Format of Entries

Matrix Numbers

Label Layouts

Release Dates

Explanations etc.
Countries of Release and Pressing

Demos and Promos

Pirate Discs, Bootlegs and Counterfeits


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Format of Entries ↓

CD compact disc (of album length, i.e. with 5 or more different songs)
CDR compact disc recordable (sometimes used for promo issues)
CDS compact disc single (a CD with 1 to 5 songs, usually remixes)
DVDS DVD single (a DVD with audio and possibly also video content and only 1 to 3 songs)
EP extended play (a 7" or 10" record with 3 to 5 songs)
FOC fold-out cover (= gatefold sleeve)
LP long playing record - what do you mean when you say you guessed that?
NC neutral cover
OBI not an abbreviation, in fact (it's Japanese for "sash"): the paper strip around a record cover (typically a Japanese LP)
OIS original inner sleeve
PS picture sleeve
rpm revolutions per minute (record speed)
TMWSTW The Man Who Sold the World (This album title is just so long...)

Abbreviations ↑
General Format of Entries

Matrix Numbers ↓

artist's name:

Typically, this is "David Bowie", however in the case of compilations, collaborations etc. it might be another name.

title of the record

Self-explanatory. If the record does not have a specific title (as in the case of singles), the A-side title(s) are given.

(record company & catalogue number; country & date of release)

If no record company and/or number is known (as is often the case with bootlegs), then the matrix number - if there is one - has been given in brackets.
See below for more information on matrix numbers.
If no country or exact release date is known, this information has been replaced by question marks. In the case of counterfeits, second pressings etc. the original release date is given in brackets. If both the release date of the original and the re-pressing are known, the former is given in brackets, e.g. 1982 (4/1967).


Typically 7",12",LP,CD or CDS. However, there are also a number of more exotic formats like 10"EP, 5" flexi etc. Note that one-side LPs (with a side of normal length) are here considered to be 12" singles.

Release notes:

Noteworthy information about the release, e.g. if it's mono, has coloured vinyl, whether it's a promo or not, what kind of cover it has and so on.

There are a number of standard assumptions made here:

Mono or stereo: all records are assumed to be stereo unless noted.
Covers: LPs are standardly assumed to have a single picture sleeve. The kind of cover of vinyl singles is always explicitly given. CDs are assumed to have a picture sleeve consisting of a jewel case with a front leaflet (or booklet) and a back insert. CD singles are assumed to have a CD single case with a single insert. Any deviations from these standards are noted.
Promo or stock copy: all records are assumed to be stock copies unless noted.
Speed: A 7", 10" or 12" single is standardly assumed to run at 45 rpm, an LP (of any size) is assumed to run at 33 1/3 rpm. Deviations are noted.


A single slash with blank spaces around it indicates a change of track. A slash without spaces around it is either simply a slash within a song title (as in White Light/White Heat) or separates the parts of a medley. A double slash (with blank spaces around it) indicates a change of disc side or disc. So the tracks of a double LP are represented as follows: disc 1 - side 1 // disc 1 - side 2 // disc 2 - side 1 // disc 2 - side 2.

[Other notes:]

Other noteworthy information about the record and its tracks. Wether it's a re-issue (and of what), where and when the tracks were recorded etc.

[Collector's notes:]

Information that might be interesting to collectors, e.g. about cover and label variations, how to distinguish originals from counterfeits or the sound quality of bootlegs. Like much on these pages, this is work in progress...

Picture of the record

In most cases, this is a picture of the cover front. If the record has a company cover, then the record is shown inside this cover. If it has a plain white sleeve, then usually the record is shown without any cover. Sometimes, the label is also shown. If the label follows a "standard pattern" of design I do not show it, but put a link to such a label in the "Collector's notes". Furthermore, inner sleeves, unfolded fold-out covers etc. may be shown if their are of particular interest.
See below for more information on label designs.

