comment by reader Jack requires Morten and me to add more details to the album history.]
CBID is the Chuck Berry International Directory, a 2.200 page pile of Chuck Berry records information published in four volumes between 2008 and 2013. For details see the bibliography section of this site.
CBID is never complete as new records and CDs appear and some old rarities are discovered. This section presents interesting additions and corrections to CBID.
Today: After we have seen that there were three different versions of the cover of Chess LP-1480 Chuck Berry On Stage it is time to explain that the same variants (initial print, sticker, and final print) can also be found with Chess LP-1485 Chuck Berry's Greatest Hits. And while we're at it, we also have a deeper look at the multiple labels found with this album.
CHUCK BERRY'S GREATEST HITS
Chess LP-1485 • April 1964 + reissues
This is another of those Berry LPs that has come out with countless number of label variants and three different front covers, six if you count the el.stereo ones numbered LPS-1485. Itās been reissued so many times, Morten has 8 different copies of this album, cover and label, and we have been made aware that even more variants exist through readers of this site. This text should help collectors to understand the various releases of a record published for more than a decade using the same catalog number and a basically unchanged cover.
- The first cover didnāt have any titles listed on the blue front side.
- Just like with the On Stage album (Chess LP-1480) soon thereafter the cover received a sticker containing important song titles printed in black on yellow: Memphis, Maybellene, and Johnny B. Goode. (Memphis had been a hit by both Lonnie Mack and Johnny Rivers (1963-1964), Maybellene a hit by Johnny Rivers (1964), and Johnny B. was a classic everybody was doing.). Note aside: this was the first occasion that āMaybelleneā was incorrectly spelt with an āiā.
- Finally the most common variant of the cover contains the same titles printed in yellow in the bottom right-hand corner (see images). And take notice of the different spelling, Featuring the original hits on the sticker, contra the later printed version Featuring the hits.
Here are the three covers of Chess LP-1485. As with all images on this site you can enlarge them by clicking.
Again as with the On Stage album, the first records sent out to disk jockeys at radio stations were produced using the then new (and expensive) multi-color label with the golden Chessknight logo (sometimes referred to as the 'crest' logo). Our good friend and expert on US album releases, Thierry Chanu, whom we unfortunately lost a few weeks ago (bless his soul), provided this image of a DJ Copy label:
The same label template and print was also used for commercial records, though less the DJ COPY print:
When reading about LP-1485, records with the multi-color label are often called a second or later pressing. This does not make sense if the initial very first records produced, the DJ copies, already had this label. Such saying stems from a misunderstanding about how the recording industry worked during the mid-Sixties.
The label of a record was maybe a marketing instrument when giving a record to the press or to a disk jockey. It did not matter at all for the records sold to the public, though. What mattered to Chess was to produce as many records as needed, fast and cheap. Where cheap also meant with little transport costs.
Due to this Chess records weren't all produced by the Chess-owned "Midwest Record Pressing" plant in Chicago but with the help of local pressing plants distributed all over the country. The partner companies simply received the master disks from Chess along with paperwork telling them what was to be read on the record labels.
In the case of LP-1485, the engineers at the Chess-owned "Ter-Mar Recording Studios" had combined the old master tapes from Berry's hit singles to form two new master tapes numbered 12989 for side 1 and 12990 for side 2. From master tape 12989 a one-sided master disk ('lacquer', 'nickel', or 'matrix') was cut. Within the dead-wax area of the master disk you find the etchings 'LP1485', 'Side 1', '12989', and 'TM0840'. The unknown engineer also left his personal logo which looks like the Greek letter Ī© in a circle. If a reader can identify the engineer from this logo, let us know.
Likewise the side 2 master tape 12990 was converted into a second one-sided master disk etched 'LP1485', 'Side 2', '12990', and 'TM0841'. Copies of these master disks were sent to the pressing plants which then used them in their production processes.
The corresponding paperwork told the pressing plants that the artist name was to be written as CHUCK BERRY and the record name was to be CHUCK BERRY'S GREATEST HITS. The label had to contain the publisher note "Published by Arc Music Corp. - BMI", the master tape number, and the composer note "All Songs Written By Chuck Berry Music Inc." (not "by Chuck Berry").
Nowadays a company would specify exactly the font size, type style, spacing and position of each character on the label. In the Sixties this wasn't important at all. Local printers at the pressing plants or nearby laid out the text in whatever style they found appropriate and printed the needed quantity onto label templates. Label templates were blank labels pre-printed with the record company logo on the correctly colored paper. Label templates were the same for all records the pressing plant would produce for this client (the record company), thus were in stock in large quantities.
When LP-1485 went into production, most early pressings were produced using the former label template having CHESS and HIGH-FIDELITY printed vertically to the left. And as each pressing plant had their own printer to layout the labels, we find multiple variants of how the record and song names were distributed on the label template. Here are four different layouts of the text printed on the same label template:
By looking at the layout of the label text and by looking at other details such as the size of the stamper which holds the label on place during pressing, experts are often able to recognize a specific pressing plant. Without access to accounting data from Chess or their suppliers, one cannot tell which plant pressed which record in which quantity or how many pressing runs there were. We also cannot tell when the records were pressed and if there was some kind of 'first' or 'second'. One thing we can tell is that records with the first label variant above have been produced by the Monarch pressing plant in Los Angeles. This is because at Monarch all the customers' master disks were additionally stamped with the Monarch order number. Thus these records have an additional etching 'ā³6595' in the dead-wax area.
We hope to have made clear that therefore it does not make sense to speak about a first, second, third pressing. If you want a sequential order, you have to look at the cover where there clearly is a first, second and third variant. Because we don't know how fast Chess had changed the cover — probably soon, but not without having used the printed stock — it's not clear if all or which labels were used in which cover.
