GALLERIES – with two or more images. Click on the image to enlarge.
The best inner sleeve of all?
There’s not much competition. It’s a highly collectable label in its own right, but the inner sleeve to match the centre label is essential.
Paul Newman writes (from the forthcoming Vertigo section here):
Never has a record label personified its name as well as Vertigo – a swirling spiralling experience of black and white to augment the progressive sounds from its grooves. Even if you weren’t on anything, it promised to be a mind-blowing exercise. People would gather round the turntable to watch the record spin (Wow!) destroying future valuable collectables with hot ash, gobbets of Instant Whip and puke. Often they would be so involved in watching the label spin that they would forget to put the stylus in the groove, and in the case of some of the records, it was more enjoyable that way. Vertigo launched with ads suggesting you cut out the advert and place it on your turntable, which showed little faith in the music. It’s no surprise that the full swirly Vertigo design dates from 1969-1973, when records were issued in this giddiness-inducing form.
The Vertigo B side label carried the track information for both sides.
Beatles & Stones
It was the era:
Why the inner sleeve?
Inner sleeves were important, especially in Britain. Albums were not shrink wrapped, and every store put empty sleeves in the racks and stored the LPs in their underwear in a rack behind the counter. On purchase they were reunited with the outer sleeve. You’ll often find the catalogue number handwritten in ink on the inner sleeve.
Several labels used plain white sleeves all the time, I’d say all labels used plain white sleeves some of the time. That’s what the majority of inner sleeves are, plain white, but there were different ways of cutting the sleeve, and different labels had standard plain inner sleeves. Some had holes to read the label, some didn’t. Some were cut on on the four corners to enable easy putting into the sleeve. Others didn’t do that. Some had scooped tops, others were square.
Other labels saw the inner sleeve as an opportunity to display their logo, or to advertise their catalogue. When we get to reasonably valuable LPs, a collector will expect the correct inner sleeve. It’s perplexing how often albums ended up in the wrong inner sleeves. An astute record store will save a label’s generic inner sleeves from the piles of records that end up in a skip, and keep them to check they’re on the right label. At record fairs I’ve seen specific label inner sleeves at 6 or 10 for a pound.
Does it matter?
Browsing in a record shop. A nice copy of Santana’s Abraxas, nearly mint. Hmm. Looks good. Then the shop owner intervened: ‘That’s an original 1970 copy. Rare to see it in that condition.’
‘It is …’ I slid the record out, ‘It’s a repressing. The inner sleeve is advertising mid 70s CBS albums.’
‘No, no. People are careless with inner sleeves. It’s been switched. I’m sure it’s original …’
No. ‘It’s got an orange and yellow inner label. In 1970 it would have been plain orange, then it would have been orange and yellow … this is a reissue.’
Indeed, but you can often do it with just inner sleeves, especially with CBS / Columbia who advertised other albums on the sleeve and continually updated them.
When you get to expensive albums the inner sleeve matters even if it’s a generic one. I’ve told this story elsewhere.
A friend told me she’d got rid of all her albums except The Beatles Please Please Me, and she explained she’d kept it because it was autographed by all four Beatles. She showed me. Not only that it was a black Parlophone label. My eyes widened. All four Beatles signatures were on the front.
‘They used to get their roadies to sign albums,’ I said.
‘Not this one. I was there. My mum was in charge of the theatre box office. I watched them sign it. Look at the back,’ she said.
I turned it over. John Lennon’s signature. Then an arrow and ‘We signed on the front, John!’ in George’s writing.
‘Maybe I should sell it,’ she said, What would a record shop give me?’
‘A tiny fraction of its value,’ I said, ‘No way! You put it in an auction. But it has an orange CBS inner sleeve from the mid sixties. Why?’
“I can’t remember. I must have put it back in the wrong one.’
Bad sign. People who look after their albums don’t have several out of the sleeve at the same time. Unless they put them on an auto changer which was a disaster with LPs, as they’d tend to fall suddenly driving the stylus into the record below, at least they did on my 1962 Dansette.
Anyway, it was easily solved. We went to the nearest charity shop. Bobby Vee’s The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, 1962. Bobby Vee was on Liberty, The Beatles were on Parlophone, but both were then EMI labels, and EMI only used one inner sleeve at the time. It advertised EMITEX cleaning cloths. Please Please Me got the correct plain EMI group inner sleeve for 50p. And I got to keep the Bobby Vee LP too. With a 70s orange CBS inner sleeve, but it was in mediocre condition and worth very little.
