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JJ RASSLER STORIES : BOOTLEGS


JJ Rassler, est un pilier de la scène de Boston. En 1975, avec Peter Greenberg il met sur pied DMZ un des groupes américains les plus influents du rock pre et post punk. Ensuite il rejoindra les Odds puis les Queers avant de refaire en 1999 son propre groupe the Downbeat 5 avec la chanteuse Jen D'Angora. Ce groupe existe toujours mais JJ s'est impliqué dans des projets parallèles comme sa participation à l'album Red Lite de Mr Airplane Man, et son groupe éphémère JJ and Thee Cuban Heels.

JJ connaît toute la scène locale et américaine, il a vécu et engrangé mille aventures depuis des décennies. Il a décidé de nous faire partager ses souvenirs car il aime raconter et éclairer le monde du rock avec un point de vue original. Et c'est mon ami.                

                Jacques_B

Aujourd'hui nous discutons Bootlegs 

JJ: The first time I saw a 'Bootleg' LP, it was instantly recognizable by its stark white outer sleeve, and a cheaply stamped form of title in a corner, it varied appearing as if each were hand stamped on the kitchen table while joints were circulating. It was in a very significant (to many) record store in the heart of Kenmore Sq, the area that later gained notoriety as home to the Rat. The store was, Music City. A place important to my musical growth from 1970-1976. It also served as a ticket outlet for official concerts, magazines (of which America was sadly lacking in proper distribution) those that were actually available, but, to me, pale when next to UK's output to my keen vision for such gems, and the few and hard to find, outlets.

 J: - The Kenmore square record shop you are mentioning, Music City, is it the place where David Robinson used to work and when Jon Richman came in to put an add saying "looking for a drummer" he said he was interested and joined the Modern Lovers ?

 JJ: I was unaware, till now, of this part of your story (where's the bleedin’ book?) but, it was most likely the most likely location for placing an ad, at that time. And how coincidental that it was in a record shop that David Robinson met JJ Rassler, after seeing DMZ at the Rat, days before, and learned of the band's search for a new drummer!!!

 In the Boston area, Harvard Square boasted of two international news stands. Both were tiny, cramped, and overflowing with gems from far and wide, Nini's and the more popular, Out of Town News.

 


Out of Town News had a small indigo, curved neon sign, on the rear entrance, declaring it, 'The Hub of the Universe'. It was the very first thing I saw when emerging from my first MTA subway trip from Logan Airport where I disembarked from my first airline flight. I rode the escalator up into 'OZ' and that small sign caught my eye, and I instantly knew I was 'home'. It was there that the keen eyed found its prey.


Neighborhood denizen and increasingly popular diva of Public Television's cooking show, Julia Child would often scour the stands for the latest Italian, German or French cooking magazines. And in January 1975, a 21-year-old man named Paul Allen was browsing the kiosk when he came across that month's Popular Electronics, whose cover featured a photo of the "World's First Minicomputer Kit". He bought the magazine so he could show it to a friend ,
Bill Gates  .  It too, like Music City, became a main outlet for sports and concert tickets. Overstocked, overcrowded and overused, it was a haven.

Just steps away from the equally narrow Harvard bastion's of quick cheap eats, the Tastee was notorious for the quick Hot Dogs, while a block away, across from Harvard Yard, Bartley's was the destination for anything Burger related.


 And down at the end of Dunster St, if huge and creative sandwich concoctions were what was needed, Elsie's had it.

 


And just around the corner, stood a red brick Castle like structure on a triangular shaped corner, which was the home to the Harvard Lampoon, which with the money and notoriety gleaned from the publication of the greatly needed paperback spoof, Bored of the Rings, the National Lampoon was conceived.




 But soon, other outlets cropped up, happy to risk law and or fine, to offer Bootleg LPs. The ever growing appearance of Head-Shops displayed racks of unadorned albums, with a simple red, or blue, stamp of, Cum Back, Live'r Than You'll Ever Be, and the Great White Wonder, told those who knew the language, it was here, that unauthorized recordings of yet, unreleased 'official' LPs by the Beatles, the Stones and Dylan, could be had. 

The quality of the vinyl was in line with the artwork. The sound was both horrid and delightful with drooling ears and straining craniums. There were rarely signs of any track listing, and the consumer could choose where they wanted their penmanship on display, on each side of the plain white record label, or simply a 1 and a 2 there, with the titles, as best you could guess them to be, written on the blank white canvas, without the rubber stamp.

Soon, Head-Shops or the rare rogue indie stores, like Music City, were not alone. Everything was fair game, until it wasn't. Even the staid and stoic Harvard Coop gained the reputation as having the latest and greatest of the sleaziest and pleaziest harder to find nuggets (later pilfered and expanded on to a gazillion releases of worldwide garage bands thought lost to time or mind). 


