"Ask" [original edition]|
UK 7" [Rough Trade RT194]
Rigid sleeve (view front and back artwork on the left). Deep pink labels with black text in the classic Rough Trade layout. Different editions of the record have been reported. Here are the two known versions of this format:
- push-out centre
Initial pressing of the 7" has a push-out centre, as requested by Morrissey.
RT 194 A1 / RT 194 B1
RT 194 A-1U-2-6 / RT 194 B-1U-1-1-7
- solid centre
Later pressings, or perhaps pressings for a foreign market such as Ireland, have a solid centre.
RT 194 A-1U-1 / RT 194 B-1U-1-
UK 12" [Rough Trade RTT194]
Unlike most other Smiths single, the artwork for the "Ask" 12" matches exactly that of the 7" format (view left). The labels are deep pink, almost red, with black text in the classic Rough Trade layout. The inner sleeve is glossy and in the same colour as the labels, with the catalogue number in white in the upper right corner.
RTT-194-A1 / RTT-194-B1
RTT 194 A-1U-1-2-? / RTT 194 B-1U-1-1-
UK CMS [Rough Trade RTT194C]
This was the first ever single by the Smiths to be released in the UK on cassette-single. Only two other titles would eventually get to be made available on this format, "Girlfriend In A Coma" and "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish", both in the latter half of 1987. The artwork was adapted to fit the insert, and its background is a deeper yellow than the original beigish tint used for the vinyl sleeves (view left). The spine is very cluttered with titles, logos and catalogue number, but on the other hand the back only shows a barcode. The insert unfolds once for credits, then once again for the track listing with release information. The cassette itself is made of grey plastic. Its labels are yellow with blood red text.
UK CD5 [Rough Trade RTT194CD]
In 1988 Rough Trade started reissuing the Smiths singles back catalogue on cd format, but stopped before half were done. "Ask" was one of the eight singles to get reissued that year, and therefore became the only Smiths single to be available on four different formats. Some of these cd reissues were given different artwork, but it wasn't the case for "Ask". The usual artwork was adapted to fit the cd's thin jewelcase type of insert (view left). The cd's surface art follows the pattern of all others in the series, with a horizontal stripe across the middle, this one being maroon over beige. Of the eight UK cd-singles to get reissued in 1988, this one is the least valuable, very likely because the 1995 reissue by WEA (with same content, in basically the same artwork) has saturated the market and decreased demand for it.
UK sheet music [Warner Bros Music Ltd and IMP 20848]
The sheet music for this single includes tabs to the three songs featured on it. View here.
UK 7" jukebox [Rough Trade RT194]
The text layout on the label of the "Ask" jukebox 7" is the same as the original version described above, but the record has a large hole in the centre. It doesn't come with a picture sleeve unless someone found an orphan one to slip it in.
RT 194 A-1U-1-1-? / RT 194 B-1U-1-1-10
RT 194 A-1U-1-1-6 / RT 194 B-1U-1-1-10
UK 12" promo [Rough Trade RTT194]
This single was mainly promoted with 'white label' copies of the 12" format. In some (if not all) cases, the a-side label was actually light pink. Some copies were slipped inside a die-cut sleeve while others were distributed in stock picture sleeves, including glossy inner sleeve.
RTT 194 A-1U-1-1-1 / RTT 194 B-1U-1-1-
UK video promo [Vanderquest]
"Ask" was one of the few singles in the Smiths catalogue for which a promotional film was created. Collectors can therefore get their hands on a one-track UK promo video that was distributed in a generic white slip box. The videocassette is in VHS format and has a glued Vanderquest label on its spine. This label has 'THE SMITHS "ASK" Version 1' typed on it.
UK countertop display box
This is a countertop display box that could fit about twenty 7" singles and sit on the record shop counter on the week of release for customers to pick one out.
UK promo poster 30cm x 60cm (12" x 24")
UK promo poster 45cm x 60cm (18" x 24")
View here (better flat photo needed).
UK ad 30cm x 40cm (12" x 16")
Black and white ad. View here.
UK 7" test pressing [Rough Trade RT194]
A white label edition of the 7" format has been seen on the collectors market. It has a solid centre and handwriting on the paper label. A variation also with white paper labels but with push-out centre, slipped inside a stock picture sleeve, has been seen for sale, but this is assumed to be a mispressing (with white labels instead of proper labels).
UK 7" acetate [Rough Trade RT194]
An 7" acetate of "Ask" has made it into the hands of at least one collector. It bears a "CBS Mastering Studios" label with "18.9.86", "The Smiths" and "Ask 2 59" handwritten in red ink on it. It is not known whether this is circulated with the flipside acetate or by itself. Information about the sleeve (very likely a plain white one) is needed.
