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CONTENTS:- Dates refer to when the features where first written. Links and minor details have been updated since...
  1. Bootlegs feature, part 4, Collecting and Buying Online Dec 1999
  2. Bootlegs feature, part 3, Bootleg Stories and opinions + further Reading Dec 1999
  3. Bootlegs feature, part 2, Classic Bootlegs Nov 1999
  4. Bootlegs feature, part 1, A potted history Nov 1999

Bootlegs feature, part 1, A potted history

All the Bootleg features are culled from Our E-Zine, Click Here to find out more.

Thanks to simon Galloway for writing much of this feature!

The first rock bootleg was released 30 years ago and during the decades since this illegal practice has catered for the demands of music fans by releasing rare and live recordings, whatever the means and circumstances.

That first bootleg is now legendary, a collection of Bob Dylan recordings dating from 1961, plus miscellaneous studio out-takes, and seven tracks from the Basement tapes sessions, all under the name of ‘The Great White Wonder’ due to the fact that the sleeve was plain white. The tapes that made up this release had been circulating amongst collectors for some time, but it was the disappointment of Dylan’s then current album (‘Nashville Skyline’) and fans knowing that the Basement Tapes contained the missing link between ‘Blonde On Blonde’ and ‘John Wesley Harding’ that created enough interest for an enterprising pair of Californian record plant workers to produce their own vinyl copies. A lucrative, yet highly illegal business was born and the UK followed soon after with a live recording of Jimi Hendrix at the Albert Hall

It took another 6 years before the Basement Tapes were officially issued, and then it was only a double album selection, leaving off many of the songs recorded during those sessions. Even Dylan himself admitted that this release would not have happened had it not been for the bootlegs.

This set the pattern for the way record companies have continued to operate when it comes to issuing rare material. The gap has always been filled by the bootlegger

Bootlegging in the 70s became more professional, but most records were still poorly pressed with photocopied covers. The emergence of European "Labels" such as Swinging Pig later in the decade saw limited editions, coloured vinyl’s and most importantly constantly better quality recordings. This was carried forward into the 80s

Cassettes and Videos brought about a new era in bootlegging, they were easier to make, more transportable and could be sold cheaply. Record Fairs blossomed with acres of cheap dayglo inlays where every band imaginable was featured. Many sellers allowed people to listen to the bootlegs first which forced the quality (initially awful) up. A thriving industry emerged in getting tape recorders tacked onto the mixing desk at almost every gig. Glastonbury and other big festivals had stalls where you could buy recordings of bands who had played only hours before! It was not until the Early 90s that these stalls were raided and the festival bootlegs declined. By Then a new format was revolutionising the industry

Bootleggers were quick to realise the potential of CDs and the record companies were desperately slow. Instead of promoting the new format with innovative releases record companies planned to make it impossible to bootleg, as every pressing plant was supposed to leave a unique signature on it’s discs. The system failed and soon Live CDs flooded the market. Using loopholes in European law companies in Italy and Germany pressed vast numbers of CDs, they had superb catalogues of titles on the inlays and collectors could buy direct. They were the first to use clear trays, coloured boxes and all sorts of other gimmicks, the CDs were attractive, well recorded and often more exciting than the official releases. In the US the importers were finally captured for Tax evasion rather than copyright, in the UK endless legal battles nearly bankrupted the Music Industries enforcement agency, the BPI,. While the bootlegs were eventually forced underground, the law was never fully clarified. Now the tactic is to seize from bootleggers then offer not to prosecute if the bootlegger agrees to sign the stock away. It is a policy which has swung the balance in the BPIs favour.

The CD bootleg has been reduced to the under-the-counter status of its Vinyl ancestor, no longer easy to find, many are now cut in small numbers on CDRs.


Are bootlegs collectible? It is a hotly disputed point. If you are about to part with big money for a bootleg there are a couple of points to consider.
  1. bootleggers rarely accurately document their activities! A "limited Edition" is often not as limited as claimed.
  2. If you had bootlegged some band in the 70s and still had the master discs, you would probably feel pretty tempted to produce a few more if your bootleg became valuable! It goes on...
As actual artefacts, bootlegs are probably not collectible, but as far as content goes, yes but only to die hard fans for whom these releases are intended. Generally, these recordings are not available by any other means, but a good bootleg will be copied over and over and issued under several different titles, thankfully making these rare recordings available one way or another.

