The Beatles bootlegs

The Beatles are one of the most bootlegged bands in music history. Beatles bootleg records began showing up in the late 1960s, usually containing material that was illegally recorded, stolen or leaked from the band's record label EMI. In the 1990s, Beatles bootleg CDs and videos began to take their place.

One of the first Beatles bootlegs to be sold illegally was Kum Back, which was created from an early acetate put together by engineer Glyn Johns on March 10, 1969. The acetate included rough mixes and versions of songs that would eventually be released on Let It Be. A copy of the acetate had leaked out and by September, radio stations around the country were playing music from the as yet unreleased album. In the fall, the Kum Back bootleg began to show up in record stores. Before long, bootlegs of a second mix made by Johns on May 28 also began to hit the black market.

To this day, "Let It Be Sessions" (aka the "Get Back Sessions") material is still the primary source for Beatles bootlegs. Literally hundreds of hours of recordings exist, that feature the band rehearsing new material, as well as classic rock and roll covers.

Most of the better quality, heavily bootlegged songs were eventually released (usually in superior quality) on The Beatles Anthology CD series. These included "Besame Mucho" (with Pete Best on drums), "How Do You Do It?", "One After 909 (early version)", "Leave My Kitten Alone", "Can't Buy Me Love (Alternate)", "If You've Got Trouble", "That Means a Lot", "12-Bar Original", "I'm Looking Through You (take 1)", "Strawberry Fields Forever (demo sequence)", "A Day In The Life (alternate with rough McCartney vocal)", "Fool on the Hill (demo)", "Not Guilty", "What's The New Mary Jane?", "Come And Get It (demo)", and "Because (vocals only)". Many of these songs were also compiled in the 1980s by engineer Geoff Emerick for a planned album of previously unreleased material entitled Sessions. The project was scrapped, but has shown up countless times in bootleg form.

The following is a list of some of the most common bootlegged recordings by the Beatles.

  • The Quarry Men Rehearsals: A tape of music recorded by the band in 1960. The recording featured early versions of many songs that would later be recorded by the band in the studio. A couple of songs from this recording were included on the first disc of The Beatles Anthology.
  • The Decca Records audition tapes (January 1st, 1962): A few songs from this recording were included on the first disc of The Beatles Anthology. Most bootlegs include all 15 songs from the original demo; "Like Dreamers Do" (Lennon/McCartney), "Money (That's What I Want)" (Bradford/Gordy), "'Till There Was You" (Wilson), "The Sheik of Araby" (Snyder/Wheeler/Smith), "To Know Her Is To Love Her" (Spector), "Take Good Care Of My Baby" (Goffin/King), "Memphis" (Berry), "Sure To Fall (In Love With You)" (Perkins/Cantrell/Claunch), "Hello Little Girl" (Lennon/McCartney), "Three Cool Cats" (Leiber Stoller), "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" (Holly), "Love Of The Loved" (Lennon/McCartney), "September In The Rain" (Warren), "Besame Mucho" (Velasquez/Skylar), and "Searchin'" (Leiber/Stoller).
  • The BBC Sessions: The Beatles regularly recorded live in studio for the BBC. In addition to performing their own material, they often did covers of other artists like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles. Most of these covers were included on the officially released Live at the BBC 2 CD set, but there are still many alternate versions of Beatles songs recorded for the BBC that still appear on bootlegs. In fact a nearly comprehensive set of Beatles BBC appearances circulates amongst collectors; the set comprises 11 discs, and the source quality of many tracks is superior to that of the official release. Much of the material from the official Live at the BBC was in fact sourced from a Great Dane bootleg set.
  • Live Concerts: The Beatles performances at the Hollywood Bowl and Shea Stadium shows, as well as many other concerts, frequently appear on bootlegs.
  • The "Strawberry Fields Forever" demos: A number of bootlegs were released that included at least a half a dozen different John Lennon demos for the song, plus all of the recorded takes. Portions of one of these demos, as well as two alternate takes of the studio version, are included on The Beatles Anthology.
  • The White Album demos aka Kinfauns Demos : The Beatles recorded demos of almost the entire "white album" with acoustic guitars in May 1968 at George Harrison's Kinfauns (Esher). The demos also included a number of songs that did not make it to the final album, included "Child of Nature" (later released by Lennon, with different lyrics, as "Jealous Guy"), "Circles", George Harrison's "Sour Milk Sea" and Paul McCartney's "Singalong Junk". A few of these demos are included on The Beatles Anthology.
  • The Christmas Recordings: Each year, the Beatles recorded an EP of comedy and music that was sent to members of their fan club. These recordings (or portions of them) frequently appear on bootlegs. One song, "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)" was released to the general public for the first time in 1995 on the "Free As A Bird" single.
  • The Get Back Sessions: In January of 1969, the group got together to begin work on music for the next album, which would evolve into Let It Be. (They also rehearsed what would become Beatles solo material, including "All Things Must Pass", "Gimmie Some Truth", "The Palace Of The King Of The Birds", "Hear Me Lord", "Hot As Sun", and "Teddy Boy".) They recorded the sessions both as audio and video (mostly mono, but one day two cameras were recording the same feed, making a stereo recording), planning a TV documentary; but the fighting in the group wound up with most of the plan being scrapped. The Rooftop Concert and a large amount of Get Back material would be in the one attempt to salvage the Get Back plan, the Let It Be movie. All thirty days of the sessions would be bootlegged many times until Yellow Dog Records created the "Day By Day" CD series composing the entire Get Back project in very high quality.
  • The Rooftop Concert: The final live performance by the band, recorded (and filmed) on January 30th, 1969 on top of the Apple Building at 3, Savile Row, London. The full performance included the following songs: "Get Back" #1, "Get Back" #2, "Don't Let Me Down" #1, "I've Got A Feeling" #1, "One After 909", "Dig A Pony", "God Save The Queen" (which has never surfaced on bootleg), "I've Got A Feeling" #2, "Don't Let Me Down" #2, and "Get Back" #3. Portions of this concert were seen in the Let It Be film. Two tracks of this session, namely "I've Got a Feeling" and "One After 909", were used by Phil Spector to compile the Beatles' final album ever to be released, "Let It Be".
  • Home Demos: Rough performances of early versions of songs that were either later recorded by the band or by other artists. These songs included "She Can Talk To Me" (early version of "Hey Bulldog"), "We Can Work It Out" (partially taped over by Lennon), "You Know My Name", "Don't Let Me Down", "Bad To Me" (May 1963 Lennon Demo), "One and One Is Two" (Early 1964, recorded in Paris by Lennon and McCartney), "Goodbye" (late 1960s McCartney demo), "Something", "I'm In Love" ( possibly a 1963 Lennon Demo but more likely a Lennon home demo for a planned musical dating from 1978), "She Said, She Said" (March 1966 Lennon Demo), "Good Morning, Good Morning" (February 1967 Lennon Demo), "Everyone Had A Hard Year" (late 1968 Lennon Demo, eventually became part of McCartney's "I've Got A Feeling"), "Heather" (late 1960s McCartney Demo, recorded with Donovan), and others.

