Friday, October 10, 2008

The 10 Best Bootlegs of All Time

The 10 Best Bootlegs of All Time
Posted Thu Oct 9, 2008 12:52pm PDT by David Skye in GetBack

In July 1969 a couple of Los Angeles-based fans found a pressing plant with a no-questions-asked policy and produced 2,000 copies of The Great White Wonder, a double album of Bob Dylan’s music in a plain white wrapper. This landmark set marked the creation of the first rock bootleg and launched a largely underground movement of recording and trading music by and for fans. The fact that this movement is still going strong well into the age of MP3s is a testament to our insatiable desire for rare recordings and live performances from our favorite artists.


Nowadays, artists compile their own official "bootleg” recordings. Last week Dylan issued the latest in his wonderful Bootleg Series: Tell Tale Signs. But somehow even the most satisfying artist-sanctioned release just can’t take away the thrill of scoring a great "unofficial" recording. Here are 10 that make our Bootleg Hall of Fame. Once the Man lets us, we'll play this stuff for you. Until then, close your eyes and imagine…


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
The Roxy Theater, Los Angeles, CA – July 7, 1978 [FM Broadcast]
With the famous war cry “Bootleggers, roll your tapes,” Bruce personally guarantees a classic bootleg. The Roxy’s on fire, bending to the Boss’ every word. The venue’s intimate setting (500 capacity), combined with Bruce’s energy, make for an electrifying night and contender for best show of all time, as the band sounds tighter than ever and the crowd sings along to “Spirit In The Night.”


JIMI HENDRIX
Cafe Au Go Go, New York, NY – March 17, 1968 [Audience Recording]
This has been one of my all-time favorites since I first slipped the Maxell cassette into my player. Jimi was recording late this evening in a studio down the street from the Cafe Au Go Go. He decided he wanted to jam, so he walked to the club, hopped onstage, and joined the band, believed to be John Mayall And Friends. The magic is present from the opening chords, and the performance of “Little Wing” is heartfelt and mesmerizing.


THE BEATLES
White Album Demos [Home Demos]
The Beatles gathered in late spring 1968 at Kinfauns, George Harrison’s home in the London suburb of Esher. Accompanied by only their acoustic guitars, John, Paul, and George sat down and recorded rough demos of their newest material. Most of these songs were written during their trip to Rishikesh, India, in February to April 1968 and subsequently recorded for inclusion on The White Album. Not all of the songs performed that day would surface; some remain unreleased. Our favorite is “Child Of Nature,” which John would later rework for “Jealous Guy” on his 1971 solo album, Imagine.


LED ZEPPELIN
O2 Arena, London, England – December 10, 2007 [Audience Recording]
This is probably one of the most anticipated bootlegs in history and the fastest to hit the market. Fans were uploading videos from their cell phones to YouTube literally minutes after the concert, which was put together as a tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary Atlantic Records founder who had personally signed the band. Listen to “In My Time Of Dying” and hear how well Jason Bonham, son of original drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham, fills his late father’s huge shoes.


BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS
The Quiet Knight, Chicago, IL – June 10, 1975 [FM Broadcast]
This was recorded on the Wailers’ second night in Chicago on what would be their last small-club tour. Their popularity exploded after Eric Clapton’s hit with Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff,” and their subsequent tours would all take place in large venues. Thanks to bootleggers, this club tour was documented and just as the Natty Dread himself mesmerized Chicago, fans can still enjoy the original “I Shot The Sheriff.” Join the Trenchtown Experience.


THE DOORS
Dinner Key Auditorium, Miami, FL – March 1, 1969 [Audience Recording]
Jim Morrison, arrested? What really happened? The quality of this recording doesn’t meet our usually high standards, but come on: how many times have you heard about the alleged indecent-exposure incident and wondered what really happened? Check out this bootleg, and you can listen to exactly what the jury heard during Jim’s Miami trial. It’s the opening number, “Back Door Man,” by the ultimate rebel. “Are you ready for a good time?”


BLACK SABBATH
Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ – August 5, 1975 [Soundboard]
There are many bootleg stories, but this is one of the best; it's from a respected Black Sabbath collector. With the help of King Biscuit Flower Hour, Sabbath recorded this performance, hoping to put out a live record. Instead, the tapes were placed in the King Biscuit vault, where they remained for more than 25 years. In 2001 the doors were pried open, and this gem was leaked. A collector called King Biscuit to inquire about a recording he believed they possessed. The KB engineer handling the vault found the show, whicg was labeled “wasn’t good enough.” With that, the engineer kindly offered to send the collector a complimentary copy, thus the source of this recording. Ozzy asks the crowd, “What do you want to hear?” The crowd replies, “Paranoid.” Fireworks explode, and, with his trademark “We love you all,” the frontman carries through with a blistering version.


PINK FLOYD
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – July 2, 1977 [Soundboard]
New York City was pumped, the local WNEW-FM began airing spots, and a giant inflatable pink pig was launched in Central Park’s Sheep Meadows (now Strawberry Fields in memory of John Lennon). A Floyd soundboard recording from the 1977 tour is a rare commodity. A lot of great audience recordings exist, but a soundboard is very rare. As Floyd take the stage for the second set, opening with “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” one fan comments, “I was about to hear my favorite album of all time played live by my favorite rock group.” Envision dry ice bellowing from the stage, breathtaking animation, and goose bumps as Floyd’s Syd Barrett ode swirls through the speakers.


THE ROLLING STONES
Leeds University, Leeds, England – March 13, 1971
Leeds is one of those absolutely precious clear soundboard recordings from this tour, and many consider it to be the Stones’ definitive live document. The band is inspired throughout, so the whole show is one big highlight. Keith Richards and Mick Taylor prove why many enthusiasts consider this lineup their best, as you’ll witness in “Midnight Rambler.” The duo spins and weaves guitar lines and trade off solos, turning a slow bluesy number into a good old rowdy rave-up.


GRATEFUL DEAD
Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA – March 23, 1987 [Audience Recording]
What would a best-bootleg list be without the good ol’ Grateful Dead? Some fans, of course, argue that the essential performances are from the ’60s or ’70s. But the band’s first shows of 1987 tour after Jerry’s coma were explosive. The audience reaction alone during the chorus of “Touch Of Grey” is enough for this show to be classified a classic, and it was recorded by yours truly.

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