Joe Theobald, aka DJ Captain Wormhole, Looks at all things vinyl 

THESE days, in the digital era, I would not be the least bit surprised if kids don’t know what a record label is. They probably have some loose concept of a connection between the artist and marketing, but, frankly, labels are in danger of becoming anachronisms.

Wiley proved they’re practically redundant in the age of Youtube and streaming. However they do make such large quantities of coin exploiting humble artists by extracting surplus labour that I’m in no way under the illusion they’ll dissipate with any sense of haste.

This ain’t no column about the what-ifs though – we’re too stuck in the past clutching our outdated formats and fetishising the crackle on a dirty disc – so I’ve decided to take the occasional look back at seminal labels, the ones that really made a difference.

Motown, for example. Or Stax. But not them, they’ve been done to death. I’m starting with the hippest daddy of them all – Blue Note.

Blue Note Records was founded by Alfred Lion in January of 1939, just a few weeks after seeing his debut artists Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis performing a boogie woogie set on pearl keys in a frozen New York city.

Kenny Burrell’s 1963 Midnight Blue is a good touchstone for the sound of the label. Jazz Improv Magazine said of it ‘if you need to know the Blue Note sound, here it is’.

One thing that set their releases apart from other labels in the early days was an insistence on paying artists for their pre-recording rehearsal time.

I’ve always associated Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue with the azure label, which is foolish because it’s actually a Columbia release. However Blue Note have released such a vast quantity of quality that there are thousands of collectors dedicated solely to the imprint.

According to a well-regarded 12 step guide to collecting Blue Note by a seasoned dealer called Allan Songer, you should always look out for the little “ear” mark in the dead wax. It looks like a cursive “P” because that is what it is! It’s “P” for Plastylite, the pressing plant that pressed ALL original Blue Notes.’ No doubt that’s a hot tip for those engaged in the hunt for OG wax but my advice is simply this: when digging, if you do come across Blue Note, and it’s within your ‘take a punt’ budget, just buy it.

I picked up a ‘blue bossa’ comp just a few weeks ago and, needless to say, there was no little ear on the dead wax but the combined heat of South America with the cool of Harlem yet again failed miserably to disappoint.