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 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.

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.

Thanks

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.

Finally, if you found this useful then please consider sharing with your friends and sign up for email alerts (back at the top of this page) whenever something new is published.

A Guide To Australian Warner Bros Record Labels In The 1960s and 70s

Recently I became interested in understanding the evolution of the Australian Warner Bros label during the 1960s and 70s. This post focusses on key releases that highlight changes in the label design and information over two decades. Warners issued and reissued many of their albums over the years and my aim is to help clarify which years/eras certain pressings come from.

This guide is informed by marginalia from records in my collection, online articles & discographies, as well as newspaper articles found using the amazing Trove database at the National Library of Australia. Others have written extensive accounts of the Warner Bros story both in Australia and elsewhere and I have provided links to a few favourites at the end. This is a work in progress and I appreciate any feedback or additional information that improves its accuracy.

Quick overview of the different Australian Warner Bros. Records labels

1960/61: Establishing An Australian presence

The Rogers Record Review column in the Canberra Times on the 15th August 1960 covered the ‘big news’ surrounding the premier release for Warner Bros Records in the Australian market. Twelve of the best selling LPs from the U.S catalogue were selected as an initial offering including titles by Pete Rugolo, Bing Crosby, George Greeley, Raoel Meynard, Paul Desmond, Roger Smith, Bill Haley & His Comets, The Bobby Havana Boys, Tab Hunter, Stan from the TV Show Hawaiian Eye, The Warner Bros Military Band, and Edd Byrnes.

As ‘Kookie’ in the successful TV show 77 Sunset Strip, Byrnes was one of the star actors on the WB books. The top right corner of the LP’s front sleeve shows the boxed Warner Bros logo which would increasingly appear exclusively on the rear of the sleeve in following years.

Although released in Australia in 1960, the licensing and manufacturing information at the bottom of the sleeve copies the U.S release and reads “© 1959 Warner Bros Records Inc. A subsidiary and licensee of Warner Bros Pictures Inc. Manufactured and Distributed by Australian Records Company Ltd.”

The rear sleeve advertises ‘Vitaphonic’ high fidelity. This continues to appear on WB releases until at least 1968.

The grey label features a black and yellow WB shield logo. Variations on this logo come and go over the following decades. For the first decade WB was manufactured by the Australian Record Company Limited. They’re credited in the third row of text from the bottom (just above Vitaphonic High Fidelity).

The Outriggers LP is an early stereo pressing from the 60/61 period. It was originally released in the U.S in 1958. Note the catalogue number 1224 is lower than 1309 for the Kookie LP above. For the next decade Australian releases were selected from the broader U.S WB catalogue and not always issued in the same order as the U.S.

The cover reproductions remain true to the U.S pressings. The © text on the rear of this sleeve reads 1958. Years can’t be relied upon exclusively to accurately date Australian pressings until local WB manufacturing begin printing the ℗ year on labels in 1972.

1963/64: Manufactured in Australia By The Australian Record Company Limited

In 1963/64 there is a shift in the way the Australian Record Company is credited on the labels. Previously the text reads “Australian Record Company Limited“. The updated text is smaller print and longer. It reads “Manufactured In Australia By The Australian Record Company Limited, Licensee All Rights Reserved.”

It is difficult to be certain about the exact date. The last release I can find with the original text is W 1490 -Let’s Go! With the Routers. This was advertised as an upcoming U.S release in Billboard magazine of January 1963 and so it’s highly likely that it was issued in Australia sometime later that same year.

An early example of the new text is on the LP W 1525 Ski Surfin’ by The Avalanches. This was advertised in Billboard magazine as a new U.S release in December 1963. Therefore, it must have been released in Australian in December 1963, or far more likely, released sometime in 1964.

The updated text was certainly in place by September 1964 when the Peter Paul And Mary In Concert LP was released and being reviewed in Australia.

Interestingly, LPs like the debut by Peter, Paul & Mary, which was certainly issued in Australia by January 1963, were also issued with the updated text. This suggests that there were multiple pressings of at least this LP in the first year of its release.

1965/66: Warner Bros label goes gold

In June 1965, W 1589, Peter, Paul & Mary’s LP A Song Will Rise was a best seller in the U.S. The album was originally released on the grey WB label in Australia. Unfortunately I can’t find a primary source to confirm it, but it seems reasonable to say that WB would have wanted to get it out as soon as possible to capitalise on their popularity and therefore it was probably issued sometime in mid to late 1965.

By April 1966 the label had changed to gold. Ike & Tina Turner’s Live Show (W 1579) is an early example. The album was released in the U.S early in 1965 and the sleeve of the Australian pressing carries a © date of 1965. However, reviews don’t begin appearing in Australia until April 1966 suggesting WB delayed local release.

1967/68: Warner Bros. – Seven Arts Ltd.

In November 1966 Jack L Warner sold his share of the Warner Bros. Company to Seven Arts Ltd. In July 1967 shareholders of both companies approved the sale of WB to Seven Arts. The resulting merger was named Warner Bros. – Seven Arts Ltd.

The Association’s album Insight Out was packaged to capitalise on the success of their song Windy which was in the Australian charts in August/September of 1967.

Though the album was released in Australia after the merger took place, the text on the rear sleeve still reads This record published and © 1967 Warner Bros. Records Inc., A subsidiary of Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.

Anything Goes by Harpers Bizarre first appeared in the U.S Billboard charts late in December of 1967. Original promo copies of the U.S pressing credit still use the WB shield logo on their cover and credit Warner Bros. – Seven Arts at the bottom of the rear of the sleeve.

