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Sound Advice: Is a Beatles bootleg a find, or should its owner let it be?

In 1969 or 1970 I purchased a “bootleg” album with an all-white cover with “Get Back To Toronto” and “High-Quality Stereo” rubber-stamped on it. No record label or artist is noted on the cover.

By Tim Neely

Question: In 1969 or 1970 I purchased a “bootleg” album with an all-white cover with “Get Back To Toronto” and “High-Quality Stereo” rubber-stamped on it. No record label or artist is noted on the cover.

Over the years I played the record 10 to 15 times maximum, because I never saw it available, and I kind of thought there probably weren’t many made. At any rate, the labels show “I.P.F. Records Presents” and there is no specific address in small print, etc., or artist noted.

It is definitely The Beatles, and over the years of listening to The Beatles shows on Sunday mornings, I’ve heard a couple of the tracks played. The tracks are a combination of demos and final takes.

The contents are: Get Back To Toronto I.P.F. 1A: 1. “Peace Message” / “Get Back”; 2. “Teddy Boy”; 3. “On Our Way Back Home” (aka “Two of Us”); 4. “All I Want Is You” (aka “I Dig A Pony”); Get Back To Toronto I.P.F 1B: 1. “I Got a Feeling”; 2. “Let It Be”; 3. “Don’t Let Me Down”; 4. “Sweet And Lovely Girl” (aka “For You Blue”); 5. “Get Back”; 6. “When You Walk” / “Christmas Message.”
Hope this helps.

 – R. Balik, via e-mail

Answer: You know the basics of the album you have.
Get Back To Toronto was one of the earliest Beatles bootlegs, hitting the “underground” market around 1970, probably before the legitimate Let It Be album was issued — thus the guesswork on the titles of the then-unreleased songs. (“When You Walk” is a cover of “The Walk,” a Jimmy McCracken hit from 1958.)

Technically, the first American Beatles bootleg was a 1964 album called The Original Greatest Hits, which was issued by “Greatest Records” in New York. The cover, gold with four faceless mop-top hairdos on the front, a list of songs on the back, and no mention of an artist anywhere, looks like one of the early Beatlemania knock-off albums by such groups as “The Liverpools” and “The Manchesters,” but it consists of actual Beatles recordings.

It was sold at legitimate retailers (I have a copy of the LP with a price tag from Sears & Roebuck still on it), but once it was discovered to be illegal, it quickly left the marketplace.

The most interesting part of the album was the inclusion of the original recording of “Love Me Do,” probably dubbed from a Canadian 45; that version of the song wasn’t legitimately issued in the U.S. until 1980.

In the “golden age” of vinyl bootlegs, which started in 1969 and lasted into the 1970s, the first such Beatles album was called Kum Back. Appearing in late 1969, it consisted of an early version of the album that was originally going to be called Get Back, but finally showed up, in greatly altered form, as Let It Be. As was true of most of the earliest bootlegs, the cover was white with a simple rubber stamp of the title on the cover, with no mention of the artist.

Get Back To Toronto, which appeared in early 1970, can be considered a “bootleg of a bootleg,” of which there were many. (Not many unique unreleased Beatles recordings were circulating at first.)

Except for the first and last tracks, it has the same contents as Kum Back. The two others were of a BBC broadcast during which John Lennon announced several “War Is Over” projects and the 1970 Toronto Peace Festival — thus part of the name of this bootleg — and a Beatles Christmas message from a fan-club disc.

In my research for this column, I came upon three different covers for Get Back To Toronto. The rubber-stamped white cover is probably the original.

The two other covers I encountered had a white background with red print and a light blue background with mostly black print. Both are identical, with the words “Get Back To Toronto” across the top, a peace sign under the title to the left, and what looks like a building to the right.

There are likely other variations, and there’s even a bootleg CD with “bonus tracks”!

So what are these early Beatles bootleg albums worth? Not as much as you might think, actually. I saw price ranges for Get Back To Toronto from $15 to $75, depending on condition. One person was trying to charge $1,000 for one, probably thinking incorrectly that it was a legitimate Capitol or Apple Records artifact. As the old saying goes, “caveat emptor.”

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