Yes it’s a white label test pressing. I have been incredibly fortunate today to listen to this amazing rarity. This is an A3/B3 test pressing of Led Zeppelin III – no other copy of this version has so far been documented. Two A2/B2 test pressings have been sold (one in 1987 and one in 2014) but no A1/B1, A4/B4 and until now, no ‘third’ test pressing copies.
Jimmy Page rejected the first four test pressings of Led Zeppelin III for various reasons and was only happy with the fifth test – which he then personally ‘signed off’ by hand etching the matrix in the dead wax with the famous Aleister Crowley quotes.
It’s speculation of course, but obviously only a handful of the first test pressings are likely to have been done (presumably given to the band members and probably a record company copy), but with the A1/B1 being rejected and subsequent A2, A3, A4 pressings it is entirely probable that only one or two (at the most) copies of the A3 and A4 tests were done; given to Page for approval (he was producer and band leader after all, and therefore had the final say on what his recordings should sound like), rejected by Page as not good enough and either returned to the pressing plant or simply kept by Page.
Why was A3/B3 rejected? Very simply, the opening track, “Immigrant Song” has some real sound issues, namely the treble seems to ‘drop out’ in a few places and there also seems to be some weird stereo phasing going on. Research of the A2/B2 pressings reveals that the same issue was occurring on that pressing too, so Jimmy Page must have been annoyed and disappointed that the problem had not been rectified on this third version – and maybe, speculating again, it was still occurring on the fourth version?
I will be playing the test pressing again in full to analyse track by track if any other audible differences are present and will report back in due course.
For now, the full details of the test pressing are these:
vinyl weight: 139g (compared to my ‘first pressing’ A5/B5 which weighs 149g)
matrix: machine stamped 2401002 A▽3 1 1 1
and 2401002 B▽3 1 1 1 (compared to hand etched A5/B5 of the commercial release)
Initial playback reveals the audio errors as described above but also the test pressing is a much louder cut than the commercial release. Full track by track analysis to follow.
And if anyone is interested in acquiring this super rare Led Zeppelin test pressing, the owner is looking to sell it! Watch this space for more exciting news on when this LP will be going on sale…