If there is one thing that separates the people who merely like a performer or band from those who are fans, it's bootlegs. I guess this means I'm not a true fan of Bob Dylan, because although I own several of his albums and enjoy them, I'm not the least bit interested in collecting bootlegs of his music.
But with The Beatles, it's another matter. I think I must have first heard about bootleg albums when it was rumoured that Tyrrell's record store, in Market St, Newcastle was selling copies of a prototype of Let It Be called Get Back. I think they were selling them from "under the counter." They cost more than a regular album; maybe twice the price. I forget.
When I got my copy home, and opened the brown paper bag it was sold in, it had a plain, aquamarine cover, and little or no information about the tracks on it. It got worse! Because when I put it on the turntable, it was mainly surface noise. You could hardly hear any music at all.
Later on, there was a nice record called Sessions, with an attractive cover, and information on the back, which provided maybe about thirty minutes of interesting versions of songs, and some of those hard-to-hear tracks from that old Get Back LP, earlier versions of songs such as I'm Looking Through You, and never-released songs such as Leave My Kitten Alone.
Over the years, record collectors' markets have had albums with titles like Ultra Rare Tracks, volume six. These albums have cost about $40, and have had about fifteen minutes of music on them! Some of them have been very interesting, while others have consisted of The Beatles practising a few bars of Help, over and over.
The alternate versions and previously unpublished songs on the Anthology set of CDs are fascinating. And the advent of YouTube has killed off those expensive bootlegs. Most of the material is up on YouTube, though occasionally copyright holders will take down some things.
I was interested to discover today that there are "work in progress" versions of Strawberry Fields Forever on YouTube that I had never heard before, and are not included on the super deluxe box set of Sgt Pepper. (Strawberry Fields was the very first song recorded for that new album, though it ended up as a double A sided single, and didn't make it onto the final disk.)
But, today I started listening to the disks of "work in progress" versions, included in the box set. The Strawberry Fields tracks sound terrific. Giles Martin has remixed these tracks, as well as those on the main album. They sound so much better than the versions that have been put up by fans on YouTube.