Text (C) 1989, 1990 By Doug Sulpy
[Editorial notes by saki (saki@evolution.bchs.uh.edu) March 1993]
[! updates by Ed Chen (edc@evolution.bchs.uh.edu) December 1994]

If you're new to collecting unreleased Beatles recordings, these are a number of questions which may have crossed your mind:

  • 1. What are the best ones to get?
      - I'll give you my answer to that one in a minute.
  • 2. How many are there?
      - About a thousand different albums, counting solo stuff, but not counting label and cover variations of records produced from the same master.
  • 3. Where do I get them?
      - Depends on where you live. If you're on the East Coast, you probably won't have to ask this question. If you're around civilization, check out smaller record stores and flea markets. Buy "Goldmine", and look for ads for record conventions which may be in your area. All of these sources MAY lead to bootlegs.
  • 4. Is it illegal to buy bootlegs?
      - No. It's not illegal to buy bootlegs.* It's illegal to manufacture them, and illegal to deal in them (which is why you shouldn't post your sources to USENET). *[Editor's note: please check the appendix at the end of this note. Current legal interpretations regarding bootleg ownership may change answer number 4, as far as purchasers are concerned.]
  • 5. Is it immoral to buy bootlegs?
      - Hell, yes. Right up there with murder, crack-dealing and genocide. If it makes you feel better, remember that it's YOU against those Fascist-anti-American-record-company-lackie-Elliot-Ness-wannabe feeble-minded dweebs at the RIAA.
  • 6. How much should I have to pay?
      - There are MANY bootlegs. Some are very common. Some are very rare. Still, here's a general guide:

      $ 8.00 - $30.00 - Pre-1980 U.S.

      $10.00 - Current U.S.

      $20.00 - $25.00 - Current European

      $25.00 - Current CD

      $30.00 - $100.00 Out of print CD, depending on title.

  • 7. What's the difference between the above?
      - Pre-'80 titles generally have paper insert covers, and consist of material which is very often available in much better quality on bootlegs of a more recent vintage. Some collectors (like me!) go for the "old ones". European titles are not necessarily of better quality (although many of them ARE), but are harder to find, and cost more when you can find them. CDs are a worthwhile purchase ONLY if they're mastered from TAPE. Watch out for "Made in Italy" CDs. Many are mastered from old vinyl bootlegs, and sound terrible. Beware of CDs on the Condor label, as well. They're all off speed slightly, and several have been known to physically CRACK!
  • 8. Why should I pay good money for bootlegs when I can trade tapes?
      - Unlike tape trading circles for other artists, there's VERY little Beatles stuff around on tape that HASN'T been bootlegged. And a tape taken from a bootleg will never be as clear as the bootleg itself. If you're on a tight budget, however...
  • 9. Yeah, but which are the best ones to get?
      - Okay, Okay, here goes, in no particular order:

    a. The Quarrymen At Home (BHH1/2) (European bootleg, 1987. Re-released in the United States as "Quarrymen Rehearse With Stu Sutcliffe". Also available on Compact Disc.)

      - This bootleg gives us a fascinating and unique glimpse into the repertoire of the Pre-Beatles, including TWO early versions of "One After 909", and slew of songs available nowhere else. For those who can get past the mediocre and "artificially enhanced" sound quality and occasionally loose performances, this album is a treasure. Just don't mix it up with "Liverpool 1960", a double album of inferior Quarrymen rehearsals.

      [! A supposedly legitimate issue of this material has been spotted in the cut-out bins of many stores]

    b. The Decca Tapes (Circuit Records, LK4438)(Vinyl)

      - The Decca Audition tapes first surfaced in the Mid-1970's in a series of 45's. Since then, they've entered "grey market" status, and have been reissued many times (usually re-edited to elongate the songs). The collector, however, will want to stick with the Circuit Records original, since it contains three Lennon/McCartney originals ("Like Dreamers Do", "Hello Little Girl" and "Love Of The Loved") omitted from the pseudo-legal releases. The songs themselves are excellent quality mono, and feature The Beatles performing a number of tracks unavailable anywhere else, like "September In The Rain" and "Sheik Of Araby". The performances, however, leave much to be desired.

