by Clinton Heylin
Live Music Review June 1997.

We music collectors are a funny lot. Sanctimony comes easy to us - when we're not busy ridiculing our fellows musos' musical tastes, we're at work on the poor quality equipment they have, the lack of vinyl in their collections, or their seeming inability to source a good generation or dub at a decent recording level. The snobbery of some tape collectors, though, takes the cookie, jar and all.

The greatest crime that many so-called important tape collectors are happy slip & slide into is forgetting that bootleg recordings - tapes and CDs - are (or bloody well should be) about THE MUSIC. Dylan bootlegs, my field of swingeing expertise, are aimed at the several thousand people who love listening to Dylan, want to hear interesting, good Dylan, and don't have the patience to wade through another goddamn NoEndInSight Tour show for that "one clear moment" I wrote in BOOTLEG about. I know of a musician I greatly admire being stunned by the brilliance of the "Abandoned Love" on GENUINE BOOTLEG SERIES II and reevaluating his whole attitude to audiences because of it - THAT is not going to happen while the tape stays the sole preserve of cliques of tape collectors. Music collecting should be about sharing the experience.

I admire the time and energy that many collectors devote to chronicling the art of our most important living performers - but I do not admire any of these pathetic collectors who castigate the bootleg CD as if what they do is somehow less illegal, more virtuous, purer, a rarefied science unsullied by baser motives. BULLSHIT. You break the same laws trading a tape as selling a CD - actually buying a CD is legal, trading a tape is not. OK. So cut the shit. The question of profit is one big bloated herring, more puce than red. WHO GIVES A FLYING FUCK if the artist doesn't get mucho denarii? The artists certainly shouldn't because - its q.e.d. time - if they did, they wouldn't be artists.

Huh? Run that by me again. I am saying that if an "artiste" is more worried about being paid for a live performance put down on permanent record THAN allowing the pleasure of hearing that performance to his fan around the world, than I doubt that he is an artist - he certainly is no longer focusing on his art. He has become a charlatan and a hypocrite. That this cannot happen legitimately is because of ARTIST'S APATHY (or dubious notions of perfection) AND THE RECORD COMPANIES GREED (and fear). If one could pay royalties for the release of an unauthorized live recording - without fear of legal action - then those who choose not to pay could indeed be reviled and their product be boycotted. But that is not the way it is.

The supreme irony of all these holier than thou tape collectors criticizing commercial bootleggers is that the vast majority of them got into unreleased recordings by buying bootlegs. "What dear daughter beneath the sun would treat her father so?"

Many friends of mine - and I don't necessarily include myself - have a life. They need to keep wives happy, kids fed and colleagues shafted. They simply do not have time to tape shows, trade tapes, upgrade equipment, converse within the traders loop. Doesn't mean they don't still love the music they grew up with, or want more than the official record companies provide. Just that they can't afford the time to trade. Money, on the other hand, they are happy to shell out. These are the bulk of the people who buy bootleg CDs. Hence bootlegs like GBS I and II, which I genuinely (sic) believe are a public service - money-making they may be but I, for one, would not take the risks the Byrdman takes to give us punters our weekly fix - one that because of greed undiluted by any aesthetic considerations, cannot be legitimate.

Finally (for the mo' at least), I'd like to raise the tendentious lil' matter of sourcing tapes. This is a filed bespattered with pundits professing knowledge they do not have (t'wit, Mr Dundas' remarks regarding "Coverdown Breakthrough" on GBS II) The fact of the matter is that ALL the important Dylan tapes that have been accessed in the Nineties, and hence have passed into tape collector circles, have been accessed by, or on behalf of, bootleggers. The reason why this has been the case? Because the people who have the "real" tapes - and I am not about to trade that "Car ibbean Wind" on GBS I for an entire set of 1996 Dylan audience tapes - have, or do, work in the record industry, and are usually not interested in music, they are interested in money. They will sell tapes to bootleggers rather than give them to tape collectors because "everybody's got something to sell".

The five CDs of basement tapes, and hence Greil Marcus' new book, would not exist without the bootlegger who stumped up the asking price for these tapes. Hence, also, some of the hidden goodies on GBS I & II. As one of those who contributed to the fund that purchased the Rogan [i.e. Grogan] acetates simply to have the opportunity to hear the Another Side outtake of "Mr. Tambourine Man", I, for one, am happy that those who did not contribute can now hear that vital recording on GBS II (and, no Mr. Dundas, it is not about how many uncirculated tracks you can cram onto a triple-CD - it's about listening pleasure - tyr actually listening to GBS II some time).

Okay, I'm just about done, I have been, and shall continue to be a collector. BUT I am a music collector, not a tape collector, not a CD collector. Everybody that I collect the music of makes a living from the music s/he makes. I buy (yes buy) the official CDs of those artists, without fail or query. If, after all that, they don't like the fact that I have maybe hundreds of tapes of their live performances, hey, that's just too bad. Bob Dylan I ain't trying to impress (or Richard Thompson or...), and you shouldn't, either. Why do you care what they think? 'Cause the make/made good music? Like I said, pathetic.

Remember, they're the lucky ones. They got the gift from God. But which commandment said it was their exclusive property, to have and to hold, 'till they die (oh, and 70 years after that). To quote the late, great Allen Ginsberg "[The young] Dylan ...sold out to God. That is to say, his command was to spread his beauty as wide as possible". You wanna get paid for your bootlegs, Neil/Bob/Van? Don't sign exclusive recording contracts with corporate crooks.

Oh, and if Mr. Dylan "wrote" or, indeed, even arranged "Canadee-I-O" - for which he has received more royalties than he would ever receive for the TOTAL sales of GBS I AND II - I'm the Pope. How about an arrangement credit for the man you purloined it from, Bob, a man who has no means of making a living, no longer even able to play the guitar bacause of a horrific car accident that ended a promising career? After all, you once told us all, "to live outside the law, you must be honest". Seems like you no longer agree.