#883: Live! Bootlegs – the Prequel

A prequel to Record Store Tales #286: Live! Bootlegs


RECORD STORE TALES #883:  Live! Bootlegs – the Prequel


I didn’t discover “bootlegs” right away.  But inevitably, I had my first encounter and was confused by what I saw.

The setting:  Dr. Disc, 1988 or ’89.  Downtown Kitchener.  In the store with best friend Bob and one of his friends.  Browsing in the cassettes, I had worked my way over to Guns N’ Roses, a band I was still learning about.  Something about an EP that came before Appetite?  But what I saw was not that.  In fact, there multiple Guns bootlegs in their cassette section, only I didn’t know they were called “bootlegs”, or what that even meant.  Each one seemed to have a different member on the front.  One had Slash, one had Axl, one even had Izzy.  They were printed on different coloured paper.  They had songs I never heard, like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”.  Live shows from the last few years.

Were they official releases?  They had to be if they were sitting there in a store, right?  But A&A Records at the mall didn’t have these.

I didn’t get of the Guns tapes.  I didn’t have the money, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have taken a chance.

My knowledge of bootlegs was limited.  In my mind, I associated the word with the kind of bootleg records they had to buy in communist Russia.  Since you could not buy American music in the Soviet Union in the time of the Iron Curtain, fans got creative.  There is a famous series of Beatles bootleg records, etched into X-ray photographs.  It was the right kind of material to cut the music on.  Like a flexi-disc.  When I heard the word “bootleg album”, I associated it with an album that was illegal to own, but somehow you got a copy of a copy.  Not live recordings smuggled out of a gig and sold for profit.

I finally put the pieces together when I bought the book Kiss On Fire on December 27, 1990.  In the back:  a massive list of live Kiss bootlegs, from Wicked Lester to the Asylum tour.  Tracklists, cover art, the works.  Suddenly, it clicked.

“These must be bootlegs!” I whispered to myself in awe.

“We must have them,” said my OCD to my unconscious self.

I acquired my first live bootleg from Rob Vuckovich in 1992.  It was David Lee Roth live in Toronto on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour with Steve Vai.  It was just a taped copy on a Maxell UR 90, but it was my first.  My sister got an early Barenaked Ladies gig on tape shortly after, including the rare “I’m in Love With a McDonald’s Girl”.  Then in 1994 she bootlegged her own Barenaked Ladies show on the Maybe You Should Drive tour!

Around this time, my sister and I also started attending record shows a couple times a year.  Bootlegs were now available on CD.  And there were many.  Who to choose?

Black Sabbath with Ozzy, or with Dio?  Def Leppard before Rick Allen was even in the band?  Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Motley Crue’s final gig with Vince Neil…so many to choose from!

Interestingly enough, the idea of one band member being on the cover art carried into the CD age.  By my side at one show was Bob once again.  I flipped through the Kiss.  There were so many!  I picked one out with Gene on the cover.  Not knowing what bootlegs were himself, Bob thought they were solo albums.  “Don’t get one with just Gene!” he advised.  It wasn’t something I wanted anyway — it was from the Animalize tour, which I already had represented on VHS at home.  I wanted something I didn’t have anything from yet.  There it was!  The Revenge club tour!  Unholy Kisses, they called the disc.  Stupid name, great setlist.  I only hoped it sounded good when I got it home.  They used to let you listen to it before you bought it, but I think I was too shy and just bought it.  As it turns out, I loved it.  Every thump and every shout.

That’s the thing about bootlegs.  You really never knew what the sound was going to be like.  Or even if the gig advertised was the gig you were buying.  Or just because it sounded good at the start, will it still sound good at the end?  Or did the guy recording it have to move to a different seat next to a loud dude?  A soundboard recording was almost a too-good-to-be-true find.  One thing you were certain not to hear:  overdubs.  No overdubs on a bootleg!  They were raw and authentic.

I had made a good “first bootleg” purchase.  A whole new world opened before me.  There were not just live bootlegs, no!  Also demos, remixes, even B-sides.  And among them, some great, and some dreadfully bad choices!

Hear about some of the great ones this Friday, February 26 on the LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano







    1. Promised Land tour, what a stage getup! Geoff Tate on sax for the full band version of “Something Else” that’s included on the Japanese CD we both have. Excellent!

      Also, in case you don’t read my reply on Harrison’s site, I’ve never told him not to listen to Bryan Adams! And I’ve said before that Cuts Like a Knife and Reckless are great LPs. Into the Fire and the Live Live Live album are cool too, as for most of the rest of his career I claim ignorance. The only thing he’s ever done that I’ve ever expressed distaste towards is Waking Up the Neighbours.


        1. I wouldn’t take Trey & Matt too seriously. They rip everyone. I like Phil Collins, but their incredibly bitter and butthurt parody of him because they lost the Oscar to him is hilarious.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll be getting into Queensryche on Friday — it was the show I saw. Bought it on VHS from the local bootlegging legend Ralph, then taped to cassette. Two of Ralph’s bootlegs will be on my list.

        Any time you saw Ralph at a show, you knew a bootleg video was coming.


        1. Sorry, my internet crapped out for a bit. Some songs are a bit chopped in places and it is missing the encores, though as two of them are “The Trooper” and “Number of the Beast”, you’re really only missing out on “Running Free”. Still not worth $60 to anyone but me

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I bought a few over the years. I always looked for Soundboard on the back of the disc but yeah a little pricey so I tended to avoid this stuff mostly.


  2. bootlegs, eh? The first bootleg tape I bought was so lousy that my dive into them stopped right there. It was Elvis Costello live show. I remember the cover was yellow paper. And the sound was so bad that I was tempted to just throw it away. Only listened to it once. That tape could be here somewhere still.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t start gettin in to them until a few years ago so I have a long way to go, although my Kiss Bootlegs are numerous. Still way more that I want to get a hold of. I want one from every tour, that is the goal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember seeing 2 pages off bootlegs advertised in the back of every Guitar World magazine. I don’t think I ever bought anything from the company, but I remember looking for neat stuff from bands I liked every month.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Rare and unauthorized audience recordings, and can be found in different forms, got it! No wonder why collectors try to find bootlegs from their favorite bands. Thank you for explaining it to me. I’ve heard of the term bootleg, but I never knew what it was until now.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I used to buy my bootlegs from the Barrowlands. Every weekend me and a pal would nab one of many Nirvana or Pearl Jam cassettes. They were £4 or two for £6. Live Tribe was the label. Sold by a guy we called Bob. I don’t even know if that was his name! He used to get stuff that we might like.

    I also bought GNR’s Paris gig and an Alice in Chains gig from 93, which was a horrible sounding audience recording. CDs were a bit more expensive, but I obtained quite a few over the years – Radiohead’s Glastonbury 97 set, bunch of Nirvana gigs and radio sessions and one of the last Blind Melon gigs.

    Nowadays I find ‘em online – basically a load radio sessions, web or radio broadcasted gigs, studio stuff, and soundboard recordings.


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