Following up on Kirk’s article yesterday on bootlegs, I thought it might be a nice waste of bandwidth if I threw together a list of music that I would purchase instantly if it were only legitimately released. Some of this is music that I have listened to zillions of times, in every format imaginable, as bootlegs were taped or ripped for me over the years. Or purchased on vinyl from long-gone record stores in San Luis Obispo and Westwood. Or maybe they were cassettes I found found at the Camden Town Street Fair; or CDs I came across at the KUSF record swap.
Some of them, of course, came via Napster or other like-minded sites. Hell, a couple I even recorded from the A couple I originally recorded from the King Biscuit Flower Hour. All of them have two things in common: either the record company or the artist thinks that these have no audience and/or artistic merit, and I would buy them in a split-second if they were ever actually legitimately released.
This, by the way, is a very personal list. Why a bootleg becomes treasured is almost more personal than why a real release becomes treasured. Part of that, I guess, is that there really isn’t a sense of community with a boot. You aren’t going to walk into a public place or turn on the radio and have a song from a bootleg surprise you out of nowhere. It’s the other way around, actually: bootlegs are secrets, really. Casual fans need not apply. So the bootlegs that I love are from some of the artists I love the very most.
- The Who – Philadelphia 12-04-1973 (Tales From The Who): From the 1970s, not the 1989 tour. I know that the Quadrophenia tour was percieved as a disaster, and I can hear why: it’s sloppy as hell, as they (especially Moon, of course) have a difficult time synching up with the backing tapes and sometimes, each other. And yet, and yet, despite the long explanations of the songs, the sloppy playing and Moon’s “singing” on “Bell Boy,” I’ve loved this for decades. It all comes down to the long, drawn-out improvisational sections on songs like “Sea and Sand” and “Drowned,” where they just take off into those places where only The Who ever went. And who is leading the charge, Moon, of course. But Townshend, Entwhistle and even Daltrey are right there with him.
- The Who – Fillmore East 04-06-1968: Ostensibly recorded to be their first live album, it would have quite possibly been more revolutionary sounding than even Live at Leeds had they the balls to actually release it.
I had this concert and the Philly concert above on a vinyl double-LP called Souvenir. Best. Boot. Ever.
- Bob Dylan and the Band – The Genuine Basement Tapes Duh. Where is this, already?
- Bob Dylan – New Orleans 11-10-1981 (Stadiums of the Dammed): At the end of one of the Zim’s most-reviled periods, a concert for (quite literally) the ages. Balancing the best of the the Christian era with nuggets from his first two decades, this peaks early with the best “Girl From The North Country” he’ll ever perform, featuring Al Kooper’s always perfect organ.
- u2 – Salome! (The Achtung Baby Outtakes) These were actually out on the street prior to the release of the album, and while three discs are a bit too much, there is a treasure trove of great lost Edge riffs and Bono vocals here.
- u2 – Dublin 08-28-1993 (Zoo TV Live in Dublin) – U2 did pretty great job in releasing live performances from their entire career with their iTunes box, but they missed this one. Probably because they’ve decided that the Sydney DVD is the definitive recording from this tour. Maybe visually, but musically, this is the one. The Achtung Baby! songs make a perfect beginning, the “Bad” is as great as always and “Bullet The Blue Sky” / “Running To Stand Still” / “Where The Streets Have No Name” is impossible to top.
- Whiskeytown – Pneumonia Pre-Release Version and Outtakes: The album that was finally released was fine enough, but it wasn’t as good as the version that had circulated for nearly a year on Napster. Whiskeytown recorded dozens of songs around this time, and though Ryan snucked his best pure pop song ever — “Choked Up” — onto iTunes a couple of years ago, many of the best still haven’t been released.
- Bruce Springsteen – Passaic, New Jersey 09-19-1978 (Piece De Resistance) : Bruce bootlegs are legion, and none of his live albums quite capture the fire and passion that I’ve heard on the best boots from the Darkness and River tours. I’ll but this just ahead of the Agora Club and Winterland boots, because the guitar cuts a bit more in “Prove it All Night” and his vocals are more impassioned on “Backstreets.” And the fact that they’ve still not released the near-perfect “Not Fade Away/She’s The One” here is nearly a crime.
- R.E.M. – New York 04-10-1991 (MTV Unplugged): Rarely has a format been so perfect for a band. With etherial versions of songs like “Perfect Circle” and “Disturbance at the Heron House” and even “Losing My Religion,” R.E.M.’s first appearance on MTV’s Unplugged was one their best performances ever.
- R.E.M. – Orlando 1989: From their last tour of the 1980s, where the Green songs gain authority and the rest of their catalog gains momentum. At the pinnacle: “I Believe,” which just plain roared.
- R.E.M. – Hamburg 11-2-1998: The strange thing about the Bill Berry-less tour that followed up was that it was pretty great. Songs like “The Apologist” and “Walk Unafraid” somehow worked onstage; “Sad Professor,” got a Big Star’s Third makeover and on “Country Feedback,” Michael somehow channeled Van Morrison at the exact time Peter Buck channeled Neil Young.
- The Jayhawks – The Jayhawks (“Bunkhouse” album) – Technically, the first Jayhawks album was released. However, it’s been lost for so long, it might as well be a boot. Too bad, because it’s a primo bit of early early alt-country, right up their with early Rank and File or Jason & The Scorchers. Lost Highway was supposed to release it in 2004. What happened?
- Liz Phair – Girlysound: The Gen-X Basement Tapes. Only instead of a bunch of relaxed, wasted guys; an intensed and focused girl. So rich that she is still mining it for songs. So would you, if you had written all of these great songs. I almost want her recent overproduced music to be a success just so there might be interest in going back and finally getting this out there.
- The Rolling Stones – 1968-1972 Studio Outtakes You could stretch a couple of years in either direction, of course, and they always did a pretty good job of getting their best songs out there, but there are still legendary lost versions — the original “Loving Cup,” “Brown Sugar” with Eric Clapton — that need to be found. Not to mention songs like “Blood Red Wine,” “Travelin’ Man” and the still-too-dirty-for-prime-time “Cocksucker Blues.”
- Television – Double Exposure: Figure that the live stuff with Richard Hell is a bonus. The meat is the two pre-Marquee Moon sets of studio recordings, including their very first demos with a relatively new producer named Brian Eno.
- Matthew Sweet – Superdeformed: After Girlfriend, he wrote and recorded, and then wrote and recorded some more. Some of it made it on the follow-up, Altered Beast, but a lot of it — including some of his best songs — never did.
- The Smiths – Troy Tate Sessions: This would be such an obvious addition to a fully remastered Smiths box set, wouldn’t it?
- The Replacements – Live 1989 (Shit, Shower and Shave): I know that it might be a sin to have Slim ‘mats and not Bob ‘mats here, but the recordings tell the story. But who wouldn’t love to have the full concert that Inconcerated came from?
Obviously, things that have been commercially released (Dylan & The Hawks 1966, the Lifehouse outtakes) were left off the list. Oh, and please don’t email me and ask me for any of this stuff. That’s just not how I roll.
Anyway, that’s my list, what’s yours?