Collecting Caribbean Records in Australia Pt 2: Reggae of the 1960s and 1970s

Reggae music emerged from Jamaica in the late 1960s and quickly gained popularity in countries with large Caribbean diasporas and strong cultural connections like the U.S.A and the U.K. However, widespread appreciation of reggae took a little longer to develop in Australia. Despite flirtations with Caribbean music, in 1957 during the calypso boom and again in 1964 with ska, Australian record companies were conservative about what they chose to release and when they made it available. Most of the early releases were issued by established artists like Johnny Nash, or acts who were achieving significant international sales like Desmond Dekker. It was possible to access a wider range of reggae, rocksteady and ska records in the early 1970s but only via import through specialist stores or mailorder from overseas. Not until the mid 1970s did Australian record buyers begin to see a variety of locally pressed reggae records in their stores. This is a look at some of the locally pressed reggae records that were available in Australia during that decade between 1968 and 1979.

Johnny Nash was perhaps the first artist to release songs with a reggae feel to Australian audiences. Nash was an American teenage recording star who had set up his own music label in 1964. He was interested in recording in Jamaica and in 1968 he released Hold Me Tight which was cut in Kingston. The single was top 5 in the U.S, U.K and Canadian charts and got a release on the Festival label in Australia in October 1968.

Nash followed it up early in 1969 with another reggae styled track You Got Soul. It’s worth noting that during the late 1960s and early 1970s Johnny Nash worked closely with Bob Marley and the Wailers. Marley wrote several songs for the 1972 Johnny Nash LP that featured the international hit I Can See Clearly Now, which also played an important part in bringing reggae to an international audience. In fact, the first single from that LP released in Australia was Nash’s version of Stir It Up. Nash also included his own version of Marley’s 1972 single Reggae On Broadway for his 1975 LP Tears On My Pillow.

Desmond Dekker’s classic Israelites is often credited as being the hit that introduced genuine reggae sounds to international audiences. The song hit Australian radios and charts in May 1969 after being issued by the W&G label. Intriguingly, it was leased from Pyramid Records which was a U.K label founded by Melbourne born sound engineer Graeme Goodall. Goodall was a respected and influential pioneer in the history of ska and reggae recording in Jamaica and was also a co-founder of Island Records in 1959 with Chris Blackwell and Leslie Kong. W&G issued Dekker’s It Mek and Pickney Gal as follow-up singles later that year, and a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s You Can Get It If You Really Want in 1970, but they failed to match the success of Israelites. Two Dekker LPs were issued around this time, Israelites in 1969 and You Can Get It If You Really Want in 1970.

W&G also began to license tracks from Creole Records, another U.K label that was releasing reggae. In 1970, through this arrangement, W&G put out The Pyramids – To Sir With Love b/w Reggae Shuffle, Mille – Poor Willie, and Bruce Ruffin – Rain. By arrangement with Ember records the label also secured Australian rights to release one of the biggest selling Jamaican singles of 1969, How Long Will It Take by Pat Kelley.

Also appearing in 1969 were discs on Steady Records which had been established a year earlier by Art Trefferson and Ken Khouri (of Federal Records) and based in Jamaica. They were manufactured and distributed in Australia by Festival Records. Three reggae infused sides were issued including two from Eddie Lovette – Too Experienced and Boomerang, and Red, Red Wine by Painted Garden. The Ken Khouri produced Reggae Greatest Hits LP by former Byron Lee’s Dragonaires vocalist Ken Lazarus was also issued around this time by Festival.         

Jimmy Cliff was another groundbreaking reggae artist who appeared during this period. His first Australian release was Wonderful World, Beautiful People in 1969. This was followed by Vietnam and then Wild World in 1970. Of these Wild World was the best seller, making the Go-Set charts for the first time in January of 1971 and staying there till the beginning of April. Jimmy Cliff also issued the single Synthetic World in 1971.

Festival was the primary label for distributing reggae music for much of the coming decade. In December 1970 it announced a distribution deal with Island Records that meant all future Island releases would appear on the Island label instead of Festival. An example of the change is Jimmy Cliff’s self-titled debut LP which originally appeared on Festival towards the end of 1970 and was subsequently pressed with the pink Island label early in 1971.

