The Beatles Bootlegs - An Introduction
The Beatles are one of the most bootlegged bands in music history. Beatles bootleg records began showing up in the late 1960s, usually containing material that was illegally recorded, stolen or leaked from the band's record label EMI. In the 1980s, Beatles bootleg CDs and videos began to take their place.
One of the first Beatles bootlegs to be sold illegally was Kum Back, which was created from an early acetate put together by engineer Glyn Johns on March 10, 1969. The acetate included rough mixes and versions of songs that would eventually be released on Let It Be. A copy of the acetate had leaked out and by September, radio stations around the country were playing music from the as yet unreleased album. In the fall, the Kum Back bootleg began to show up in record stores. Before long, bootlegs of a second mix made by Johns on May 28 also began to hit the black market.
To this day, Let It Be Sessions (aka the Get Back Sessions) material is still the primary source for Beatles bootlegs. Hundreds of hours of recordings exist featuring the band rehearsing new material, as well as classic rock'n'roll covers.
Most of the better-quality, heavily bootlegged songs were eventually released (usually in superior quality) on The Beatles Anthology CD series. These included "Besame Mucho" (with Pete Best on drums), "How Do You Do It?", "One After 909" (an early version), "Leave My Kitten Alone", "Can't Buy Me Love" (an alternate version), "If You've Got Trouble", "That Means a Lot", "12-Bar Original", "I'm Looking Through You" (take 1), "Strawberry Fields Forever" (demo sequence), "A Day In The Life" (alternate with rough McCartney vocal), "Fool on the Hill" (demo), "Not Guilty", "What's the New Mary Jane?", "Come And Get It" (demo), and "Because" (vocals only). Many of these songs were also compiled in the 1980s by engineer Geoff Emerick for a planned album of previously unreleased material entitled Sessions. The project was scrapped, but has shown up countless times in bootleg form. Most of these and other studio takes also appeared, often in pristine quality and with between take banter, on the Ultra Rare Trax and Unsurpassed Masters bootleg CD series.
Some bootleggers have made a point of attempting to make their releases look as legitimate as possible. One bootlegger in particular, a fan from New Zealand who called himself 'Leon Throf', designed each of his bootlegs to look like legitimate Apple Records releases. Also, each of the elaborate covers parodied the cover of an official Beatles album. Throf's titles include Reintroducing The Beatles, Please Release Me, Withered Beatles, A Knight's Hard Day, Beatles For Auction, Fuck!, Rabbi Saul, Revolting, Dr. Pepper, Tragical History Tour, The Little Red Album, Mellow Yellow, Broad Road, Hey Julian, Let It End, Lifting Material From The World, and Grave Posts.
Commonly Bootlegged Material
The following is a list of some of the most common bootlegged recordings by the Beatles.
* The Quarrymen Rehearsals: A tape of music recorded by the band in 1960. The recording featured early versions of many songs that would later be recorded by the band in the studio. A couple of songs from this recording were included on the first disc of The Beatles Anthology.
* The Decca Records audition tapes (January 1st, 1962): A few songs from this recording were included on the first disc of The Beatles Anthology. Most bootlegs include all 15 songs from the original demo; "Like Dreamers Do" (Lennon/McCartney), "Money (That's What I Want)" (Bradford/Gordy), "Till There Was You" (Wilson), "The Sheik of Araby" (Snyder/Wheeler/Smith), "To Know Her Is To Love Her" (Spector), "Take Good Care Of My Baby" (Goffin/King), "Memphis" (Berry), "Sure To Fall (In Love With You)" (Perkins/Cantrell/Claunch), "Hello Little Girl" (Lennon/McCartney), "Three Cool Cats" (Leiber/Stoller), "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" (Holly), "Love Of The Loved" (Lennon/McCartney), "September In The Rain" (Warren), "Besame Mucho" (Velasquez/Skylar), and "Searchin'" (Leiber/Stoller). Due to the questionable copyright status of these tracks (the Beatles had not yet signed to EMI when they were recorded), the Decca tapes were a frequent mainstay of grey-area CDs in the late 1980s and early 1990s; in particular, several pseudo-legitimate Japanese and European discs offered the material in varying configurations. Legal action by Apple, however, soon sent the Decca auditions back to the world of bootlegs.
