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 1983-87

Such was the fecundity of the Morrissey-Marr partnership during the short reign of The Smiths that, after the false-start of their debut album (the much bootlegged Troy Tate sessions) practically everything they wrote together made it onto record. In lieu of unreleased songs, devotees could only be tantalised by references in the burgeoning band literature to an eight-minute uncut version of “The Queen Is Dead” or a version of “Frankly Mr Shankly” featuring a trumpet solo. Surprisingly, it took until early this year for these to eventually surface. Along with those two tracks, which don’t quite live up to the anticipation of 20 years, this bootleg also includes a radiant Troy Tate recording of “Reel Around The Fountain” (belying those sessions’ reputation for murk), an early, energetic take on “Ask”, some rough monitor mixes and a couple of unconsummated Marr instrumentals. It’s worth tracking down just for first drafts of “Paint A Vulgar Picture” – with Morrissey still feeling his way into the lyric – and, best of all, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, with Morrissey still singing “there is a light in your eyes and it never goes out”.
Sound quality: Excellent
See also: The Troy Tate sessions



Recorded September 2, 1974, Las Vegas Hilton
Elvis’ “lost years” – from late ’74 until his death in ’77 – are much in demand by hardcore fans, and this, a recording of the last night of his ’74 summer season at the Vegas Hilton, post-dates Elvis’ last official live release by nearly six months. An astonishing document of a star in meltdown, Desert Storm – released on two CDs in 1996 – is one of the most talked-about Elvis boots. But not just for the songs, which are occasionally great, as a fired-up Presley burns through his jumpsuit Vegas catalogue, backed by his shit-hot band. This is worth tracking down for The King’s scarcely believable between-song patter, which includes numerous references to his black-belt karate prowess, a forensic account of his recent liver biopsy, a pop at Bill Cosby, and ear-burning asides about his split from Priscilla – who is right there, in the audience. Most (in)famous, of all is this, his “heroin rant”: “From three different sources I heard that I was strung out on heroin… I’ve never been strung out in my life. If I find or hear the individual that has said that about me I’m gonna break your goddamned neck, you son of a bitch. I will pull out your goddamned tongue from the roots.”
Sound quality: Decent
See also: 24 Carat Gold – excellent post-army Nashville sessions



Recorded March, 1977, Toronto
Never did Richards see his life (or his lifestyle) more imperilled than in 1977. Having been busted at his Canadian hotel room for possession of heroin in February, his future seemed horribly uncertain. At this session, in which Richards accompanies himself at the piano on songs by George Jones, Cole Porter and Jerry Lee Lewis, Richards seems a million miles from the piratical, deathproof inebriate of public record, and instead a vulnerable and deeply troubled man attempting to find solace in music. Yes, it’s croaky. But it’s honest and it’s a moving piece of musical biography. And (as revealed by a Vanity Fair profile in 2009), the preferred holiday listening of Johnny Depp. The story has a (relatively) happy ending. When Richards was finally tried in October 1978, he received a light sentence. Having been seen to be attempting to rehabilitate himself from his drug use, he was instructed to play a benefit concert – for the benefit of the Canadian National Institute For The Blind. Richards is alleged to have remarked, “Why not the deaf?”
Sound quality: Good
See also: Mick Jagger: “Exile On Main St Blues”, a 1972 NME flexi


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