In 1971 Festival established Interfusion, which acted as an umbrella label for many of its international distribution commitments. Over the next couple of years artists like Dave and Ansel Collins (Double Barrel), The Pioneers (Let Your Yeah Be Yeah,) Bob & Marcia (Pied Piper), Greyhound (Black & White), The Vulcans (Star Trek), and Dandy Livingstone (Suzanne Beware Of The Devil) made their Australian debut on Interfusion. 

Reggae Catches Fire

1972 proved to be a big year for Caribbean sounds with international success for Johnny Nash and the song I Can See Clearly Now and pop stars like Paul Simon recording their own songs in Jamaica. Simon’s Mother and Child Reunion was cut with Jimmy Cliff’s band at Dynamic Studios. Also in 72, Van Dkye Parks released Discover America which was to become an underheard but influential recording that featured many sounds of the Caribbean, including the aforementioned Trinidad Steel Drum Band.

1972 was also the year in which Bob Marley and the Wailers worked in the studio on the seminal Catch A Fire, their first album for Island Records. The album wouldn’t be released in the U.S & U.K until April 1973 and by then there was a sense that something big could happen any moment with regards to reggae. Reggae Be The Rage by Robert Christagau was published in May 1973 and does a great job of setting the scene.

Christagau mentions Perry Henzell’s film The Harder They Come which stars Jimmy Cliff as an aspiring reggae singer. It premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in August 1972 before securing a U.S release date in February 1973. Australian audiences had a brief chance to see the film at the 1973 Film Festival but many had to wait until 1977/78 before the film was screened with any regularity in cinemas. However the soundtrack, which features Cliff as well as Desmond Dekker, The Melodions & The Maytals, got a full release in either late 1972 or early ‘73. The Harder They Come was also released as a single in 1973 but was not a hit. Interestingly, an earlier, slower, version of Cliff’s title track, titled The Bigger They Come, The Harder They Fall, had been issued by Island late in 1971 but was not a seller either.

Despite Jimmy Cliff’s international reputation as one of the stars of reggae at this point in time, it is worth noting that over the following couple of years there was very little new reggae material available. Cliff’s 1973 Unlimited LP wasn’t issued in Australia until 1976. His other LP from 1973, Strugglin’ Man, wasn’t issued on Island until late in 1974. A notable anomaly, though not a true reggae LP, is the 1973 release Interstellar Reggae Drive by Colonel Elliott and the Lunatics. This was a session group that cut one album for Trojan Records which fused reggae rhythms and moog synthesisers. They also released a single which covered the theme to Star Trek in 1972.

It seems that between 1972 and 1976, although big names like Johnny Nash and the occasional novelty act continued to release material with reggae influences, the prevailing attitude amongst record companies was that genuine reggae wasn’t something that needed concerted marketing attention.

Bob Marley and The Wailers Australian output during this period backs up this point. Catch A Fire was the breakthrough album for The Wailers in both the U.K and the U.S following its release in those countries in April 1973. However this was not the case in Australia where Catch A Fire didn’t get a release until late 1975 or early 1976. The first Australian LP by The Wailers was Burnin’, which came out in the UK in October 1973, though Festival didn’t issue it until winter 1974. Festival also released Get Up Stand Up b/w Slave Driver as a single from this album in June 1974. The B side, Slave Driver, is of course a track from Catch A Fire. Their next LP Natty Dread was released in the UK in October 1974 but not released in Australia until mid 1975. Lively Up Yourself b/w No Woman No Cry was released from the LP in September 1975.

Due to the growing success of Marley and the Wailers it appears that by 1976 things had begun to shift. Bob Marley and the Wailers Live LP came out in February with Trenchtown Rock b/w I Shot The Sherriff released as a single. Then by winter that same year Rastaman Vibration was on the shelves with two singles released to promote it – Roots, Rock, Reggae in June and Who The Cap Fit in October. Former Wailer, Peter Tosh, also released his debut LP Legalise It in 1976 through CBS.

