North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Flashfact: The Secret History of Bootleg Records

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I used to go this record store in Barrie, a grimy little place on Clapperton, that sold all kinds of stuff: used CDs, LPs, counterfeits, CD-R-sourced bootlegs, everything. It was a really great place, I bought some really interesting stuff – things I’ve never seen since, at least at a reasonable price – there: Rhino’s old DIY series, the original LP of Frank Zappa at the Fillmore East, Rykodisc’s reissues of David Bowie’s catalogue, those IRS issues of REM’s first few albums with bonus tracks. The guy in charge was cool, too: an aging hippie who kept a giant sword behind the counter to deal with shoplifters.

But it was the bootlegs that really got me: those weird little things with odd covers, questionable sound quality and stuff inside I never dreamed existed, let alone hearing. Finding out about these was to find a new world of music. For a teenage me, looking for a little more than just the official releases, this place was amazing.

That store’s gone now and so is the old hippie. The industry’s changed so much in the past decade it barely resembles what I barely knew growing up: we don’t have a CD store here in town anymore and only ones within an hours drive are chains like HMV or Sunrise. Bootlegs are more or less gone now.

Which is partly why Clinton Heylin’s book on the history of bootlegs – The Great White Wonders – was so interesting to me: it’s a history of that shady industry, why it started, how it kept going even as the RIAA tried to crush it and what it did to the entire industry. From my review at Flashfact:

When Heylin is recounting the history of bootlegs, it makes for great reading: enterprising people sneaking intentionally-mislabelled tapes into mastering studios, running truckloads of illicit LPs around at night to shady figures and trying to keep one or two steps ahead of the FBI and RIAA. It’s a little like reading about Robin Hood, or at least someone who swindled a bunch of rich people and got away with it.

Click here to read the whole thing!


Written by M.

March 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

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