AUGUST 16, 1977, WAS THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL: Elvis Presley died. Very few fans were aware of his deteriorating health and we were unprepared for our own response to his death. Fans were aware of Elvis in general: his latest album, MOODY BLUE, had been released four weeks earlier and was selling better than usual. In the months after his death, his final album became one of his best selling albums ever.
Moody Blue was Elvis’s first #1 on Billboard’s country chart since Teddy Bear in 1957!
Moody Blue was Elvis’s first #1 on Billboard’s country chart since Teddy Bear in 1957!
Due it being his final album, MOODY BLUE holds a special place in the Elvis canon, despite it’s being a relatively undistinguished album, even by Presley’s flagging efforts of the time. As a musical statement, it was a mediocre hodgepodge of studio tracks from the previous year and live recordings, one of which was three years old.
Given Presley’s health at the time, I could argue that mediocrity was actually Elvis rising to the occasion and overcoming some high hurdles—namely his now legendary self-medication skills. But this article is not aimed at the musical content of the album, but instead examines the many forms it took as a vinyl record in the 1970s and ’80s.
The album was named after Elvis’s latest single, Moody Blue / She Thinks I Still Care (PB-10857), released in late 1976. It had only been a modest hit on the pop charts, peaking at #31 on Billboard but only reaching #39 on Cash Box. But it was a different story on Billboard’s country & western survey, where it was Presley’s first #1 since Teddy Bear in 1957! It was also a good-sized hit worldwide, reaching the Top 10 in many countries, notably the UK. 1
Elvis’ final album as a collectable
As the marketplace was much more open to various formats in 1977 than it is now when CDs rule, the album MOODY BLUE was issued in four media:
• LP record (AFL1-2428)
• reel-to-reel-tape (EPP1 2428-C)
• 8-track tape (AFS1-2428)
• cassette tape (AFK1-2428)
It was later released as a compact disc (1988) and then as an extended compact disc (2000). More recently, it was remastered and issued as a 180-gram LP (2013). For this article, I address the LP albums issued in the United States from 1977 into the ’80s—and there are more variations that you might imagine.
The front cover for the MOODY BLUE was one of the more attractive covers on an Elvis album in the ’70s. That’s in the US, where RCA Victor consistently issued Presley platters in mediocre sleeves. Other countries often packaged Elvis in far more appealing artwork, notably Japan.
First pressing: AFL on blue vinyl
In the late ’70s, colored vinyl was all the rage, as it had been in the early ’50s. So RCA had the first 250,000 copies of AFL1-2428 pressed on translucent blue vinyl at their Indianapolis plant. Why not? MOODY BLUE on blue vinyl cost the same as black vinyl and was a cute selling point. 2
These first pressings had the following information etched into the trail-off vinyl:
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A-1S Masterfonics GAM
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-1S Masterfonics GAM
Copies of this pressing can be found in sealed or opened shrinkwrap with one or two different stickers affixed to the front:
• One sticker reads The Blue Album
• One sticker reads Contains the hits Moody Blue and Way Down
For some reason—maybe the blue vinyl?—sales were brisker than previous studio albums; within weeks of release it was obvious that 250,000 copies weren’t enough and RCA switched the record to black vinyl for subsequent pressings.
Copies of AFL1-2428 on black vinyl are rather rare records and can sell for an easy $200 in NM condition. Later pressings with an AQL prefix on black vinyl are common used records.
Second pressing: AFL on black vinyl
In early August, after all the blue vinyl copies were shipped, Indianapolis began pressing the album on normal black vinyl. These records carried the same catalog number (AFL1-2428) with similar data etched into the trail-off vinyl:
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A 1S A4? Masterfonics GAM
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-1S A4F Masterfonics GAM
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A-1S LA5 Masterfonics GAM
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-1S A1O Masterfonics GAM
On August 16, 1977, the unthinkable happened: Elvis Presley died. RCA immediately ordered that MOODY BLUE be returned to blue vinyl. The number of copies of AFL1-2428 pressed on black vinyl is unknown. Given its scarcity among collectors, it could not have been a large press run. 3
There are millions of copies of AFL1-2428 MOODY BLUE on lovely translucent blue vinyl. Opened copies in NM condition are worth $5-10. Nonetheless, you will see people who believe otherwise asking HUGE prices for what they believe yo be a rare record at record shows, flea markets, and on the Internet.