* The Star Club tape: In December 1962 The Beatles did a two week stint at the Star Club in Hamburg. At that time Adrian Barber made a tape for Ted "Kingsize" Taylor which re-surfaced in the seventies and became the source for several semi-legal compilations. The tape is rough, but captures a racuous session. Some of the songs, such as "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Ask Me Why", would later appear on Beatles records. There are many of the typical covers, but also some not available elsewhere, such as Arthur Alexander's "Where Have You Been?", Tommy Roe's "Sheila", Frank Ifield's "I'll Remember You", Marlene Dietrich's "Falling In Love Again" and Fats Waller's "Your Feet's Too Big". The Star Club tapes are historically intriguing for capturing The Beatles performing many of their newer songs with a rawness similar to their pre-fame, Hamburg days. Musically and as characters they allow themselves to be altogether less cuddly than their mop-top personae would soon dictate.
As with the Decca Records audition tapes, the Star Club tapes became the basis for several semi-legitimate releases, debuting in this form (on Lingasong records) in the late 1970s. This continued into the CD era, with a surprising twist: one of the numerous reissues of the Star Club tapes was by none other than Sony, which decided to test the grey-area status of the tapes (most other quasi-legal CD issues were by smaller European and Japanese labels). The release was quickly withdrawn after Apple threatened legal action. Some critics of Sony point to its release of the Star Club tapes as evidence that its anti-bootlegging/pro-intellectual-property stance only applies to its own intellectual property.
* The BBC Sessions: The Beatles regularly recorded live in studio for the BBC. In addition to performing their own material, they often did covers of other artists like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles. These sessions often were passed off as studio outtakes on many 1970s-era bootlegs. The popularity of Beatles BBC discs reached its apex with a celebrated nine-CD set by Great Dane Records, which aimed to supplant the varying configurations of BBC discs available on bootleg, while presenting the material in chronological order and in the best quality available at the time. The popularity of this release directly lead to the official, Beatles-sanctioned Live at the BBC 2-CD set. While the official disc did collect many of the otherwise-unreleased cover versions performed by The Beatles on the BBC, it did nothing to stem the tide of BBC bootlegs; in fact, collectors and archivists continue to discover new and improved sources for the BBC session material, much of which makes its way into internet bootleg. The current, "most-complete" version is an eleven-disc set available for free on the internet.
Live Concerts: The Beatles performances at the Hollywood Bowl and Shea Stadium shows, as well as many other concerts, frequently appear on bootlegs.
* Studio outtakes: A surprising number of Beatles session tapes are available on bootlegs. These range from complete or semi-complete session tapes â€" for example, the morning sessions for the Please Please Me album â€" to more fragmentary samplings and/or alternate mixes and performances derived from acetates.
* The White Album demos aka Kinfauns Demos: The Beatles recorded demos of almost the entire White Album with acoustic guitars in May 1968 at George Harrison's Esher house, Kinfauns. The demos also included a number of songs that did not make it to the final album, included "Child of Nature" (later released by Lennon, with different lyrics, as "Jealous Guy"), "Circles" (later released by George Harrison on his "Gone Troppo" album), Harrison's demo of "Sour Milk Sea" (a song later recorded by Jackie Lomax as one of the earliest Apple Record singles) and Paul McCartney's "Junk" (later released by McCartney on his McCartney album). A few of these demos are included (in quality that far surpasses even the best bootleg incarnations) on The Beatles Anthology.
* The Christmas Recordings: Each year, the Beatles recorded an EP of comedy and music that was sent to members of their fan club. These recordings (or portions of them) frequently appear on bootlegs. One song, "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)" was released to the general public for the first time in 1995 on the "Free As A Bird" single.