Having said that many bootlegs are important historical documents and as such deserve the attention of collectors Perhaps the best advice is pay what it is worth to you, don't buy as an investment. Perhaps some of the cleverly packaged CDs from the 90s will become big ticket items as many are too fancy for bootleggers to be bothered to reproduce them.

Bootlegs feature, part 2, Classic Bootlegs

All the Bootleg features are culled from Our E-Zine, Click Here to find out more.

From vinyl, to cassette and now CD, buying bootlegs can be a hit and miss affair. Firstly, because of the legal problems names and titles are often changed, labels are left blank, and recording information inaccurate. As for the sound quality, it ranges from studio masters to recordings made on a stone in the toilet (in other words, bad). But when you get a good one there’s nothing like it!

In the last 30 years bootleggers have unearthed some real classics, and in the process shed new light on the working practices and development of artists. Trying to compile a definitive list of classics would be pointless, but putting together a list of some classic bootlegs demonstrates why we wouldn’t want to be without them.

The sources of these recordings, and bootlegs as a whole are many. From home demos, studio out-takes, radio sessions and concerts to television and audience tapes.

Bright Lights, Big City: a collection of studio demo tapes from the June 1964 Chess sessions and five demos recorded at IBC studios for Decca in 1963. It presents the Stones in a raw and exciting state on a variety of R&B covers.

LIVE r Than You’ll Ever Be: the classic Oakland Coliseum concert from 1969 that prompted Decca to release ‘Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out’ some 2 months later, even lifting LIVE’s ‘Little Queenie’ for the album.

Get Back: the original George Martin produced version of what became ‘Let It Be’. Copied from the acetate and featuring the Fabs performing a ‘live’ selection of originals and rock & roll covers, this is the version that John Lennon would have preferred instead of Phil Spector’s syrup coated versions.

Sessions: prepared for official release in 1984 only to encounter legal problems and Apple opposition, this collection of EMI out-takes eventually found their way on to the Anthology series.

In 1966 There Was: Dylan has been given the accolade of being the most bootlegged artist, and as far as Dylan bootlegs go they don’t come more legendary than this. Wrongly labelled as the 1966 Royal Albert Hall concert, it was actually recorded by CBS at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and features the infamous cry of ‘Judas’. Generally acknowledged as the first bootleg CD when it was given the digital treatment in the late 1980s, it was finally given an official release in 1998.

The Basement Tapes: two double albums that preserve the 1967 sessions with The Band, putting to shame the official CBS version. Songs have since trickled out on both the ‘Biograph’ and ‘Bootleg Series’ box sets.

Filmore East: live in New York, 1968, this captures The Who making the transition from English pop art band to the more experimental and hard rock sound that led to ‘Tommy’ and one of the most explosive rock & roll bands of the 70s.

Who’s Zoo: one of the first bootlegs to issue officially released material, these tracks originally graced the Who’s singles from 1964 to 1971 which had been neglected by the various record companies involved.

James Patrick Page: Session Man: a well packaged and lovingly compiled double album of obscure singles and b-sides dating from Jimmy Page’s days as a session musician. Has since received a semi-legal release in Japan.

Destroyer: live at the Richfield Coliseum, Cleveland in 1977. When this excellent soundboard tape was transferred to cd it became a 6 disc set featuring two complete Cleveland shows from consecutive nights.

Santa Monica ‘72: Bowie and the Spiders captured live for US radio in October 1972. This essential show received a brief official release in 1994, and has recently resurfaced in Japan.

Resurrection On 84th Street: nothing short of exhilarating, this 1976 show again recorded for US radio in New York shows Bowie at his live peak, with his band playing that unique brand of Euro-funk that subsequently launched many a career.

You Can Trust Your Car: US radio is again responsible for capturing this 1975 Springsteen show that demonstrated what a passionate live performer he was. This is the complete show, clocking in at 90 minutes.