In 1976 Festival issued Man In The Hills by Burning Spear, having presumably opted out of releasing the more radical Marcus Garvey album which he’d released in the U.K the previous year. That said, Old Marcus Garvey from that album, was one of 10 tracks drawn from the Island catalogue and released as the compilation This Is Reggae in 1976. The compilations opening song, and a single released in Australia presumably to help promote it, was Zap-Pow’s song This Is Reggae which had originally been issued in the U.K three years earlier.

In 1976 Australian buyers were finally able to get their hands on three albums by long time Caribbean stars Toots and the Maytals. In The Dark was issued in the UK in 1974 but not until 1976 in Australia. Take Me Home Country Roads was the single from that LP and also not issued until 1976. Their 1975 LP Funky Kingston also didn’t get a release locally until 1976, just before their new 1976 release Reggae Got Soul. The small M7 Records label secured the rights to release Creole Records in Australia and that meant an LP release for Desmond Dekker for the first time in 5 years with Power Reggae.

The momentum behind reggae increased in 1977 with Marley and the Wailers releasing Exodus in July and three singles coming from it: Exodus, Waiting In Vain, and Jamming.

In May 1977 there were regular screenings of the film The Harder They Come in  capital cities like Sydney and Adelaide. It’s possible that these screenings in Adelaide were also the ones that were attended by the young Bart Willoughby who would found aboriginal reggae band No Fixed Address within a few years and lay the groundwork for a wonderful heritage of indigenous Australian reggae that has flourished since. Also in 1977, Peter Tosh released Equal Rights & Burning Spear put out Dry & Heavy. 1977 marks perhaps the first Australian single which channels the spirit of reggae with Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons cover of I’m In A Dancing Mood. This same song was also covered by Billy T on their No Definitions LP in the same year. More on the Australian response to reggae in part 3.   

In 1978 it was possible to buy the Bob Marley & the Wailers LP Kaya which was released in Autumn. Two singles were issued Is This Love & Satisfy My Soul. In December 1978 Festival also issued Babylon By Bus with the single War. You could also get Althea & Donna’s Uptown Ranking, Bush Doctor by Peter Tosh, Handsworth Revolution by Steel Pulse, and Journey To Addis by Third World.  

Coming perhaps full circle before the end of the decade, Marley and the Wailers toured Australia in April/May 1979. It was a big success and inspired a number of fantastic local releases. Despite having been issued in the U.K three or four years earlier, and likely inspired by the Marley tour, this was the year in which it became possible to purchase local copies of The Stone Guide To Reggae, The Gladiators – Proverbial Reggae, U-Roy – Natty Rebel, Ijahman – Haile I Hymn (Chapter 1), Sly Dunbar – Simple Sly Man, and Mighty Diamonds – Right Time. The Culture album Cumbolo was another notable roots reggae album from the same year. Another big 1979 release was the soundtrack for the film Rockers which featured Peter Tosh, Junior Murvin, Burning Spear, and Inner Circle. It is also worth noting 1979 as the year in which The Specials broke through with their self-titled LP of ska which featured Message To You Rudy and Monkey Man.

This is the end of part two. Part three will look at the a few keys acts from the early days of the Australian reggae, ska, and dub scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Please sign up for email updates at the top of this page so you don’t miss updates from Sonic Archaeology into the future.

Big thanks to Vicious Sloth Records and Dynodynamic for help with some of the images. If you have anything else not mentioned here that you feel will make this story stronger then please get in touch. It’s always great to hear from fellow reggae lovers and record collectors.

Collecting Caribbean Records In Australia Part 1: Calypso and Ska in the 1950s and ’60s

My first awareness of Caribbean music was through cricket. It must have been the summer of 1984 or ’85, when the West Indies played the Australian Prime Minister’s XI at Manuka Oval in Canberra. My dad and I were among the record setting crowd who saw Alan Border and Rod Marsh do battle with Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards, while a band of steel drums scored the action. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. Infectious rhythms and colourful melodies leapt through the stands provoking the hips and feet of many to move. And it wasn’t just the sounds. I’ll never forget the joyous, friendly faces of the men playing the drums.