      [! This tape has been speed corrected, and the entire tape is included as "bonus tracks" to the Vigotone "March 5, 1963" bootleg CD. All previous releases of the material had some songs which sounded up to a semitone "off"]

    c. The Beatles At The BEEB (BEEB Transcription Records) - SERIES

      - Between 1962 and 1965 The Beatles performed hundreds of songs for the BBC. Most of the best of these have been gathered together in an excellent series (on CD as well). Care to hear John Lennon singing "Honey Don't"? Fantastic live performances of "Some Other Guy" and "Thank You Girl"? Unreleased gems like "Soldier Of Love", "Youngblood" and "Lucille"? This is the place. Be warned, however, that these are vintage mono radio broadcasts, and include between song chatter and an announcer. If you want a compilation of BBC performances, perhaps it would be better to search out "Broadcasts" (Circuit Records LK4450), or "From Us To You" (Swingin' Pig double CD).

      [! The preferred method of purchasing this material is now the official "Live at the BBC" compilation, and a 9-CD set from Great Dane in Italy, covering every known-to-exist appearance of the Beatles at the Beeb]

    d. Stars Of '63 (Swingin' Pig TSP-CD-005) (Compact Disc)

      - If you're looking for some early live Beatles with a kick to it, look no further than this set recorded for the Swedish radio program "Pop '63" in October of 1963. This concert has been around since the 1970's, and was one of John Lennon's favorites. Since that time, it has appeared in excellent quality on the vinyl bootleg "Airtime" (Subway Records MX4729), and in superb quality on this CD from Swingin' Pig.

    e. Ultra Rare Trax Volumes 1-6 (Swingin' Pig / Condor) - SERIES (Vinyl / Compact Disc)

      - Paydirt. Studio outtakes in Master Tape quality. If you're a newcomer to unreleased Beatles, this is probably the material you've been reading about in the media, and hearing on the radio. Unique, fascinating working versions of some of The Beatles' greatest songs, including radically different versions of "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Norwegian Wood". These were originally released as two single CDs on the Swingin' Pig label, and later copied as a single CD named "Back Track". There is NO difference in sound quality between the two, but "Back Track" is now hard to find. The quality and rarity of the selections dips dramatically after Volumes 1 and 2, and the VINYL versions (Vols. 3/4 and 5/6) on "Beeb Transcription Records" offer a much better selection than the later Swingin' Pig CDs. [Editor's note: Material from Ultra Rare Trax, a series which is now out of print, is often found in almost as good quality, if not identical pristinity, on the Unsurpassed Masters series, Volumes 1-7. These should be widely available from most dealers of this type of material.]

    f. Live in Paris 1965 (Swingin' Pig TSP-CD-008) (Compact Disc)

      - Two excellent concerts from 1965, together on one CD, in excellent sound quality. This is the best representative of post 1963 live performances and, with 23 songs, it's not a bad deal for the money.

    g. 1967 ("Parlophone" PCS1967)

      - Unlike the other titles on this list, "1967" is a compilation album of material previously available on other bootlegs (A bootleg of a bootleg, if you would). However, it's probably the easiest way for a new collector to get a sample of material available from this era, and includes several demos from "Magical Mystery Tour", as well as an amazing early acetate of "A Day In The Life".

    h. "Get Back"

      - The original album that later became "Let It Be". This has been bootlegged many times over the years. The best one is a European version from '83 that comes with a printed slipsheet containing Mal Evan's notes about the songs (lifted from 'Beatles Monthly'). Second best is the first "Get Back" CD, skillfully lifted from a clean copy of this vinyl pressing. Beware the "Extended" CD that has the "Let It Be" rooftop concert appended to it, and the latest CD release on "Chameleon". They're both awful.

