bootleg cover

by Art Chantry:

this is a cover of a bootleg rolling stones recording from back in 1973. they were just taking break on their legendary monster tour following the release of “Exile” and this is a tape of a concert held january 18th in the LA forum. only ten days after the show, this finished bootleg recording was delivered to the record stores – with this cover. it’s an homage to robert crumb’s infamous “cheap thrills” cover design executed by then-CalArts student william stout (now a celebrated illustrator/comic artist). if you look in the lower right-hand corner, the young stout even introduces himself – suitably as ‘the devil’.


starting in 1969 with the GWW (the great white wonder – the very first rock bootleg. dylan, of course), the hip-beyond-hip bootleg industry took off like a rocket. back when i was in high school during this period, we would buy the bootlegs rather than the actual legit releases – simply because they were so cool (and illegal). granted, they were often times dupes of dupes of dupes and bad pressings and all around lousy records, but it didn’t matter at all. they had so much CRED that they were like solid gold.

not all these records sucked, however. some of them were actually better recordings that the ‘legit’ live records released by the labels themselves. one fine example is the first rolling stones bootleg called “live’r than you’ll ever be”. it stomped the ‘get your ya-ya’s out” legit live album all to pieces – and it was largely from the same shows. and the coolest bootlegs of all were the demo tapes, practice tapes and studio out-takes and ‘lost’ recordings that were the staple of so many of the early bootlegs – the beatles, the stones, the who, led zeppelin, and (of course, the master) bob dylan. to almost this very day, those bootlegs were the only sources for the recordings of the original beatles’ “get back”, the beach boys “smile”, the who’s “lifehouse”, and so many more radically famous dylan songs and famous pivotal concerts (like the royal albert hall concert) than you can shake a stick at.

these things actually served a purpose and filled a small market niche of collectors. these disks were also terrific PR for these bands. to be bootlegged was to be cool. the stones never said anything bad about these records and tacitly approved of them. in return, the bootleggers gave them all the free samples they wanted (while the labels were pressing charges – even trying to change the weak laws to even be ABLE to press charges)

this william stout cover image isn’t the very first ‘cover design’ for a bootleg. that seems to be the the beatles “get back” the original ‘live in the studio’ recordings of what was eventually passed off to phil spector and released as “let it be.” the ‘get back’ bootleg had a printed insert slipped inside that could be glued to the blank white cardboard cover, thus creating an actual ‘printed cover’ of sorts. all the previous covers were simple blank white cardboard sleeves with a title rubber stamped by hand on the front.

there were a couple of other cut-n-paste type insert covers like led zeppelin’s ‘blueberry hill’ and “get back to toronto’ (the plastic ono band ‘live peace’ concert). the very first full bore printed bootleg cover was the bob dylan ‘live at the royal albert hall”. they actually printed up a folded unglued b&w cover with a great photo and liner notes. it was folded over the disk and shrink wrapped and looked JUST LIKE a legit major label release.

but, this william stout cover is the first truly self-contained illustrated bootleg cover, for all intents and purposes. i believe it was still an insert, but the record shops that sold this material would take the sleeve out and stick it to the cover and it acted as a cover that way (or so i remember up around the northwest.) this was the first of a whole series of covers that stout executed for bootlegs (primarily one manufacturer – who happened to be the guy who began the whole bootleg craze – “Dub.”)

so, just how does a young dumb art student get to do famous bootleg covers like this? well, the story is ridiculous. stout was simply standing in line to buy a bootleg record in the most prominent LA record store that sold bootlegs (record paradise). the record he was buying didn’t have any liner notes on it (and liner notes on rock records were EXTREMELY cool at that time) and he audibly complained while standing there in line, “gee, i wish someone would let ME do these covers…” or so he says. i’m sure that’s not the exact words he used. it was more likely somthing like, “this cover is bogus, maaan. these assholes should hire me instead. i’d do a

sand times better cover than this stupid piece of crap. it sux.” (that’s what i imagine the comment was really like).

now, here’s the interesting part – somebody behind him quietly asked in his ear, “you serious?” the guy then handed stout a piece of paper with a nearby crossroads intersection dotted with shuttered storefronts. the guy said, “be there.”

william stout hurried to the coordinates as fast as he could. after waiting a coupel minutes, a big old car pulled up in front of him and handed him another slip of paper through an open window. on it was the title “winter tour 1973″. and a list of song titles (the brand spanking new material from exile on main street along with some oldies but goodies the stones were performing – at their very peak). they made arrangements to meet there the next day. stout showed up with this drawing you see and handed it through the window and then a hand came out with $50. this process continued in this manner for a number of projects until trust was established and they began to work face to face. and THAT was how william stout met the infamous “Dub” and became the most famous bootleg record cover artist of all time.

one other interesting little story: in the lower right corner again, you’ll see an image of a pig smoking a dube with the words “Trademark of Quality”. this was the name of the newly re-named bootleg label (a competitor – ‘rubber dubber’ – had shown you could actually create a ‘brand’ for your illegal output). previoulsy ‘TMQ” used a old standard clip art cut of a pig as their ‘logo’ along with their name. but, after william stout gave them this artwork, Dub lifted his little cartoon and they used that image as their logo for the rest of their fabled existence. oh, and since it was bootleggers, they didn’t pay him anything for the logo. so it goes.

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