Boombox Bootlegs - Tape 1 Print E-mail
Written by Gaz E   
Sunday, 16 January 2011 05:00

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Records fairs, like The Krankies, Robbie Fowler and Kiss, are still out there plugging away but throwing down a mere shadow of their former selves. Like dandelion and burdock pop, record fairs just aren't the same anymore. Refusing to force out their last breaths as collectors and completists, in ever dwindling numbers, look for one last nerdgasm, one last throwback to a simpler time, a time where you could walk...scratch that....run into a record fair and struggle out, emotionally drained, with bag upon bag of plundered booty that was just itching to be unveiled in your box room at your parents' house. If you are of a similar age to me then you are thinking about those glory days right now. Thinking about row upon row of bootleg tapes, both audio and video, of every cool band on the planet calling out to you.

 

"Home Taping Is Killing Music" was the slogan that the Fourth Reich, the British Phonographic Industry, drummed into our impressionable minds with an evil logo that poisoned the paper inners of vinyl albums that, horrifyingly, didn't come with a lyric-printed inner sleeve. But what those retro fascists didn't realise was that we weren't looking to simply steal music like the dyed orange, leisurewear clad, brainless young fuckers of today, we wanted more; more than an album every year or two, more than a rare live appearance, more than a glimpse of a music video on No Limits - we wanted Every. Fucking. Thing by our favourite bandshometaping and, thank the makers, there were undercover audiophiles happy to hump crisp boxes full of C90s into leisure centres, town halls and scout huts on a Saturday morning like members of the (Jay Jay) French Resistance.

 

All of this came flooding back to me when I discovered a shoebox full of tapes in my attic. Not just wanting to listen to these old friends (who kept me warm, along with fifth generation Swedish Erotica videos and the girls in my Grange Hill annuals, for many a long, cold teenage winter) again, I wanted to review them, to stir the memories of like-minded music fans who, I know, love this site like I love cake. And that would probably be cool enough for those other music websites - you know, the ones with writers who begin a live review by complaining about the problems they faced when trying to pick up their guest pass - but not for Uber Rock. I wanted to do things, like we always do, way cooler than everyone else. So I hatched upon an idea so simple it bordered, in my fevered mind at least, on genius; I would review the tapes on a vintage radio cassette recorder, a boombox, a ghetto blaster, call it what you will, a machine the like of which these tapes may well have been played on for the first time back in the day, the machine lovingly photographed above (on a modern camera - damn my sellout eyes!). A cool new feature I thought it could make....

 

....but which of these iconic cassettes would I feature first? There were live tapes from many of my favourite bands of the time, but one tape stood out like Neil Murray when he joined Vow Vow, a real time capsule for myself and at least one of the writers here at Uber Rock...for a number of reasons....

 

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I have to be totally honest and admit that full details of this gig probably ended up on the bathroom floor and walls of my parents' house. Yes, at age seventeen I was still fairly inexperienced when it came to dalliances with alcoholic beverages - normal to vomit in around three hours. But I will never forget the excitement that came with the discovery of The Dogs D'Amour, a band who would, among a select batch of the coolest bands, alter my musical tastes pretty radically.

 

1988 was a good year to be a Dogs fan; The '(Un)Authorised Bootleg' album was stunning, as was new album proper 'In The Dynamite Jet Saloon'. With that in mind, you wouldn't be surprised to hear that Cardiff's tiny Square Club was rammed full of everybody who was anybody, the cool kids who spotted great bands before being told to spot them. Cool kids like me and Johnny H...well, perhaps cool isn't the best way to describe John on the night in question as I remember he was wearing a trenchcoat - more 'Never A Dull Moment' than Columbine killer to be fair to the fashionable gent - that he was forced to hdogscoverand in at the door for what I remember to be some kind of 'security issues'! And it probably worked in his favour as the place was so packed I had to stand up on the seated area to the left of the venue's stage to get a decent view when the Dogs played.

