Brain Wilson doing a blog series about HIS story about the world of bootleg recordings and records. Part one is about the bootlegs of the 1960s. This blog futures bootlegs with Charles Manson, Beatles, Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen.


CHARLES MANSON – LIE! The Love and Terror Cult

Charles Manson is a person who should need little introduction, but at the same time a different introduction may be in order. There is something special about the connection I feel to not only this album, but also to the man himself.

People are quick to decipher his words as gibberish, the psychotic ramblings of a madman. To my ears he is often speaking with the most beautiful eloquence, deep and gentle philosophy clouded in interesting wordplay and imagery. I must have seen every documentary ever made on him, and I still don’t get why he is locked up. Unless of course I stumble down the rabbit-hole, something I try to avoid in a public place like the internet. Prying eyes and whatnot…

Back to the album. You should by now realize we are dealing with something not of the highest fidelity. It is mostly just Manson with his guitar, the Manson family making a couple of background appearances. Some songs seem to have been worked on a bit, others seem captured as they were being written back in 1968.

Sounding like the natural precursor to Sebadohs’ Weed Forrestin’ album from 20 years later, it is quite modern sounding hippy folk weirdness, unique in its’ disregard for the reigning form at the time, which probably explains how well it has aged. But at the same time it’s catchy enough that you can end up humming Manson tunes all the way to Laurel Canyon.

FUN FACT: The first pressing of 2000 copies on Awareness records was amusingly enough distributed by Trademark of Quality, the Bootleg outfit originally responsible for the first ever bootleg LP, Bob Dylans’ “Great White Wonder”. I guess it was hard to find legitimate routes for this, at the time, controversial release.


THE BEATLES – The Escher Demos (White Album demos)

Continuing on the Helter Skelter theme from earlier, the Beatles at least need no introductions, revised or otherwise.

The popular name for this bootleg is The Beatles Unplugged, an apt description as these are acoustic demos of songs later rerecorded for the White Album. To be honest, I have listened to this album a whole lot more than its’ official counterpart. As far as I know, the four Beatles collected at George Harrisons house in Surrey, UK for a weekend of 4-track demoing and happy times. At the end each member received a cassette dub of the session, the recordings on this bootleg stemming from Lennons’ surviving copy.

To me this could easily have been the follow up to Guided By Voices’ “Alien Lanes” album. Robert Pollard of GBV has himself expressed that he wanted his albums to sound like lost Beatles bootlegs, and in this case the description fits perfectly (only vice versa).

I purchased the recently released Acoustic Masterpieces version on beautiful double vinyl, but the remastering job unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. Some songs fare well with the added punch, other songs being difficult at times to enjoy, the digital remastering pushing distorted treble and other tape limitations or artefacts to the foreground.

That said, I can definitely recommend downloading the non-remastered version from somewhere on the net. It might become your favorite new Beatles album, as it has become mine.


NICK DRAKE – Family Tree (2007)

More music put to tape in 1968, this time Nick Drake and family. I’m a not a huge fan of Nick Drake, I find his albums sleep inducing on a good day. But there is something special about this collection of home demos, featuring cameos from his mom and sister, and also what I picture are friends or lovers in the background. And some awkward banter from the man himself.

All these songs were recorded to tape prior to the release of his official catalogue, this compilation surfaced in 2007 as a beautiful 2LP set on specialist label Sunbeam after having been partially available via bootlegs for many years.

The music itself is still somewhat unremarkable to me, but listening to this on a quiet Sunday is a nostalgic flyon-the-wall pleasure. I can almost smell the tea.



And then there is Leonard Cohen. Another man who speaks with the most beautiful eloquence, only slightly more universal than Manson perhaps.

Leonard Cohen recorded a total of three performances for the BBC in 1968, these have recently been collected in two single unofficial LP releases, “Don’t Touch That Dial” (pictured above) and “My Radio Sweetheart”. I love these recordings so much, and jumped at the chance to own them on vinyl. Something about the muffled tape perfectly captures the Cohen melancholy (I believe these shows were filmed for TV, but the master tapes have never surfaced). Cohen is talkative and laidback, his gang of misfit musicians breathing tiny bits of new life into his tales of existence.

Nothing can replace his first trio of albums of course, but these are a fantastic companion.

The above is by no means a complete list of all the worthwhile lofi recordings made in the 1960s, of course. I could and should mention the fantastic soundboard recording of british proto-psychedelia band Tomorrow live at “Christmas on Earth” in 1967 released by Italian label Get Back in 2000, or the private press 12” of 1968 BBC sessions from the Pretty Things. Both these releases seem to stem in some way from drummer Twink, I wonder what other goodies exist in his archives… The Pretty Things being a particularly unfortunate example of a criminally under-documented band through an amazing period, something the available Amsterdam soundboard from 1969 should easily prove.

I’ll continue the next part with some goodies from the 1970s. Please fill the comments section with your own recommendations, any favorites from the 50’s or early 60’s?

Keep updated on for part 2 and 3 of the bootleg blog.

Brain Wilson also have a record label; Fedi Forma, check it out.