Bootleg LPs are a relic of the past. They are a snapshot of a time long before box sets, and even longer before digital camera and smartphone footage could be available on YouTube before the show was over. One's favourite bands had released very few official live albums (if any at all), and fans had an insatiable urge to hear more.
Rock music bootlegging officially began with Bob Dylan's Great White Wonder in 1969. An underground music culture soon began to form, and by the early 70s the production of bootlegs skyrocketed with interest in artists like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin. By 1972, hundreds of thousands of bootleg albums had made the rounds. A Pink Floyd LP of an early live performance of The Dark Side Of The Moon (released almost a year before the album itself was) apparently sold over 100,000 copies alone.
Some of the bootlegs were sourced from soundboard recordings (usually studio outtakes or FM radio broadcasts), but usually they were sourced from concert tapes recorded from the audience. It took quite a lot of effort to tape shows in the 1970s, as the gear was bulkier than today's comparatively more compact options.
The first Queen bootleg came out in 1975, an American title called Sheetkeeckers. Other US-pressed titles to follow in the next couple years would include The Royal American Tour 1975, Command Performance, Rogues And Scandals, and P.N.W. Japanese bootlegs also began emerging in the mid-70s, with the earliest titles being Kimono My Place Live, Invite You To A Night At The Budokan, Lazing On A Sunday Evening, and Free In The Park. All of these remain collectible to this day.
By the 1980s one could connect with other fans through record collecting magazines to trade cassette tapes via snail mail, and dozens of Queen shows were soon making the rounds. But it was still the bootleg LPs that often provided the best sound quality of shows - as long as you managed to find the earlier pressings! Some of the LPs released decades ago remain definitive versions of Queen shows, like Copenhagen 1977, and many of the early Japanese dates.
There was a second wave of Queen bootleg LPs in the early 1990s after Freddie Mercury's death, yielding umpteen re-releases of existing material as well as newer material like Leiden 1980 and Frankfurt 1982. The Berlin 1978 tracks found on compilation bootlegs are still better than any cassette or CD copy that has emerged since.
Vinyl bootlegs continue to emerge in the digital age, but overall they're not nearly as collectible since they tend to use source material that was already available for free download, often directly from the people who taped the shows.
This page is an attractive-looking collage of virtually every Queen bootleg LP ever produced, like a candy store for collectors, showing what kept them so enthralled for so many years.
Click here for an alphabetical listing leading to more specific information about each title.
A fair portion of the scans and accompanying expertise was provided by Andreas Voigts.
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