Loose Booty 5: A dead end, a new beginning and the naughty you
Some say that you can't go beyond a trilogy and keep it fresh, but the story of the dark, grey and dodgy side of music is bigger than a bass based butt shaking Jupiter so I couldn't help it.But like so many great stories, must come to an end in the harsh shite light of the Now.The late, great 80s and too too early 90s saw a tasty Gap open between what was legal and what was possible, in Europe and beyond.Clever types who had love for the sound slipped in like a gatecrasher at an orgy to bring out amazing recordings the world had a right to hear.I keep on banging about the Stones like a caveman, but yet another example of them as they should be is the "Lost Live Album" from 1972 - also known as "Philadelphia Special". The June 1972 tour of the US and Canada was infamous not only for being the last flash of genius from an exhausted, bitter and irrelevant (to the point Jagger looked with longing at The Flamin Groovies, The New York Dolls and AC/DC) band - but because one of the greatest artists of all time, Robert Frank, shot a sequel to Gimme Shelter called Cocksucker Blues that portrayed the groupie bumhole injector reality of an overripe Sixties. He got into a contract based tiff with the band and now you can only see this film with him present in a small room.Another legal bungle was with business manager Allen Klein, who as part of a tax dodge ended up owning all pre 1971 Stones so prevented release of an already finalised live LP from the tour. An LP that featured a historic collaboration with support act, Stevie Wonder. Had it not been for illegal lovers, we would not have heard all this.At its best, the Gap made records like this shine with Teutonic engineering empathy, when before hippie DIY stink had masked the magic.Sadly, the most frequent thing punters heard from the illegal crew in the golden, gorgeous "Protection Gap" Years was a load of worthless, cynical scat. Changes in the business and CD prices so high the bankers wept rage at their clients to warn of a digital disaster to come created a criminal opportunity. Two bit and one horse operations like "Early Years" dubbed whatever vinyl they could find, even if covered with sawdust and sick, onto CD, and slammed as many products as they could into the supermarkets of Europe.This was crap, but a creative endeavour compared to the next step.As the Gap bootleggers got bolder, whole soundboard shows featuring anyone and everyone from Nirvana to please fuck why Phil Collins and MADONNA were pressed onto CDs and slung into the shops in massive quantities for far less cash than "official" releases. And given the tendency for pop audiences to get dumber and live shows to be clinical, cynical runs through "the hits" many a man in a Portuguese corner shop thought it a tight deal to pick up a discount "Best Of" whatever band rather than the latest gouge priced dodge disc from official sources.The majors were outraged. And began the slow, grinding process to get the laws changed in their favour, internationally and permanently.To add stinking insult to steaming injury, many of the new generation of bootleggers did not pay any attention to the small, easy yet absolutely fucking crucial to prevent looming legal disaster details.Details like not being too specific about where a recording was made. "Europe" = Cool. London = Hot.The Gap meant some sites like Switzerland were fair game, but by 1990 most Euro venues were forbidden. Especially France, Germany, and the UK. Simple.Few bothered to remember these basics - so lawsuits, busts and bad vibes built up like a bad case of the runs on a charter flight back from Belize. The best grey and black market labels were as down to rights as a naked, erect chancer standing at bus stop screaming incitements to race riot. Whoopsie.In 1993-ish, an international agreement totally in favour of big money was signed called GATT, and forced major nations to commit to tightening up copyright and shunting all kinds of bootleggers as fast as possible.The German genius was the first to get removed from the scene, leaving a turgid rump of newer labels in Italy (or more specifically, the extra shifty bit not totally in Italy called San Marino) such as Kiss the Stone to keep the dream alive.They were mainly concerned with ripping shows from new Grunge-alike acts that the musical vice squad were not looking for.Pink Floyd was hot to the law now, Stone Temple Pilots a mystery. KTS was out in the open, with a slick website and adverts in the British and American music press. I ordered a bunch of pretty decent discs from them before they were unplugged totally. I was pathetic enough to be into the Stone Roses, and some show from Leeds at the end demonstrated why this was a bad idea, with Ian Brown mixed rancid and drunk over the technically competent but derivative and dumb muse-sack below.And I came in at the bitter end of the Gap Years.Coming to London for the first time