AUGUST 16, 1977, was the day the Earth stood still: Elvis 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.
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.
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:
• AFL1-2428: LP record
• AFK1-2428: cassette tape
• AFS1-2428: 8-track tape
• EPP1 2428-C: reel-to-reel-tape
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 than 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: AFL1-2428-A-1S Masterfonics GAM
Side 2: 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: AFL1-2428-A 1S A4? Masterfonics GAM
Side 2: AFL1-2428-B-1S A4F Masterfonics GAM
Side 1: AFL1-2428-A-1S LA5 Masterfonics GAM
Side 2: 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 to 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 of 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: AFL1-2428-A-1S A1V Masterfonics GAM
Side 2: AFL1-2428-B-1S A1Z Masterfonics GAM
Side 1: AFL1-2428-A-1S A2H Masterfonics GAM
Side 2: AFL1-2428-B-1S A1F Masterfonics GAM
Side 1: AFL1-2428-A-1S A3Q Masterfonics GAM
Side 2: AFL1-2428-B-1S A1P Masterfonics GAM
Side 1: AFL1-2428-A-1S A2CC Masterfonics GAM
Side 2: AFL1-2428-B-1S A1N Masterfonics GAM
Side 1: AFL1-2428-A-2S W Masterfonics GAM
Side 2: AFL1-2428-B-2S Masterfonics GAM
Side 1: AFL1-2428-A-1S Masterfonics GAM G A3
Side 2: AFL1-2428-B-2S Masterfonics GAM D A2
Side 1: AFL1-2428-A-1S Masterfonics GAM A7
Side 2: AFL1-2428-B-2S W Masterfonics GAM ?
Side 1: AFL1-2428-A-30 Masterfonics GAM
Side 2: AFL1-2428-B-1S Masterfonics GAM
There may be other 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: AQL1-2428-A 32 # ~1~
Side 2: AQL1-2428-B 32 # ~1~
Side 1: AQL1-2428-A 32 A1A
Side 2: 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 total 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 canceled. The slicks 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 marketplace, a NM copy of any color record could sell for as little as $500 or as much as $2,000 at auction.
As part of the celebration, a series of limited pressings were done in solid colors:
There were also records pressed in two colors with a ‘splash’ effect:
Some of these were put in AFL1-2428 jackets, while others were simply slipped into plain white sleeves. 7
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.
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. Assigned values below are in US dollars and are approximations.
AFL1-2428 solid blue vinyl $ 5
AFL1-2428 solid black vinyl $ 250
AFL1-2428 solid green vinyl $ 1,000
AFL1-2428 solid red vinyl $ 1,000
AFL1-2428 solid yellow vinyl $ 1,000
AFL1-2428 solid white vinyl $ 1,000
AFL1-2428 purple splash vinyl $ 2,000
AFL1-2428 red splash vinyl $ 2,000
AFL1-2428 yellow splash vinyl $ 2,000
AFL1-2428 multi-color splash vinyl $ 3,000
The picture disc of AFL1-2428 with Colonel Parker as Santa Claus is so rare there have been no transactions upon which to estimate a value. 8
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.
Mispressings and misprints
During the manufacturing of a record, mistakes can happen. Sometimes, the wrong label gets slapped onto one side of a record; this is usually referred to as a misprinting. That is, a 45 or an LP can play the correct music on both sides but have one correct label and one incorrect label.
Sometimes, two parts are mixed up and the wrong music gets pressed onto one side of a record; this is usually called a mispressing. That is, a 45 or an LP can have the correct labels on both sides but play the correct music on one side but play some other music—even another artist’s music—on the others side.
The value of such incorrectly manufactured records values wildly depending on the artist and the title. Both misprinted and mispressed records carry significant value to a small portion of collectors, although it’s difficult to assign any kind of value to them. Usually, mispressings are more desirable than misprintings.
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was cropped from the photo above which was used on the cover of the MOODY BLUE album. It is a stunning photo and I have wondered for more than forty years why RCA’s art department decided that it needed a blue border instead of having it fill the entire front cover.
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 stickers: the prices collectors pay are all over 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!