music collecting

#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

 

 

 

 

#819: Early to Rise

GETTING MORE TALE #819: Early to Rise

I’ve been an early riser since my youngest memories.  It probably has to do with an anxiety disorder that was undiagnosed until my 40s.  It happened mostly on weekends.  I’d be so excited for the weekend to begin, that I would be up at 5 or 6 AM.

My earliest memory of waking up early was Boxing Day, the year I received my Lego 371 seaplane.  The set came out in 1977, and that could have been the Christmas I received it.  It was a fantastic set with plenty of slopes, opening doors and two figures.  I got up at 2 AM to take it apart and put it back together again.  I woke up my dad who came down to see what all the noise was.  He wasn’t happy!

My parents didn’t have much choice.  They had to get used to it because I kept waking up early.  Quite often, I suddenly woke up after a cool dream of making something interesting out of Lego.  I would run downstairs and try to make it in real life.  Sometimes I would try to draw pictures of things I dreamed.  Other mornings I was just excited that it was Saturday, or Sunday, with no school.

There was usually not much to do on those early mornings.   In the 70s and 80s, television stations went dark overnight, usually starting the broadcasting day at 6 AM.  Nothing on TV but test patterns or static.  If you waited long enough, eventually the national anthem would begin, to start the broadcast day.  Then came the religious programming.  You had to sit through an hour of TV preachers to get to the cartoons.  I was well familiar with Jimmy Swaggart and many more whose names times has forgotten.

On one occasion, I woke my parents up in glee.

“Mom!  Dad!  Did you know there was a THIRD testament of the Bible?  I wonder when we’re going to learn about that one in school!”

Never, that’s when!  Nobody told me the difference between a Catholic and a Mormon.

Another morning I raced upstairs to tell them more good news I saw on TV.  One of the religious shows was discussing the creation of the solar system, which I sketched out.  But the big part was that Jesus was coming back in the year 2000.  That’s what the show said, and I couldn’t wait to tell my parents.  I was so excited that I actually took notes.

The most irritating of the morning TV preachers was Henry Feyerabend, a Seventh Day Adventist.  He had this condescending smile.  Feyerabend was probably the one who got me all excited about Jesus coming back.  I really grew to hate his face after awhile.  He’d talk about things such creationism, and sing hymns with these other dudes.  I was into science at a young age so the creationism always bugged me.  But there was nothing else on TV.  Not until Bugs Bunny at 7:00.

My early morning TV adventures were not all uplifting ones.  I woke up really early one Saturday, and a channel was in the middle of late horror movie night.  I don’t know the name of the film that I saw, and I’ve never been able to find out.  All I can remember is that there was a mad scientist or doctor of some kind.  He had little voodoo robots that looked like people.  In one scene, one of the little voodoo dolls stabbed and killed a woman with a pair of scissors.

I didn’t even know you could stab a person with scissors.  I wasn’t getting any more sleep that night!  But it would be amazing to find out what the name of the movie was, and see it again.  See how closely it matches my memories.

The last straw for my dad was Christmas Day 1984.  It was the year I got my GI Joe Killer W.H.A.L.E. hovercraft.  One of the best toys in the entire line, incidentally.  I couldn’t sleep.  I went to bed, tossed and turned, and waited.  The adults were all downstairs laughing and drinking.  I waited for that to die down.  Then I could hear the shuffling about as presents were laid around the tree for us.  The parents went to bed, and I decided I had waited long enough.  Sleep was cancelled.  Assembling of the GI Joe hovercraft commenced henceforth.  Once again, my dad trudged down the stairs to see what the noise was.  There I was, ankle deep in GI Joe parts and stickers, so happy to have my hovercraft.

Nobody else was happy, but that hovercraft was the centerpiece of my GI Joe forces for years to come.  It was and is totally badass.


Time went on, I grew up, but early morning rising never really ended.  There were a couple semesters in University when I only had afternoon classes, and my sleep patterns shifted to later in the day, which was really weird for me.  By and large I have remained early to bed, early to rise.

I didn’t think it was much of a problem.  It was “just the way I am”.  When I told a doctor about it in 2012, they didn’t brush it off as I did.  I was having trouble waking up in the mornings on weekdays, but still getting up at 2 AM on Saturdays.  During the week, there was depression.  “I have to go to work.  I’ll just hit the snooze button for 15 more minutes.”  Then I’d hit snooze again until I absolutely had to get up.  On weekends it was the opposite.  The doctors diagnosed me with a bunch of fun things, including obsessive-compulsive disorder.

As shitty as that is, it’s always why I have such a kickass music collection.

