How to identify Nick Drake UK album first pressings Pt1

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I decided to write this short guide to help people in buying first pressings of Nick Drake's UK albums on Island Records. In trying to do the same myself I found it hard to find the information all in one place. Oddly for such a collectible artist and beyond Discogs there doesn't seem to be a comprehensive listing unlike other for artists such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin etc. I have also noticed recently a spate of albums being sold on eBay at seemingly inflated prices with out-of-focus pictures. There is no reason why with today's technology any listing on eBay should have poorly shot pictures, so the first advice would be never to bid on such items. If you do decide to then ask the seller the right questions. 

I have split the guide into three sections; one for each album


As far as I am aware there are three variants of Nick Drake's debut album released in September 1969. There is some debate about which is the first true pressing but it is generally accepted that the first of these is the textured pink label. So:

1. Textured Pink Block  Label - 'Polydor' Pressing

This can be easily identified by the textured matte label with the ridge around the edge. The album is on heavy vinyl and the matrix numbers are ILPS 9105 A//2 & ILPS 9105 B//2 which are machine stamped. There isn't an A1/B1 matrix pink label. All of these are Pink Rim labels and probably unofficial reissues. The gatefold sleeve was printed by Ernest J. Day and the track order for Day is Done and Way to Blue is reversed. The labels show the correct track order listing. The Island Records address on the back is Basing Street, London W11.

2. Smooth Label - variant 1.

There are two versions of the smooth label. The first which I will call variant 1. has the tracks Day is Done and Way to Blue in the wrong order, therefore matching the mistake on the back of the sleeve. Given the error it would be logical to assume that this was the first pressing. However, as the Polydor pressings all seem to have the tracks in the right order and these are considered to be the earliest pressings this seems to be a discrepancy. However, at the same time it would seem slightly odd to have the tracks in the wrong order on later pressings. Perhaps we will never know. The reality is that as far as collectors are concerned the textured copies do sell for higher amounts. Though the copies with the mistake do seem to be scarcer. From personal experience I was impressed by the rich sound of the textured label copy I owned. The smooth label has as slightly beveled edge unlike the raised rim on the Polydor pressing. First press matrix numbers are ILPS 9103 A//2 & ILPS 9103 B//2 though there are variants of this A//3 etc.

3. Smooth Label - variant 2.

This is the same as the above except that the track order on Side One is corrected. Note the 'Made in England' wording on all three variants which can give rise to possible confusion with later pressings if you aren't careful!  

Buying checklist

It should be relatively simple from the above to identify the first pressings but here is a quick check list:
- first pressings only have the pink block labels (pink variants with the small 'i' label will be non-UK releases) . Second pressings have the Pink Rim label.
- matrix numbers must be machine stamped (counterfeits generally are hand etched). Watch out for this on the second pressing Pink Rim reissues of Five Leaves Left. Do NOT buy any copies of this with a hand etched matrix thinking you have got yourself a bargain.
- sleeve must be gatefold (counterfeits come in single sleeves) and should not have any wording after the BASING STREET address. The Japanese 200gm reissue comes in a replica sleeve which in theory could pass as an original with a bit of artificial ageing but is has the catalogue number UIJY-9030 after the address so should be easy to spot. The earlier box set version has the track listing corrected so should be easy to spot if being passed off as an orginal.

Finally here are two official reissues which use the pink block label but should be easy to spot as not being first pressings...unless the pictures are very blurry!

1. Box Set reissue
Note the lack of 'Made in England' and the white text in the block. The label also lacks the beveled or rimmed edge.
Note the corrected running order to side one.


2. Japanese 200gm Universal reissue
Note text running around edge and Made in Japan wording.

Please check out Part 2 for  Bryter Layter.

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