and popping up to Camden Market - one of the first things I felt in the open air drug and magic market it was back then was a Goth couple running a tape stall outside the Tube station.Cheap but lovingly home Xerox labelled C90 tapes told me where, when and how shows from The Cure, Bauhaus, The Velvet Underground, New Order, Joy Division, The Jesus and Mary Chain and some Leeds sourced bands I'd rather not admit an interest in now were recorded. And were very, very available. They were a couple pounds each, and survived a few plays as I failed to tempt Girls with them.For some serious cash, the CD stalls had Massive Attack on the BBC and plenty of other product for a premium price.I remember the frisson of going deeper and darker into that dynamic space, pawing through stock and finding The Cure Live in Belgium 1981 Soundboard or 1985 Live at the NEC (A fantastic show and record). I learned bitter that "Soundboard" was the only real Trade Mark of Quality by then. I never found the legendary L'Olympia 1982 or even better "Cold" at the long gone Ontario Theatre in my home zone of DC, 1984.These were Pornography as it should be, greasy, desperate and diseased. Much, much more so than anything Chris Parry thought worthy of Fiction.Friends of mine more into bands and aware of vinyl at the time bought a lot more. Videos, Double LPs and whatever they could get.And then it hit me.Most were absolute risible rubbish. More a symptom of collection OCD than anything worth feeling.Recorded on battered DAT Walkmen at best or a stolen discount dictation machine at worst, these were almost always poor products. Loveless, desperate, or both.The romance started to fade.And the smarter majors such as Sony/Columbia worked out that there was massive demand for unissued recordings and reissues of lost masterpieces.Demand demonstrated by the popularity of posh Protection Gap records from the likes of Swingin' Pig, Flashback and Scorpio (not the shifty repress lot, but underground US bootleggers blown up by doing a Stray Cats thing for a Japanese friend) meant Legacy and other efforts were welcomed by press and public alike.The Miles Davis "Bootleg" series is reason enough to respect your CD player again.Just as I was becoming a serious groove addict and music collector, bootlegs were either market stall scat or gorgeous high end soundboard sex bought for 2.5x the normal too high price for a CD under the counter in a West Village hipster den. The majors were giving me what I needed and boots were either unavailable or just unlistenable durchfall.The romance was gone. I went Major.I had not thought about bootlegs much until I bought the book I've been riffing from, "Bootleg: A Secret History of the Other Recording Industry" by Clinton Heylin, who probably risked his life by writing it, at a long rent raped gone record store in Soho circa 2002.It told the stories I've been sharing about Dub, Ken, Wizardo - rock stars collecting their own boots and mafia connected Easy Riders smuggling sounds about the planet like bass infested bush meat.Buy it immediately.I got interested again until I got real from a typically bracing chat with Philippe and Pete.Listening to their typical truth, I felt a total tonal trollop who had wasted much money, lust, pride and market stall muddlings on illegal mediocrity.Philippe reminded me that we are from the same generation and his location in France Profonde meant that like me in the DC burbs his access to seriously illegal sonic product was less than he might expect for high explosives.A purchase of some rape priced silver called something like "Prince One Night In Paris" seemed sort of ok at the time, but not very motivating. Pete's honest contempt was closer to a true take on my Camden crap - he opined that bootlegs were a "crap copy". Kind of a novelty, not to be trusted out of hand. A souvenir maybe but not worth a lot of cash and bother.They both were mostly right. This is a victory for the Majors but also the free market as it is supposed to work. These men grew up with the options back in the daze the majors denied before they were born, but that Ken, Dub and friends sort of forced but also revealed to them out of desperation.And now its all in the open. Go on YouTube, or Bittorrent and see and feel the recordings I've been citing. Don't bother with bootleg CDs - you can download FLAC files and burn them.On vinyl, the bootlegs that matter are the ones Rat does not kick out with contempt.And I have bought plenty. The market for wax illegality collapsed so fast and stupid in the early 90s the best examples were just dumped where Dieter and friends could find, but now really are worth it. The mid 80s to early 90s German stuff is best of all, and otherwise look for the legacy of Ken and Dub, or Wizardo.Otherwise, beware. Take care. And love that outlaw music without being as stupid as I was. As I write, Philadelphia Special is annoying the neighbours. Fuck the contracts, this is SEX SEX SEX SEX.