I subsequently learned that we’d been treated that day to some of the finest steel drum players in the world. Courtney Leiba was one of them. When I met him years later he told me about his life as a musician; how he’d been a member of the Trinidad Steel Drum Band in the 1970s; how he made records with Van Dyke Parkes; and that he was once nominated for a Grammy Award. Courtney was one of many who left their birthplace in the Caribbean and made new homes in other parts of the world. The music that travelled with them didn’t take long to find enthusiastic and appreciative audiences around the globe.

Bob Marley has definitely been the most visible (and audible) ambassador for Caribbean sounds over the last forty years. His songs, messages, and image have permeated popular culture. During my own travels I’ve realised that no matter which dot on the map I happen to be in, and regardless of barriers like age or language, it is usually possible to start a conversation about Marley and his music. His appearance on the international stage in the mid 1970s certainly played a significant role in planting the seeds for reggae and ska bands that began to bud towards the end of the decade and into the 80s. But there were many artists and recordings available long before that. For the music lover with an ear for island music there had been fantastic offerings since the 1950s.

Caribbean Calypso

Perhaps the first taste of the Caribbean for many was the Andrews Sisters with their recording of Lord Invader’s Rum and Coca Cola. The song was a big hit in late 1945 despite being banned on some radio stations for lyrics that critiqued prostitution in Trinidad while promoting coca cola and hard liquor.  

Lord Invader was one of many artists, including Atilla The Hun, Roaring Lion, and Lord Kitchener, who travelled overseas and cut calypso records after the second World War. Their work played an important role in popularising the style in countries like the U.K and the U.S.  

American Hi-Fi enthusiast and stereo recording pioneer Emory Cook was particularly passionate about the music of the Caribbean. His Cook Records label released a string of fantastic discs during the mid to late 1950s. In Australia, Cook’s “Sounds of Our Times” series of LPs were first issued in June 1955 and provided some of the earliest genuine examples of calypso to antipodean audiences.  

Harry Belafonte released Calpyso in the U.S in 1956 and it arrived in Australia in 1957. Jamaica Farewell and Banana Boat (Day-O) were released as singles in March. These were immensely popular and influential recordings. Calypso was the first L.P to sell a million copies in the U.S and the singles Banana Boat and Jamaica Farewell both made the Australian top 5. In November Belafonte was starring beside Dorothy Dandridge in Island in the Sun and the theme song became a third hit single for the year. Another LP, Songs of the Caribbean, also came out. Belafonte eventually toured Australia in August 1960. In 1961 he released Jump Up Calypso, the much anticipated follow up to Calypso.

In June ’57, with Belafonte’s voice emanating from radio stations across the country, the Tribune newspaper sought to understand the phenomenon a little better and asked Trinidadian author Ralph de Boissiere, who was now living in Australia, what is true calypso?

Besides Jamaica Farewell, two other calypso inspired singles made number one on the charts that year: Marianne by Terry Gilkyson and Cindy, Oh Cindy by Eddie Fisher. Marianne is a song often credited to Trinidadian singer The Lion, while Cindy Oh Cindy was a pop song with a calypso arrangement copied from Vince Martin and the Tarriers’ version the same year.

Hollywood looked to capitalise on the burgeoning popularity of Belafonte and calypso. High Society was a box office success in 1956 and featured Louis Armstrong performing High Society Calypso on its soundtrack. Director Howard Koch made two films in 1957 that riffed on the theme, Bop Girl Goes Calypso and Untamed Youth, the latter featuring Mamie Van Doren singing Go, Go Calypso.

Having already cashed in on the rock ‘n roll craze with the films Rock Around The Clock and Don’t Knock The Rock in 1956, Fred Sears and Sam Katzman made Calypso Heatwave starring Johnny Desmond, Meg Myers and Maya Angelou. It began playing in Australian cinemas in July 1957 and Festival released the soundtrack on Coral  Records.

