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 & 1970/1980s, London

Pete Townshend’s diligent trawl through his back catalogue has made many Who bootlegs redundant. Some material here surfaced on official CDs, but Oblique (from 1984) still offers the only chance to hear all the demos Townshend made for Tommy in his industrious summer of 1968, plus engaging live material from the 1970s. Some Tommy demos have an edge over the album versions – “The Acid Queen” has an air of unworldly derangement – and to hear them all in one sitting is to realise how fully conceptualised Tommy was before Townshend handed it to the band. His demo of “Too Much of Anything” (a Lifehouse song that found its way onto Odds & Sods) is another charmer, skippier and more ethereal than The Who’s take. The live material is uneven but fascinating – a 1974 version of Traffic’s “No Face, No Name, No Number” is a real oddity, and there are non-Who appearances from ’81 and ’82, reminders of how busy Pete keeps himself.
Sound quality: The demos have a little vinyl hiss, otherwise good. Live material is audience quality
See also: Townshend’s Scoop 3 for a clean version of “The Real Me”



Recorded 1978/9, Ohio

Before The Cramps descended on Memphis with Alex Chilton to record debut album Songs The Lord Taught Us, they produced five sets of demos, all of which have been bootlegged. The best – and most mysterious – are The Ohio Demos 1979. Best, because these febrile, intense dozen tracks – epitomised by Lux Interior’s stuttering vocals and dense reverb of “All Tore Up” (later recorded as “I Can’t Hardly Stand It”) – encapsulate the band’s chaotic rockabilly. Mysterious, because nobody – fans, biographers or former band members – seems entirely sure whether they were even recorded in Ohio in 1979. One clue is an interview with Lux in August 1978, in which he says the band are about to head to Akron to “record some tracks in my little brother’s basement studio”. That environment appears to suit the band down to the ground, and many prefer the urgent authenticity of the bootleg to Chilton’s finished album. It’s also been bootlegged as All Tore Up and Wild Psychotic Teen Sounds, although the definitive version is the Ohio Demos 1979 package of three coloured vinyl seven-inches.
Sound quality: Decent, if tinny
See also: Memphis Poseurs, 1977 demos recorded by Chilton at Ardent Studio in Memphis



Recorded 1993/4, London, Leeds and Glastonbury
This extraordinary four-disc set rounds up everything Blur produced around the time of Parklife, including the original album, remixes, radio sessions, demos and live performances. It’s part of a series, collating all existing and leaked material of all seven Blur studio albums. Parklife is the most interesting, however, as the third CD contains 10 unreleased demos from the 1993 sessions, including an early take of “To The End” with Elastica’s Justine Frischmann –Damon Albarn’s then-partner – whispering in French on backing vocals. The only other song that’s markedly different is “Trouble In The Message Centre”, with much changed atmosphere and lyrics to the released version. There’s also an early version of “One Born Every Minute”, which later appeared as the b-side to “Country House”. Completists will also enjoy the second CD’s remixes and radio versions, while the final CD features triumphant live shows at Glasto and Leeds Town And Country Club.
Sound quality: Excellent
See also: If this isn’t enough, try the six-CD Deluxe edition of Blur


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