All You Need is Now

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bootlegs - The Albums They Wan't Want You to Hear!

The Beatles at the Star-Club (front)

Thought to be legal, but was found not to be!

Possibly as far back as the mid-'60s, there have been bootlegs in one form or another. In early days, they were of very poor quality with cheap covers, and sold at head shops or back alleys. When record plants made the records, the artist name wasn't always on the label so they wouldn't get caught (the sleeves were made elsewhere). The Beatles and Led Zeppelin were amongst the first and most bootlegged acts and remain so to this day. Zeppelin's late manager Peter Grant would destroy these records the minute he found out. The Beatles' solicitors would try stop the manufacture of their early Star Club show (seen above), but even after winning in High Court, it is still out there with the rest.
The Grateful Dead and their spinoffs had a liberal taping policy allowing Deadheads to tap into large mics or soundboards just as long as their recordings were only traded or shared and not sold.
Greg Lake on the other hand gave a stern warning on Facebook saying that the artists own their performances and if he and ELP are bootlegged and they find out who did it, they'll ring their solicitors and maybe even their barristers.
Bootlegs can be unreleased live or studio recordings. Even now, the sound quality can be a far cry from an official product as the bootleggers don't have the resources of the real record companies.
These days, bootlegs can be downloaded, traded on CD-Rs (blanks and postage), found through networks, or be bought online, at sales and indie shops. It's much easier now than it used to be.
People used to sneak in tape machines and possibly wires, but now there are pricey digital recorders that are used, or occasionally, an artist will have their show on the radio and people record it at home, whether it's the BBC in the UK, Live at the Wireless on JJJ in Australia, or FM in the States.
Many Pink Floyd fans prefer the term RoIO (recording of illegitimate or indeterminate origin) since the term bootleg can be a throwback to Prohibition and Al Capone. There are also VoIOs (videos), where the picture quality can vary and are often done with camcorders or mobile phones.
Bootlegs can fill the void that the authorised releases can't fill. Often, artists will release shows themselves in order to stop being ripped off by the underground labels who sometime cheat the fans if what they parted their hard earned cash on isn't halfway decent. There are downloads and even flash drives you can order, depending on who you like. There used to be magazines listing what was out there.
I wish I could get recordings of the shows I got to see. I managed to get some Yes, Asia, and solo Paul McCartney. I know there's one of Duran Duran, but it'll cost me dearly. Also holding out for Def Leppard. I can't get myself to record a show in case I get busted for it. There has to be a way. Maybe in a future post, I'll list the shows I'm looking for. Not now 'cos I can't remember all the dates, but I do the year, town, and venue. It'd be nice to have video 'cos I don't have the best photographic memory, but I'll be lucky to get audio if it exists. If not, at least I tried. I have many bootlegs here, including ones of shows I attended which someone else managed to capture for posterity.
Remember that piracy involves copying official releases (including needle drop), so see earlier post for more on that.

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