UK NME ad layout board
One-of-a-kind artwork layout board for the NME magazine advert. The bottom layer shows the text as it would appear in the ad (band name, title, release information about various formats, etc). On top of it is a semi-transparent layer that looks like rice paper, and on the very top an opaque grey layer. There are handwritten annotations from (Jo Slee?) on the rice paper inner. Housed on a special card surfaceboard, this item measures 14.5"x8".
UK 7" alternate artwork proof
Proof of early alternate artwork for the 7" format has made it into the hands of some collectors. It shows the front and back side-by-side. The artwork is almost identical to the definitive edition, but there are a few differences on the back: the "Cover star..." line is white instead of blue, and the line beneath it is blue instead of pink.
UK 7" alternate artwork proof
A different proof of early artwork for the 7" has made it to collectors. This one seems very close to the final product, but the colours, particularly the pink and blue on the back, are paler. On one copy, perhaps the only one in existence, there are font and colour correction notes made in pen, presumably by Jo Slee. The proof shows the unfolded front and back including the flaps that go from the front over the back side.
UK 12" alternate artwork proof
This shows the 12" format's unfolded front and back, with proofing and registration bars and handwritten notations (technical notes and label change instructions). The colours appear to be lighter than on the final product. The back also lacks the barcode.
UK 12" artwork proof
This shows the 12" single's final front and back artwork, side by side, with proofing and registration bars. The colour may be slightly paler than the definitive version.
UK cd-single artwork proof
A printer's proof of the cd-single artwork has also made it into the collecting world. This one shows the front, back, spine and reverse, so in other words the complete unfolded insert, with proofing & registration bars.
Australia 7" [CBS RTANZ019]
This item has become quite collectible because of its unique artwork showing Morrissey in front of a poster from the "The Queen Is Dead" tour (view front and back from left menu). The record bears the usual red and green Australian labels, with the main side identified with a strong 'A' while the flipside is not marked as 'B'.
Early copies were slipped inside a generic die-cut CBS sleeve instead of a picture sleeve. The record inside seems to be the same whether or not it came in a picture sleeve.
Australia 12" [CBS RTANZ12019]
Just like the 7" format, the Australian 12" is a collectors favourite because of its unique artwork (view front and back from left menu). The front shows the same image as on the 7" sleeve, with a different text layout. The back is very similar: it mentions the extra b-side and an additional line tells us that the title track is 'taken from the LP "The World Won't Listen".' The labels are the expected green and red ones featuring the silhouette of a man. The record is slipped inside a clear round-bottom inner sleeve.
Australia CD5 [Festival D1077]
In 1988 Rough Trade in the UK re-released some of the Smiths singles on the new-ish cd format and Festival in Australia followed. However the packaging was done more cheaply than in the UK. This one even looks worse than all other Australian cd-singles released by Festival that year. The insert is a single square sheet of paper and the front artwork was cropped to fit the jewelcase (the UK cd-singles were released in the thin case that need wider artwork). The colours were not reproduced very well. The back shows only the track listing and a few credits. The cd surface is not in two colours like in the UK, it only has a bright red stripe across the default silver of the compact disc.
Australia 7" promo [CBS RTANZ019]
The Australian promo 7" is a stock record slipped inside a promo CBS sleeve. The sleeve is die-cut, has a white to black gradient, a CBS logo on top and a promo warning at the bottom. There is no promo warning on the record.
Australia 12" promo [CBS RTANZ12019]
The promo 12"s are simply stock copies stamped with a promo warning in gold on the back. Nothing on the labels marks them as promos.
Canada 12" [Sire 92 05910]
The "Ask" single was pressed in relatively low numbers in Canada, perhaps because it came out very soon after the "Panic" single which Sire didn't even want to release in the first place. The front artwork is the usual one, and it was based on the American artwork because the words "Specially-priced maxi-single" are found in the lower right corner. The back is similar to the UK back, but Sire credits were added at the bottom, the catalogue number was replaced with "45 RPM" and the barcode was moved to the top. The record is slipped inside an anti-static inner sleeve and bears the classic yellow Sire labels.
Canada 12" promo [Sire 92 05910]
This is the only Canadian 12" not to have a gold-stamped promo counterpart, perhaps because it was such a low-profile release. A good number of stock 12"s which are circulated with a hole punched out of a corner of the sleeve have been assumed by some collectors to be promos. Others have speculated that these were deleted copies, but the promo theory may be the right one because no other Canadian 12" has ever been reported as having been deleted.
Germany 7" [Teldec/Zensor 6.14721]
The German 7" features the unique Colin Campbell artwork which can be viewed from the left menu (front and back). Its sleeve is made of thin paper, but it is glossy. The labels are light blue with black text. Unlike the 12" format, the 7" is only offered on black vinyl.