The sleeve snob
So having been snooty on people swapping inner sleeves, I went to photograph my Please Please Me inner sleeve. Mortification! It was in a Decca inner instead of EMI. I immediately checked The Rolling Stones first LP and it was in an EMI inner, not a Decca one. At least I’d had two classic LPs out together back at the time. It’s surprising the percentage of LPs that have ended up with the wrong inner sleeve (given that you have no idea with white ones). I’d estimate at least 10%, more like 20% of LPs end up in the wrong inner sleeves. Jazz collectors are reputed to be the most careful, so I went through my jazz section while writing this, virtually all bought secondhand. The same proportion are in the wrong inner sleeves. I thought it was just prog fans who were too stoned to put records back. Maybe it was those seductive lounge evenings where putting a cool jazz record back instantly would have spoiled the mood. It does look somewhat nerdish.
The base EMI / Emitex sleeve changed little over the years. Not all had linings, and linings could be transparent paper or polythene. Every label in the group used the sleeve.
Drum Crazy: Sal Mineo, HMV Verve series Stereophonic LP 1960, EMI
Tennessee Guitar: Various, Stateside LP, 1962 EMI
Songs From Award Winning Motion Pictures: Connie Francis MGM LP 1963, EMI
Cliff Richard: Cliff Richard, Columbia LP 1965, EMI
Drum Crazy: Sal Mineo, HMV Verve series Stereophonic LP 1960, EMI
Songs From Award Winning Motion Pictures: Connie Francis MGM LP 1963, EMI
Cliff Richard: Cliff Richard, Columbia LP 1965, EMI
Stereo and mono
In the early days of stereo, record companies wanted to advertise the medium. In the UK, they also didn’t want mono records being put in stereo sleeves and vice versa, so stereo marking was important. That happened again with Quadraphonic. (SEE THE Quad section, which has some inner sleeves).
They always took great pride in their ffr and ffss series. They wanted people to know:
The Decca group were particularly keen on demarcation.
60 Years of Music America Hates Best: Spike Jones, London-American stereophonic 1959
Then Decca moved to colour coding. Blue for stereo, red for mono. That was on the LP centre label, but went through to the inner sleeve to make sure.
Along Came Jones: Tom jones, 1965 Decca LP Mono
The previous owner of this one was so intent on it being in the correct inner sleeve that the title is typewritten on the sleeve.
The World of Lulu. Volume 2: Lulu, Decca LP 1970 Stereo
Not only that they put a small hole in the rear sleeve so you could see the colour of the inner one.
Later Decca group stereo sleeve: front and back.
The distinction was so important, that even when they decided to use the inner sleeve for release specific credits and notes, they retained the blue or red border to show through the hole.
Let It Bleed: The Rolling Stones, mono and stereo inner sleeves with track lists and credits
In the current taste for retro, a 2022 Decca inner sleeve is smooth card, not paper and it is from the ‘British Jazz Explosion’ series of reissues of classic jazz LPs … some of which were never on Decca, but now UMG uses the Decca name for that sort of thing. It reproduces the out-of-date wording but has no hole in the middle.
Label identity inners
Several label wanted a strong presence. That didn’t mean advice on cleaning, or changing styluses, nor advertising their catalogue. These are some of the nicest inner sleeves.
Pye was happy to give Reprise (above) and Warner Brothers special inner sleeves. Both were kudos for the company, promoting a quality image. So Reprise stressed the size of the orchestra backing its artistes (Frank Sinatra and friends, early on) Never mind the quality, feel the width. Warner Bros was partly advertising albums, but the tone was more ‘We’re an important label’ (sign for us, to artists).
Budget label Saga had a custom inner sleeve- it was very simple, but it was specially printed. The blue one has text on the disc on the reverse.
American labels were keen on simple and direct inner sleeves:
ABC Dunhill USA 1971
Vanguard USA late 1960s
Motown, Canada.1972 with maple leaf
The poly sleeve
Several labels used polythene inner sleeves. EMI liked to line paper with polythene, but others dispensed with the paper.