Format of Entries ↑
On Matrix Numbers

Label Layouts ↓

Almost every vinyl record has matrix numbers. I don't want to go into too much detail on how vinyl records are made, but the final records are "negatives" in a sense. So there have to be "positives" (one for each side) from which the records are pressed. These are the so-called matrices (usually coated with chromium). To distinguish one matrix from another, there is a number in the innermost area of each matrix. On the final record, this number can be seen (as a "negative", i.e. as an indentation) in the innermost area where there is the run-out groove. This area is sometimes called the "dead wax". In other words:

The matrix numbers are the numbers pressed into the "dead wax" close to the labels of the record:

Machine-stamped matrix number on first US issue of TMWSTW
(To make it more easily visible, I had to change the contrast and brightness of the scan.)

The matrix numbers are not always easy to detect. Sometimes you have to hold the record under a bright light to see them.
Why could these numbers be important to record collectors? Well, they sometimes helps to identify different pressings of a record. Usually, the numbers are machine-stamped, but sometimes they are hand-scratched. But this is not always a reliable criterion to distinguish originals from counterfeits or re-issues, since especially in the USA the numbers are often hand-scratched - even on perfectly legal, original records. However, there are cases in which the matrix number is the decisive criterion. There is no general rule, though!
Moreover, when the matrix of a record is worn out, a new one is used. Usually, it has got a different number then. It may seem logical to give the first matrix used for pressing the A-side of a particular record the number "A1" (or something like that). Some collectors have turned this into a kind of religion: they try to collect records with the matrix number combination "A1/B1" or so. However, when several copies of a record are pressed simultaneously, then several matrices must be used. So right from the beginning, matrix "A1" might have been used at the same time as "A2".
Ultimately, matrix numbers might help to distinguish first pressings from later pressing, but there is no general rule concerning the number system.
By the way... if several matrices were made, who can tell which one the workers at the pressing plant decided to use first: "A1" or "A2"? So "A2" might even have been used before "A1".
To sum up: there are cases in which the matrix numbers are helpful to distinguish different issues of a record, but apart from these few cases I wouldn't care too much about them!

Matrix Numbers ↑
On Label Layouts

Release Dates ↓

In the introduction to his Bowie singles discography, Jarman writes: "My original intention was to illustrate EVERY record. It didn't take long for me to realise that the book would be the size of the Tokyo telephone directory!" Originally, I also decided not to show the labels of every record, but ultimately, I changed my mind, which means, you'll have to live with a lot of time until all the pictures are visible.
So, strictly speaking, this section has become obsolete, but it might nonetheless useful to say a few words on label designs. On websites you very often find offers claiming that a particular record is an original because it has, say, an "original orange label". Well, there were some countries with a very "conservative" policy concerning label design, such as Germany, which had almost identical RCA labels from the early 1970s to the early 1980s:

Early 1970s RCA Germany label

Early 1980s RCA Germany label
"Identity" of design is a tricky term, though. Even the above example shows that there is always some minor variation - in this case concerning the label molding (the groove pressed into the label) and the label code (LC) number, which is not present on the early 1970s record. All in all, all you can do is check the labels of a record very carefully to find out whether it's an original or not. Here's a - not necessarily complete - list of the label details that might be relevant to the question of whether a particular record is an original or not:

- the label colour
- the typeface of the text
- the exact spacing and position of the text
- additional information on the labels, like label codes ("LC...") on the labels of German LPs
- the copyright company listed on the labels (like "GEMA", "BIEM", etc. - often in a square box), and, if there is more than one such company listed, the order in which they are listed
- the details of the text running around the label margins
- the width of the space between that text and the label margins
- the label molding (i.e. the way that grooves are pressed into the label) - which is why I also show white labels (of bootlegs, for example)
- and possibly other things I can't think of at the moment...

Label Layouts ↑
On Release Dates

Countries of Release and Pressing ↓

The first rule is: never trust the label or the cover of a record. That is... do not always trust it... sometimes it might actually be helpful.
The label and/or cover of a record often bears a "Printed" date, indicated by a capital "P" in a circle. The "Printed" year does not necessarily indicate the year the record was actually released - very often it is the year in which the record or its songs were originally released. In other words, re-issues usually (but not always) have the same "Printed" year as the original. Furthermore, many records have a "Copyright" date on the label or cover (indicated by the symbol ©). In the case of compilations, this is often the year in which the album was released, but then again, re-issues of compilations sometimes have the same year. Finally, some records have further information concerning the year (and sometimes month) on the label/cover: there may be a "Depósito Legal" date (as on Spanish records), fineprint by the company that printed the covers, etc. And in some cases, there may even be conflicting information on the cover and on the label. However, I have never heard of any record that was released before the date on the cover/label. This wouldn't make any sense: why should a record be antedated?