A number of songs have been fraudulently passed off by bootleggers as unreleased Beatles songs. These outfakes include:

  • "I Love You Too", a song by the Fourmost containing a singer that sounds very similar to Paul McCartney
  • "We Are The Moles", a song by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound, and once thought to feature Ringo Starr on lead vocals
  • "Peace of Mind", a supposed Lennon demo from 1967, possibly the work of the Electric Banana a/k/a The Pretty Things
  • "Bye, Bye, Bye", a Beatles spoof by radio DJ Kenny Everett
  • "Have You Heard The Word", a Lennon-soundalike track featuring Maurice Gibb
  • "It's Gonna Be Alright", a hit by Danish rock group Smyle
  • "Cheese And Onions", performed on Saturday Night Live by Neil Innes and later by The Rutles
  • "Ram You Hard", a reggae single by a group called John Lennon & the Bleechers
  • "Shades Of Orange" and "Loving Sacred Loving", both sides of a single by an obscure psychedelic band called The End
  • "People Say" and "I'm Walking", a single by a duo named 'John and Paul'
  • a National Lampoon parody of John Lennon ranting called "Magical Misery Tour", from the album "National Lampoon Radio Dinner" featuring vocals by Tony Hendra (later the "manager" of Spinal Tap)(1972)

Even the individual solo careers of each Beatle has spawned a countless number of bootlegs of live shows, studio out-takes and demos.

In January of 2003, following an investigation by The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and London detectives, police raids in England and the Netherlands recovered nearly 500 original Beatles studio tapes, recorded during the Let It Be sessions. Five people were arrested.

It has been assumed that these people formed the main division of Yellow Dog, which released these session tapes under what became the 38-album series Day by Day. The Let It Be session tapes are in the form of Nagra Tape Rolls, which were used to record audio to later synch to film for inclusion in the film Let It Be.

With the advent of DVD-Rs, the world of video bootlegs has begun to catch up with Beatles bootleg collectors.

File sharing (both audio and video), and the ready availability of cheap CD writing equipment, has largely signalled the demise of the for-profit bootlegging industry. Most bootlegs are now circulated between fans on the internet.

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History of the Beatles | Long-term influence | British Invasion | Classic rock era | Paul is Dead rumours | Apple Records | George Martin | Geoff Emerick | Brian Epstein | Beatlesque | Discography | Bootlegs | Beatlemania


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