From time to time the same questions come up about the LATE pocketwatch tape, the versions, are they real, how do you know etc etc.
I've been slowly working on some stuff to put together some info on the Pocketwatch versions. It's still a work in progress but I can now at least post a first version that can be worked on from here. I know of FOUR versions now. While every man and their dog worries about the different COVER versions, it may surprise some people to know that it is actually the different CASSETTE versions that really probably tell the biggest part of the story. It's important too to match the tape layout with the covers.
Version 1: Black On Yellow With No Overlay:
Yes that's right I am semi sure that this is actually the first version that was actually released. It just sold on Ebay today and went for more than I could afford but I haven't seen another one like it. I say no overlay because it clearly has no red rabbit, and the red late that is on this one does look like it matches the handwriting of the over printed LATE versions, but is not over the pocketwatch. I don't have this obviously but it looks like it may well be hand written onto the cover.
Why all of this is important and why this is probably the first edition is because of the cassette itself. Once you study these damned things a while you realise that this version in fact has an entirely different address on it for Simple Machines - 3510 North Eighth Street Arlington Virginia, not po box 10290 Arlington like all the others. A quick bit of detective work tells anyone interested that yes indeed many of the very first Simple Machines releases were released with this address and that it seems to have changed to the po box right around the time or the Late release.
My money is that it was a sure bet when people found out who LATE really was they got a little worried about being inundated with visitors... could be a mile of the mark but it's definitely a plausible theory.
Version 2: Black On Yellow With Red Overlay:
So if the North Eighth Street tape was the first release, then it stands to reason the next one was the version that brought in the red late as an overlay onto the pocketwatch and added the rabbit. It's fair to say that the layout of the text does make it look as if the rabbit was meant to be here the whole time - so version one could just be a very early promo version. Anyway the tape address has now changed to the PO box number. Cassette retains cut off top corners, but now has straight bottom corners. What they do both share though is the fact that the "pocket watch" and "simple machines" logos start a little distance from the left hand edge of the label, so this seals the deal for me that they are one generation apart. Because then the tapes changed again for version three below.
I'd say I've seen this maybe half as often as the third release (but again this is purely just a personal assessment).
Version 3: Red On Yellow With Black Overlay:
This is the "standard" version you see most often. Tape label has cut corners at the top and now has ROUNDED ones at the bottom. "pocket watch" and "simple machines" logos are now both hard against the left label edge. po box number address on tape. Why the change of colour on the labels is anyone's guess, maybe to denote the change of tape (if it was a different make or something) I don't know, it could be that someone just thought the opposite colour scheme looked better.
Either way this is definitely the one you see most often and that would make sense, by now it was probably well know it was Dave's release so they probably had to make quite a lot. The best guess I can make is that anywhere from 500 to 1500 were made - but it is just an educated guess based on info I've seen over 20 years.
Version 4: Red On White With No Overlay:
Very similar cassette to the third edition above. Tape corners cut at top and rounded at bottom. "pocket watch" and "simple machines" logos are both hard against the left label edge. po box number address on tape. Takes a while to see why it is actually yet another different tape. The po box address is the same but it's in smaller font that finishes half way across the right hand spindle hole.
Other than version 1 which I've only seen once this is the second rarest. My personal opinion from some pretty good info is that it was issued in a hurry over a pretty short period of time when the cassette sold much better than anticipated and they were caught short on stock of the third version. Hand cut J-Card (often slightly out of square) with the correct colour red but on white card inlay with no "LATE" and no Rabbit. People that ordered two from Simply are confirmed to have received one of each, So it is definitely a real issue.
My best guess is that they ordered a new lot of tapes and when they arrived they said "we have the tapes, make some fucking J-Cards quick and let's get them in the god damn mail..." If you are talking percentage of the third release maybe 10 or 20 % at the most. So 50 to 300 is my guess.
I am almost certain that ALL four are real versions, there is far too much proof in the consistency of the detail to really doubt it when you put it all together.
So anyway if you were after a starter on the Late tape this is it. There could be better out there somewhere, but this is the best I can come up with. If you read all of this and feel you have something worth adding chime in