Bootlegging -- the art of recording a band live and then disseminating said clip for cash, ass, or grass -- is as much a part of rock 'n' roll as Elvis' hips, Sid Vicious' sneer, and the thickest loogie Kurt Cobain ever hocked at a television camera.
Some artists -- especially '60s jammers, like the Grateful Dead or Neil Young -- have a whole secret second discography of endless live takes ranging from "excellent" to "doo-doo brown" in fidelity.
In a somewhat complicated display of "official bootlegging," Sony has slapped together a collection of outtakes from early in Bob Dylan's career as to maintain control over the music's copyright.
And the collection is driving aficionados and completists up the goddamn wall.
Unfortunately, the compilation does not feature any new Christmas music covers.
However, Dylan fans are salivating like frothing pigs at a trough over the four CD set's extensive cataloguing of ultra-rare B-Sides and never-before-heard outtakes from the early 60s, around the time the legendary songwriter was working on his highly-acclaimed album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.
Yesterday, The New York Times explained the label's motivation for this seemingly out-of-nowhere compendium.
Two spokesmen for Sony confirmed that the set was legitimate, its bootleglike appearance notwithstanding. They explained that the point of the release was to keep the recordings under copyright protection in Europe, where the laws are in flux. Currently, recordings can be copyrighted in Europe for 50 years, a much shorter term than in the United States, where recordings made since 1978 will remain copyrighted until 70 years after the death of the last surviving author.
Much to the chagrin of the aforementioned frothing piggie, Sony has pressed a true bootleg's worth of the material: the box set is limited to 100 copies.
The suite was compiled based on soon-to-expire European copyright ownership that required the record label release the material lest they lose control of the content. Subsequently, one can only purchase the four CD Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. 1 (seriously) box set in Europe. And you can only download the record from bobdylan.com if you live in France or Germany.
Of course, America is littered with millionaire-horder Dylan obsessives willing to fork over 1,500 clams for the real deal. Word on the street is that the Freewheelin' outtakes sound better than the stuff that ended up on the actual album!
To them, as well as Sony and, really, Mr. Robert Allen Zimmerman himself: WTF?!
American collectors are locked out, although for those desperate to have an original CD set, several have made their way to eBay, where bids have gone as high as about $1,450. (For collectors who want the recordings, but who don't care about having one of the 100 original CDs, the set has been turning up on file-sharing sites.)
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!