More vinyl bootleg memories…

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Michael Gerber

Publisher at The American Bystander
is Blogmom of Hey Dullblog. His novels and parodies have sold 1.25 million copies in 25 languages. He lives in Santa Monica, CA, and runs The American Bystander all-star print humor magazine.
Michael Gerber
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Beatles Sessions False Odeon bootleg

Sessions (Odeon Fake): One of my favorite Beatlegs as a kid.

After my earlier post, a commenter over at my Facebook page joggled my memories a bit more. I thought it might be fun to ask everybody, “What were your favorite Beatles bootlegs?” Not necessarily the best, but the ones that played the biggest role in your fandom?

In my teenaged years (1980-87), my most beloved vinyl boots were The Beatles at the Beeb 3-lp set, Hahst Az Son, Beatles Not For Sale, Strawberry Fields Forever, File Under: Beatles, and a version of Sessions (the abortive Anthology precursor). (The links go to the album’s pages at Bootleg Zone, where they exist. The covers are different; my Hahst Az Son had a nice color cover.)

My bootleg frenzy abated a bit in college and after, mainly because I didn’t have the cash to indulge. By the time I did, the glorious second wave of material had emerged. A friend burned me copies of Stars of ’63, Unsurpassed Demos, and Free As a Bird. Then it all started again, as all the tracks that I’d lusted after as a kid were finally flooding out. Every time I’d travel to New York on business, I’d head down to this little record store and just LOAD UP.

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9 Comments

  1. Avatar Nancy wrote:

    I was fascinated by the first vinyl Beatles bootleg I encountered — “A Nightmare Is Also A Dream.” It’s quite a bizarre collection of solo material from all four members. John’s demo of “Goodnight Vienna,” Paul doing “We All Stand Together,” Ringo singing “In My Car,” and George playing “Lucille” live with Deep Purple . . . . the weirdness of this piece of vinyl blew my mind. It got me wondering in earnest how these four guys came together and how and why they came apart — questions that have been discussed for decades now, and no doubt will be discussed for many more.

    From the standpoint of musical interest, the bootlegs from the Rubber Soul/Revolver era are my favorites. In particular, I love the versions of “Think For Yourself” where George, Paul, and John are trying to get the harmonies right. I agree that there’s nothing like hearing great music in the process of being created.

  2. I came of age in the ’70s, at which point I rediscovered the Beatles. I say “rediscovered” because I had a brother, seven years my senior, who’d had all the Beatles albums in the ’60s and played them incessantly, so they were a part of my life from the get-go. Of course, as a 7 or 8 year old kid who thought The Archies and The Monkees were on a par with the Beatles, I didn’t pay too much attention to anything other than the Beatles’ hits – the songs that got played on the radio. (Back then? We liked our amplitude modulated, thank you very much. “Don’t touch our frequency!” we’d oftimes say.)

    My brother did NOT take care of his records: Album covers were rarely used and frequently just tossed after awhile. So I had to re-buy all the Beatles albums for myself. (I remember being slightly irritated that, by the 70’s, they all came on Apple labels, even the early Capitol ones.) Repurchasing them was great, though, because each album had at least 4 songs on it that I did not remember from my childhood. SCORE! For me, essentially NEW Beatles stuff each time I bought an (old) album!

    I never really got into bootlegs till much later (mid-80s), when I met my friend Greg who was and is a Beatles completist. If they farted on tape, he has it and literally cherishes the fart as much as a more sane person would an original promotional copy of “Penny Lane” with the seven trumpet notes still on it.

    So I never had to buy bootlegs. Greg was happy to tape anything i wanted for me.

    All that said (and I’m not sure any of this is what you’d call “on-topic” for this post), I’d have to say my favorite never-officially-released-(till-Anthology) song is “Leave My Kitten Alone”. John’s vocals kick ass on this song, right up there with “Twist and Shout”, and for the life of me I cannot understand how this song didn’t make the cut for some album but, e.g., “Mister Moonlight” did. (No particular disrespect for “MM”; I could probably name about 5 other officially-released Beatles covers that don’t come close to touching “LMKA”. Seems safest to say “MM” because that one is pretty generally viewed as, let’s say, uninspired. (Though I bet Michael is gonna say he likes it.))

    Anyway, off-topic or not, there you have MY choice of favorite long-unreleased gem.

    For the record, I for one am glad we live in a world that can accommodate both “LMKA” and “MM”. I do not mean to imply I wish the Beatles hadn’t released the latter. I only mean to say “LMKA” is, to me, a much better song.