In 1957 Festival also issued Goombay as a “musical flight to the Bahamas” which promoted both the music of Beacham Coakley’s Emerald Hotel Beach Orchestra with vocalist Vincent Martin, and the Pan-American Airlines flight from Sydney to Nassau.

American jazz drummer J.C. Heard toured Australia and recorded an album of calypso songs for the Philips label called Tropicana. Released in May or June 1957 it features a wide range of songs from both U.S and U.K based calypsonians including Wilmoth Houdini and The Lion. This record was released in the U.S as Calypso For Dancing. It was also made available in Europe. An EP was also issued in August 1957 (confusingly, using the same title and cover photo as the U.S LP) featuring four additional songs not on the L.P including Lionel Belasco’s Sly Mongoose.

Also available in 1957 was Hi Fi Calypso etc. by Enid Mosier and her Trinidad Steel Band. Mosier was born in Antigua and made her name on Broadway where she was cast as a calypso singer alongside Pearl Bailey in Truman Capote’s House of Flowers. She subsequently made a couple of recordings with The Trinidad Steel Band who comprised Michael Alexander, Roderick Clavery, and Alphonso Marshall.  Featured on this LP is the song that had become a hit from the show Two Ladies In De Shade Of De Banana Tree.

The recordings mentioned above were all made in the Caribbean or the United States. In 1958 at least two further records appeared from companies based in Europe and the U.K which underscore the influence of calypso in those parts of the world too. Southern Bar–B-Cue was released by Polydor with Armando and his Trinidad Orchestra performing most of the songs. French bandleaders Roger Roger and Marcel Feijoo are also on this LP contributing five of the fourteen songs. The first issue of this album appears to have been in Germany at the end of 1957.     

Caribbean Calypso is a compilation of records made during the previous decade by a handful of the most popular U.K based Caribbean performers. The album provides an introduction to seminal artists like The Lion, Lord Kitchener, The Iron Duke, and Lord Beginner. The liner notes give an interesting early history of the arrival of calypso in the U.K.

Jamaica Ska

Millie Small and her 1964 hit My Boy Lollipop was the introduction for many to the irresistible Jamaican rhythms of Bluebeat and Ska. The recording featured accompaniment directed by Ernest Ranglin. Lollipop was a top 10 hit in many countries including Australia. A U.S correspondent published in the Canberra Times in May 1964 reported that Variety Magazine was predicting a boom for Jamaican ska. New Zealand singer Dinah Lee recorded a version of the song Do The Blue Beat (Jamaica Ska) and it became a hit for her both in N.Z and Australia in September.

During the winter of ’64 Festival released a trio of ska singles from the U.S by the Ska Kings, Rhythm Kings, and Baja Marimba Band.  Festival also issued a couple of LPs – Caribbean Joyride by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires and Jamaica Ska, with the latter featuring not only the Ska Kings tracks but also sides by The Charmers, The Blues Busters and The Maytals.

In 1965 the Woman’s Weekly published a feature advertising the “new jet air route via Tahiti, Mexico, Bermuda and Nassau” which made it cheaper and faster to travel to “The Caribbean Calypso Isles”.  In the same year W&G records issued Johnny Christian’s Calypso A La Mode which featured smooth, pop oriented tunes from across the islands.

The influence of ska was much greater in the U.K where migrants from the Caribbean had been moving in in large numbers after WW2. Labels like Coxsone, Bluebeat, and Island ensured that many great tracks were made available to the diaspora and many other English fans who developed a taste for the music and culture. One example was Birmingham band The Locomotive who were influenced by the rude boy sub-culture that emerged in the 1960s. In 1967 they released a cover version of Dandy Livingston’s Rudy – A Message To You for the U.K’s Direction label. This song was later covered by The Specials and became an anthem for the ska/2-Tone revival in the late 1970s.  In 1968 the Locomotive issued a follow up called Rudi’s In Love, which was written by their keyboard player Norman Haines, and it was a top 30 hit in the U.K. This meant it also got an Australian release on Parlophone records.