Third pressing: AFL on blue vinyl
RCA had to lease out other (smaller) pressing plants in the US and Canada to meet the unrelenting demand for Presley Product in the months following his death. Indianapolis alone returned to blue vinyl and pressed millions more copies of AFL1-2428. 4
This should mean countless different stamper numbers on one record from one plant, but I have only found a few numbers (below):
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A-1S A1V Masterfonics GAM
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-1S A1Z Masterfonics GAM
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A-1S A2H Masterfonics GAM
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-1S A1F Masterfonics GAM
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A-1S A3Q Masterfonics GAM
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-1S A1P Masterfonics GAM
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A-1S A2CC Masterfonics GAM
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-1S A1N Masterfonics GAM
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A-2S W Masterfonics GAM
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-2S Masterfonics GAM
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A-1S Masterfonics GAM G A3
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-2S Masterfonics GAM D A2
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A-1S Masterfonics GAM A7
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-2S W Masterfonics GAM ?
• Side 1 reads AFL1-2428-A-30 Masterfonics GAM
• Side 2 reads AFL1-2428-B-1S Masterfonics GAM
Question: Are there any other rail-off numbers?
When RCA changed the MOODY BLUE album’s catalog number from AFL1-2428 to AQL1-2428 in 1980, they switched over to black vinyl for all subsequent pressings of the record. These albums with black vinyl records are worth $5-10 each.
Fourth pressing: AQL on black vinyl
In 1980, RCA revamped its catalog and MOODY BLUE was given a new prefix and reissued as AQL1-2428. This and all subsequent domestic pressings of this record were on standard black vinyl. The data in the trail-off vinyl:
• Side 1 reads AQL1-2428-A 32 # ~1~
• Side 2 reads AQL1-2428-B 32 # ~1~
• Side 1 reads AQL1-2428-A 32 A1A
• Side 2 reads AQL1-2428-B 32 A1A
Question: Are there any other trail-off numbers? The lowest figure that I have seen from a reliable source for the sales of MOODY BLUE in the US is 4,000,000. The highest I have seen is 14,000,000—although that is from a less dependable source. Either way, there should be more stamper numbers than the few I have listed above. 5
This is the original design for the LP cover; it was printed as a cover slick and then cancelled. The slick were destroyed, but a few survived and occasionally turn up on the collector’s market for sale. The most recent sale of one of these slicks was for a reasonably modest $4,700.
Special vinyl pressings
During the pressing of MOODY BLUE, RCA’s plant at Indianapolis surpassed 2,000,000,000 records manufactured. A celebration was held, including giving Elvis a plaque for the mere fact that one of his records was the two-billionth pressed. As part of the celebration, RCA had several special pressings of the album done in extremely small runs. these were apparently given out to company execs and other VIPs. 6
These colored vinyl pressings of AFL1-2428 are among the rarest and most valuable Presley platters of the 1970s. Due to the current instability of the rare record market place, a NM copy of any color record could sell for as little as $500 or as much as $2,000 at auction.
Special colored vinyl pressings
As part of the celebration, a series of limited pressings were done in solid colors: green, red, white, and yellow. There were also records pressed in two colors with a ‘splash’ effect: purple-and-white, red-and-white, yellow-and-white, and a wild multi-color. Some of these were put in AFL1-2428 jackets, while others were simply slipped into plain white sleeves. 7
Special picture disc pressing
As part of the celebration, a tiny number of picture discs of MOODY BLUE were made with a photo of Colonel Parker dressed as Santa Claus! These were given by the Colonel to VIPs and are absurdly rare.
Special record club edition
An avid collector searching the Internet could run across references for a special pressing of MOODY BLUE for the RCA Victor Record Club. These references often assign a catalog number to the record: 66602-4. The only listings that I found for a record with that catalog number was a German pressing of the album.
