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 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 believe these to be from the second pressing run which most likely occurred in July 1969.
From July 1969 Festival also changed the direction of the text for Atlantic underneath the catalogue number. Before that date Atlantic reads top to bottom but after that date the name reads bottom to top.
In the second half of 1969 Festival was experimenting with different fonts on their LPs and a third 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. 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.
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).
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.
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.
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