The Holy Grail of Nirvana releases – Love Buzz
So I managed to get a copy of Nirvana's first single, Love Buzz, in the summer of 2011. I was too young to afford one when they were going for around £100, which was soon after Nevermind was released. Nirvana fans and record collectors know that this is the holy grail of Nirvana releases. Released in 1988 on the legendary Sub Pop label and made in a total of 1200 copies (as evidenced by an invoice for 1200 sleeves), 1000 hand numbered copies, along with 200 promo copies (identified by having a red slash on the sleeve) were snapped up by eager fans who'd heard the band's early promise. It was also the first single released by Sub Pop's 'Singles Club'. Love Buzz starts with a collage of cartoon sounds. These aren't included on the version that's on Bleach. The song was originally written by Shocking Blue, the Dutch band from the early '70s who had an international hit with the song "Venus".
The purpose of this post is to help prospective owners identify a real copy as it has inevitably been heavily counterfeited. It will details what to look out for on the sleeve and the differences in the vinyl. Credit to most (if not all) of the content to sliver.it and Record Collector magazine. The images, however, are taken of my own copy – number 783.
- The sleeve is folded, meaning the front and back are continuous.
- The text on the sleeve, even the names of Alice Wheeler and Suzanne Sasic, can be seen clearly. Be suspect of any sleeve on which the names have been traced over or are too dark and can't be read.
- The bottom left of each sleeve's back has an area that should be numbered with a red felt pen. 1000 copies are hand-numbered. An additional 100-200 copies may be unnumbered, but will have a red "slash" where the number should be.
- The owners' list has several examples of numbering, but it should be noted that previously published info is most likely incorrect; not all copies seem to have been numbered by a lefthanded person, let alone just one person.
- Copies 1-499 do not match those above #500, though the exact cutoff won't be known until more images are submitted. Two people may have numbered the first 499 sleeves, though again more images are needed to form a better opinion.
- Copies above #570 (since that's the earliest example we have in the 500s) are numbered by someone else, meaning two or three people are responsible for the entire 1000. The style of writing on the high-numbered sleeves is very distinctive when compared to the low-numbered official copies and some badly attempted counterfeits.
- As already stated, official copies have a red number, not blue or black as have been seen in the past.
- Strangely there are two number 233's and two number 235's. Obviously a mix-up when they were being numbered and someone lost count!
- The vinyl is black with labels on each side. (Record Collector claims the labels have been easy to copy.) Any colored vinyl is an obvious fake.
- Many counterfeits do not accurately copy the matrix code found in the run-out grooves of each side of the record. This is the easiest and best way to figure out what the single is.
- The matrix code hand-etched into Side A of official copies is 2mm high and should read: SP-23-A Why Don't You Trade Those Guitars For Shovels? L-31540
- There is one counterfeit version that comes close, but has five errors: 1) the code is 3mm high, 2) the question mark is omitted, 3) quotation marks enclose the statement, 4) the order is wrong, and 5) the dashes are missing, like this: "Why Don't You Trade Those Guitars For Shovels" SP23A L31540
- The matrix code hand-etched into Side B of official copies should read: SP-23-B L-31540X
- In addition to these codes, each side also has the word Kdisc machine-stamped into the groove.
There have been a few counterfeit versions of this single – I almost brought one when I was 12 but the matrix code was too high. Here's how to spot on yourself:
1. The European counterfeit
- Large quantities of these fakes flooded the market in the early 90s, with many shops selling them as "reissues".
- All were originally sold unnumbered, although anyone can hand-number them!
- The sleeve is darker, losing the following details: the last two letters of the names "Kobain, Novoselic, Channing", the name "Alice Wheeler" and the surname of "Suzanne Sasic".
- The run-out grooves read as follows: Side A — SP.23 A1 / Side B — SP.23 B1
2. The American counterfeit
Basically a re-pressing of the above counterfeit from the same plates, except
- Added onto the Side A run-out groove is the handwritten message, "K-Disc When Do We Get Our Money, Bruce?". (This points the finger to members of a certain Seattle band who were awaiting their royalty cheque from Sub Pop co-owner Bruce Pavitt!)
- The sleeves are printed slightly lighter but "Alice Wheeler" has again disappeared from sight.
- This edition is hand-numbered in a thicker red marker pen (right-handed, this time!)
3. American counterfeit
This is the one which will have Nirvana fans rushing to check their collections. This counterfeit surfaced about three years ago and, unlike the two previous editions which were sold around to dealers in bulk, this variation is almost as rare as the original, official copy. The manufacturer has only let this trickle into circulation one or two copies at a time. Consequently, this counterfeit has fooled many people into thinking they own an original copy.
The yardstick for identifying an original copy from a counterfeit has always been based on the 'Record Collector' Nirvana article in issue 170. At that point, the third counterfeit had yet to be released, so it's been taken as gospel that if your copy as "Why don't you trade those guitars for shovels?", you have a bona fide item. Not so!
- Again, the rear sleeve loses poor old "Alice Wheeler" again. The black-on-black print of the original sleeve has proved impossible to reproduce effectively.
- It is hand-numbered in thin red felt pen — by a right-handed person!
- It's when you get to the run-out messages that the trouble starts! They run as follows: Side A — "Why Don't You Trade Those Guitars For Shovels", followed by SP23A L31540. This is 3mm high. Side B — "SP23B L31540X".
- Note that the message on the A-side is encased by " " and features no question mark. Also, the dashes are missing on the matrix numbers.
Each counterfeit has perfect label reproductions, incidentally. Let's sum up, then.
- If you can read the name "Alice Wheeler" clearly on the rear, the sleeve is original.
- Look for the machine-stamped "Kdisc" mark on both sides of the record in the 'land' (the area of the run-out groove). If your copy has this, it's an original disc.
So there you go. I hope that's some help to someone out there. Now all go rush and check your copies!