This is a sealed copy of AFL1-2428 with both of the stickers affixed to the shrinkwrap. Most sealed copies with these stickers hold original blue vinyl records. Notice that the folks at the store selling this copy paid no attention to where they placed their pricing stickers.
The Avid Record Collector
According to Popsike, there have been almost 600 sales of MOODY BLUE in some form on Ebay in the past ten years. The values below are for NM copies of catalog number AFL1-2428 and are estimates based on the few sales registered on Popsike.
• Yellow vinyl records: $1,000-1,500
• Green vinyl records: $1,000-1,500
• Red vinyl records: $1,000-1,500
• White vinyl records: $1,500-3,000
• Purple splash vinyl records: $1,500-3,000
• Red splash vinyl records: $1,500-3,000
• Yellow splash vinyl records: $1,500-3,000
• Multi-color splash vinyl records: $1,500-3,000
• Blue vinyl records: $5-10 8
• Black vinyl records: $150-200
The picture disc of AFL1-2428 with Colonel Parker as Santa Claus is so rare there has been no transaction upon which to estimate a value.
In the days after Elvis died, grief-stricken employees at the RCA pressing plant in Indianapolis spontaneously created their own collectables—various colored vinyl and unique picture discs were made of whatever Elvis album they were printing, including MOODY BLUE. I have not included these sports in this article.
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was taken on June 28, 1974, at Milwaukee Arena. “His show was substantially the same as the pageant he brought to Milwaukee two years ago—garish, overproduced, corny—everything an Elvis audience pays $10 a ticket for. Of course, no one is more aware of the charade than Elvis himself. He trades on his wiggles and winks with unabashed give-’em-what-they-want commercialism.” (Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel)
Postscriptually, a long-time Elvis fan who I have known for more than thirty years and who occasionally makes the rounds of the Internet under the alias “Blane Winston” (as it is an alias, any other Blane Winston on the Internet or in real life is not this fake Blane Winston buddy of mine) wants it registered that he dislikes the MOODY BLUE cover design: the blue border being too big and the photo of Elvis too small.
1 I find it curious that a record that sold enough copies to top the country charts at a time when country records were selling big, would have sold enough copies to at least put it near the Top 10 on the pop charts.
2 The 250,000 figure for the initial run of blue records has been around a long time, but I have not seen it verified by anything resembling an official RCA source.
3 I have read that the album had sold 300,000-400,000 units before that fateful day in August. As that would have included LPs and tapes, the number of black vinyl records could be in the tens of thousands—a minuscule amount for a best selling album.
4 Regarding Indianapolis and AFL1-2428: “For five days after Elvis died, the Indianapolis plant pressed 250,000 copies of the MOODY BLUE album per day and then still managed to press a third of that figure for the following four weeks. In total. it seems Indianapolis pressed a little over 4,000,000 copies of this album up to February, 1978, to add to the 400,000 already in print before Elvis died.” (Elvis Express Radio)
5 So many, many facts and figures regarding Elvis Presley’s sales are unknown because RCA “lost” years worth of paperwork from their accounting and/or sales department. Fans and historians can only guess at some figures—including total worldwide sales of all Presley records, tapes, and compact discs.
6 Supposedly, each pressing was limited to fifty (50) copies, but that is unconfirmed.
7 Some or all of the white vinyl pressings have the correct B-side label for MOODY BLUE and the incorrect A-side label for LSP-1254(e) ELVIS PRESLEY.
8 Regarding factory-sealed copies of AFL1-2428 with or without the the stickers: the prices collectors pay are all ver the place! In 2016, one sealed copy sold for $300, which is way too high! Since then, many sealed copies have sold in the $20-30 range. I found one well-known huckster offering two sealed copies: one is listed as “AFL-1-2428, blue vinyl. SS” and is $100; the other is listed as “Moody Blue (the blue album) Mint unopened AFL-1-2428” and priced at a whopping $2,000!
RCA’s special all-Elvis imprint Follow That Dream Records recently issued a two-record LP album edition of MOODY BLUE with the original ten tracks plus alternative takes. Both records were pressed on clear vinyl (FTD 501 506020-975083).