As a general rule, then, any date given on the record is the earliest possible date the record might have been released, but it might also have been released later.

So the information given on the records themselves may be helpful sometimes, but to actually determine the release date of a record, you have to confer further sources. Jarman, for example, studied the music magazines (etc.) of the time to determine the month of release. Not surprisingly, I didn't do that, but mainly relied on second-hand data (and occasionally on my own memory). My main sources were Jarman (for 7" singles up to 1981), Pegg, Thompson, Carr & Murray (for early US LPs), Frifelt (for bootlegs), and Strong (for RCA CDs). Online sources I have used include Bassman's David Bowie Page, the Illustrated db Discography, and even the various Amazon websites. See the "Books and Links" section for a more complete list.
If there was conflicting information, I have chosen the date that (for whatever reason) appeared to be most plausible to me. Very often this is pointed out in the "Collector's notes". If I couldn't find any information at all, I have just listed the record at the place where... it seemed plausible.
The result is not perfect, of course. But even Jarman, who probably did the most impeccable research into release dates, had to file some "exotic" releases under the release dates of the issues from "major" countries...

Release Dates ↑
On Countries of Release and Pressing

Demos and Promos ↓

Until the late 1980s, there was hardly any problem concerning the origin of a record: usually, records were pressed in the country in which they were intended to be sold. And in most cases, the country in which a record was pressed could be found on the label and/or the cover. Occasionally, copies were exported to other states, but the bulk of them remained within the borders of the country of manufacture. The only exception were real export pressings, that is, records that were pressed without any intention to sell them in the country in which the pressing plant was located. Such records can be identified by an unusual catalogue number (such as the Diamond Dogs US single) or an unusual label design (like the US export issue of the Sorrow single. Usually, I have filed such records under the country of manufacture, and pointed out any relevant further information known to me.
A special case are releases that combine a disc and a cover from different countries. On the one hand, it wasn't unusual for smaller European countries to import records from Britain and house them in their own covers (see, for example, the Danish Laughing Gnome single). On the other hand, Austrian copies of The Best of Bowie were sold in imported UK covers. But by and large, such cases were exceptions.
From the mid-1980s onwards, it became more difficult to determine the exact origin of a record: due to the continuing internationalisation of the record industry, expecially European releases were more often distributed all over the continent. Frequently, labels did no longer give any information concerning the country of manufacture, but simply bore an imprint like "Made in EC" or "Made in EEC". However, in most cases the exact country can be identified by more detailed information on the cover, or by the copyright association on the label. Otherwise, I have simply filed such records under "EU".
Bootlegs and counterfeits are a special case. Since the producers of such releases do not normally want to be identified, they often try to conceil the country of manufacture or even give wrong information. Sometimes the origin of a bootleg or counterfeit is known, but sometimes I had to fall back on dubious information such as the label design or information found on the record. So be warned: my statements on the origin of bootlegs and counterfeits are not very reliable, but have to be regarded as "work in progress".