* The Get Back Sessions: In January of 1969, the group got together to begin work on music for the next album, which would evolve into Let It Be. They recorded the sessions both as audio and video (mostly mono, but one day two cameras were recording the same feed, making a stereo recording), planning a TV documentary; but the fighting in the group wound up with most of the plan being scrapped. The Rooftop Concert and a large amount of Get Back material would be in the one attempt to salvage the Get Back plan, the Let It Be movie. All thirty days of the sessions would be bootlegged many times until Yellow Dog Records created the Day By Day CD series composing the entire Get Back project in very high quality. The Beatles also rehearsed the song "Watching Rainbows", and several songs that would become Beatles solo material, including "All Things Must Pass" and "Hear Me Lord'" (later released by Harrison), "Gimme Some Truth" (later released by Lennon), "Teddy Boy", "Hot As Sun" and "The Palace of the King of the Birds" (also known as "The Castle of the King of the Birds") (later released by McCartney).
* The Rooftop Concert: The final live performance by the band, recorded (and filmed) on January 30, 1969 on top of the Apple Building at 3 Savile Row, London. The full performance included the following songs: "Get Back #1", "Get Back #2", "Don't Let Me Down #1", "I've Got A Feeling #1", "One After 909", "Dig A Pony", "God Save The Queen" (which has surfaced on the German bootleg On the Rooftop), "I've Got A Feeling #2", "Don't Let Me Down #2", and "Get Back #3". Portions of this concert were seen in the Let It Be film. Three tracks of this session, namely "I Dig A Pony", "I've Got a Feeling" and "One After 909", were used by Phil Spector to compile the Beatles' final album to be released, Let It Be.
* Home Demos: Rough performances of early versions of songs that were either later recorded by the band or by other artists. These songs included "She Can Talk To Me" (early version of "Hey Bulldog"), "We Can Work It Out" (partially taped over by Lennon), "You Know My Name", "Don't Let Me Down", "Bad To Me" (May 1963 Lennon demo), "One and One Is Two" (early 1964, recorded in Paris by Lennon and McCartney), "Goodbye" (late 1960s McCartney demo), "Something", "I'm In Love" (possibly a 1963 Lennon demo but more likely a Lennon home demo for a planned musical dating from 1978), "She Said, She Said" (March 1966 Lennon demo), "Good Morning, Good Morning" (February 1967 Lennon demo), "Everyone Had A Hard Year" (late 1968 Lennon demo, eventually became part of McCartney's "I've Got A Feeling"), "Heather" (late 1960s McCartney demo, recorded with Donovan), and others.
The individual solo careers of each Beatle have also spawned a countless number of bootlegs of live shows, studio outtakes and demos.
In January 2003, following an investigation by The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and London detectives, police raids in England and the Netherlands recovered nearly 500 original Beatles studio tapes, recorded during the Let It Be sessions. Five people were arrested.
It has been assumed that these people formed the main division of Yellow Dog, which released these session tapes under what became the 38-album series Day by Day. The Let It Be session tapes are in the form of Nagra Tape Rolls, which were used to record audio to later synch to film for inclusion in the film Let It Be.
With the advent of DVD-Rs, the world of video bootlegs has begun to catch up with Beatles bootleg collectors.
File sharing (both audio and video), and the ready availability of cheap CD writing equipment, has largely signalled the demise of the for-profit bootlegging industry. Most bootlegs are now circulated between fans on the internet.
Material Still Un-Bootleged
Although most of the outtakes and unrealsed tarcks from The Beatles ten year recording carrier have leeked from the vaults of Abbey Road Studios, There are still a few holy grails out there that fans are waiting to hear.
* Carnival Of Light: A 15-minute experimental track recorded during the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions. The recording has not surfaced on released or bootleg recordings. Carnival of Light has proved one of the most sought-after unreleased Beatles tracks, and fans were dismayed that The Beatles, having advanced it for inclusion on Anthology 2, decided to withdraw it as a poor use of 15 minutes' disc space.
