Genesis, Gabacabriel (Bootleg 1983)

The bootleg album is one of the many musical casualties of the internet era, alongside Tower Records and CD sales generally.  These days, there are numerous places on the web where one can stream or download unofficial concert recordings; and many bands (including most jam bands as well as everyone from Bruce Springsteen to the Who) offer live downloads for sale, often within minutes of a concert's final notes.

But back in the 70s and 80s, if you wanted an illicit live recording (or a collection of unreleased demos and outtakes back before these were being appended as bonus tracks on CD reissues and box sets), you had to hunt down bootleg albums, taking a gamble on what would almost certainly be disappointing sound quality and paying a premium to the independent record store which risked police raids by stocking boots.

I bought my first bootleg back in 1983, when I was a high school kid regularly haunting all the used record stores in Evanston, Illinois, not far from the Northwestern campus.  At the time I was in the midst of my prog period, a huge fan of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, majestic, epic albums like Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound.  Of course, by this point Gabriel was well into his solo career, and Genesis was a Phil Collins-helmed trio churning out pop radio fare, so the available recordings offered by this incarnation of the band were limited to the handful of albums they'd released years earlier.

So it was pretty exciting to spot this tucked away in the record stacks, a bright, cherry-red package with 3 LPs documenting a 1982 one-off reunion concert with Gabriel held to raise money for one of Gabriel's charitable causes.  The reunited band, which hasn't played together since, stuck almost entirely to songs from Gabriel's early 70s tenure with the band, with the exception of one Gabriel solo track ("Solsbury Hill") and one post-Gabriel Genesis tune ("Turn It On Again," for which Collins took the mic and Gabriel played drums).  It looked amazing.

Unfortunately, they were selling it for about $30, which was a small fortune for a 17-year-old kid in 1983; it would mean foregoing 6 or 7 used albums at a time when I was quickly amassing a decent vinyl collection.  And as with any bootleg, there was no way of knowing whether I'd be getting something which sounded like it could pass for an official recording, or something which sounded like it was recorded by some kid with a tape recorder standing a block away from the stadium.

But I swallowed hard and took a chance.

And yeah, it sounded like shit.  (I've since traded up for a CD version which is a little better, but alas, the band didn't record the show and the only known recordings are from bootleggers out in the audience.)  Still, it was pretty cool.  There was that feeling of naughtiness, possessing an illegal and incredibly hard-to-find record which I could display with pride on my shelves, even if I rarely played it and nobody ever actually saw it there.  (Look, when you're a teenage music geek, you count on these small thrills.)

I later went on to acquire a good number of boots, which were a safer bet in the CD era, as both the quality of recording and reproduction technology improved and the prices came down.  And while I'm grateful that these days it's much easier to hear and collect live music online, I do miss the excitement of finding an occasional bootleg in some small independent record store, the illicit thrill of taking home some rare contraband.

FYI, I haven't seen any actual video footage from the performance, but here's an audio rip of the entire show: