Ever since I set up my boom box in front of the TV to record an MTV special on Asia in concert from Tokyo, I've been fascinated with bootlegs. Finding, collecting and doing research on them has been a hobby for me for years.
So what are bootlegs? They are unauthorized live recordings by an artist. They can not be found in stores nor anywhere music can legally be sold. Many of these recordings are sold illegally through online sites. None of profits go to the artists' themselves. However, I'm not interested in any sharp nor form in the business of dealing tapes for cash. Music is priceless.
Getting them was rather interesting. I never bought any from the online sites that are strewn over the internet these days. I never trusted these sites for various reasons. Instead I have recorded them off of the radio, hooked up my tape deck to the VCR from the TV specials like MTV Unplugged, Live 8 and the Woodstock '94 pay per view and even hooked my tape deck to the computer to record downloads of the Internet from sites like the now defunct WinMX. Most of them I've gotten from are from friends. How they got them, the don't ask, don't tell rule applies.
I never have, myself, bootlegged a concert that I've been to. Too risky to get caught. Though I do have FOUR bootlegged shows that I've been to in my collection. That said, I do have a dresser 3/4 full of bootlegged tapes, making them a HUGE part of my collection.
So why all the fuss over bootlegs? Yes, I love live recordings from any artist. To me, they are extensions of the studio work. Where in the studio, the artist can slice and dice to perfect a song, in concert, it's do or die in one take. I've noticed though, the live recordings released by any artist are often "doctored". Meaning that they are mixed, overdubbed or whatever in the studio for release. Kiss Alive! and Led Zeppelin The Song Remains the Same are perfect examples of that. Whereas a bootleg, anyone can get the concert feeling as if you were in the show yourself-flaws and all. The flaws are gives the music its character...
Bootlegs are not perfect either. The sound quality can be barely audible to excellent. Blame can be given to whomever is recording the show and the technology they use. I've noticed in late '60's and the early '70's the recordings are often rare and muddied, while shows later on tended to be a better quality and more common. Thinking about it, a big and bulky tape recorder in smaller venues being stalked by roadies on the rampage versus compact and updated equipment in stadiums. Sometimes one can't be too picky, after all it's a bootleg.
However, there are a few bands that do promote tape trading. Jam bands like the Grateful Dead, the Black Crowes and the Allman Brothers have set ups at their show where can one pick up the finished tape or disc after the show.
Over the years, I've picked up unbelievably awesome and weird recordings. Many of them that captures the true essence and the spirit of the band. There's the Led Zeppelin's Earl's Court run in London at end of their 1975 tour. To this day, I still wonder why at least one of the shows hasn't been released. Aerosmith's Woodstock 1994 show was spectacular! Robert Plant's show in Amsterdam in 1993 was a real trip. A Traffic show at Summerfest had face melting guitar solos on "Dear Mr. Fantasy". Pink Floyd blew up a pig at Oakland in 1977. The Counting Crows wowed me in Chicago in 2004. The Allman Brothers blew my mind at Holmdel, New Jersey with their dual guitar attack on "Jessica" in 1994. I could really could go on and on about all this. I guess I'm gonna have to to more bootleg reviews...
So is your take on bootlegs?