I’ve been trying to maintain more regular sleep hours, though I still wake up earlier on the weekends.  I don’t like to wake up before 5 AM on a Saturday anymore.  If I can’t sleep, I’ll get up for a short while, watch some YouTube until I’m tired, and go back to bed.  Sometimes it takes a while to unwind but it’s been working.

Otherwise, on a “normal” Saturday morning you’ll usually find me at 5:30 or 6:00 AM with a coffee in one hand, music in my ears, and pounding out words on a keyboard.  Sometimes Deke is awake, way up in Thunder Bay, and we’ll chat coffee and music.

Mornings are magical to me, much more so than late nights.   Especially Sunday mornings.  There is nobody up.  I can go for my morning walk down the middle of King Street if I want to.  I love going to get a coffee when the drive-thru is empty at 6 AM.  I prefer getting things done in the morning before people are awake.  I’ll do laundry or I’ll review a box set.  It’s just somehow better before the city wakes.

Early mornings aren’t necessarily the best way, but with moderation it works for me.  I’m most creative in the mornings, and I love the solitude.  And my parents can sleep soundly in their house while I putter around mine!

Part 286: Live! Bootlegs

Part one of a two-part series on bootlegs.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 286: Live! Bootlegs

In the 1990’s, T-Rev befriended a bootlegger named Ralph. I personally purchased from Ralph a Queensryche show that I had attended (and reviewed)  It was a VHS copy of the last date on the Promised Land tour in 1995. Trevor purchased live tapes from him as well. They were usually single-camera, audience filmed videos. Long before Youtube came along, it was the only way you could get videos of shows from bands you liked. Ralph charged between $15 and $20 for his bootleg videos. We even saw him at a Kiss show, covertly filming.

VHS was the common format, usually fuzzy with shitty sound.  I bought a few shows from Ralph of varying quality; thankfully the Queensryche show was watchable enough.  It was a single camera, and unfortunately the beginning of “Take Hold of the Flame” was cut off.  Still, it was a great memento of the Promise Land tour.


A lot has changed since the 1990’s. Youtube has made great vintage concert footage easily accessible for anyone. New concert footage? Usually up later that night or the next day, unless the record labels try to take it down. Regardless, unless you are hunting for a specific show, chances are Youtube have concert footage of just about every band you like, for free.  They do not have footage of the Toronto Queensryche show I saw in ’95, for example, but there are plenty of videos from that tour out there for free.

Bootleg CDs? Same deal. You can find a seemingly infinite amount of concerts online.  I would never purchase a burned bootleg CD anymore. I only collect factory pressed bootleg CDs, which are still being made. They’re a lot harder to come by, because again, most people can download mp3 files from any live show you can think of, for free. If they feel like burning them to a CD they can, or just keep ‘em on the computer or iPod. Hell, way back in the late 1990’s, our own CD stores were selling burned live bootlegs. I never liked doing that but it wasn’t my choice.  (We didn’t make them; we bought them in huge numbers from a customer.)

Above is an actual CD that we sold in-store.  This is one of only two times I bought a burned CD for myself.  We stickered this one at $19.99, and we put a label on it that said “live import” so we didn’t have to use the word “bootleg”.

When I attended the the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale last week, I was pleased to find lots of new factory pressed bootleg CDs.  I’m glad that industry is still alive somewhere in Europe.  I was surprised to see burned bootleg CDs and DVDs for sale, still. In this day and age? There is no way I could pay anyone even $5 for a burned bootleg CD. I saw many: Tori Amos’ first album, Y Kant Tori Read, is one of the most heavily bootlegged albums in my experience, and I saw a burned copy for $5. No thanks. T-Rev found a burned copy of Kim Mitchell’s first solo EP. No thanks!  If you can’t find or afford an original copy, it’s all online.  Just burn, print some cover art on your Epson and you’re off to the races, right?

Ralph was still there, now selling shows on DVD.  The one he was showing was still just concert footage from a single audience camera. I couldn’t have justified paying $15 for a burned DVD of that. (Some vendors were even selling bootleg Blu-rays.)  Truthfully, I was very surprised.  I thought something like that had little monetary value to anyone in 2014.

At least the tables and tables of burned bootleggers were easy to skip, so I could concentrate on better finds. On the drive home, Trevor and I pondered, how could Ralph stay in business? Who would pay good money for a burned CD or DVD bootleg? Times have certainly changed.

Would you pay $15 for a burned DVD bootleg of your favourite band? Under what circumstances? Or, would you save your money and just download?  Leave a comment and discuss!

MET3