* Helter Skelter (take 3): This earlier more bluesy version of the song lasted an epic 27 minutes and 11 seconds. It has been claimed by some that the recording no longer exists, although George Harrison mentioned it in an interview about the time of the The Beatles Anthology project that he had recently listened to the session tape. Although an edited version of take 2 (4 minutes 37 seconds of its 12 minutes 35 seconds) was released in as part of The Beatles Anthology 3 CD set 1996, take 3 has been long sought after since its first mention in Mark Lewisohn's The Complete
Beatles Recording Sessions.
Anything: Recorded during Sgt Pepper on 22 February 1967 (during the overdub session for A Day in The Life. Another experimental recording comprising of 22 minutes and 10 seconds of drum beat, augmented by tambourine and congas. It's unclear whether this was a bed track for one song or an excerpt of another. In any case the track wasn't overdubed further or even mixed down.
A number of songs have been fraudulently passed off by bootleggers as unreleased Beatles songs. These outfakes include:
* "I Love You Too", a song by the Fourmost containing a singer that sounds very similar to Paul McCartney
* "We Are The Moles", a song by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound, and once thought to feature Ringo Starr on lead vocals
* "Peace of Mind", a supposed Lennon demo from 1967, possibly the work of the Electric Banana aka The Pretty Things
* "Bye, Bye, Bye," a Beatles spoof by radio DJ Kenny Everett
* "Have You Heard The Word", a Lennon soundalike track featuring Maurice Gibb
* "It's Gonna Be Alright", a hit by Netherland rock group Smyle
* "Cheese And Onions", performed on Saturday Night Live by Neil Innes and later by The Rutles
* "L.S. Bumblebee", a 1967 record by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore which spoofed psychedelic music with Moore singing a Lennon-like lead vocal
* "Ram You Hard", a reggae single by a group called John Lennon & the Bleechers
* "Shades Of Orange" and "Loving Sacred Loving", both sides of a single by an obscure psychedelic band called The End
* "People Say" and "I'm Walking", a single by a duo named 'John and Paul'
* "I Wonder" , an uptempo song by the American band 'The Gants'. The lead singer is a Lennon sound alike and the lyrics and instrumentation bear more than a passing resemblance to Lennon compositions, going so far as to even include a very Lennon-esque instrumental break
* "That Thing You Do", the theme from the movie of the same title, as performed by The Oneders
* "My Goat Just Died (Today)", a single by an obscure band called The Hamburger Bunns
* a National Lampoon parody of John Lennon ranting called "Magical Misery Tour", from the album National "Lampoon Radio Dinner" featuring vocals by Tony Hendra (later the "manager" of Spinal Tap)
* "Carnival Of Light": Although the recording has not surfaced on released or bootleg recordings, a minute-long MP3 track containing backwards, speeded-up guitars and feedback, has turned up on file sharing systems, purporting to be the outtake.
* "LSD Made My Mind Blow Out", a brief sound effects track that seems to be another attempt at faking "Carnival Of Light"
* "Don Quixote's Marijuana", a Spanish pop song that has nothing to do with the Beatles whatsoever (and thus, the reason that it would be mistaken for a Beatle tune is completely unknown)
EMI have come under considerable criticism for neglecting the Beatles catalogue. While some artists' works, such as The Beach Boys, have received several remasters during the CD era, The Beatles' recordings have been issued only once in the late 1980s. Since then, remastering technology has moved on and many fans consider the sound quality of the official releases to be lacking.
Given this, several bootleggers have undertaken remasterings of the entire Beatles catalogue. Since they do not have access to the original studio master tapes, they have typically gone back to pristine audiophile vinyl releases played back on high-quality turntable and amplification equipment and digitised using high resolution equipment.
The Millennium Remasters series has released 24-bit remasters of all the Beatles' UK albums in both Mono and Stereo (except Abbey Road and Let It Be which are solely in Stereo). Similarly, Dr. Ebbetts has undertaken an extensive remastering of both the UK and U.S. Beatles releases, often releasing several versions of each based on different sources.
- Source: beatles-bootlegs.com -
*www.bootlegzone.com - Authoritative source of Beatles bootleg information.