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Today we read about on-line piracy and internet "bootleggers". But before the internet bootlegging was already commonplace, albeit that it existed in the somewhat outdated formats of LP's, tapes and videos.
One of the most pirated bands in the world was Queen. Prior to the death of Freddie Mercury in November 1991 there was a steady flow of pirate recordings – numbering perhaps a few dozen. In the decade that followed that number increased at least tenfold. And it is estimated that over the years there might have been as many as six or seven hundred in different forms.
Even today, in the modern age of the internet, there is still a huge mass of illegal Queen material to choose from. Only a tiny fraction of these are worth being sought out by fans and collectors, as most are poor-quality, shoddily packaged, and designed only to part the ardent Queen fan from some hard earned cash.
Like the record giants now battling the internet song-swappers, Queen have decided to take a stand - and take on the bootleggers at their own game.
From this week, Queen's official website (www.queenonline.com) is offering fans the chance to legally download as many as 100 bootlegs currently in circulation, those recordings which the band themselves consider to be the best of the bunch.
With expert advice from three acknowledged experts on Queen bootlegs; Frank Hazenberg, Andreas Voigts, Frank Palstra, Queen have singled out what they consider the most interesting and significant material, judged on quality of sound and variation of material. The downloads will be available at the rate of 3 each month, at a fixed cost of £5 per recording, regardless of running time or number of tracks contained. Queen Productions will be donating all earnings it receives to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, fighting AIDS worldwide.
Queen’s Top 100 Bootlegs collection kicks off this week offering:
Queen - Jazz Final
Recorded: May 6th, 1979 - Makomani Ice Arena, Sapporo, Japan
Queen - Last Stand
Recorded: May 15th, 1985 - Jo Hall, Osaka, Japan
Queen - Life Is Real
Recorded: August 9th, 1982 - Brendan Byrne Arena, Meadowlands, USA
Available from www.queenonline.com
The site in addition also provides a series artwork as download.
"Playing the bootleggers at their own game seems an appealing prospect for most of us," says Brian May. "Here we hope to do just that, hoping in the end it will lead to a sense of satisfaction all round."
Now Queen fans can download the very best of QUEEN IN CONCERT at leisure, and know that each recording is the best around. Each month the site will offer further concerts, so keep www.queenonline.com bookmarked and keep coming back to check out which new bootlegs have been posted.
Says EMI Music CEO Tony Wadsworth, “This is a great deal for Queen fans. Queen are and always have been innovative, and this latest idea harnesses the power of digital delivery to enable Queen fans to get the best of the many unofficial live recordings of the band - inexpensively and legally”.
Queen are one of the most widely pirated bands in the world. A large number of their live performances (over 700 in all) exist in unauthorised recordings - from the earliest college gigs in 1971, to the final open air spectacular at Knebworth Park in 1986. It is difficult to put an exact figure on the amount of concerts represented in full or part by bootleg releases, but it is probably about 25-30 per cent. The Queen audio archive contains many complete official concert recordings which all may one day see the light of day, and the presently available range of videos, CDs and DVDs remains of course the best place to experience QUEEN LIVE. Nevertheless, even though the quality may be inferior, many bootlegs remain interesting in their own right.
While there might have been six or seven hundred Queen bootlegs over the years in various forms, it does not follow that they represent several hundred different concerts – that is certainly not the case. Some performances are represented by many different offerings. The Hammersmith Odeon show, Christmas Eve 1975, for example, has spawned in excess of 20 bootleg CDs to our knowledge, yet all offer more or less the same material – just in different sequences and in vastly contrasting sound quality. Sometimes we are just looking at an identical CD, but in different packaging. Bootlegs in fact rarely offer the full show, and quite often have songs in the wrong running order. Specification of the location and date of bootleg recordings may also be incorrect, and some offer a mixture of material from various shows, ‘pretending’ it is one performance. This is the nature of the bootleg world. Information offered on the usually flimsy packaging is also of highly variable quality, and interesting spelling errors abound, such as Seven Seas Of Rhyde, In The Lad Of The Gods, Orge Battle, Boman Rapsodie and Keep Yorself Alive - to name only a few!
Perhaps 1 in 25 bootlegs is truly worth having. So unless you know precisely where to go and whom to ask, venturing into the murky and spurious world of illegal recordings is not recommended.
Luckily, and this is a world-wide first, Queen have decided to save you the trouble and the risk, by Bootlegging the Bootleggers!
Greg Brooks. Queen Archivist. October 2004
For further information:
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0845 408 2031
07810 308 426
The PR Contact
Tel: 020 7323 1200
Published on: 12:00AM on 11th November 2004