Countries of Release and Pressing ↑
On Demos and Promos

Pirate Discs, Bootlegs and Counterfeits ↓

First of all, there is no difference between demos and promos. What's called a "demo" in the UK is a "promo" in the USA. That's all. I have generally used the term "promo" to refer to all such records.
A promo is a record that is not intended to be sold (as opposed to a stock copy), but to be distributed to radio stations, music critics, business partners and/or other relevant people. Naturally, the number of promo-copies is particularly large in the USA with its numerous radio stations. Generally speaking, there are two different types of promos: promo-copies of regular records and promo-only items that are produced to promote a record that is not identical. Since promos were often produced in much smaller numbers than the corresponding stock copies, they are usually much rarer than the latter, and a natural object of interest to collectors. Note, though, that there are also cases in which the promo is much commoner than the stock copy. This phenomenon occurred when hardly any stock copies were sold (as in the case of the US issue of The Laughing Gnome) or when the stock copy was withdrawn after the promos had been distributed (see, for instance, the All the Madmen US single).
Promo copies of regular records can normally be distinguished from their commercially available counterparts by a different catalogue number and/or a different label design. In many countries (for example Germany, Spain, Italy) they had white labels, but sometimes other colours and designs were used. RCA promos of Bowie records from the early 1970s had yellow labels, and from 1973 onwards they had cream labels - but most of the latter played the same song on both sides, and were promo-only records, anyway. However, there were also other ways to mark promos: sometimes promo-copies only have a sticker on the label (in which case they are not so rare, as one might expect), a promo-imprint on the cover (this is often the case with American albums), or some print on the label that indicates the promo status.
Most promo-only records were issued by the record companies that had the respective artists under contract, but in the USA there were also independent companies, such as Westwood One and DIR/King Biscuit Flower Hour, that issued promo-only radio shows (with the consent of the artist's record company, of course). These records are of special interest to collectors, because they often contain otherwise unavailable material (like live recordings or interviews) or particularly interesting combinations of tracks.
Promos are particularly prone to being faked. Their natural rarity and the fact that they often come with a white label (which is easy to reproduce) and without a cover make them interesting to producers of counterfeits (see here for more information on counterfeits and pirate discs). There are, for example, cleverly made counterfeits of the first Space Oddity US promo-only 7" and the An Evening with David Bowie LP. In fact, it took me some time to realise that one of my copies was a counterfeit... Sometimes these counterfeits can be distinguished from the originals only by a careful look at the matrix numbers, the label design or the details of the cover (if there is one). The most extreme case are "counterfeits" of promos that might not even exist: there is a Teenage Wildlife US promo-EP that some people consider to be a fake - that is, all circulating copies are pirate discs! Since I don't have a copy myself, I don't feel qualified to make any claim about the authenticity of the item.
To sum up, promo-records are a fascinating area for collectors - but be careful...

Demos and Promos ↑
On Pirate Discs, Bootlegs and Counterfeits

Cut-outs ↓

It's easy to say what pirate discs, bootlegs and counterfeits have in common: they are records that are released without the consent of the artist and/or his record company. But it's more difficult to define the differences...
Let's begin with counterfeits. These are imitations of some officially released record. "Famous" examples are the copies of the Liza Jane single and the TMWSTW album (both UK and German version). Usually, counterfeits aim at cheating the collector by making him believe that he has bought the "real thing", while he has actually purchased a fake. However, there are always ways to distinguish the counterfeit from the original - sometimes it's easy, but sometimes it can be quite tricky.
Bootlegs do not imitate a regularly released record, but are collections of material that was for some reason rare at the time the bootleg was released. The most typical cases are, of course, live shows, but there are also records with studio outtakes, demo recordings and so on. Bootlegs might also contain officially released stuff, which was not readily available at the time (or in the country) of release, simply because the source records were out of print or had not been released at all in the country in which the bootleg was sold.
Pirate discs (or simply "pirates", as they are sometimes referred to) do not pretend to be an official release, but contain material that is also easily available on official records. Typical examples are the South Korean release of the "Heroes" album or the unique South Korean release Best of the Best.
Does this sound like a clear-cut distinction? It might, but it isn't. The trouble starts with a simple record like the Italian "counterfeit" of TMWSTW. The labels are so different from those of the original that no serious collector of Bowie records could ever be fooled by that record. Strictly speaking, it could also be classified as a pirate. I have only filed it under counterfeits because everybody else does so. The above example of the Korean "Heroes" is another example of an unclear case (although I have called it a "typical" pirate release above). In South Korea there were no effective copyright laws in the 1970s, so Western records were simply copied. I don't believe that RCA actually bothered to export official copies to South Korea at the time. It just wouldn't have been worth the time and money. Ultimately, such Korean releases could also be called counterfeits - copies of a record that was not available at the time.
And then there is the difference between bootlegs and counterfeits. Consider, for instance, the 1978 single Memory of a Free Festival. I have classified it as a bootleg (because everybody else does so). But musically it is an exact copy of the official 1970 single. Even the cover is at least similar to that of many European releases of the original 7". The only reason why it is standardly considered to be a bootleg is that it is different enough from the original issues that no serious collector could be fooled by it. But then again... this is also true for the Italian "counterfeit" of TMWSTW. To sum up, then, the distinction between the three types of records is sometimes useful, but don't care too much about it.
A final remark on bootlegs:

Be careful. Everyone can fake a bootleg!