But, for now, no band was safe from this homegrown industry. CSN&Y, Neil solo, the Who and even against the mighty efforts of former Brit wrestling sensation, Led Zep manager, Peter Grant, who used in many cases, brute force to prevent unauthorized recordings. If ANYone was gonna steal from Led Zep, it was him, and him alone. 

 

 


 

In time, certain 'labels' were stamped on these near inaudible 'collectors items', as some magazines referred to them as, such as, a pig encircled with the brag or, Trademark of Quality, which like most fools, I believed and catered to. I even scored a T shirt.

 


 Later, expanded on with the

 more abrasive, in your face...

 

that had somewhat 'better' sound, and certainly more eclectic depth of choice. People in studios were getting 'hip' to fast bucks.

 

 

The Who's Zoo


countless Stones collections, which I collected like a 10-year-old collected rare marbles, or bottle tops. Not only concert recordings, but one day I ran across an LP with a very early photo of the Stones as the whole front cover, 

and the rear is where the title, Bright Lights,Big City, and the track listing of all of their early (pre Oldham) tapes done by mate,Glyn Johns at IBC studios (known only as Camelotesque legends around here) and a mixture of Chess rarities including the essential, Stewed & Keefed, and some warmup tunes from Montreux, this choice piece offered the best song quality, to date, and provided devotees with Sacred Cow material (eventually released with even 'better' sound!!!). Thus began my sojourn in to any 'boot' by the Stones  that my tested, 'bad recording', senses could handle.
                         

Even the Stones Benefit for the Nicaraguan Earthquake Relief concert. Gee I wonder what percent of my cost Music City sent to an unknown Post Office Box in ravaged Managua.                                             
                                                             

I still have a crate of my Stones 'boots'. The Who 'boot' I have filed in my Who section, as there are only 1 or 2, and to me, qualify as regular releases. 

 



When CDs became all the rage (remember them?) 'boots' went high scale and I have cases with hundreds. Marc Bolan's estate made a bundle off all his releases, as did the NY Dolls. Dylan sales scored so big, CBS issued its own (great) Bootleg Series.

I have Beach Boys isolated vocal tracks, an entire CD of 1 or 2 songs, over and over!!! (circa 65, my fave, Beach Boys Today) 


and the treasure, Rubber Souled, outtakes and mishaps of the Beatles entering their prime.

Funny, I've never encountered any Janis Ian, or Seals and Croft boots, not that I'd want to, but, just saying, 'almost' anything was available, except the needed funds. 

I'm living in Town run home for the broke, but I have hundreds of awesome boots, and computers no longer feature CD capability.

 

 

The CD image you sent (great cover!) seems to be 

what has been issued also as The Chess Sessions,

to varying degrees of audio quality, but I have 1 good one. 

 

 

 

 

J: -You did not mention bootlegs on cassette support.

JJ: The cassette issue crossed my mind while writing, but as I was concentrating on my entry level years of Bootlegs, cassettes were not a part of the equation. It was only much later that they appeared on the market. I always felt somewhat dubious as to source/quality. I think I own 1 or 2 Dolls cassettes, but, my thinking that 'even I can do this!' usually get me at arm's length.  

J: - Funny you should mention some artists did not seem to be bootlegged, I agree with you though nowadays there are dedicated sites on the internet where live shows are available, even videos of concerts...

JJ: I imagine that the risk/cost back then, would keep the choice of artists limited to what would clearly generate a return on cost.

 J: - Do the bootlegs do any harm to the artists? I am not speaking economics but performance quality. A bootleg can be an indicator of truth about an artist, the records are good but he is lousy on stage or vice-versa.

JJ: It is amazing what has become available today. The 'bootleg', or, 'collectors items' are beyond belief. But, hey, we speak on cordless, hand held, telephone/computers...!?!? Was that anywhere near imaginable when boots of Get Yer Ya Ya's Out went on the market? I'm not personally familiar what I know to be sites where, 'Zappa taking a crappa' can be had, or, an infinite array of other things vastly more desirable. My interest is surely there, but, at this point in my outer shell's remaining time, I can neither afford the money or the space, for that which I know, at the moment of first awareness, my heart would convince me that I'd never make it through the day without that 'appealingly awesome' Dwight Twilley show from '77, in HD and with quality remastered sound, and guaranteed to come with imported beer !

Do I think it hurts the artist? Not at this point in time. There are fantastic YouTube's multi part collections of the making of all the Stones, Beatles, the Band, the Faces, Dylan...etc LP's I could ever hope for.

Do I recognize any flaws in performance?

I've said for well over 50 years, the best nights I've seen the Stones (my first show was 1st May, 1965) is when they are at their sloppiest, confused, shattered and struggling to bring their tattered asses together, are, without doubt, among my most favorite. So, getting that, in any format, would please me to no end. And I imagine the same is true for the Dolls, the Faces, and even the early Modern Lovers.


That, to me, is the most enduring and connected to the artist I'll ever be able to achieve

 

    JJ Rassler

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