Germany 12" [Teldec/Zensor 6.20676 / 16.20502]
There are three different versions of the German 12". All have the same front artwork, different to the UK artwork, and slightly different to the German 7" (view front and back from left menu). All have light blue labels with black text. All seem to come with a plain white inner sleeve. The three editions differ by the catalogue number, some credits on the back of the sleeve and the colour of the vinyl.
- clear see-through vinyl, numbered 6.20676
This version was pressed on transparent vinyl. The labels are identical to the black vinyl edition described next.
- black vinyl, numbered 6.20676
As a novelty item, the latter clear vinyl edition is more sought after by collectors, but the black vinyl version is actually rarer. With the exception of the colour of the wax, this is identical to the previously described version.
- clear see-through vinyl, numbered 16.20502
The labels are almost the same as those of the two other variations, but the catalogue number on them was corrected and a black box was added at the very bottom under '45'. The catalogue number was also corrected on the back of the sleeve where it is printed inside a white box instead of over the picture artwork. The barcode box was left blank (begging the question: is this version a promo?) and the credits include an extra bit of information, in that "The Leather Boys" is a Raymond Stross Production. This edition may have been produced at the same time as the German "Panic" and "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" 12" editions that have catalogue numbers starting in "16." because the three have consecutive catalogue numbers.
Germany 7" promo [Teldec/Zensor 6.14721]
Some stock copies of the 7" were paired with a German press release and dispatched as promos. Some of these have a yellow rectangle "EM-PRESS GmbH" sticker on the front of the picture sleeve.
Germany 7" test pressing [Teldec/Zensor 6.14721]
The test pressing for the German 7" described above bears white labels with the words "UNGEPRÜFTES MUSTER" printed around the top edge and "UNVERKÄUFLICH" around the bottom edge. Between them are seven printed lines to be filled in with information such as the "Katalog Nr", "Titel" and "Matrizen Nr", but none are filled. The record comes in a white paper sleeve with a white rectangular sticker on the front stating "The Smiths" and the matrix numbers.
Greece 12" [Virgin VG2076Z]
As expected, the sleeve of the Greek 12" features the usual artwork on the front and differs from its UK counterpart on the back by the addition of Greek credits. The labels are the classic Virgin ones, green on one side and red on the other. The record is slipped inside an anti-static film inner sleeve.
Holland 7" [Megadisc MD5282]
There are 2 versions of the Dutch "Ask" 7" single. They are nearly identical, but in one case cover star Yootha Joyce on the front and back appears the same, or perhaps just slightly paler than on the British sleeve, while in the other case her image was given a dark brick coloured tint (view left for latter variation). The rest of the packaging is identical for both variations. The sleeve is made of thin paper and opens at the top. It has a semi-circular indentation on the back to facilitate access to the record inside. The back artwork was modelled on the back of the UK 7", but the UK catalogue number and label code in the top left corner and the barcode were omitted. The Megadisc logo and catalogue number were added in the top right corner and a Megadisc credit was added at the bottom where the Cartel distribution credit is usually found. The record has a large hole at its centre and its vermillion red labels are almost identical to the British ones in text and layout. The "Made In England" line and the British catalogue number are still present, but the Dutch catalogue number was added on the right side above the side identification and the credits around the edge state that the record was "made in Holland".
Holland 12" [Megadisc MD125282]
The Dutch 12" is also very similar to its British counterpart. The labels are brick coloured instead of pink, but the typeset is as in the UK, and "RTT194" and "Made In England" were not removed. The credits around the label state that the record was "made in the EEC" instead of Holland. The sleeve artwork is just like the British one, plus extra Megadisc logo and credits on the back. The record is slipped inside a white paper inner sleeve.
Italy 7" [CGD RGH10707]
The sleeve of the last Italian Smiths 7" to be released in Italy is, as expected, just like the British one with minor changes in the logos and credits on the back. However it should be mentioned that it has that special skin-like texture typical of Italian sleeves. The record has a large hole at its centre and the labels are pink with black text in the classic Rough Trade layout.
Italy 12" [RT/Virgin RGH15272]
This item is amongst the rarest Italian 12"s for the Smiths. Information is needed.
Italy 7" promo [CGD RGH10707]
Stock copies of the 7" format were made into promos by having the words "campione gratuito" pin-punched out of a corner of the sleeve.
Italy 7" jukebox [YD717]
"Ask" is one of two Smiths singles for which a jukebox edition was manufactured in Italy (the other one being "Girlfriend In A Coma"). This one is backed by a song by Italian artist Sergio Caputo. The record has white labels with black text. There's a Rough Trade logo inside a circle at the top, track title and a few related credits in the bottom half, SIAE credit on the left above a block of fine type, technical data (catalogue number, copyright, running time, etc) on the right. Most copies have made into the hands of collectors in a white die-cut sleeve or in a stock picture sleeve that was die-cut to expose the labels. In both of those cases the record should come with the sticker meant to be used for song selection in the jukebox. This sticker states the single's a-side and b-side song titles with the words "SanRemo 87" between them, underlining the appearance of both acts at the 1987 San Remo Festival. When not lost, it is either found loose inside the sleeve with the record, or in some cases glued to the sleeve.