However, we do know that a second pressing exists. All the mechanical elements used to create a vinyl record wear off. The stampers have to be replaced after a certain number of pressings, the mother can only be used to create a certain number of stampers, and also the master disks cannot be duplicated too many times until the sound quality becomes unacceptable. So the engineers at Ter-Mar had to replace master disks TM0840 and TM0841. They created new master disks from the master tapes and etched them 'TM0840-1' and 'TM0841-1-'.
Those were sent out as replacements to the pressing plants including new paperwork for the labels. How can we tell about new paperwork? Simply because someone made an error when specifying the text for the side 2 label. Side 2 contains six songs: Nadine, Maybelline, Memphis, Sweet Little Sixteen, Thirty Days, and Brown Eyed Handsome Man (spellings as on cover). All labels printed for the first pressings (TM0841) correctly list all these. However, all labels printed for the second pressings (TM0841-1-) list only five songs. They miss Sweet Little Sixteen. When Morten did the Chuck Berry International Directory books 2008-2013 he didnāt have any of the actual misprints, however, he did get a copy a few years back without even noticing the fact our reader Jack recently told us about. So far we have found the misprint with these label variants:
As you can see, the multi-color label was used for both vinyl variants. The blue one with the Chessknight is only known with the second set of matrices. The light-blue one is used here and in a couple of later versions. Since the error has not been corrected one can assume that these three labels were used more or less concurrently — or that no-one ever noticed.
The light-blue label template has been in use at Chess from the mid 1960s until the company was sold to GRT in 1969. During these three or four years more variants of LP-1485 were created.
At some time in the late 1960s Chess decided to no longer worry about keeping old records in stock, producing them over and over again as long as they were being sold, and having to keep up with all the effort such as renewing master disks from time to time. So they outsourced the whole process to a company called "Columbia Custom Pressings" (part of Columbia Records). The first thing Columbia did was to create new master disks. The new master disks were etched 'XCTV121409-1B' and 'LP 1485-A-' on side 1 and 'XCTV121410-1A' and 'LP 1485B' on side 2. The label looked very much like the one from 'TM0840-1'/'TM0841-1-'. But Sweet Little Sixteen was back again!
Not long after this, the labels changed slightly, now also telling the Columbia master number XCTV 121409/121410.
And since also Columbia master disks have to be redone from time to time, we find yet another vinyl variant now carrying the master disk numbers XCTV 121856/121857. The etching reads 'XCTV-121856-1A TII' and 'XCTV-121857-1A TII', and the numbers are also shown on the labels.
This label introduced another spelling error: Maybellene got its E back, but now misses the Y. This record is probably the last variant of the Mono version.
By the mid-Sixties demand began to rise for Stereo records. In 1968 the sale of Mono records discontinued because no record dealer was willing to stock Mono records any more.Ć¼>
The Greatest Hits sampled on LP-1485 of course were all recorded in Mono. Therefore the only way to do a kind-of-stereo release was to artificially modify the Mono signals to distribute them onto the two stereo channels. This is often called el.stereo.
It is not quite clear when the 'stereo' version of LP-1485 was released. All labels we know of include Sweet Little Sixteen but display the spelling error on Maybellene introduced with the final Mono version. So we believe, the el.stereo version was a replacement to the last Mono version, probably released in 1968.
The el.stereo version of Chuck Berry's Greatest Hits is known with at least three cover variants. While the covers continue to talk about LP-1485, the labels call this release LPS-1485.
- The very first copies of LPS-1485 were sold in the plain old sleeve of the mono version (third variant). But they had a sticker in the upper right corner saying "Electronically Altered For Stereo".
- Soon thereafter, a specific cover for the el.stereo version was printed and used. It has a print in the upper right corner saying "Electronically altered to simulate stereophonic". The number on the cover was changed from CHESS 1485 to CH-1485.
- In later years, when Chess was owned by GRT, the record was produced for retail stores in masses, now with a cheap black and white variant of the cover.
Chess had to produce a new set of master tapes for the Stereo version containing the electronically altered music. These tapes were numbered 12989-S and 12990-S. The first pressings had a Columbia XCSV (S for Stereo) matrix. We have found the el.stereo variant of the Greatest Hits album with these labels so far.
And if you think that's all, keep in mind that successful Chess records such as LP-1485 were also released as 4-track 7-inch reel-to-reel tapes and as 8-track tape cartridges — using the exact same cover image, of course. We wonder if we ever saw a Compact Cassette tape ...
CHUCK BERRY'S GREATEST HITS
Chess [Sundazed] LP 5565 • 28 April 2018 (Record Store Day)
We should not forget to mention this 2018 LP album which is — you guessed it — yet another re-release of Chess LP-1485. The Chess brand is now owned by Universal Music and their subsidiary Geffen Records uses the Sundazed label to publish high-quality audiophile re-releases of classic albums.
LP 5565 comes with the same contents as LP-1485, though with a different front cover. Interestingly the back cover is similar to the original back cover and the label resembles the original label even more. The 2018 album was pressed on orange translucent vinyl.
[Many thanks to Thierry, Anne and Jack for providing additional information and images! A big Thank You goes to Joanna of RecordsByMail.com for providing us with a good image of a cover variant we did not have.]
[A note on the images in this text: On our site we have the strict rule to show only those records we own and only images we created by ourselves. For the sake of completeness, this text is an exception as we (still) miss a few of the records shown. The corresponding images have been sent to us from readers or have been digitally extracted, enhanced and modified from images available on places such as ebay and discogs. These are the images without our watermark.]
[Edit 29-03-2020: Replaced image of DJ copy label with a better version provided by Anne Chanu - Thanks!]
[Edit 25-04-2020: Added first label of LPS version.]