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, 1970-81

The essential Beefheart bootlegs – the original Bat Chain Puller sessions and 1978’s My Father’s Place broadcast – have now been officially released, while the exhaustive Grow Fins box mops up prime early recordings and the Trout Mask Replica sessions. Hoboism, then, is a valuable dip into less-explored ’70s rarities. The earliest is an alternative take of “Flash Gordon’s Ape” from Lick My Decals plus an acoustic “Sun Zoom Spark”, very different to Clear Spot’s full band version. The playful, “Hot Head” and “Ashtray Heart”, promoting Doc At The Radar Station on Saturday Night Live, transcend the usual stiffness of the TV studio. It’s a pity Hoboism includes seven songs from the Country Club, Resada, California on January 29, 1981 since the entire show – one of Beefheart’s last-ever concerts – is bootlegged elsewhere as Best Batch Yet. There is one real jewel in this collection, the unreleased “Hoboism” itself. This rough John Lee Hooker-style home tape from 1976 with guitarist Dennis Walley features a demented vocal and wonderfully inventive wordplay on an improvised tale of a hobo who hops a freight train after murdering his wife with a pocket knife.
Sound quality: Good to excellent
See also: Best Batch Yet



Recorded 1976, London

Between signing to EMI in the summer of 1976 and recording her debut album, The Kick Inside, a year later, the 19-year-old Bush spent 12 months dancing by day and writing by night in her top floor flat at 44 Wickham Road, Brockley, London. The results are captured on this home-recorded collection of 22 voice/piano demos. Five songs – including “Violin” and “Hammer Horror” – later appeared on albums, but the majority have never been heard since. The haunting “Something Like A Song” is one of her finest early piano ballads; more intriguingly, on “Organic Acid” her brother John recites an erotic poem about “mutual masturbation” while Bush demurely trills the chorus. Also known as the Phoenix Demos after the Arizona radio station, KSTM, which first aired them in the ’80s, The Cathy Demos offer a glimpse into the formative creative processes of a famously private (and rarely bootlegged) artist.
Sound quality: OK: raw two-track recordings taped live at home
See also: Passing Through Air – several songs recorded with Dave Gilmour in 1973


Recorded 1996, London
There are numerous live boots of Cave and cohorts stretching back to the August 19, 1977 Melbourne gig by The Boys Next Door. But precious few studio outtakes predating the mid-’90s exist, something Cave attributes to the fact that they were often too strung out to record more than the bare minimum. Having recently kicked heroin and had his heart scrambled by Polly Harvey, when Cave entered Sarm West in 1996 to make The Boatman’s Call, for once he had an abundance of material. Several strays from the session turned up on 2005’s B-Sides And Rarities, but the treasures here are alternate versions of four album tracks (most radically, a full band “Black Hair”) and the unreleased material, which is of seriously high standard. While it’s easy to see how the long, half-realised “Garden Duet” and sleazy blues of “I Got Another Woman Now, Dear” could have capsized the final album, the decision to discard the wracked “I Do, Dear, I Do” is staggering.
Sound quality: Good; some buzz and hiss, and the mixes are rough
See also: Murderous Ends, Collaborative Odds – terrific comp of radio sessions, live tracks and rarities


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