By Will Romano
Selling and collecting bootlegged recordings was always a double-edged sword.
Out-of-control taping forced some bands, who would rather not be involved in such business, to prosecute dealers for profiting from unsanctioned live recordings. Meanwhile fans, hungry for any new material from their favorite bands, would pay exorbitant amounts of money for music they were dying to hear.
Genesis, long known for injecting an uncommon energy into their stage performances (which often rivaled or surpassed their studio records), has become one of the most heavily bootlegged prog-rock bands of all time, despite poor sound quality and little variation in the band’s set lists.
Thanks to a Web site, www.Genesis-movement.org, run by Simon Funnell, unofficial Genesis live recordings are more readily available than ever before and offer better sound quality with virtually no risk of incarceration.
With so many horror stories being told about illegal downloading these days, sites like www.Genesis-movement.org, Funnell asserts, actually help diminish trading on the black market.
“From conversations I’ve had with management, the band is aware of the site and seems to be fine with its existence as long as nobody is making a profit, and we’re not involved in trading official releases,” says Funnell, who established his site in 1997 as a way of trading with other Genesis live recording collectors. “This was the main incentive behind the BitTorrent part of my site [torrent .genesis-movement.org]. It enables fans to share music by modern methods for free. As I’ve explained to [band management] some time ago, if fans trade recordings for free through my Web site or other Web sites, this stops bootleg sellers making money …”
Not only does Funnell not make a profit, he takes a substantial financial hit just to keep the site going. “Don’t tell my wife,” Funnell says with a chuckle. “People do donate contributions, but, sadly, these don’t cover the cost of running the site every month. Due to the number of audio files featured on the site, I can’t get away with running it on a cheap hosting solution.”
Funnell isn’t alone in the Genesis collectible universe. He offers the means, yes, but a sound engineer working for a broadcast company in Germany, who only wished to be identified as Tom M., provides the muscle.
Like Funnell, TM dedicates a portion of his life to the band’s music without being compensated. He even uses his own recording equipment to tinker with and perfect the tapes he comes across using such tools as a Studer A 721 tape deck for transferring recordings from analog tape to digital, a Prism Sound 24-bit A/D converter, a Cedar Cambridge unit for sound restoration, and Adobe Audition audio software for “optical detection of clicks and tape drop outs,” T.M. says.
In an effort to release the highest quality unofficial Genesis live documents possible, Mr. M. and like-minded friends formed Genesis Authentic Soundboard Project, or GASP, which works from soundboard recordings done by front-of-house engineers on location.
The releases issued by Tom M.’s company, TM Productions, could pass for official Genesis releases. (TM’s releases can be downloaded, including artwork, from the Genesis-Movement site.) Two of TM’s recent achievements (coups?) are “Live At Groningen,” recorded in the Netherlands in April 1975 (which was passed along to this writer by a prominent prog-rock singer who’ll remain nameless), and “Live In Wembley,” (also from April ’75) taken (nearly entirely) from BBC master reels of the concert. (The Wembley release is “a completely different remaster,” enthuses Funnell, “in that it’s a DVD Audio disc in quadraphonic sound. It was initially recorded that way in 1975 and sounds amazing through a home-cinema system.”)
“Groningen, 1975, was a special job,” T.M. says, “because it was one of those rare occasions when we got the actual master cassette tape, a quite good 120-minute BASF chrome tape that was recorded from the soundboard by the Genesis engineers. However, it was most likely not a pure soundboard recording as some open-air microphone signals obviously got mixed to the soundboard signal, a set-up which was often used for [Genesis] tours between 1973 and 1976. So you’ll get a lot of audience noises there. Pure soundboards often lack audience noises, so we call this type of recording ‘OAM’, Open-Air Microphone, which is somewhere between simple audience recordings, the most common [recording] but the worst of all, and pure soundboards.”
Perhaps in the end it’s not just about quality but access and availability. Obscure shows that fans once had to pay through the nose for are now just a click away. Fans of all generations can now appreciate prog rock in ever-increasing numbers.
“I went to a fan group meeting back in 1999, and they were showing footage from the band’s Shepperton Studios film from 1973,” Funnell says. “When it came to the song ‘I Know What I Like,’ there was a little girl there, who couldn’t have been more than 8 or 10 years old, and she was singing along, just loving it. I said to myself, ‘Now, that is a well-brought up child.’”
Genesis turns the tables on bootlegger
Turnabout is fair play: Genesis pulled the ol’ switcheroo on Simon Funnell, host of www.Genesis-movement.org, regarding the imagery for the band’s 2007 “Turn It On Again” tour logo.
“I was able to get to the rehearsals in Belgium for the band’s reunion tour,” says Funnell, “and was chatting with a member of the management team, who’d said, ‘Thanks.’ I said, ‘For what?’ ‘Mike Rutherford [guitarist /bassist] was looking at your Web site, saw the logo, liked it, and passed it on …’ So a version of that logo, my logo, ended up being used for the whole tour and subsequent boxed set. It’s pretty nice to think that something I knocked out in an evening, after work, on Photoshop, inspired the band.”
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