All Those Years: celebrating the first 10 years of Springsteen’s live shows, this mammoth 10 disc set puts to shame the officially released live box set.

Winter Tour ‘74: recorded in Stoke-on-Trent in 1974, this lavishly packaged album featured all the new songs that the Floyd were playing in their set. A deluxe colour sleeve and printed lyrics led bootleggers to claim that this LP shifted 50,000 copies.

Psychedelic Games For May: collection of Syd Barrett era Floyd, featuring a pre-Floyd acetate, rough mixes of the early singles plus BBC TV and the unreleased single ‘Scream Thy Last Scream’.

As well as all the rock greats as featured above, Punk and New Wave also proved rich pickings for bootleggers, most notably the Sex Pistols ‘Spunk Rock’, a collection 1976 demos that upstaged ‘...Bollocks’ by two weeks (since having gained an official release), and Joy Division’s ‘Warsaw’, tracks that were intended for their RCA album that never was and provides the missing link between ‘An Ideal For Living’ and ‘Unknown Pleasures’. Since the 1980s bands such as REM, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Oasis and Blur have also had dozens of illegal releases featuring demos, out-takes and concerts. CD has enabled bootleg manufacturers to turn round releases in literally days, with increasingly more and more professional cover designs being possible with even the simplest of computer graphics packages.

The last subject within classic bootlegs surely has to be BBC Radio sessions. This has always been a particularly rich source and has provided the material for so many bootlegs (how many times have you heard a snippet of John Peel’s voice amidst the cut and paste?). These releases often represent ‘The Holy Grail’ of bootlegs, simply because of the sheer quality and historical value these recordings have gained. Although the last 10 years has seen the realisation of the commercial value of these recordings, many of the ‘Greats’ still block plans to officially release this material.

Beatles fans were finally rewarded with an excellent 2cd set in 1994 with ‘The Beatles Live At The BBC’, but this doesn’t come close to the 14 album set issued in the 80s. David Bowie fans have been tempted with the promise of the official release of his magnificent BBC sessions, but on every occasion the project has been shelved. In 1996 a 3 disc set was prepared for release by NMC and even a promo disc was sent out, but the release was blocked by Bowie. Since then, the tapes that were prepared have seen the light of day thanks to the efforts of bootleggers as the 4 cd set ‘The Rise And Rise Of Ziggy Stardust’, with bonus material not included in the proposed set. Similarly, news of the emergence of lost Rolling Stones tracks made it into the headlines last year, an official release was promised, but alas, nothing, although these sessions have been available for years on numerous bootlegs. Roxy Music’s BBC sessions have been collected most comprehensively on the 2cd set ‘First Kiss’ which originated in Japan. Led Zeppelin did sanction the release of their BBC tapes which became the incredibly successful ‘Live At The BBC’, several official releases have been given to the numerous sessions recorded by Marc Bolan and T.Rex, and due this month is a collection of all known existing tracks recorded for the Beeb by the Small Faces.

A great way to package these sessions would be as cd-roms - the increased storage capacity would allow for ALL the Beatles or David Bowie tracks recorded, including multiple versions (which are normally omitted), along with session and broadcast information. This idea has been utilised by bootleggers already, the most infamous being the whole Beatles back catalogue presented on one cd-rom along with cover art and recording information. 30 hours of the ‘Get Back/Let It Be’ sessions have also been preserved this way.

Bootlegs feature, part 3, Bootleg Stories and opinions + further Reading

All the Bootleg features are culled from Our E-Zine, Click Here to find out more.

Simon, Author of much of this feature writes
Everyone who collects bootlegs will surely remember that first time, the thrill of obtaining rare and illegal recordings of their favourite artists. My introduction was via a friend of the family who lent me a cassette of David Bowie’s ‘Resurrection On 84th Street’ whilst on holiday when I was 12 years old. From that summer on I haven’t stopped, but nothing can match the thrill of that bootleg, nor my second, the excellent out-takes compilation ‘ChangesThreeBowie’, a set that was prepared for release by Main Man and RCA back in 1974, but was shelved in the early stages (but not before tapes were compiled and duly copied). 14 years down the line and my quest for rare material has extended to most of the artists I collect, and has become increasingly expensive, although I do like to search out the bargains! I started on cassette, briefly moved to vinyl, but it wasn’t long before I got my first cd player and discovered to my delight that I could pick up bootleg cd’s for the same price as official releases. Pocket money was cautiously saved for the record fair that came to town every few months or so.

