Uncut’s 50 best bootlegs

A wealth of amazing music, scrapped LPs, obscure sessions and lost nuggets selected from our own private collections…

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Recorded March 1975, New York

“I didn’t care for the sound he got on tape or the performance much either,” said Tom Verlaine, dismissing Brian Eno’s attempt to record the quintessential New York loft act’s first LP. Five tracks were recorded at Good Vibrations studio before Verlaine pulled the plug on a putative Island album and his schoolmate, bassist and musical co-conspirator Richard Hell. Double Exposure shows why; Verlaine, second guitarist Richard Lloyd and drummer Billy Ficca are moving towards the chiselled arches of 1977’s Marquee Moon, while Hell plunks agriculturally behind them. Told before the session that none of his songs (“Blank Generation” included) would be recorded, Hell knew the end was nigh when Verlaine told him to stop jumping around on stage. (“He didn’t want people to be distracted,” Hell later recalled.) Double Exposure’s never-to-be-released title track and a live version of the 13th Floor Elevators’ “Fire Engine” show the jazzbo-garage vision that Television abandoned along with Hell; early versions of “Venus” and “Prove It” signpost their future as Quicksilver Messenger Service with better hair.
Sound quality: Scruffy but clear
See also: Poor Circulation, Hell-era live performances



Recorded 1999, 2000
The troubled genesis of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was well-documented in Sam Jones’ film, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. These two fascinating bootlegs capture YHF as a work in progress, though comparing them is not helped by the fact that the titles are used interchangeably (both are also referred to as YHF Demos or, occasionally, The Basement Tapes). Recording dates are unclear, but the suggestion is that the bulk of these recordings pre-date Jim O’Rourke’s elevation to producer, though the static he brought to YHF is evident on Demos/Outtakes, notably on an extended “Poor Places”. Engineer Demos is a coherent album, representing the path not taken. The songs are given a classic rock treatment, and there’s a run of four unreleased tracks: “Nothing Up My Sleeve”, “Alone (Shakin’ Sugar)”, the gorgeous “Venus Stop The Train”, and the piano ballad, “Rhythm”. Also worth noting on Demos/Outtakes: the Beatles-ish “Cars Can’t Escape” and, the playful “Corduroy Cut-Off Girl”, an early version of “Radio Cure”, complete with synths.
Sound quality: Good
See also: Jeff Tweedy And Jay Bennett, 7.25.99


Recorded June 25, 1971, Bremen


“History,” is how Ralf Hütter dismisses Kraftwerk’s first three LPs (four if you count the 1970 opus they recorded as Organisation). The Düsseldorf act’s rigorous, electronic systems music infected pop from the mid-’70s, but – as they would prefer to forget – their roots lie in the improv clatter of Krautrock. K4 documents a weird interlude. When Hütter took a sabbatical following Kraftwerk 1 – apparently to finish his college studies – Florian Schneider brought in drummer Klaus Dinger’s Neu! partner, Michael Rother, and the result was a Neu! takeover. Recorded live for Radio Bremen, K4’s five thrilling tracks span over an hour and are dominated by Dinger’s thunderous Sabbath drums and Rother’s white-hot guitar; tellingly “Ruckzuck” (here credited as “K2”) morphs into a Rother frenzy over 19 tension-packed minutes. Such freak-outery would not survive Hütter’s return. Dinger and Rother left for what the latter called “a question of temperament, of character”.
Sound quality: Excellent
See also: The same lineup’s YouTube-able Beat Club and Okidoki shows


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