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 late 1978, London

“The album’s going to be very self-indulgent,” enthused Adam Ant in 1978. “It will be very unorthodox; it will be very crude.” Too seamy and uncommercial, it turned out, for Decca records, who mothballed the Ants’ debut and dropped the band. The lost album leaked out as Madam Stan in the early 1980s, while re-recorded versions of several tracks appeared on the flip sides of hit singles like “Goody Two Shoes” (“Red Scab”) and “Prince Charming” (“Christian Dior”). But what about Madam Stan’s sado-masochistic pop classics, like “Rubber People” and “Boil-In-The-Bag Man”? A proposed official release in 1980 for Madam Stan was vetoed by Adam, who felt he’d been wronged both by Decca and the incarnation of the Ants who’d played on the album and subsequently been lured away by Malcolm McLaren to form Bow Wow Wow. Ant sneered that the album would only come out if Bow Wow Wow had a hit record. Clearly, “Go Wild In The Country” and “I Want Candy” didn’t count.
Sound quality: Excellent
See also: La Belle Image, a Marquee show from 1978



Recorded 1982, Bahamas
Arguably one of the hardest bootlegs to find in our countdown, this document of Brown’s brief sessions with Sly and Robbie has yet to appear online. At the time of writing, it exists only on cassette – though one track emerged, bizarrely, on the b-side of a 12” bootleg of electro trio Beat Freaks’ track, “National Anthem”. In 1982, Island records’ Chris Blackwell hooked Brown up with Jamaican rhythm stars, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. However, what should have been a meeting of great musical minds turned into a stand-off. Brown turned up late and insisted that the producers communicate with him through his hairdresser. Shakespeare and Dunbar downed tools; Brown later claimed Sly and Robbie were on drugs and unable to play. The five tracks leaked on cassette bore clear witness to the bad blood between the two parties. Brown’s gruff imprecations on “ESP” are matched to a stolid inflexible backing track, and a similar stubborness is also evident on “You Got The Best Thing In The World”, found on that Beat Freaks single.
Sound quality: Good but flat, obviously very early mixes
See also: Brown 1974-09-24: Rumble In The Jungle, full recording of the concert given in Zaire ahead of the legendary Ali-Foreman boxing match


Recorded March 27, 1974, Los Angeles


A question John Lennon got asked a lot in 1974 was “Do you think The Beatles are going to get back together?” According to May Pang, Lennon’s companion during the so-called “Lost Weekend”, they almost did. Cordial visits had been made by Paul and Linda to the Pang/Lennon apartment in New York, but a plan to visit (and possibly write with) McCartney while he recordedVenus And Mars in New Orleans never materialised. Instead, Paul and Linda showed up unheralded at Burbank recording studios on the night of the first, Lennon-produced, sessions for Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats album in March 1974. What would they attempt? In essence, try several times to make it through “Stand By Me”, with Macca on drums and Lennon on guitar.

Unspectacular banter and similarly unlegendary music follows, while Stevie Wonder (the boot’s title comes from the unsighted musician being asked by Lennon whether he wants a “Toot… a snort… there’s some going round…”) attempts magnificently to paper over the cracks. An interesting encounter, but one maybe more romantically memorialised by the snapshot of a moustachioed Macca visiting Lennon at home in LA, taken by Keith Moon’s minder, Dougal Butler.

Sound quality: Documentarily satisfactory/quiet/poor
See also: The great, Lennon-produced, “Too Many Cooks” of the same timeframe, long bootlegged, which finally showed up officially on the 2007 comp The Very Best Of Mick Jagger


Recorded 1965-67, Columbia Studios, Hollywood
Though many Byrds studio leftovers have since been issued, Tambourines & 12-Strings – rounding up session tapes for the first two albums – remains a magnificent, you-are-there document. The studio banter is brilliant: “Why don’t you fuck yourself!” producer Terry Melcher snaps at David Crosby, as the band struggle with the gentle wade-in to Gene Clark’s “Set You Free This Time”. Then there’s Roger McGuinn’s Rickenbacker, a constant wonder, finding variations of tone and nuance around every corner. The result is a raw and ragged listen, belying the group’s standard studio finesse. Gene Clark’s oddly animated vocal lead-in to “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” sounds like he’s just crashed the party, while a fierce instrumental run-through of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” finds the guitars aligning with a fluid, potent groove. “Stranger In A Strange Land” is the clincher, a churning, adrenaline-fuelled instrumental.
Sound quality: Exemplary
See also: Younger Than Yesterday rehearsals (14 takes of “Thoughts And Words”!); and Rollin’ Down The Road, aka Live In Louisville 1970, a strong, late-period concert with Clarence White’s stunning guitar work


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