When I was in high school during the Fall of 1993, I was introduced to the world of bootleg recordings through the owners of the now defunct Needham Music shop in Needham, MA. The shop was run by some aging hippies who would sit behind the counter, chain smoke unfiltered cigarettes and listen to whatever new vinyl or rare CDs they had acquired that week. The real treause though lay in the glass cases toward the back of the store containing hundreds of bootleg cassettes and import CDs boasting live shows from classic and modern artists unattainable through the major labels and largely unknown to anyone but die hard music fans. Naturally, I started on Grateful Dead and Phish tapes – as those were what my peers were listening to in those days. However, I soon came to find out that some of these mysterious labels were turning out some exquisite material from other bands, no less seminal to a budding music lover in 9th grade. My curiosity had been successfully piqued and I’d go on to spend much of my summer earnings on bootleg CDs and tapes, pouring over every note on them and looking for friends as enthusiastic as I was to share them with.
And so I went head first into the world of ROIO recordings, spending entire afternoons in Harvard Square at places like Mystery Train and Second Coming Records. Many of these tapes are still my favorites today; Jimi Hendrix’s 1970 Berkley Concerts, The Grateful Dead’s Ithaca and Buffalo shows from 1977, Bob Dylan’s Royal Albert Hal show from 1966, The Who’s incendiary shows from Philly 1973 and London 1976 and perhaps, the finest performance The Rolling Stones ever gave in Brussels, 1973.
Since peer to peer networks eliminated the need to buy these shows under the table on illicit CDs or tapes many years ago and superior sources of many of the same performances have been brought into circulation by dedicated collectors and even connections to the artists themselves, we have better access to these historical recordings.
It’s been my mission over the last year to bring you some of my long time favorites as well as surprises I’ve discovered along the way, for you listening pleasure. I continue to look for recordings which enthrall and challenge me to listen to music in new ways. This is my wish for all of you. Listen to as much music you can by as many different artists as you can. Whether it’s James Booker maniacally shredding out Chopin’s ‘Minute Waltz’ on the piano, Lowell George crooning the world weary lyrics to his homage to truck drivers in ‘Willin’, Zigaboo Modeliste laying down back beats second to absolutely no one during a Meters club show or simply listening to Rick Danko and Levon Helm picking mandolin and guitar in front of a few lucky patrons at a bar in Portland, OR back in 1983…It’s all just good and good for your head.
Pass the music on to those you think will love it as much as you do and hold it close when you fell you need it most. That’s what it’s all about!