    Now to hit publish and be told my comment is too long for blogger to accept …

  3. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Shit, Glaven, you crack me up–because of course I DO like Mr. Moonlight! But I LOVE “Leave My Kitten Alone,” and agree that its nonrelease is a puzzler.

    And Nancy, 100% agreed that the “Think For Yourself” sessions are great. I seem to recall George Martin saying that they were recording them in hopes of usable Xmas album stuff–and chucked a bunch of it after the fact. How many hours of Beatle chat were destroyed? It’s almost as sad as what happened to “Not Only But Also.”

    Anybody out there still collect? I’m like your friend, Glaven–I want every belch and fart; I love hearing the guys talk about pot in code so that George Martin and Norman Smith don’t catch on. Does anybody have experience with the Purple Chick stuff?

  4. “Mister Moonlight” is the perfect song for those times when you want to listen to Beatles music but also, inexplicably, want to close your eyes and pretend you’re in an ice or roller skating rink. We’ve all been there, right?

    Thing is, I think the harmonies on that song are superb – John’s lead vocal in especial. I just don’t particularly care for the song itself. It’s a lot like when I listen to “What Goes On?” I can hear the great harmony vocal by Paul; and the truly excellent guitar work by George … and yet the song itself grates on me – the only song on Rubber Soul for which I sometimes hit “skip” when it comes on.

    Weird.

    I like any outtakes from songs that had intricate harmonies – e.g., “This Boy”, “Think For Yourself”, etc. Man, those guys worked their asses off on their vocals, and it shows in the finished product. I give special props to George who usually had to do that tough middle harmony, which you tend only to notice if it’s done poorly. But George never did one poorly.

  5. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Glaven, John’s vocal is precisely why I like Mr. Moonlight–I always like it when he really lets ‘er rip. But I also like it because it reminds me what pop music was like before The Beatles, and how much The Beatles changed that form. It’s like the Decca tapes in that way. Do I prefer actually full-strength Beatles? No question. But it’s still interesting to get the reminder. “Wow, Day Tripper is a thousand times better than Sheik of Araby.”

  6. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    I have a cassette that I purchased years and years ago, called “Beatle Originals” (basically the original songs, like “Act Naturally” “Anna” “Mr. Moonlight” “Words Of Love”

    The original “Mr. Moonlight” is actually not annoying at all, no roller rink vibe to it:

  7. Avatar Michael Bleicher wrote:

    This isn’t really related to THIS discussion, but I thought dullbloggers would enjoy it. I had to write a creative nonfiction piece based on actual research for an English class at college, so I did it on John Lennon in 1966/67, since I already know too much about that. I’m a frequent reader and sometime commenter here…http://www.victorianweb.org/courses/nonfiction/projects/bleicher2.html

  8. Avatar Michael wrote:

    I enjoyed that, Michael–thank you! Funny thing, I just spent a week working on a New Journalism spoof starring Osama Bin Laden. Ended up being too depressing, but it was fun reading all those old Harold Hayes-era Esquires.

    Didion’s wonderful–if you like her, you should certainly read her piece about California Evil in the March 1970 issue of Esquire. It will tell you something important about the breakup of The Beatles, and certainly the undertow JL felt.

    Wolfe’s awesome, but he’s only the tip of the iceberg–check out Terry Southern (beloved of The Beatles) and Talese, to begin with. Email me if you want more. I’m just about to start a summer of intensive instruction for the student writers at The Yale Record, so my mind is there at present.

    Your syllabus reminds me of a lot of classes on offer at Yale 25 years ago. Ugh. Always makes me so mad. Kudos on making it work for you, and sharing it with us!

  9. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Michael-
    Thanks for the kind words and the suggestions. I like Didion and Wolfe best of the authors we read in that course; far more interesting prose styles, to me, than some of the other things on the syllabus.

    I wanted to go more into the psychology of Lennon’s breakdown, but because I was writing for an English class and an audience (of one) who didn’t know stuff that Beatles nerds know by heart, there was a limit to how much of that I got into. I think the key of understanding what happened to Lennon in the last 12 years of his life lies in understanding 1966-67. It’s not cool to disapprovingly speculate that acid might have permanently affected John’s brain in a negative way, but there’s such a difference between the angry, but relatively clear-sighted man who made Rubber Soul and the seriously nutty junkie/ex-junkie/recovering junkie of the late sixties and early seventies or the seriously depressive guy who hid out in the Dakota in the late seventies.

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