Labels used the inner sleeve to advertise peripheral products like cleaning materials then to advertise the rest of their catalogue. This tended against having a hole in the middle.
It pays to advertise
Some American labels had advertising sleeves early on This is Mercury from 1961.
Capitol USA inner sleeve … found on a UK album, but it was printed in the USA.
MGM US sleeve, from Blaze by Herman’s Hermits.
Cameo-Parkway, USA. This came on Chubby Checker’s Let’s Limbo Some More from 1963.
This is Walt Disney’s Vista / Buena Vista label inner sleeve from 1964:
HMV had full colour inner sleeves with a classical side and a popular side … Verve was considered a series within the HMV umbrella (which in turn was part of the EMI umbrella). HMV was the prestige label.
They were more muted in 1964:
Early 70s EMI:
EMI Tamla Motown
When EMI gave Tamla-Motown its own label (it had previously been released as Stateside), an advertising inner sleeve came in. All the LPs illustrated are Tamla Motown albums.
Motown USA were more exuberant, going for full colour. This is from David Ruffin’s My Whole World Ended from 1969.
Capitol were awarded a label specific sleeve at the same time as Tamla Motown. This is from Billy Preston’s 1966 The Wildest Organ In Town.
This is a 1969 inner sleeve, from Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is which is among the LPs advertised on the sleeve.
EMI’s Prog label Harvest had a custom inner sleeve. This one dates from late 1971. Having said it exists, I’ll add that the majority of Harvest releases I’ve got are in plain white sleeves.
Music for Pleasure
In common with Pye, and Woolworth’s Embassy, EMI used advertising sleeves on their budget Music For Pleasure label. There is a strong tendency to put advertising sleeves on budget releases, possibly because the buyer was perceived as less particular, so more open to adverts for other records. This one is from an unusual ‘valuable’ Music For Pleasure release, the vaguely psychedelic Curried Jazz by the Indo-British Ensemble from 1969.
Top Rank was a serious effort to break the UK “Big Four” monopoly. So they did things differently. Their inner sleeves had a flap at the top that folded over like an envelope. It kept dust off the record, and was a reasonable idea that no other label followed.
The Woolworths budget label. They were not going to waste space. Advertise as many records as you can cram on. So one side was LPs, the other was EPs:
What differed from every other label was that they had a seal on the inner label. As in all UK record shops in the 1950s and 1960s, LP sleeves were displayed empty. The records were kept behind the counter in the inner sleeves. As Woolworths generally declined to play records, they could place a sticker seal over the entrance of the inner sleeve:
Pye advertised on most of its inner sleeves. There was a full price Pye group one and a Golden Guinea budget one. They did get mixed even when they were new.
This is 1961, on The Soul of Harlem by Orchestra del Oro. The sleeve is numbered by hand. Golden Guinea cost a guinea (21 shillings), unless you wanted stereo, which bumped it up to 27/6d (27 shillings and sixpence).
From 1962, the red circular design took over and lasted.
The 1965 plus Super Stereo CBS series had its own inner sleeve.
Pre-1965 sleeves are plain white. CBS were still being pressed by Philips / Fontana, who went for plain white sleeves. The first Bob Dylan without a white inner sleeve I have is Blonde on Blonde in 1966. Someone cares. I’ve seen this CBS inner sleeve advertised on eBay at £4.89 to £10. I’ve got lots, but they’re all on records.
You’d date it because the last Bob Dylan album advertised on the rear sleeve is Highway 61 Revisited from 1965. The list also reveals how CBS was mainly an Easy Listening / Jazz / Standards / Classical label.
This CBS sleeve was on Gary Puckett & TheUnion Gap: Featuring Young Girl from 1968.
CBS updated their inner sleeves so frequently that they make date matching a minefield. A repressing will have had the current sleeve applied, rather than the one of its original release. However, a very large number of CBS LPs have plain white sleeves so having the exact one is nothing to get hung up about. Just don’t apply the wrong one.
This CBS sleeve on the virtues of LP records is worth reading. It’s all true. Note the clipped corners enabling easier placing in the outer sleeve. This one is on a 1969 release.
Ironically, this was ‘Bob Dylan’ inner sleeve was on the Paul Simon LP. It advertises New Morning. Maybe CBS UK had a sense of humour.