Another significant late 60s Australian release which bears the strong influence of ska is Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da by The Beatles. It appeared on The Beatles (White Album) in November 1968 and was also issued as a single in February 1969. It was to become one of the biggest selling songs of that year. Concurrent to The Beatles version was a cover by Jamaican singer Joyce Bond which was cut for Island Records and licensed to Festival Records. Arthur Conley also had a cover on Atlantic. The flip side of the Bond single has a great reggae instrumental called Robin Hood Rides Again which is credited to the Joyce Bond Review.

It’s also worth noting that a reggae influenced version of Give Peace A Chance, the first single by Hot Chocolate Band (later to become simply Hot Chocolate), was issued in Australia on Apple Records late in 1969.

Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da introduced a man named Desmond who has a barrow in the marketplace. Jamaican singer Desmond Dekker had toured the U.K early in 1968 and was Paul McCartney’s inspiration for the choice of name. Desmond Dekker would have been a new name to most Australian listeners but that was to change over the next 12 months.  

Part 2 will look at the emergence of reggae from the late 1960s through till the early 1980s. Please sign up for email updates at the top of the page to make sure you don’t miss it.

If you enjoyed this or have additional information or releases to share please leave me a comment below. I always love hearing from fellow collectors.

Here’s a dozen calypso tracks available in Australia between 1955 and 1958

Collecting Australian Pressings of Led Zeppelin 1

From the opening chord and drum kicks of Good Times, Bad Times it is clear that Led Zepplin sound like no band that has come before them. And when How Many More Times reaches its dramatic conclusion almost 45 minutes later, many listeners still say that the self-titled debut LP put together by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham is one of the greatest albums of all time. Of course other records followed throughout the 70s and the group became arguably the biggest band in the world.

In Australia the first Led Zeppelin album has been a popular seller since it was released. As a result there are many different versions that turn up. For collectors it can be difficult to work out whether the copy you have found is an original first pressing or one of those that followed as the audience for the record grew from thousands into millions. 

This guide is a hopefully presented in a way that will help both experienced and new collectors work out which version they have in their collection. It covers the significant changes in the way the album was presented in Australia during the 1960s and 70s. It doesn’t claim to be comprehensive in covering all the subtle pressing variations. If you have a copy that doesn’t fit what is described below then please drop me a line. I’m always keen to add to the knowledge presented here. When I started collecting records it was older collectors who helped me work out what was what and I am always grateful to those who share their learnings.

Festival and Warner Pressings of Led Zeppelin

The first important thing to know is that Led Zeppelin was made and distributed in Australia by two different companies at different periods in time. The album was released originally in the U.S on Atlantic Records who, at the time, had an arrangement with Festival Records in Australia. So early pressings were made in Australia by Festival. Then late in 1970 Warner Bros joined forces with Atlantic and began making the records instead. Festival Atlantic pressings have a green label with silver writing, while Warners Atlantic pressings have green and orange labels. These are the two most obvious differences, but there are other which are covered in more detail below.

Australian Release Dates

Led Zeppelin was released in the U.S in January 1969 and the U.K at the end of March 1969. While dates are available online for these countries it is not always easy to find them for Australian releases. So when did the first Australian issue appear?

It was certainly after the mid-January release in the U.S and Australia wouldn’t have been earlier than the UK date so we can reasonably benchmark April as the earliest month. Other clues are available by looking at the Festival catalogue number for the LP (S)AL 933,232 and comparing it with others released around the same time.

The Bee Gees big release for 1969 was Odessa and it carries the cat number SEL 933,241 indicating that it was released either at the same time, or just after Led Zeppelin. Remember that a big distributor like Festival would issue multiple LPs in the same week. Odessa was released on March 30th in the U.K which suggests that Led Zeppelin and Odessa both had a release in Australia sometime after then.

Moving through other Festival releases from this period brings you to John Braden’s self-titled LP SAML 933,255. A photo of the Festival promo sleeve uploaded to Discogs for this LP shows the album was released on the 30th June 1969. Given the later catalogue number on this LP it seems safe to say that Led Zeppelin couldn’t have been issued after this date.