Frifelt, who must have an impressive collection of Bowie bootlegs, writes a lot about their different editions. Again, I wouldn't care too much about that. Even using Frifelt's impeccable research on the topic, I haven't been able to determine the exact editions of my two version of the Dollars in Drag album. Bootleggers just take a record and put it in some cover. If they have got records left, but no covers, they create a new cover. And everybody can do that! I have got an album called Göteborg Memories, which is simply one half of the Serious Moonlight in Gothenburg double album. Maybe somebody just accidentally destroyed one of the records and created his own cover for the other...?
To illustrate the point: decades ago I bought a white label album that had "David Bowie" scribbled on one of its labels. Ultimately, it turned out to be half of some version of the Slaughter in the Air double LP. Maybe I should create a nice insert. I could choose a great photo from the time, think up a good title, print out that artwork, make an enlarged copy on a copy machine (computer prints are too easy to identify), put in on a neutral sleeve (maybe even a spare old one from the 1970s)... and here we are: I would have created a mega-rare new Bowie bootleg! I could think up a good story ("Only very few with this insert were made..." - which would even be correct!), and sell the result for 50 Dollars on eBay.
I won't do that - my "collector's pride" keeps me from doing so. But others could...

Pirate Discs, Bootlegs and Counterfeits ↑
On Cut-outs

In the listings of auction sites you often read that a record has a "promo cut" or a "promo hole", which refers to the fact that the cover or the label of the record is damaged in a certain way, and which seems (!) to imply that the record is particularly rare. These damages are usually called "cut-outs", and I know of the following variations:

- a hole has been drilled or cut through the cover;
- there is a saw cut through the spine of the cover (this was even done to the jewel cases - and back inlays - of CDs);
- one or more corners of the cover have been cut off;
- a hole has been drilled through the labels of the record (especially in the case of US singles).

None of these things indicate a rare record, a promo, or anything like this. On the contrary, these damages show that the record is an overstock copy that couldn't be sold at the regular list price. Here's the reason:

A newly released record is sold to customers at a relatively high price. Which is no wonder, since record companies want to maximise their profits. This means that retail stores also have to pay a relatively high list price for the records (let's call this "price 1"). And, of course, the companies must provide a certain number of records because otherwise customers would have problems in obtaining a copy of that hot new record. But what happens if the record isn't a success and all these copies can't be sold?
In many countries, including the USA, retailers had (and possibly have - I can't say) the right to return such copies to the wholesaler and, ultimately, the record company, and reclaim the original wholesale price ("price 1"). There were two things that the record companies could do with such records: either they could destroy them, and recycle the vinyl (which often led to poor quality pressings made from that stuff - especially in the 1960s and 1970s), or they could try to sell them again. In the latter case the records were offered to retail shops at a much (!) lower wholesale price ("price 2"), so that they could also be sold at a very low retail price. Such records were sold to retailers without the right to return them to the wholesalers (and, ultimately, the record companies).
So far, so good. But who could prevent a tricky record store owner from returning a "price 2" copy and demanding the original "price 1" wholesale price? The only way to avoid this was to mark the overstock records in some unique way. The ways they found are listed above.
I'm not sure if this is the entire story. In the early 1980s, for example, Italian cut-out copies of Iggy Pop's Soldier album were available in heaps in Germany. I can't imagine that the Italians expected the Iggy album to be the next chart-topper. So I think that second pressings were sometimes made with the explicit intention to sell them as cut-outs. In this way you could make at least some money with a record the sales of which were below those expected by the record company.
Be that as it may, in any case a cut-out does not indicate anything special, but either an overstock copy or - possibly - a cheap second pressing!

Cut-outs ↑ Top