Note the inner sleeve on my copy of New Morning, which I bought in March 1971 (not having enough money when it was released) advertises Simon & Garfunkel. In retrospect, it makes sense. There’s no point in advertising New Morning to someone who’s already bought it.
The Tony Bennett inner sleeve came on an Al Stewart’s Orange LP from 1972, so like the Simon & Garfunkel was applied to discs by other artists, though I’m not convinced Al Stewart fans were the most likely to purchase Tony Bennett LPs.
And this is a mid 70s one, probably 1972.
CBS Classics inner sleeve, from Concierto de Aranjuez, by John Williams. The date of the LP recording is earlier, but my copy would be 1973 or 1974. Unlike other CBS advertising sleeves, it had a hole in the middle to show the centre label.
The Greatest Hits
This CBS inner sleeve was not on a Greatest Hits album, but on a double 1972 album. The records advertised go up to late 1971.
The Inner sleeve
CBS moved from simple adverts to full length reviews on the inner sleeves. Judging by the numbering they were only used for a short time. It would be difficult to match to first pressings.
The one below has no number, so I suspect it’s first. It was on my copy of Santana’s Caravanserai which I bought when it came out, so October 1972.
This one is numbered II (in Roman Numerals, so 2) and all the records reviewed are 1972.
This one is labelled ISSUE 6 and seems to be early 1973.
This next one is numbered as UK POP1 Inner sleeve, thus justifying my description of ‘inner sleeve’ rather than ‘inner bag’ which some prefer. The better graphics suggest it’s later than the blue one above. Incidentally, POP 1 is the number throughout the inner sleeve series.
This next came on a CBS distributed label, Philadelphia International, on Black and Blue by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. The sleeve doesn’t advertise any Philadelphia International albums, and dates from 1973.
This is also 1973, on Johnny Nash’s My Merry Go Round, advertised on the one above.
This card Nice Price inner sleeve has albums like Darkness On The Edge of Town and Destiny that were originally released in 1978, but are now ‘Nice Price.’ (i.e. reduced to mid-price) I’d date it as early 80s.
The inner sleeve as a magazine
Popular with CBS distributed records. This is from Blue Note on a 1985 record. The move is from reviews to short articles.
CBS distributed Philadelphia International, and some time in 1973 produced a custom inner sleeve. This one was on Ship Ahoy by The O’Jays.
CBS bought the Oriole / Embassy group because they wanted their pressing plants, and soon scrapped everything the label had recorded. They retained the Embassy name as a CBS budget label.
The Transatlantic UK label is a favourite, advertising their main labels, Transatlantic and Xtra as well as the American labels they distributed, Prestige, Folkways and Audio Fidelity.
They also distributed the Soviet MK. classical label and Conversaphone language courses. Eclectic.
RCA tended to flimsy paper without poly linings, which went with their thin vinyl Dynaflex LPs. The jury is out and arguing frantically whether the flexible Dynaflex has survived well. I have found some good ones.
Home Taping is Killing Music
It was indeed in the mid 70s, and several labels decided to advertise the fact somewhere on the record, often on the rear outer sleeve, so that the punters felt a twinge of guilt before pressing RECORD on the open reel deck or cassette recorder. The WEA group put it large on the inner sleeve.
Late arrivals, who wanted to make their presence felt:
Most of the valuable early Island LPs are in plain white sleeves. Some later ones have plain black, with no centre hole which looks better.
This one is from the 1979 reggae sampler One Happy Family. It’s card and a superior advertising sleeve, but maybe that’s because of the so many great back catalogue albums it’s advertising.
This was on Zawinul from 1971, a US import.
James Last / Polydor
James Last was so major to Polydor that he had his own inner sleeve … and the German ones turn up on UK releases. The expense of full colour was not a problem.
Virgin got a double impact with the inner sleeve to B.E.F.’s Music of Quality and Distinction in 1982. One side has the credits for the album, the other has ‘Music of Distinct Quality’ from the Virgin catalogue.
Warwick were a TV-advertised low budget label which crammed thirty minutes a side onto LPs with awful sound quality. 22 to 24 track albums. Trust me, no one who ever bought a Warwick LP, new or secondhand cared about the inner sleeve. The reason it appears is that in 1980 they were using LPs to advertise cassettes.
