The Labels - Designs and Dates

It is difficult to determine the precise date of a record from the label design it is carrying. There is not a great economy of scale when pressing records as the stampers have to be renewed once every 300 - 500 copies, but printing labels and sleeves offer massive gains from long print runs. Record companies therefore tend to stock up on labels for a particular record and keep using them when newer releases are appearing with labels of a later design. So that has to be born in mind, and it probably explains why there is such an overlap of designs with the Takoma output. What doesn't happen though is a new release appearing with an old design (unless this were to be done by deliberate intent). So it is possible to determine fairly accurately when a design comes into use. Major record companies print their labels in two stages: first the design and then the record details over the top. But Takoma, like most small labels, didn't do this; all their designs were printed in one single process, using one ink over coloured paper. This increased the necessity of carrying large stocks, and of old designs continuing to be used with the older releases.

There are three main label designs that Takoma use. The first is black with plain silver writing, the second is orange (with the 'T' design in purple), and the third is the label with two dragons. There are two main variants with the original black & silver label. The earlier one has two parallel lines across it and a glossy finish, and the later one lacks the lines and is matt. The last Fahey album to appear with the label with the two lines across is 'Days Have Gone By', and the last album with the unlined version is 'The New Possibility'.

The orange label last appears on 'America', the only Fahey album to have carried this design at release. Then comes the dragon label, which Barry Hansen tells me JF acquired from an old British Columbia '78 of some Indonesian music from around 1930. This comes in four main designs. The first is in black (well actually it's near black, with a slight hint of blue, but it appears black to the naked eye). The continuous outer gold ring is inside the edge of the label, so the label has a black outer rim, and the word 'STEREO' appears at the bottom of the label. This label is only found on records released before 1972, and is clearly the earliest variant. It is replaced with a label that has a more visible blue tone (it photographs up as bluer than it appears in real life) where the outer ring is a broken line - it is actually a stroboscopic ring, and will work correctly when you live where there's a 60 Hz electricity supply. 'STEREO' remains at the bottom of the label.

In 1973, changes to copyright law meant that Takoma started printing copyright information on their labels; they placed this at the bottom of the label and moved the 'STEREO' inscription up to the mid-right. The stroboscopic design was retained, and 'Fare Forward Voyagers' and the Takoma reissue of 'Transfiguration' were released with this design. Takoma then reverted to the original dragon design, but this time the gold outer ring is right at the rim of the label, there is a copyright notice at the bottom, and 'STEREO' is in the mid-right position.

No Fahey album was released from new with either of the first two Dragon designs. 'America' was released in 1971 with the orange label, and 'Fare Forward Voyagers' in 1973 with the second of the stroboscopic variants. So the life of the first dragon variant was a very short one indeed, essentially only in 1972, a year Takoma released only one record (and that was on a subsidiary label - Devi). Nevertheless, that first Dragon design is the most commonly seen, so either Takoma got offered a very special deal at the printers or they decided to stockpile records. The latter may in fact be the case, as there was a developing oil crisis at the time, and the price of raw vinyl was rising rapidly. But I can't be certain. I have only seen the final dragon design used on 'Days Have Gone By' 'Voice of the Turtle' and 'The New Possibility', of the 1960s albums.

I need to say a bit more about the very early label designs. Before the label with the two lines across became standard, Takoma used labels with no fixed design other than being black with silver lettering. For the Fahey collector, this involves only the first three albums (the ones that come in plain black-and-white sleeves). So allowing for label designs that were probably one-off for those very earliest albums, I have given the following dates to the various label designs:

Black and silver with parallel lines - up to 1967

Plain black & silver 1968

Orange & purple 1970

1st black & gold dragon 1972

1st blue & gold stroboscopic dragon 1973

2nd blue & gold stroboscopic dragon 1973

Final black & gold dragon 1975

(If you want to see these seven designs photographed in sequence, click here.)

The dates displayed with the labels in the posts below is either the date the record was released, or the date by which the label design was known to be in use, whichever is the later. It is not the date on which any particular record was pressed.

I am not a Takoma collector, only Fahey. If this is read by someone with details of other Takoma albums which make it possible to narrow down these dates, please get in touch.


Malcolm Kirton said...


Your site is very interesting. Thank you for posting all of this information. Re. the early Volume 2 label: I own a copy with the screen-printed sleeve. The sleeve is evidently genuine, and it has (what I believe to be) Fahey's Berkeley address written on the back in magic marker -- in his own hand. The label has the 2 parallel lines. Stefan Wirz, wrongly IMO, identifies the cover with the mixed typography as the 2nd edition of the record. I believe it to be the first, ie. 1963, edition. What do you say?

Stephen said...


I'm glad you're enjoying the site. To take your second point first, Stefan is obviously wrong in his display sequence for the Death Chants sleeve; probably a lapse of concentration when he posted it!

And my comments about the earliest copy of Death Chants stem in part from a considerable degree of cynicism over faked records generally; I know how easy it is (particularly in the US) to produce such items, and I have seen copies of that particular record appear on eBay a surprising number of times. It is possible that the earliest Death Chants came with the 2 parallel line label; however I suspect that Takoma simply used 'stock' designs on those early pressings which is why they vary between batches, and why you can't absolutely rely on label design to date those earliest releases.

Stephen said...


I have now posted photos of the label with the two parallel lines for 'Death Chants'. This one was definitely in use in 1966 - 1967 with both the early and later recordings. Is this label completely identical to the one you have?

I would be very interested to know the matrix numbers of that disc if you care to post them here or email me.

George Cody said...

I have a copy of "The New Possibility" with the paralell lines labels. I would be happy to provide a picture.