So we’re currently looking at a window between April and June 1969. It’s possible that a look at the single from the LP can help further refine the date. Good Times, Bad Times / Communication Breakdown wasn’t a big hit on the national singles chart but it did make the Canberra top 40. Its first appearance there is 23rd May 1969 (its highest position on the chart was 13 and it hung around for several months). All copies I’ve ever seen of the single, including bullet sticker promos, advertise the LP under the name of the tracks. So the single was used to market the LP which indicates the LP was also available at the same time.

Based on this information it seems reasonable to say that the album first appeared between April and June 1969.

Festival Pressings: 1969 & 1970

Label Variations

Label design for Atlantic LPs released through Festival is consistent throughout much of the late 60s. An LP from 1967 uses the same colour scheme (dark green and silver), layout and fonts as a release from 1968 and the same is true for the first half of 1969.

One significant change occurred at the end of June 1969 when Festival stopped adding logos for the song publisher on their labels. This provides an easy way to identify a first pressing of Led Zeppelin. If the label shows the Jewel Music then your album is a first pressing. The label for the mono issue of the LP also features the Jewel Music stamp.

There are copies of the LP with exactly the same label colour, layout and font but without the Jewel Music stamp and I believe these to be from the second pressing run which most likely occurred around July 1969.

At some point in 1969 Festival also changed the direction of the text for Atlantic underneath the catalogue number. Until this time Atlantic reads top to bottom but was changed so that the name reads bottom to top. Typically the top to bottom pressings use the Futura Demi Bold typeface, whereas the bottom to top labels use either News Gothic or Classified News typeface.

In 1969 Festival was using multiple printers to keep up with the demand of its records. A result is different fonts being used across their LPs. This explains how there can be subtle variants in early or first pressings. In the example above you’ll notice two Jewel logo variations. Key differences are the font style used and top/bottom Atlantic variation. Both are very early, if not first, pressings, but the labels were set and printed by different suppliers.

A third label variation uses a slimmer font for the band’s name on the label. The font change here is consistent with that used on other LPs released and promoted by Festival in their Free Form series in late 1969/early 1970. This included the Fusion album Border Town and Tons of Sobs by Free which are pictured below beside this variation for comparison.

A fourth variation with slightly different font again was used from mid to late 1970. This one is harder to see if you’re simply comparing labels. The copies I have seen with this variation were housed inside covers that featured the Gold Record Award on the bottom left corner. The album was announced as having achieved Gold sales status in September 1970 so this gives an indication of the timing of these pressings.

Cover Variations

The covers are also a good source of information. The front cover with the iconic Zeppelin image by George Hardie remains basically unchanged across the different pressings with the main exception being the addition of the “Gold Record Award” sticker in the second half of 1970 (as mentioned above). The rare mono copies of the LP also have a red mono sticker which is easily seen in the top left corner under the band’s name.

First pressings were housed in ‘flipback sleeves’. For most of the 1960s Festival LPs were made with ‘flipback sleeves’. These are easily identified by looking at the rear of the sleeve, and particularly at the top and bottom seams. If the front of the sleeve appears to have been flipped over to the back and stuck down then you have a flipback sleeve. Later sleeves are different and the sticking is done inside the sleeve rather than being visible on the outside. Flipback sleeves will also generally have the name of the band, the name of the album, and catalogue numbers printed down the right hand edge of the rear of the sleeve.

Unique to Festival pressings of this LP is the inclusion on the rear sleeve of a biography of the band by June Harris and then individual biographies of the band members. This was only done for Australian and New Zealand markets (both handled by Festival).

Warner Pressings: 1970 Onwards

The Warner company began pressing Atlantic records in the US from August 1st 1970. This was part of a corporate change among record companies during the time. Kinney National Company, Warner’s parent company, was expanding and securing the partnership with Atlantic was a key deal for them. Part of their expansion included a new Australian operation and Warner quickly worked to set up their own office in Sydney which opened on 1st October 1970. There was a period where they relied on local manufacturers to produce their records for the Australian market but by November 1972 they began manufacturing their own records with the advent of WEA Records Pty. Ltd (W standing for Warner, E for Elektra, and A for Atlantic – the three big labels that had merged).