Cheaper than a gatefold: essential inner sleeves
… though some had a gatefold as well. This is where the inner sleeve is used for information about the record inside, rather than putting this on the outer sleeve. While it was cheaper than a gatefold, it meant the sleeve had to be on every pressing. These are the ones that must be in place to retain value.
1965 is early for the information sleeve.
Cliff Richard continued, and the inner sleeve is essential.
From around that time, many, many records had individualized inner sleeves with track lists and credits.
By the 1970s, labels worked out it was easier to insert a separate 12″ square track list. it was cheaper than a sleeve and you could then use generic sleeves for the disc itself:
Poetry in motion …
Bob Dylan by the mid 70s could have whatever he wanted. So on Blood On The Tracks, you should have the original maroon card inner sleeve. The only marking on it is the catalogue number:
Then for Desire you get liner notes (poetry?) by Allen Ginsberg on the inner sleeve.
Any Dylan collector would want the inner sleeve.
From this point every Dylan album has a custom inner sleeve, at least in its first pressing run. Some are used for credits, some for photos, then Hard Rain has a plain blank dove grey card inner sleeve. Some are good, some aren’t. They’re often elaborate, as on the Dylan album I like least of all, Saved.
A Beatle could have whatever they wanted, so that the post-1970 solo Beatles albums tend to custom inner covers, and Paul McCartney had posters inside some too plus custom centre labels per release. So much so, that with his high royalty rate, an HMV manager told me that EMI were instructing reps not to sell his next album to bring him down to Earth.
A selection of Paul McCartney / Wings inner sleeves
You can see whenever an artist started to make lots of money for EMI. From Wish You Were Here on, Pink Floyd always had custom inner sleeves, though usually just text. On The Wall, Gerald Scarfe hand lettered the text.
Wish You were Here. Pink Floyd
Art of the inner sleeve
Some artists still go for the individual artistic inner. Neil Young did in 1975 with Zuma, and you have to like the concept even if you don’t like the artwork.
With A Little Help From My Friends: The Flaming Lips, Bella Union inner LP sleeve, 2014
Modern inner sleeves
There’s a definite tendency to card, though some will add a poly-liner. On expensive reissues, a custom inner sleeve is the default, but there are still some ‘company’ inner sleeves,
Topic Records. Introduction series, 2017 onwards
In and Out Records: esoteric and jazz. 2022 inner sleeve
Sleeves sold as replacements
W.H. Smith (at least) did this. You could buy packs of inner sleeves in the early 1970s, which had a soft inner liner. They’re good sleeves, better than the thin plain paper popular at the time.
None of the above: The audiophile sleeve
An inner ‘inner sleeve.’ Nagaoka Anti-Static Inner Sleeve. I inserted the yellow card for legibility. I found these in a small batch of secondhand American pressings in the UK. All the records were in beautiful condition, and the anti-static sleeve in each fitted inside the existing inner sleeve. I put this LP straight on with no anti-static gun or brush first, and they seem to have worked. No static crackle at all.
The quality of sleeves varies … thin paper, thick (scratchy) card, poly lined, simple polythene. There is a market for audiophile sleeves … acid-free paper, non scratchy.
There’s a paper v polythene debate. I have a pack as replacements for tatty or grubby secondhand record inner sleeves myself. I prefer black, as few original records had them (Apple did), and it says clearly ‘replacement sleeve.’ This is one of mine in a replacement sleeve. Bought secondhand, inevitably it had an 1971 EMI Harvest sleeve on a 1964 Pye LP. That’s how it goes. So the Harvest now replaces a plain white sleeve on a Harvest disc.
Some people would immediately put a premium acid-free paper anti-static sleeve on new LPs. I wouldn’t. I have sixty year old records in cheap original inner sleeves and they have survived fine.
Even so, I think the most committed audiophile would not discard a custom inner sleeve … they’d keep the disc in the specialist sleeve, but retain (say) the Sergeant Pepper tie-dye pattern next to it.
Here’s one. CDs often have simple card sleeves in box sets, but not on mainstream copies. That was fine with jewel cases, but when they changed to (very) tight card sleeves, it became impossible to extricate the CD from the case without without tearing the case, or getting fingerprints all over the CD. Yes, I remember the 1982 publicity that they’d continue to play through anything, but sticky marks build up, and they can cause issues. In 2022, Bruce Springsteen’s Only The Strong Survive added a CD inner sleeve. Well done!