Thursday

The Mystery of the Turtle II: was it withdrawn?

One of the aspects of the Turtle saga that has supplied surprisingly fertile ground for research is the claim that the album was withdrawn early in its existence due to the cost of producing the wonderful but very lavish gatefold sleeve, which was then replaced by the fairly minimal single one. This is clearly incorrect, since the full gatefold remained available until circa 1977, but there may be an element of truth to it.

Adding to the mystery was this quote from Fahey in a 1969 interview with Melody Maker: "But there was one we had to withdraw because we were losing 30 cents on each one. It had photographs, a book, and a double cover. We didn't know how much it was going to cost but some of it was bad anyway." When I first saw that quote I assumed that Fahey was confused, since the only album that had been withdrawn so far as I was aware was the curious Early Sessions double LP. However, Fahey was astonishingly specific and was clearly referring to Turtle.

A further explanation became apparent recently however when I acquired a pressing of Turtle that dates from 1967, six months or more ahead of the album's release. It appears that no sleeve was printed up at that point, but here are the labels on the actual disc:





The most obvious thing worthy of comment here is that the track listings are exactly the same as those of the eventual sleeve, so no Bean Vine Blues #2, the Train is not 'little', and the question of whether the train 'could' or 'couldn't' isn't asked let alone answered. The record itself is the 11 track version, thus matching the information contained in the eventual sleeve's booklet.

This leaves one obvious conclusion, that the label listings on the 1968 release (specifically Bean Vine Blues #1 and #2) were deliberately intended to conceal the existence of the two different versions. Also the possibility (as yet unconfirmed)that the 'withdrawal' actually took place in 1967, well ahead of the album's eventual appearance.

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