A little while ago I was sulkily bemoaning having missed a cassette bootleg on Ebay.
It still hurts too: these things turn up very infrequently and they’re my favourite collectible. To recap, these are the cassettes of live recordings that were sold in markets and car boot sales in lurid and Letraset heavy home made covers, and seemingly every gig you went to was available a couple of days after it happened. Usually dodgy quality, but lovely souvenirs. I use the generic term “Camden Market”, which was a centre for sellers, but they come from everywhere.
The dynamics of the distribution process revolved around a shared understanding that the source of the recording had exclusivity for a few weeks, after which the more popular cassettes were copied around by other dealers. But in fact the total “manufacture” was very small, tens of copies perhaps for the minor bands. And as these items weren’t seen as desirable, they got put into bags in lofts and eventually chucked out by most purchasers. The result is that objects that were absolutely ubiquitous in the 1980s are almost impossibly hard to find now.
So it was with joy unalloyed that I resolutely didn’t miss this one, a recording of one of the Summer 1985 tours – just after Live Aid – at the Leeds Warehouse. I had borrowed and digitised a copy of this some years ago, and you can listen to the results of that here, but very nice indeed to have my own now.
Better still, this one seems to be a low generation copy. Listen to it here (and the gigography copy has also been updated now).
The 1985 summer tour was a curious enterprise, not many concerts in usually fairly small venues, with an extraordinarily loud PA – many people I’ve talked to who were at the gigs have said that Prefab Sprout were about the loudest band they’d ever seen. Kevin Armstrong joined on lead guitar, and this added an exciting and vibrant rock edge to the sound. It’s less slick and relaxed than the Autumn tour, but that’s no bad thing. The John Peel and other BBC sessions from the week or so after the tour give a well recorded sense of what it sounded like.
Neil and Kevin had just returned from backing Bowie at Live Aid, and amongst discussion of Wendy’s mum and Phil Collins covers, Paddy proudly pays tribute to them in the recording.
From a practical point of view, recording a loud band in a packed club isn’t easy, and the bootleg is about as good as it can be bearing that in mind. A bit of chatter and some distortion, but overall it’s OK. Now I did speak to someone whose dad had soundboard copies of all the Leeds Warehouse concerts, but as that lead went cold a long time ago, this tape is best we’ll get I suspect.
Of course, finding another of these sharpens my hunger for more. Do get in touch if you have one in a bag in the loft that you can’t play. Cash waiting…!