Bootlegs & Buckets

Unlike a lot of music fans, I’ve never done much with bootleg recordings, either pursuing or listening to them. There are a few rattling around in the external hard drive, stuff that I’ve stumbled into while wandering the wilds of the ’Net or that friends have pointed me toward. But gathering bootlegs has never been a large part of my musical obsessions.

What I mean is that I don’t go on journeys online in search of, say, a specific Allman Brothers Band performance from 1970, or Bob Dylan’s performance at St. Paul’s Riverfest in 1989. (There are plenty of the former out there, I think, most of which would make compelling listening; as to the Dylan show at Riverfest, that’s less likely, and I’ve never actually looked for it. But it would be fun, as I was there.)

On those days when I wander the web with no particular destination in mind, however, I sometimes run into bootlegs that interest me. For the record, I’m defining “bootleg” here as an officially unreleased recording or performance. Most bootlegs, I imagine, would be illicit although that definition would also include all the audience tapes of the Grateful Dead done with the band’s encouragement and even assistance.

Whatever the definition, I do have a few. One bootleg in my collection that’s among the most interesting actually hasn’t made it to the hard drive yet. It’s something the Texas Gal found and bought for me as we dug into boxes at a huge record store in Arlington, Texas, back in December of 2001: The Band Live at the Hollywood Bowl, 7-10-70. Having been thinking about bootlegs for the past day or do, I pulled it from the shelves this morning and I’ll likely rip it to mp3s in the next week or so. (Not only might it be the most interesting bootleg I have in any format, it’s certainly the most expensive; she laid out fifty bucks for the two-LP set.)

Not all boots are buried deep in the niches of the ’Net, of course. One of the better-known sources is roio, with a broad assortment of riches. My pal jb pointed me there after he found a December 1970 performance by Leon Russell that’s turned out to be quite a treat. Some digging there can be rewarding.

But most of the bootlegs I have in my collection are things I found by accident. There are a few favorites: Delaney & Bonnie & Friends at the Fillmore West in 1970. Bob Dylan’s outtakes from Blood on the Tracks. The Rolling Stones in Brussels, Belgium, October 17, 1973 (just thirteen days after I saw them in Denmark).

And I have one excruciating oddity: Four tracks by Tiny Tim with The Band from 1967.

So why have I been thinking about bootlegs for much of the past twenty-four hours? Because of one of those happy accidents. I was working on the Echoes In The Wind Archives yesterday morning, reposting the piece that contained my music bucket list. (An aside: After I added Glen Campbell performing “Wichita Lineman” to my list last month, jb provided some bucket list tales of his own at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ .) As I prepared to repost my bucket list, I decided to add a note, detailing a few updates about the topic, including the fact that I’d added another figurative check mark to the list after seeing Bruce Springsteen perform “Born To Run.”

Just to make certain of the date of the concert, I Googled “Springsteen St. Paul 2009.” I verified from the first link that the show took place on May 11 and then idly looked at the next few links. And did a double-take.

I wrote above that I don’t often look for bootlegs. And I don’t. But now and then, for a little more than two years, there is one Springsteen bootleg I’ve looked for: The May 11, 2009, show at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. And there it was.

The sound’s not as good as bootlegs sometimes are. But still, it’s my show. And here’s how it sounded that night as my bucket got a little bit more full:


One Response to “Bootlegs & Buckets”

  1. Paco Malo says:

    While I share your views on not being an active bootleg hunter, every once in a while I stumble across something that “light[s] my fire” in one way or another. Over the years though, friends — including one anonymous benefactor (wink, wink) — will turn me to a treasure. And it’s usually related to the Stones.

    To keep this brief, let me mention one gem I found on my own in a Winter Haven, FL independent record store that still sold boots back in the 80s. The CD was of Keith Richards in the very early 70s alone at a piano doing nothing but old school country classics. The boot was titled “Unknown Dreams”. It revealed a side of Keith that’s essential to understanding what he’s about musically, stripped of the Stones. That disc fell victim to my hard drinking days but I’ll never forget those unknown dreams.

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