      [! Yellow Dog has also released nice ("albeit NoNoised") versions of both this incarnation of "Get Back," and the alternate "Kum Back" tape played on the radio in both Buffalo and Boston. The latter is worth obtaining for the "Posters, Incense, and Strobe Candles" DJ chatter]

    i. No. 3 Abbey Road NW8 (Vinyl - horweite stereophonie AR-8-69)

      - Just about the only thing to emerge on bootleg from The Beatles' final period. Luckily, the quality on these handful of Abbey Road Demos is generally excellent, and it's quite interesting to hear the rough mix of "Something", with the extended minimalist jam at the end (omitted completely from the legitimate version), and the longer version of "You Never Give Me Your Money", which runs into an improvisation of "At The Hop" (of all things). This material has been bootlegged a number of times. It's listed here as it's first vinyl incarnation, where we find the Abbey Road demos on the A-Side, and some McCartney / Donovan jam sessions on the B-Side. A new collector might find one of the more recent issues more enjoyable, which presents the Abbey Road material with other studio material from that era.

      [! This has become widely available on CD, with the Adam VIII release among the best. Yellow Dog also incorporated most of this material, along with other "Abbey Road" demos as part of their "Unsurpassed Masters" series]

    j. Sessions (European vinyl: ST221)

      - "Sessions" is actually a copy of Capitol's attempt at compiling an album of unreleased Beatles tracks, from the early 1980's. As such, it's superb sound quality places it above every other bootleg, except "Ultra Rare Trax". The highlights of "Sessions" include Paul's demo for "Come And Get It" (later given to Badfinger), "Besame Mucho", from The Beatles very first Parlophone session, and the fantastic acoustic version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". The original European vinyl pressing sounds better than the U.S. CD, although several of the "Sessions" cuts appear on various other bootleg CDs in better quality (such as "Ultra Rare"). The first compact disc issue of "Sessions" features a different song line-up than the vinyl, omitting several of the best songs, but including a fantastically clear version of "That Means A Lot". This CD, however, was pressed in a limited edition of 500, and is probably too obscure and expensive for the average collector.

      [! Since reproduced several times on CD. Several recent re-issues (notably one on "Spank") claim to be from the original master tapes, and are indeed better sounding than their vinyl counterparts ]

      [! Another recent development in the world of bootleg CD's is the prevelance of box sets. In addition to the aforementioned 9-CD "BBC" box set, look for the 5-CD "Artifacts" set (a nice overview of Illegal Beatles), the tremendous "Get Back Tapes" set (complete with a miniature reproduction of the original "Get Back" book), and new sets from Yellow Dog.]

    Doug Sulpy (me) has been collecting these things since 1973, and, since 1986,
    has put out a fanzine for bootleg collectors which shall be forever unnamed
    on THESE phone lines :-). He is currently writing a book with Ray Schweighardt
    on the 'Get Back Sessions'. He is always looking for pre-1980 titles. Feel
    free to call him at (201) 949-1922.
    [_Drugs, Divorce, and a Slipping Image_ came out in late 1994, and is
     available from the author, or through Beatlefest]

    APPENDIX (provided for your edification by saki [dmac@math.ucla.edu]:

    An informational appendix by
    saki (saki@evolution.bchs.uh.edu)

    [Note: the following is a condensation of an article that recently appeared in rec.music.beatles. It is intended to supplement, not to detract from, the information presented in Doug Sulpy's article, which you may have received in a separate mailing. Its sole intent is to further inform the interested reader.]

    U.S. federal law states that it is illegal to buy, sell, manufacture, play, broadcast, transmit or trade bootleg or counterfeit recordings (the citation is in 17 CFR, Vol. 17 of "Codes Of Federal Regulations," for those of you keeping score.) Possession of bootleg or counterfeit recordings is considered by the courts to be intent to commit all or part of the above. Thus, although ownership per se is not mentioned, ownership for all but strictly regulated purposes is forbidden by law.

    This goes for the seventeenth-generation tape copy of Ultra Rare Trax Vol.4 as well. Legal sources state that the generational distance of the bootlegged or counterfeit music from the original source in no way alters its illegal status.

    It's not, at the moment, considered cost-effective to pursue the bootleg consumer; rather the focus is, as it has been, on the seller and distributor. Some legal experts believe that possession is almost impossible to enforce. You may own the bootleg, it appears, if you are ready to prove that you have no intention of ever listening to it. Otherwise possession is tantamount to intent to listen, play, broadcast, etc. And that's illegal. Though in practical terms, it's possible---nay, even probable--- that some guy named Moe will never be caught, unless he does something really foolish, like selling, or becoming too public about his buying habits.

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