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Loose Booty 4: Swingin' Pigs through the Copywrong Holes
Since the dawn of time chancers of all kinds have taken advantage of differences in law and custom between different countries to make cash, and sometimes, make magic.When the EU was thrown together, clever people began to notice big differences in laws, taxes, and more. Some of the biggest dodgy money you could make well into the "noughties" was based on buying rolling tobacco in Belgium, legally, and bringing it into the UK for sale. Tiny penalties compared to pushing Class A's, smuggling girls or whatever else. Massive turf wars broke out over this genius. I wish I'd thought of it.Someone who was doing some intense thinking in the late 80s was Dieter Schubert. There was a small window of opportunity to do something different, and something great with and around informally sourced recordings.A handful took it. And a major fuckup by the big labels opened the door to Dieter.By the Mid 80s like so many labels EMI was sagging like elephant testes. Belatedly, they realised that the Fab Four left some saleable shit on the cutting room floor. So EMI look a look at what tapes were flaking away in Abbey Road. There were plenty.Enough to rip off fans and coin it large for a blockbuster record of vintage unheard Beatles. "Sessions" would have been an LP with 13 finished but unheard Beatles songs from across their recording career. Lovingly compiled by John Barrett, the Travelling Wilburys stopped it from being released while filing another lawsuit against Apple for letting computers have sound.Someone made a copy of Barrett's labours and a Dutch fan snapped it up for twenty grand. Hippies made too much money as you can see. Dieter then got a hold of it and changed the fucking world.The Copyright Chaos we covered before had created a "Protection Gap", where certain countries considered stuff public domain after 20 years, or if it was recorded live and did not involve citizens of Luxembourg. The Man would needs years to sort this.In the meantime the best bootlegs of all time emerged, often onto CD.Schubert's Swingin' Pig was the figurehead. Far from underground, this Luxembourg registered label would shout its story in the press and the courts:"The basic philosophy of Swingin' Pig is to make available historically important, previously unreleased recordings which would otherwise never see the light of day. Take, for example, Ultra Rare Trax by The Beatles ... The Beatles themselves say they don't want them out because they feel the outtakes are not up to normal standards. The public obviously has a totally different opinion ... The tapes are over twenty years old now, some nearly thirty. Twenty more years in the archives would possibly destroy the tapes, like many outtakes from the fifties, and they'll be lost forever. So even if the quality is sometimes not up to today's digital standard, this is not the point. 'Casual listeners' should, by all means, avoid buying Swingin' Pig releases; they will only be disappointed."The Pig was often considered shit, because of high prices, hype, bootlegging of other bootleggers stuff, clear money mindedness and not always successful use of a hard core digital noise reduction system to de-click, de-hiss and generally sort out sources.But the balls to put out the legal, LEGAL bootleg that defined the CD era cannot be denied.The first volume of Ultra Rare Trax was released into mainstream retail in 1988. The quality of the mastering was a dimension away from the sea of shite vinyl rip CDs coming out all over Europe and to most ears sounded far, far better than the clinical official EMI versions that came out years later.The lawyers were deployed immediately to stop the outrage. But the Pig was clean. Countries that had ratified the "Rome Convention" on copyright at different times, and anything from before a country did was fair game for bootleggers based in the pirate kingdom of Luxembourg in particular.Being out in the open meant sourcing tapes, and preparing releases could be done with care. Of course every label had just one clear shot to get the money before their bootleg was pirated, but epochally brilliant unheard recordings such as The Rolling Stones "Get your Leeds lungs out!", allegedly a Jagger favourite, appeared in the Gap Years.Many of the sources for these records were fished out of a bin, or else sold to rich old hippies at auctions on condition that no-one ever ever make a cheeky dub.The bin was a skip outside of Olympic Studios. In 1987 the ever tasteful Virgin Group, who had bought the once bleeding edge but now bleeding cash studio. And saw with horror all the racks of master tapes of masterpieces and more that got in the way of T'Pau's entourage. They were binned. All of them. In the open. And they were collected by bootleggers rather than binmen.This may sound absurd but an old friend of mine once boosted some barely used DAT tapes from a studio skip. Upon discovering they were infested with outtakes and rough mixes from novelty pop posers Suede, he sensibly cleansed them with his own techno sets.Yellow Dog and other "premium" labels then did the inevitable trawl through the big 60s acts but inevitably the supply of sources got slim and the Law started to wake up.The Gap was too wide, and the criminal element of the scene far too greedy to mind it...
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