Edit: Since writing this, I’m 100% sure these are bootlegs. It was a nifty little theory (which you can read below), but all of them – all 30+ – are bootlegs. This is not a bad thing, especially considering that much of this is no longer on inexpensive vinyl and the covers are hand screen printed.
You can see them all here.
In the past month or so, I’ve discovered at least six vinyl LPs that appear on first (and second) look to be bootlegs. However, I’m not fully convinced that they are. Three different labels seem to have released them, but they all look fairly identical. I also have a feeling that they might all be somehow related to Warner Brothers. Let’s delve, shall we?
The “bootlegs” (and their links to Discogs):
The Cure – Pillbox Tales 1977-1979 (Arkain Filloux Records, Belgium) (discogs)
Echo & The Bunnymen – BBC Radio Tapes ’79 – ’80 (Arkain Filloux Records, Belgium) (discogs)
The Smiths – The Old Guard – BBC Tapes 1983 – 1986 (Alti Philosophi Records, Germany) (discogs)
Talking Heads – The 1975 CBS Demo Session (No Label) (discogs)
The Boys Next Door – The Lost & Brave Exhibitions Of…1977-1979 (Il Cane Lento Records, Italy) (discogs)
Brian Eno – The BBC Sessions (Il Cane Lento Records, Italy) (discogs)
The similarities between these releases are many. All of them have hand silkscreened covers. Having worked in a screen printing shop for awhile now, to me these seem to have all been screened in the same place. Inks have their own distinct smell. All of the record covers smell the same and were manufactured by the same company (each blank cover was cut, folded and glued the same way), which leads me to think that they all came from the same place. I’m also betting that place isn’t Belgium, Germany or Italy.
The vinyl itself (with the exception of the Boys Next Door on limited edition yellow) is heavy weight (160g or 180g) and looks like it was pressed from similar quality vinyl (clearly not virgin vinyl, but good quality). None have any writing on the matrix (run out groove of record), except The Cure’s says “The Easy Cure” and the Boys Next Door has something scratched out on both sides (though I don’t know if this is present on the black vinyl edition).
All of the paper labels on the vinyl are of the same make. None feature the name of the artist (which is typical of bootlegs), except Brian Eno’s, which is stamped on the label by hand (someone got a bit careless on mine and stamped the paper sleeve a bit).
Though it’s difficult to tell which was released first, the first one entered into Discogs.com was The Boys Next Door. That was released in a limited edition of 100. The rest (including the black vinyl edition of Boys Next Door) seem to have been released in 2010.
So it’s clear that all of them were released by the same party. But who did the releasing? And are these even bootlegs?
Somehow or another, all six of these records found their way into Sonic Boom Records in Seattle. They are also available at other record shops across the country. These are reputable record stores who deal with reputable distributors. I’d be shocked if either were carrying anything that wasn’t 100% approved by the major labels that could sue the pants off of them for carrying bootlegs. And while that isn’t proof, it’s something.
While flipping through the racks at Sonic Boom, I came across two other records, one by Devo and the other by (I think) Gang of Four. They were rereleases of promo singles, both from Warner Brothers. Both had screen printed covers and heavy grade vinyl.
That got me thinking. These screen printed promos were probably from Warner, so why shouldn’t the six “bootlegs” that I have be from Warner too?
So what is each artists’ connection to the big WB?
The Cure was released on Electra Records, which has been owned by Warner since 1972. Echo & The Bunnymen, Talking Heads and The Smiths were on Sire Records, owned by Warner since 1978. Boys Next Door was on Mushroom Records, which is now owned by Warner. As for Brian Eno, he was on a slew of labels, but these recordings were from 1975ish. At that point, he was releasing on Island Records, which is not owned by Warner (it’s owned by Universal), however, from 1975 to 1982, Warner Brothers Records released all of Island’s records in America.
What this means is that all of these recordings have something to do with Warner Music Group.
Does this means that Warner is releasing fake bootlegs? Maybe. Maybe not. Keep in mind that Warner Music Group also owns Rhino Records, which would do something like this if given half a chance.
But my verdict is that none of these releases are actually bootlegs.
Some fun, extra info…
- The Talking Heads record, like the Boys Next Door record, is hand numbered. I have #158 of 500 (and #99 of 100 for the BND).
Arkain Filloux (The Cure, Echo), Dreve Olympic 15; 1070 Anderlecht; Bruxelles, Belgique is the Cora Anderlecht Supermarkets & Department Stores.
Alti Philosophi (The Smiths), Hengstbergst. 11 Aral; 04668 Grimma; Deutchland is a gas station.
Il Cane Lento (BND and Eno), Giacomo Leopardi, 26; 95127, Catania; Italiy is actually the address of a cantina called Currao Viaggi.
- I wouldn’t think that whomever is releasing these would stop at six. Maybe more stuff from Sire, Electra, etc will come out next. Maybe some Depeche Mode, The Ramones or early Modern English. Whatever comes out next, I think I’ve stumbled onto something good here.