A Brief History Of Bootlegs

As a point of interest, bootleg records can be traced back to the early days of opera music but they are not what we're concerned with here, vinyl (rock) bootlegs first began to appear in the USA in 1969. The first of these was Bob Dylan's 'Great white wonder' which was compiled by two young Californian Dylan fans - Michael Taylor & Ken Douglas (known as 'Dub' & 'Ken') who both owned Dylan acetates with unreleased tracks due to their connections in the music industry. It comprised of various studio outtakes and was instantly successful with the californian record buying public and even received a fair amount of local radio airplay! In California at that time, there were many small independent record pressing plants who, in the true spirit of the times, were not too concerned with copyright laws, or whose money they took to press the discs. So getting the discs pressed was a relatively easy affair. Soon, others followed and within a year bootleg albums were being produced throughout the USA, Europe and the Far East. As for Dub & Ken, flushed with the success of 'The Great White Wonder', they went on to establish the now legendary 'Trade Mark Of Quality' label, and between them released more vinyl bootlegs than anyone else in bootleg history.
In the early years most US bootlegs were very simply packaged, either with plain white rubber stamped sleeves or with paper insert covers. It should be noted that the early european releases were generally better both with the packaging and sound quality of their releases.
Towards the end of the seventies the US copyright laws began to tighten up and many manufacturers found themselves busted by the FBI. One of the problems they faced was that, as inept at catching them as the FBI were, even they could easily see the difference between official albums and bootlegs, which at that time, still nearly all had the cheap looking paper insert covers to keep production costs down. Hence the change to deluxe colour covers. Although it's fair to say that these days, the old style paper insert bootlegs are generally more sought after. It may be because they look so….'underground'. Whatever, they do have a certain charm about them.

For further reading on the old vinyl bootleggers, it is well worth seeking out a copy of Clinton Heylin's excellent book 'The Great White Wonders' from which the following two extracts were taken….

The Dark Side Of The Moo
Richard (the bootlegger) - "Dark side of the moo was just a pun and a picture of a cow I took 'cos I thought it would be a great cover and title. It sold more than everything and it's still in print….People still ask for it now, and I don't get it. There's no writing on the cover, just a picture of a cow on the front and two cows on the back. I had to slap a sticker on it to say who it was. It sold 15,000 - I was amazed!"

World Tour
'Eric Bristow' (the bootlegger) - "Pink Floyd, when they came back in '87, the first show of the world tour was in Ottawa, and a friend of mine drove up there, taped it, bought a concert programme, Fed Ex'd the tape and the programme from Ottawa the next morning to me in California. I handed it all in. It was mastered that afternoon. I had plates on the day after on the other side of the continent! We had records, in a double gatefold, on pink vinyl, with four colour labels, out on the streets in eight days….and we sold 7,000 of those….One of the guys who worked for the Floyd went into 'It's Only Rock and Roll' in New York and he saw this bootleg and they hadn't even played there yet! 'Jesus Christ! I work for these guys, let me see that!' He looked at it and was absolutely stunned. He took it back to the hotel and showed it to the band. They were so freaked out they sent him back to buy three more for them. This is a week and a half after the show'.

With the demise of vinyl sales throughout the eighties many of the old guard vinyl bootleggers called it a day. The ones who stayed in business now had the real problem of where to get their cd's pressed, but that’s another story………..
Production has continued right through to the present day although (with a few exceptions) the old vinyl bootlegs were superceded by cd bootlegs in the late eighties. Many of the old vinyl bootlegs are now extremely sought after by collectors and fetch very high prices. Most bootlegs were produced in small runs (typically one to two thousand) and this has added to their mystique and desirability.

Pink Floyd & Bootlegs
Major artists (ie. The most bootlegged!) opinions on bootlegs differ greatly. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, The Grateful Dead and John Lennon etc were/are all avid collectors of their own bootlegs, whilst Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan started out 'pro-bootleg' and then changed their minds. This is often the case as early on in an artists career being bootlegged is considered cool and an indication that you've 'made it'. Later on, things change…….

Nick Mason
I hate bootlegs. I absolutely disapprove of bootlegging. We should be allowed to make the decision about what of our work we will put out. I'm opposed to bootleggers generally, and I'm not very sympathetic to that particular cause. I think that if you want to run things like the Grateful Dead do, that's fine and that works very well. If the band makes a conscious decision about how they want to operate, then that's fine. So I'd say that from my point of view, I'm not very keen on it, and tend to take a rather jaundiced view when people want to get their bootleg albums autographed! I do have some bootlegs of our stuff to remind me how much I hate them.

Roger Waters
Q: How do you feel about fans exchanging bootlegs?
A: I think it sounds like a healthy hobby.

Dave Gilmour
The sound quality is usually dreadful, but I've got one with hundreds of things on. Not quite sure where they've got it from. For people like us who've done a lot over the years it's not a major issue, whereas for people starting out it's more difficult to cope with bootlegs.