Sound Advice: Of bootlegs and Beatles

By  Peter Lindblad

An apparent bootleg makes an appearance in this issue’s Sound Advice column.

According to Robert Smith, who runs the mail-order record dealership Recordsmith, people should be cautious about bootleg records.

“[They’re] worth what one is willing to pay for them, but you always go back to square one: It’s legal to own it, but it’s not legal to manufacture it and it’s not legal to sell it,” says Smith. “You can own it because it’s there, but the FBI still shows up at record shows occasionally and confiscates bootleg material, and sends people to prison.”

Smith, who recently purchased a store’s inventory with more than 150,000 45s, including at least 50,000 new records, provided answers for this column’s questions.

Question: Some time ago I purchased a 45 of “Heroes” by Mark Bolan and David Bowie. The record is on the Bo-Bo Recordings label. The label says “Heroes” by Davy & The Dinosaur. The record groove says B-1977A. Side 2 says “Do not play this side.” The sleeve picture says that this was the last song recorded by Bolan before his death. The picture sleeve has no info regarding label, date, etc. Any thoughts?

— Martin James

Answer: Smith says, “This is a bootleg. Bolan and Bowie never released any stuff together; at least legitimately, there wasn’t any released together.”

Could it be Bolan’s last recording? Smith cautions, “Possibly. I mean, the bootleggers … typically have stuff that they may know is something like that.”

There’s an easy way to find out if a record is a bootleg. Smith says, “On the Internet are all kinds of discographies listed for artists that would not have been commonly available years ago.” These list the standard releases in an artist’s catalog. Additionally, price guides will include the labels artists released legitimate records through.

Question: I just bought The Beatles’ single “Twist and Shout” backed with “There’s A Place.” It’s on Tollie records. Judging by the poor-quality vinyl I’d guess it was pressed around ’78 or so. What is the story on this?

— William Werch

Answer: “Those were only released in 1964, but there were tons of them, so it’s not rare,” says Smith. Tollie was one of Vee-Jay Records’ subsidiary label.

At the time, a court battle was going on between Vee-Jay and Capitol. Smith says, “Vee-Jay released everything they could possibly release … because they were under the hammer, and they were not going to be able to put out any more Beatles stuff at the end of the year.” As for the poor-quality vinyl? “Most stuff that was issued at that time, manufacturers weren’t using particularly good stuff because they were selling records to teenagers,” says Smith.

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