A very small number of copies are found in what appears to be an official picture sleeve, but this is very likely bootleg or fan-made. It is white and shows on the front an early black and white press shot of the band, with "The Smiths" above it and "Ask!" beneath it in red. The Rough Trade logo and the catalogue number are printed in red in the top right corner. The back of the sleeve is also white with red text and logos. It features mainly the track listing in which each song is followed with its songwriting and production credits, copyright and running time. "Sales Promotion Service" appears in red at the top and the catalogue number at the bottom above a 'R' logo. A promo warning in Italian is printed in the bottom left corner. This picture sleeve is actually just a single sheet folded around the bottom of a blue die-cut record bag acting as an inner sleeve. This record bag opens from the top has the words "Dischi Ricordi" printed in white at the bottom on each side.
Italy 12" promo [Rough Trade RTT194]
An Italian promo 12" with the words "campione gratuito" pin-punched out of a top corner of the sleeve has been seen on the collectors market, but oddly, it appears that the record made into a promo was a stock UK 12", instead of the expected stock Italian 12" described above. Information would be appreciated.
Portugal 12" [Transmedia RTT 12194 (T/12194)]
The sleeve of the Portuguese 12" features the usual artwork on the front but Yootha Joyce appears in an odd looking pink tint. Her image on the back of the sleeve is also pink. The catalogue number and label code on that side were replaced with the Portuguese catalogue number, the Cartel distribution credit at the bottom was omitted and a Transmedia credit was added bottom-centre. The sleeve actually has a large indentation on the side of the back of the sleeve to facilitate access to the record inside. The record is slipped inside a clear anti-static inner sleeve. The labels are bright pink with black text and a white Transmedia logo top left. The catalogue number on them is RTT12194 while it is given as T/12194 on the back of the sleeve.
Spain 12" [Nuevos Medios 41-229M]
The most striking feature of the Spanish "Ask" 12" single, and what makes it particularly interesting to collectors of alternate artwork, is the absence of the colours red and blue on the sleeve. The band's name on the front as well as all the text on the back is printed in black. Nuevos Medios credits were added at the bottom of the back of the sleeve, and the catalogue number at the top was changed for the Spanish one. The record is slipped inside a white paper inner sleeve. A look at the matrix numbers on it reveals that it was made in the UK. The labels are pink with black text in the classic Rough Trade layout.
Sweden 7" [Rough Trade RT194]
The Swedish 7" matches almost perfectly its British counterpart, with the exception of the labels which are white instead of orange and its centre which is solid. There are no MNW or nęb logo on either the sleeve or labels to establish without any doubt that this is actually for the Swedish (and by extension the Scandinavian) market, but the discrepancies with the British edition mentioned above are typical of many Swedish Rough Trade releases. Also, before the internet accelerated the international trading of collectibles, it was mostly obtainable from Swedish dealers.
Sweden 12" [Rough Trade RTT194]
Just like the 7", the Swedish 12" differs from its British counterpart only by a few minor details. In this case the labels are also black and white versions of the British labels, and the inner sleeve is a plain white die-cut one. As for the 7", there are no MNW or nęb logo on either the sleeve or labels.
Sweden 7" test pressing [Rough Trade RT194]
Sweden 12" test pressing [Rough Trade RTT194]
USA 12" [Sire 9 20591-0]
The American 12" comes in a sleeve featuring the expected Yootha Joyce artwork on the front, but the words "Specially-priced maxi-single" were added at the bottom under the name of the band. The back is similar to the UK back, but Sire credits were added at the bottom, the catalogue number was replaced with "45 RPM" and the barcode was moved to the top. The record is slipped inside an anti-static inner sleeve and bears the classic yellow Sire labels.
USA 12" promo [Sire 9 20591-0]
This single was promoted with stock copies stamped with a promo warning in gold ink on the front of the sleeve. The blue catalogue number/track listing sticker usually found on the wrapper of stock LPs was affixed directly onto the sleeve of the promos, because promos were never sealed.
USA promo poster
The existence of a Sire promo poster has been reported. Information needed.
USA 12" test pressing [Specialty]
Test pressings of this single have made it into the hands of lucky collectors. They are circulated in white die-cut sleeves showing the Specialty Records Corporation labels. These are white, they feature the company's logo at the top and printed lines underneath to be filled in with release information. In this particular case the handwritten information is the date ("10-22-86"), label ("Warner"), artist ("The Smiths"), matrix number ("A SR3") and catalogue number ("0-20591").