I think everyone who is a collector has something as part of their colletion that they have no real justifacation for owning. For me, it’s old bootleg albums. I’ve accumulated over 250 of these things in the past few years and god knows why…I never listen to them. Regardless, their history and taboo nature in the record collecting field is pretty facinating.
The first rock bootleg is believed to be Bob Dylan’s “Great White Wonder”. Released circa 1969 in a no frills hand-stamped white jacket, it contained previously unreleased studio recordings from the early 60s. It caught the attention of the record buying public via underground magazines and hippie distribution circles. What would follow was a flood of live/demo material by just about any and every band of note. Pink Floyd, the Doors, Grateful Dead, Dylan, the Who, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles were all heavily bootlegged. Anyone with access to the tapes and a pressing plant could produce their own boot.
The sound quality of many bootlegs is mediocre AT BEST. Tape hiss, excessive crowd noise and cheap pressings were not uncommon. I have one Who boot where you can hear the audience’s chitter chatter ten times louder than the band itself (infact, you can’t really hear the band at all!). However, some boots are considered true classics and held in high regard by fans. Many recordings that originally appeared on bootlegs would later turn up on officially released albums and collections. Tracks from Dylan’s “Great White Wonder” were issued in the 70’s as “Basement Tapes” and Frank Zappa did a whole series called “Beat the Boots” where he pretty much bootlegged the bootlegs!
The vinyl bootleg’s heyday was certainly through the 1970s into the 80s. Early bootleggers would commonly travel across the country selling to local headshops, record stores and at concerts out the back of their vans . Many vinyl (and far more CD) bootlegs continued to be produced through the 90s and some are still being released to this day. Recently, I’ve seen Franz Ferdinand and Modest Mouse boolegs on wax. Even with the ease of finding much of this material for free on online download sites, these new boots show how important it is for a lot of collectors to have this material on vinyl.
While bootlegs are of a dubious and not-so-legal status, they’ve accumulated a solid fan base and legitimacy in the collecting world. Some bands have been friendly (or have at least turned a blind eye to) letting others sell bootlegs of their material. Others monitor online auction sites and pull any offending releases. If you have any old boots collecting dust in the basement, I’d recommend doing your research before trying to sell them in a public forum.