Stones on DECCA
Decca Test pressing vinyl LP’s
General info on Test Pressings
Test Pressings were made to check for technical and artistic quality of the matrix before pressing the finished records. There was a quality control department at the factory in New Malden that checked all stages of the manufacturing process of the records. Test pressings were made and given to them for production approval. Test pressings were also distributed to the people who were involved with the production of the recording for their approval. When the quality control department passed a record for production a finished sleeved copy was sent to the Decca Studios in West Hampstead in north west London to be put in the record library as a reference copy.
Test pressing copies were also sent to the mastering engineer at the Decca Studios as reference copies in case there was any problems with the record. George Bettyes told me that they used to get three copies of every record. “We mastering engineers used to throw the test pressings away for scrap because we used to get so many”
When was a test pressing taken
The factory would always do a few test pressings every time the pressing plant got a first stamper from a new Master Laquer. This would be the same as when the matrix number itself was changed. Changing mothers or stampers did not need a new test pressing for quality control as it was generally thought that the grooves are ok as a test had already been taken from the identical grooves. Three test pressings were always made and sent to the mastering engineer at the cutting studio. The test pressings were delivered to the studio in inner sleeves only. If you find test pressings with stock sleeves, then this means that the vinyl and inner bag has been put into a sleeve at a later stage.
Sample records were taken from the press every so often during the press run and if pressing faults were found they changed the stamper plate. When they were unable to produce new plates, the factory would request a new matrix to be cut. Test pressings would then be sent to the cutting engineer which would carry the new matrix number.
Test pressing labels
As a general rule you will find that the labels used have the following color codes:
Mono pressings – Blue label
Stereo pressings – Pink label or two colored with the upper part pink and the lover part blue
Stereo pressings from the 70’s – Wide range of colors in between orange and pink
All labels has a line of black bars around the edge of the label. These bars are so called Strobe bars for checking the speed.
Many different designs were used.
The text on the labels were mostly handwritten but there are also labels existing with the information printed / pressed. Information to be found is usually:
The name of the artist
The name of the record
The matrix number
The catalog number
Again, thanking Geroge Bettyes for a lot of interesting information. Without him, I would not be in posession of the above given information as well as a lot more not published here for obvious reasons.
Decca and London
As we know, the initial set of the first USA London Records LP’s were pressed by Decca in England. This means that we also can find some of these US LP’s as test pressings made by Decca in England. Decca did not se any difference in LP’s intended for the domestic or export market so all test pressings are looking the same.
Three copies were delivered to Deccas cutting studio for every new matrix number / first stamper for every LP and single that Decca made. This would be a rather large amount and there was no space or reason to store all of them.
Quoting mastering engineer Mr L aka George Bettyes:
“We mastering engineers used to throw the test pressings away for scrap because we used to get so many”
This means that not very many original test pressings has survived into modern days. This has opened up a market for counterfeit material. A few collectors specialized in test pressings have indicated that at least half of the test pressings being offered for sale on the market today are in fact counterfeit copies. So, before you buy any test pressings, please do your homework.
Pictures of test pressings
Again a warning has to be given. These pictures may or may not be from actual original test pressings. There may be counterfeits in the set of pictures. Pictures are only for reference as for how an original test pressing may be looking like.
Decca Mono LP’s
LK4661 Rolling Stones No2 mono pressing. This has matrix number /1A so it may be one of the first test pressings made for No2.
LK4852 Between The Button mono pressing. Matrix number –2A indicating a test pressing for the second matrix made for the mono Between The Buttons.
RSM.1 The Rolling Stones mono pressing. Matrix number -2A. All 200 copies of the final LP has -2A on the first side. This indicates that the first matrix -1A was rejected in the quality control and did never reach the production stage.
Interesting detail on this label is that the name of the album is “Promotional album” It was called that at the pressing plant already even if the official name is The Rolling Stones
Decca Stereo LP’s
SKL4838 Have You Seen Your Mother Live stereo test pressing. Matrix -1W. This is the two colored label version used in the mid and late 60’s on stereo LP’s
SKL5019 Through The Past Darkly. Matrix -2W. This pink label was used on stereo LP’s during the 70’s.
A Mono LL3493 named as Have You Seen Your Mother but originally issued in US as Got LIVE If You Want It. Pressed in UK but with the US catalog number. Matrix -2A.
Stereo PS402 12×5. This is an early stereo test pressing for the export LP 12 x 5. The LP has the US catalog number as this one was never intended to be released in England. Matrix -1W.