Over the years on keithhirsch.com, we’ve discussed variations among early CD releases. A common variation that gets a lot of attention from collectors are CD label designs. Go back and read posts here on the Phonogram labels to see significant early changes to label designs. Some of those early labels are in great demand due to their rarity and aesthetics. Let’s now consider something different.
In some cases, it is the inserts that are changed early to create a different sort of collectible. Let’s consider the original U.S. issue of Elton John’s famous Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This double album, originally released in 1973, is chock full of hits, including the ever-popular title track, “Bennie and the Jets”, and “Candle In The Wind”. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was one of the first Elton John titles released on CD, with MCA Records releasing it in the U.S. as a two-disc set in 1984. MCA assigned the album catalog number MCAD2-6894, with the ‘2’ before the hyphen denoting it as a two-disc set. Let’s take a deeper look at this release.
As a quick aside, you may be aware that the 1995 Polydor remaster of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is a single disc. Everything is there, so why is the original MCA release a two-disc set? Money was likely a factor (a two-disc set was priced higher than a single-disc release). Another factor may have been manufacturing tolerances. It seems that the record labels were reluctant to push capacity limits of CDs in the early days. There are several cases where a double-vinyl set was first released as a two-CD set and subsequently reissued on one CD (without omitting content). Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is one example. So, the album was originally released on two CDs.
The MCA release of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road with catalog number MCAD2-6894 is a two-disc set issued in two separate jewel cases. Thus, each disc has a front and back insert. This set is typically found with plain pink back inserts. The front inserts show the standard album cover, but the back inserts are pink with just the track list in black. Very plain. The spines also are pink with black text. This is not the original U.S. issue. Copies with the pink back inserts are quite common. An earlier version is rather rare.
The first version of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road issued by MCA has album artwork on the back inserts, resembling the original album jacket. The spine labels are yellow instead of pink. Both versions (full-artwork back inserts and plain pink back inserts) bear the same catalog number — MCAD2-6894. Both types of inserts show DIDX-87 and DIDX-88 on the spines. Importantly, the original back inserts are individualized, meaning that the back insert for Disc 1 lists only the tracks on Disc 1, while the back insert for Disc 2 only lists the tracks on Disc 2. By contrast, the reissue has identical pink back inserts for the two discs, as both back inserts list all tracks on the album. Now, what pressings are found with the different insert types?
Seeing as the original issue with full-album artwork and yellow spines is from 1984, it is only found with Japanese pressings. More specifically, there is a Japanese CBS/Sony pressing and a Japanese JVC pressing associated with the original inserts. Of the two, the CBS/Sony pressing is considerably rarer. For the CBS/Sony pressing, Discs 1 and 2 contain “DIDX-87” and “DIDX-88” in the matrix code, respectively. For the JVC pressing, both discs have the MCA catalog number in the matrix code.
The reissue of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road with pink back inserts can be found with a Japanese JVC pressing or later U.S. pressings. Thus, Japanese JVC pressings spanned both insert types.
For the collector, finding either Japanese pressing with the original, full-album artwork is a great accomplishment. Finding the CBS/Sony pressing is expected to be tougher. Shown below is the cover, a spine, and the back inserts associated with the original, full-album artwork MCA release of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Shown also is a Japanese CBS/Sony pressing and a Japanese JVC pressing.
The front insert for Disc 1 of the original two-disc U.S. issue of Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (MCA, catalog number MCAD2-6894). This is the standard cover artwork for the album. Note “DISC-1” printed in the top left corner. The front insert for the second disc is similarly labeled DISC-2. The later two-disc issue with pink back inserts lacks the DISC-1 and DISC-2 designations on the front inserts.
A spine label for the original two-disc U.S. issue of Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (MCA, catalog number MCAD2-6894). The later and more common two-disc issue has pink spines with black text.
The back insert for Disc 1 of the original two-disc U.S. issue of Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (MCA, catalog number MCAD2-6894). There is no barcode. Note the copyright dates of 1973 and 1984 along the bottom. 1973 represents the original release of the album, while 1984 represents the release of this first U.S. version on CD. Only tracks on Disc 1 are listed on this back insert. The common two-disc reissue has a plain pink back insert that lists all album tracks. The pink back insert has a barcode.
The back insert for Disc 2 of the original two-disc U.S. issue of Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (MCA, catalog number MCAD2-6894). Only tracks on Disc 2 are listed. There is no barcode. This back insert is also dated 1973 and 1984.
Disc 1 of the original two-disc U.S. issue of Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (MCA, catalog number MCAD2-6894). This disc was pressed in Japan by CBS/Sony. It has “CSR COMPACT DISC” repeating in the plastic ring, and the matrix code is “DIDX-87 21”. Note “DIDX-87” printed beneath the catalog number at 3 o’clock. Disc 2 pressed by CBS/Sony is similar and has “DIDX-88” in the matrix code. The CBS/Sony pressing of this set is only found with the original full-album artwork and is very rare.
Disc 2 of the original two-disc U.S. issue of Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (MCA, catalog number MCAD2-6894). This disc was pressed in Japan by JVC. There is no text stamped on the plastic ring, and the matrix code is “MCAD2 6894 2 M4E11”. This disc does not have the DIDX number printed beneath the catalog number at 3 o’clock (compare to the CBS/Sony pressing above). The catalog number at 3 o’clock is shown as MCAD-2-6894-2, where the 2 at the end represents Disc 2. Disc 1 pressed by JVC is labeled MCAD-2-6894-1 and also has “MCAD2 6894” in the matrix code. Japanese JVC pressings can be found both with the original full-album artwork and the later pink back inserts.