Label Variations

Following Warner’s deal with Atlantic there is a significant change in the labels used. The dark green label used by Festival is replaces with the U.S Atlantic label design that is green on top, orange on the bottom, and has a white band through the middle. This colour scheme is basically the same after this. The catalogue number printed on the label is also different. The Festival numbering (S)AL 933,232 is replaced with the U.S catalogue number SD 8216. Essentially what is marketed from now is a locally produced version of the U.S pressing. The other significant difference is the mention of WEA. Copies pressed after Warners take over (Oct 1970) and before WEA is established (Nov 1972) have no text indicating WEA. After November 1972, copies begin to have “manufactured & distributed by WEA Records Pty. Limited.

Cover Variations

As with the label design, the cover design also shifts to emulate the U.S pressings from Oct 1970 onwards. Most noticeable is the band photo (taken by Chris Dreja) on the rear of the sleeve instead of the band biography. The word ‘Stereo’ shifts from the top left corner to the top right corner for Warner pressings. Under the text on the bottom right of the rear sleeve you will find ‘manufactured and distributed under license’ which is standard on all sleeves produced by Warners in Australia during this period. From November 1972 onwards copies will have ‘manufactured and distributed by WEA Records Pty. Limited’ instead.

Summary – A Quick Visual Guide

First Australian Pressing (mid 1969): Dark green and silver Atlantic Label, catalogue number of SAL 933,232, mono number AL 933,232 also printed in top right corner of rear sleeve, Jewel publishing stamp above big Atlantic, flipback Festival sleeve, small Atlantic below catalogue number on label runs top to bottom.

First Australian Mono Pressing (mid 1969): Dark green and silver Atlantic Label, catalogue number of AL 933,232 on record label, mono & stereo numbers printed in top right corner of rear sleeve, Jewel publishing stamp above Atlantic, flipback Festival sleeve. Red mono sticker under Atlantic on front cover, small Atlantic below catalogue number on label runs top to bottom. NOTE – Unfortunately I only have a cover image of the mono copy at present. If you can help with label shot I would really appreciate it.

Second Australian Pressing (middle of 1969): Dark green and silver Atlantic Label, catalogue number of SAL 933,232 on record label, mono & stereo numbers printed in top right corner of rear sleeve, flipback Festival sleeve, small Atlantic below catalogue number on label runs top to bottom.

Third Australian Pressing (late 1969): Dark green and silver Atlantic Label, different slimmer font used for Led Zeppelin, catalogue number of SAL 933,232 on record label, mono & stereo numbers printed in top right corner of rear sleeve, non-flipback Festival sleeve, small Atlantic below catalogue number on label runs bottom to top.

Fourth Australian Pressing (Aug/Sept 1970): Dark green and silver Atlantic Label, different slimmer font used for Led Zeppelin, catalogue number of SAL 933,232 on record label, mono & stereo numbers printed in top right corner of rear sleeve, non-flipback Festival sleeve, small Atlantic below catalogue number on label runs bottom to top, Gold Sales Award sticker on front sleeve.

Fifth Australian Pressing (Oct 1970 – Nov 1972): Green, orange and white labels, US catalogue number used – SD 8216, labels do not mention WEA, photos of band members on rear sleeve, ‘manufactured and distributed under license’ on rear sleeve bottom right side text, Stereo moves from top left corner to top right corner on front cover.

Sixth Australian Pressing (Nov 1972 onwards): Green, orange and white labels, US catalogue number used – SD 8216, labels says “manufactured & distributed by WEA Records Pty. Limited., photos of band members on rear sleeve.


My thanks to fellow collectors Gary O’Donnell, David Abbott, Jaesen Jones and Jeremy (@flipbackrecords79) for your information, photos, and all round help with pulling this together.

It’s probably worth mentioning again that this is far from comprehensive in terms of all the different variations released in Australia over the last 50 years. If the copy in your collection is Australian and differs in some way from those presented here then please get in touch. I’d love to improve this wherever possible.

If you want to read more about LPs pressed by either Festival Records or Warner Bros Records in Australia then you can find label guides to both here at Sonic Archaeology.

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