 

Feline Groove supported, featuring future Quireboy Guy Griffin on guitar. They must have been decent because I remember being relatively pleased when Griffin would later replace the legendary Ginger when he was ousted from another of those bands that had such a huge influence on my life in 1988. The Dogs performance, the first of many that I would see, was everything I had hoped it would be....at least from what I can remember. One thing that I'll never forget was that Johnny H kept shouting random things in between songs - "Rock 'N' Roll!!" was (a pretty average) one that I remember and "Ronnie Wood!!!" the rather bizarre second....

 

A record fair a short time later would be my saviour. There it was, a Sony HF90 cassette wrapped in a red and white DIY sleeve from that very gig. A Sony HF90 cassette that, although tucked away in a shoe box in my attic until I dug it out in readiness of this new uber-feature that came to me in a dream (kinda!), has been one of those musical old friends over the past 20-odd years. An old friend almost lost to a 1989 girlfriend (I lost my official Dogs-tags and a VHS copy of 'All Those Wasted Years' in the break-up but escaped with this Dogs bootleg and my 'There She Goes Again' t-shirt - phew!), who has travelled the length of the country many times with me and my trusty Walkman, and who now stands alongside me as I try to entertain you mofos with this r'n'r tale!

 

The..err...'official' tracklisting on the tape's cover lists 'Baby Glass' as the opening song but the tape begins, on my copy at least, with 'Last Bandit' - and a great version of the song it is too - before heading straight into the classic 'The Kid From Kensington'. Tyla asks the sweaty throng if it sounds alright before introducing the legendary 'How Come It Never Rains'. Have you ever heard a bad version of this song? Me neither. 'Everything I Want' follows before Tyla tells the crowd that they are too young to drink....unless they wanna look like him. Adogsinlay false start - "Fee...uh" - is quickly rectified and a "Fee-fi-fo-fum" introduces us to 'Debauchery', always a favourite of mine, which quickly seques into 'Medicine Man'.

 

How great a song is 'Heartbreak'? After another false start we get to hear this timeless track from 'In The Dynamite Jet Saloon' before a lengthy interval of guitar tuning and blues jam. Next up is a taste of things to come in the form of 'Trail Of Tears' which would appear the following year on the 'Errol Flynn' album. Great vocal performance from Tyla on this one. Again, the bootleg's tracklist lets me down as next up is the always immense 'Billy Two Rivers', followed by 'Wait Until I'm Dead' with Tyla asking if anyone has ever heard of Tony Hancock, claiming that the crowd is too young and that they obviously "never did history at school, then?!"

 

After complaining that the crowd are spitting on him - "Bunch of fucking animals you are, who had garlic for tea?" - Tyla sings the opening line to 'I Don't Want You To Go' before stopping and offering out another person who has just spat at him. He's soon back to tongue in cheek banter though and the song, one that I can never listen to without a big, shit-eating grin appearing on my face, starts...before quickly losing all guitar. Carrying on with just vocals, bass and drums, the song is still awesome. Guitars, obviously beset with issues all through the gig, return and the song didn't really suffer one bit, such is the attitude of patrons of incredible gigs in small, sweaty clubs.

 

The band leave the stage (well, there wasn't really a stage in the Square Club) before returning with Tyla introducing 'Dead Flowers', although it is obvious to everyone in attendance that Bam has already started playing 'Firework Girl'. The song from 'Sticky Fingers' does, in fact, appear next and it is as loose as you could imagine.....

 

And that's it. The taping ends as abruptly as the credits on a bootleg video. Back in the day I could swear I used to be able to pick out H-Bomb's ad-libs from amongst the crowd noise but now, using a 23 year old cassette and a 30 year old machine, they are lost in the vintage background noise. Shame, as that's what I'd like to do to him!

 

How has it felt digging back to my youth and reliving at least one great night of it with the aid of retro technology? Bittersweet? Upsetting? Humbling? Nah, it felt fucking great - great knowing that, no matter what happens in the future, my past was made up of great nights with great people, great bands and great music. Happily, those things don't have to be consigned to the past. There's nothing better then seeing a cool band in a small club with great friends...long may it continue.