A subscriber to the newsletter, ‘Chris’, used to run a small bootlegging operation back in the 80s: "only on tape, vinyl was too much hassle to deal with, but it used to be quite lucrative, kept the wolves... The best place for getting customers was the small ads in the back of Sounds/NME but then they whacked up their prices for small ads and people stopped advertising with them so it died out a bit and I lost interest. I have got boxes of about a thousand tapes gathering dust".

Further Reading

For further reading on bootlegs the ultimate book is ‘The Great White Wonders: A History Of Rock Bootlegs’ by Clinton Heylin. This is a well researched and thorough book, with its authenticity validated by interviews with the people who manufactured bootlegs (often under pseudonyms), and detailing hundreds of releases in the process. Order Direct from (Link found dead July 2000) or
on Amazon

Bootleg; The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry
On amazon

Over the years, Record Collector magazine has run articles on the bootlegs on a variety of artists, including an in depth series of articles on the studio out-takes of the Rolling Stones from 1962 through to 1989, plus detailing the live careers of high profile acts such as The Who, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin, plus more contemporary artists such as REM and Nirvana. BBC Sessions have also been extensively covered by the magazine, but the most thorough guide to these recordings is Ken Garner’s "In Session Tonight" which details Radio One sessions since 1967 including every Peel Session broadcast.

Also worth checking out is Hot Wacks, otherwise known as the Bootleg Bible, who publish supplements every so often detailing the latest bootlegs with track listings, recording information and reviews. Visit their website at

A very good article appeared in Q magazine back in September 1989 (Q36) - ‘Bootlegs - 25 Under The Counter Classics’, so the next time you’re searching through back issues, bear it in mind.

Bootlegs feature, part 4, Collecting and Buying Online

All the Bootleg features are culled from Our E-Zine, Click Here to find out more.

For die hard fans of music it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy bootlegs in the UK, following a two year period where the BPI and police have become increasingly active and more intolerant to this illegal practice. But where does this leave the humble fanatic? Looking to other sources...

The days of picking up a copy of the latest bootlegs down at the local record fair are all but gone (although if you search carefully at smaller fairs and certain markets you’re still in with a chance of making a find). So where can you obtain that elusive batch of rare demos by whoever? Many are now turning to the Internet to satisfy their hunger for illicit releases. But how do you find such websites when there seem to be literally millions? Well, be persistent and keep searching. A good place to start is on fan websites which often feature bootleg discographies and the low-down on new titles. These are a great source of information and help discern titles which are worth tracking down (remember, there is always someone else more dedicated to the cause than you are).

One such site is the Pink Floyd RoIO Database
which, as the name suggests is a Pink Floyd based site dealing with bootlegs and where to buy them. This website features a list of sellers with links, and also "customer" comments where people relay their experiences, good or bad, about the various sellers. For fans of David Bowie try Bassman’s David Bowie page an excellent site that details just about every Bowie boot in existence, with cover art, track listings, quality ratings and reviews. For greater detail on newer Bowie boots try Tigers On Vaseline.
The Who are well served by Baba O’Riley’s Bootleg Page

Websites dedicated to the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin...are numerous, but here’s a few suggestions:

The Beatles
The Rolling Stones
Led Zeppelin

Basically, use one of the many search engines (I always use Infoseek or Alta Vista), search for the artist you want, then search within the results for "bootlegs" and you’ll probably come across something relevant.

The next step is to locate bootleg sellers on the net. It seems to be a rather haphazard process, as some specialists mix the illicit titles with official releases, but if you know what you’re looking for then that’s half the battle won. These dealers tend to be in the USA and the Far East. Here are a few suggestions to try out:

Tunnel Records (Link Found Dead July 2000) - an American based service who have an excellent selection of titles, although not always available.
13/12/99 Since posting this feature I have been warned that Tunnel are unreliable or worse...Approach with Caution!
Live CDs - based in Singapore they have a good range of discs and don’t waste time in sending out orders.
17/12/99 Live CDs announced that new legeslation in singapore will force them to close early in Jan 2000
Gold - a good site with searchable stock.
Midnight Records - 21 years in the business.
ohkura - selling both cd’s and videos.

Another source for buying are second-hand dealers, particularly ones based in the USA as they tend to have better search engines for their websites.

It is best to approach these dealers with caution, after all they are selling illegal product, and their on-line ordering processes are not secure, and often by email. If you can telephone them directly that is a better option. Get your order confirmed by email then give payment details over the telephone. And finally, don’t order large quantities. Although there may be a temptation to order loads, it is worth remembering that these dealers could be shut down at any time, having already charged your VISA card, but never fulfilling the order. Take care!!!
Oh, And if these links are no longer valid...let me know!

Auction Houses such as Website are clamping down on bootlegs, search for "live recordings", "rare tracks" etc. the sellers are always one step ahead of the authorities, so the keywords will surely change again!

Trading An excellent option is trading and the Internet has made this activity worldwide. Again, fan websites are the best place to start, as most have Trading Posts and message boards for fans to communicate with each other. And now has never been a better time to trade, with digital recording technology freely accessible, thus maintaining quality of the copies.

Most traders will not sell, so you have to have something to offer for trading. If you have a sizable collection of bootlegs (and for trading you can include private recordings made from radio and television) then it may be wise to compile a list and keep it updated so that you’re always ready to trade. Most traders also have rules and requirements about what type of tapes to use, expected turn-around time and postage details (like leaving out cases to reduce the weight. But most are fairly flexible.

It is a great way of expanding your collection with the only cost being materials and postage, which the other person has to pay out for anyway. The popular formats are cd (made on computer linked cd-r writers and cd-r decks), MiniDisc, and there are still cassette traders out there. MP3 trading is starting to take off, but I’ll deal with that later.

Here are some trading website suggestions:
CDr Trading webring - this lists all the members of the cd-r trading webring with currently over 400
websites listed.
Bootleg Webring - as above. - this is the homepage of WebRing, featuring a search facility that allows you to look for all the WebRing members.
Pink Floyd database List of Bootleg suppplier, has user comments which helps you avoid the Duff sellers
Martijn's Bootleg Homepage Another site where a current list of bootleg suppliers is maintained.

As suggested, also try fan based sites dedicated to your favourite artists, as in some cases this can actually lead to a more reliable and informed contact. Mailing lists are also a good place to trade rare recordings and exchange debate, so if you can subscribe do consider it, although be warned - some days you can receive up to 70 emails which take forever to download.

Also Useful are the Newsgroups

These are handy trading Stations, but beware, newsgroups seem to attract more bad dealers than other parts of the Internet!

New Technology
MP3 is the latest revolutionary method of delivering cd quality music files over the internet, and also creating them at home on your own PC. The data compression techniques DO result in a slight loss of quality, but in general are very good. The downside is that the more interesting files IF you can download them can sometimes take a while (the most I’ve experienced is about 45 minutes for a live U2 track). Many sites have passwords and login names which make it very hard to access files, but most search engines now offer MP3 search too, but be warned - one stray click and you’re in the porn!

For specialist searches try:

The final link has information and tips on how to download files successfully.

Rare recordings are to be found but it is very hit and miss. Information on some is scant, and sometimes you’ll find that you’ve just spent 15 minutes downloading the official version of the track!

The best MP3 player is WinAmp who do both Windows and Mac players with free downloads. The RealJukebox (link Found Dead, July 2000) is also useful, allowing you to make your own MP3’s. You can also download their G2 player which is a useful addition to any desktop.

So, in many ways the Internet is allowing a greater choice when it comes to bootlegs, by whatever method you choose. The most important thing to remember is HAVE FUN.

Other Format Features
Acetates | Cut-outs | Flexis | Pirates | Promos

Features Index

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