However, text at the bottom of the original Australian pressing, likely issued early in 1968, does not yet credit the merger and reads “This record published and © 1968 Warner Bros. Records Inc., A subsidiary of Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.”

The Grateful Dead’s self titled debut album was being reviewed in Australia in March/April 1968. The text at the bottom of the rear sleeve is the earliest reference I can find of an Australian pressing that credits Seven Arts. It reads “This record published and © 1968 Warner Bros. – Seven Arts, Inc., A subsidiary and licensee of Warner Bros. – Seven Arts Inc.”

Interestingly, the album was originally released in the U.S in March 1967. The fact that the Australian pressing has a © date of 1968, and the Harpers Bizarre LP also has a © 1968 date, despite being originally released in 1967, suggests that the © year printed on sleeves is becoming more reliable during this period.

The gold label was still being used in 1968 for this second WB album release from the Grateful Dead.

1968-69: W7 logo and the first green labels

Either later in 1968, or certainly by 1969, a new W7 logo had begun appearing on the front and rear sleeves – usually in the top right corner. The logo was introduced in 1967 in the U.S for films made by the company but it seems to have taken a little longer before it became a fixture on their recordings.

There is also another shift in the colour of the label – this time to green. Along with this change is new text that appears on the top of the label that reads Warner Bros. – Seven Arts Records. Underneath this text is the W7 logo.

Again, it’s difficult being too specific about when the changes occurred, but in this case the © date on the rear sleeve for Lalo Schifrin’s Bullit soundtrack (WS 1777) says 1969 and my copy has a radio station stamp showing May 1969 so it had certainly happened by then.

1970: Warner Bros begins Australian operations

In July 1969 the Kinney National Company acquired the entire Warner Bros. – Seven Arts company. This was a fascinating business move by Kinney who had previously run parking lots and a funeral home. By 1970 Seven Arts had been dropped from the name and the company was known again as Warner Bros. The label remained green but there was a return to the WB shield design, this time with blue text on an orange background.

Looking to expand further, Warner Bros. announced in July 1970 that it was opening Warner Bros. Records of Australia later that year. With Paul Turner as President of operations it launched officially on October 1st 1970. This launch marked the end of the Australian Record Company’s period as the licensee for WB in Australia, though it would still take care of distribution until late 1972 when WEA Records Pty Ltd. took over. Turner and his team were given full control of releases and promotional activities. They were empowered and encouraged to sign local acts and the WB companies in other markets, which now included Canada and the U.K along with the U.S, were to help market those acts to their own audiences.

The first local act to release an LP on the new label was Tamam Shud with Goolutionites And The Real People (WS-200001), which came out in late 1970. The label highlights the changes in design with Warner Bros. Records along the top and the WB shield logo featured below it.

The other change that takes place at this time is the manufacturing credit on the rear sleeve. From 1970 on it simply says “Manufactured and Distributed under license.” The example here is from the Brownsville Station LP from 1971.

1972: Year of release printed on label

The international corporate shuffling and negotiations continued and in the first half of 1972 Kinney Music International renamed itself WEA International. The WEA initials standing for Warner, Elektra and Atlantic -the three major labels that had been bought out by Kinney. WEA Records Pty. Ltd. took over sales and distribution from November with operations in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and Brisbane. WEA Records Pty. Ltd. begins to appear on labels and sleeves as the distributor after this date.

Worth noting is that from 1972 onwards the Australian pressings of Warner Bros. Records begin to put the ℗ year on their labels just under the catalogue number and MX numbers. This makes it much easier to date pressings after this period.

Featuring G. Wayne Thomas, John J. Francis, Brian Cadd, and Tamam Shud, the Morning of the Earth was an early local success for the label becoming the first Australian film soundtrack to achieve gold sales status.

1973 – 1978: The ‘Burbank’ label design for international artists

In 1973 Warner Bros. began using a logo that reflected the surrounding of their headquarters in Burbank, California. This has since become known as the Burbank label. Most noticeably the text at the top now reads “Burbank, Home Of Warner Bros. Records”. The change seems to have occurred in mid 1973.

Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell’s soundtrack for the film Deliverance would have been one of the final releases using the green WB label in 1973. It was being reviewed as a new release in Australian newspapers in June 1973.

The self titled album by English band Greenslade (BS-2698) was being reviewed in August 1973. The only copies I have come across are on the Burbank variation.

The Burbank label didn’t change significantly over the following four years. The only update that I’m aware of is the addition of the word ‘Records’ through the middle of the shield logo. While I can’t fix a date for the change, it doesn’t seem to appear on anything before 1976. Releases I have from 1976 & 1977 have both variations.

Only international artists appeared in the Burbank label. Australian acts continued releasing albums on the green WB label through until 1975. An example is the Stone soundtrack by Billy Green (600 002) which appeared in 1974. Local acts began appearing on other labels of the Warner stable, like Reprise, after 1975.

1978: First use of the cream/white label

The final variation considered in this blog is the cream or white label which began being used in 1978. An example is the the Champagne Charlie album from Leon Redbone (BSK-3165). This continued into the 1980s.

Other WB sources of information

Michael De Looper has compiled an excellent discography of Australian Warner Bros. releases in the 1960s and the 1970s. It covers LPs, EPs, and 45s.

The Global Dog site has a comprehensive discography for Warner Bros 45s released in Australia.

The Milesago website has an excellent writeup on the history of Warner in Australia.

For thorough information on Warner Bros Records and it’s history in the U.S check out Warner Brothers Records Story – David Edwards, Patrice Eyries, and Mike Callahan

Robert Lyons is a good source for info about the U.K Warner Bros operations and pressings.

As I said at the beginning, if you spot anything that you feel should be corrected, or have information that can help further develop the detail in this blog, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.