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 1968-1978

1982’s Coda, the Jimmy Page-compiled set of studio outtakes rounded up most of the fully extant unreleased Zep songs. But the band’s habit of leaving the tape running means the Lost Sessions series runs to a massive 11 volumes. A cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Sugar Mama”, recorded for II, is one of the few genuinely ‘lost’ songs that managed to evade Coda. Highlights include 90 minutes of Page and Plant rehearsing for III at Bron-Yr-Aur (Vols 3 and 5); early sessions for IV, including four takes of “Stairway To Heaven” (Vol 9) and, perhaps most intriguing of all, the session Page and Plant recorded in Bombay in ’72 with Indian strings and percussion on radically different versions of “Friends” and “Four Sticks” (Vol 2). The Indian sessions were shelved as an experiment – but the idea never went away and sowed the seeds for Page and Plant’s NoQuarter/Unledded project more than two decades later. Page retooled the incomplete “Fire”, from their Clearwell Castle rehearsals in May, 1978 (Vol 4), as “Closer” on the first Firm album.
Sound quality: Varies, but mostly excellent
See also: Antrabata’s Studio Sessions



Recorded 1967, New York
In April 1967, the Velvets played a series of shows at the Gymnasium, a former Czechoslovakian health club in New York. In the unnamed support act was 17-year-old Chris Stein, later of Blondie, who recalled: “[The Velvets] were awesomely powerful. I had never expected to experience anything like that before.” Rumours that at least one show had been recorded – Jonathan Richman was even named as the culprit – were confirmed in 1979, when John Cale admitted he possessed tapes. Two tracks appeared on 1995’s Peel Slowly And See boxset – and then, in 2008, Live At The Gymnasium suddenly surfaced, on green, orange and black vinyl. A stunning recording of a visceral Velvets show, it features what is claimed to be the first live performance of “Sister Ray” (and the only complete live recording featuring Cale), a blistering “Run Run Run” and an unreleased new track, “I’m Not A Young Man Anymore”: classic Banana-era Velvets with a brilliant Bo Diddley beat. It’s revelatory, and fans think there may be more out there. The show has also been bootlegged as Psychedelic Sounds From The Gymnasium.
Sound quality: It’s a soundboard recording so it’s good, if gritty and raw
See also: The Velvet Underground and Nico Unripened, acetates of the first album discovered in 2002


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