New Boots in the Hammersmith Palais

I’ve made it no secret that I love Camden Market bootleg cassettes, and I was recently very kindly given a beauty by Simon H (who, much to my surprise when I saw his address, comes from just down the road from the village I grew up). These bootlegs were ubiquitous back in the 1980s, and just about every gig seemed to be on sale the day afterwards. But because they tended to be dodgy stereo Walkman tapes, they tended not to be kept by purchasers, which means they’re quite tricky to find these days. Anyone who happens to have one, please get in touch.

“Big Al” was one of the lynchpins of the London trade and put more than usual effort into the tapes, with dayglo covers and some attempt at reasonable sound. Any tape that doesn’t sound like a muffled party of ball gag enthusiasts dancing in a frying pan was given the “A+” designation (the much sought after MX tapes were “mixing desk” quality). And this is one of the “A+” ones, and in fact not at all bad. There is another copy of the gig circulating, but this was from a later generation: dealers tended to keep gigs exclusive for a few weeks then copy them for other dealers. So this upgrades the previous copy. It’s of the gig on the 18th November, 1985 at the Hammersmith Palais, the last night of the UK tour promoting Steve McQueen.

I often fantasise that Big Al’s lockup will be discovered one day, stuffed with master tapes of thousands of concerts. I believe he was last seen on the continent after the BPI got a bit heavy handed. Good luck to him, he did more for fans than the BPI ever did.

3 thoughts

  1. Back in the day I used a Sony Walkman Pro to tape gigs – which cost £349 back in 1982! It had Dolby C and a unique feature that cut out crowd noise in favour of the main sound source. I’d always stand between where the stacks met. When coupled with an Aiwa directional high quality stereo microphone and TDK metal tape + a small intimate venue (like the Hootchie Coochie in Edinburgh) the results were brilliant.

  2. I was at that gig. The whole band had heavy colds I think and were obviously struggling a bit. The audience kept asking for more and Paddy said they’d run out of songs so played Faron Young again.
    I bought the bootleg cassette a couple of weeks later at Portobello market and lent it to the girl I’d taken to the Palais. I never saw her or the tape again!
    I can’t believe 34 years have gone by.

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