In 1983 Lee Cotten and Howard De Witt produced the release, Jailhouse Rock (The Bootleg Records of Elvis Presley). That groundbreaking release has stood the test of time and is still sought after today by collectors. However, in 2012 its status as "the" book about Elvis vinyl bootlegs has come to an end.
Bootleg Elvis from a group of long time Elvis collectors in Europe (with assistance from a number of their US based counterparts) sets a formidable new standard in Elvis publishing detailing aspects of his musical canon. The book was obviously a mammoth undertaking over many years and the final product is a well polished diamond which will sparkle brightly for decades to come.
Bootleg Elvis brings to life the romanticism that has long been attached to these "underground" vinyl releases which in their day offered part of a broad musical Elvis Holy Grail
and teased fans by offering musical riches and tantalising audio grabs of the rarest Elvis material. Of course not all bootlegs were quality products. Inevitably, it didn't matter that in many cases the audio quality was very poor, for the allure of these illicit records gave many of them a remarkable mystique which still exists in 2012.
Let's delve inside Bootleg Elvis to see what riches are on offer....
Book Design and Structure:
Before you even open Bootleg Elvis, the first thing that strikes you is that it is a large, securely bound, heavy hardback book which resonates quality.
The page design is sublime, as good as any other Elvis book in recent years. A three column page format has been used to great effect for the vinyl listings and just as effective is the two column page format used in the (more narratively focused) History and Stories sections.
The use of ‘white space’ and space size between each listing is excellent, giving each page a clean, fresh look.
The core of Bootleg Elvis, namely the central section on its titular subject, is presented on high quality semi-gloss paper stock with around 1,200 visuals in glorious technicolor!
Several sections, including the History and Stories sections are printed on quality uncoated stock (I assume to reduce costs) and the visuals are a mix of color, sepia tone and b&w.
EIN Update: Many thanks to Felix Gubeli for clarifying the paper stock issue:
"The Story and History were printed on semi-gloss stock, to divide the 3 parts of the book (History/Records/Stories). The scans of the flyers and catalogues etc. looked more authentic on uncoated paper."
The major sections in Bootleg Elvis are:
- Editor’s note
- Definition of a bootleg
- Record Index
- Records - sub-sections on 7 inch singles and EPs; 10 inch albums and 78 rpm singles; and 12 inch long play albums and maxi single; Interviews and session talks; Novelty and bootlegged tribute records; Far Eastern bootlegged records
- Stories - 21 stories by noted Elvis world identities including Ger Rijff, Paul Dowling, Sam Theaker (aka Vic Colonna), Oskar Hentschel and Jean-Marc Gargiulo
- The bootlegged career of Elvis Presley
- Behind This Book
- Publishing Information
The Text Element:
The stories are as captivating as the vinyl listings. They take us behind the scenes of what it was like to be involved in the making and marketing of Elvis bootlegs and bring to life the vibrancy of that time.
Some of the story titles are:
The vinyl listings total a massive 919! They include all Elvis vinyl boots and counterfeit releases.
- The story behind the first Elvis bootleg record (by Cees Klop)
- The ’68 Comeback (by Paul Dowling)
- The Superstar Outakes Saga (by Claude La Liberte)
- The Rockin’ Rebel (by Sam Theaker aka Vic Colonna)
- Sergeant Bilko’s First Two (by Ger Rijff)
- It all started with a photo (by Marco van der Meij)
The listing for each release is well structured to effectively communicate with the reader through both its visual and narrative components. The text component comprises:
The listings in each section are numbered (in chronological sequence from 1 to 919) and in each section the releases are presented in alphabetical order.
The narrative is excellent and engages the reader with a blend of cogent assessment and intriguing detail:
- Label and other release details
- Artwork description
- Content details (which varies from minimalist to detailed – depending on the information available for individual releases)
- Sound quality assessment (from 1.0 to 6.0)
- Source details (if available)
- Summary (release overview/synopsis).
- Other information such as Matrix and Label details is also presented if available.
From The Waist Up (#563)
Summary: This album is the perfect companion to the Dorsey Shows, released by the same bootlegger. It contains all three of Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town shows with Elvis’ fast growing popularity causing the show’s host to bring out the singer several times to perform in order to create the biggest hype possible………A close to identical album was released in Canada, entitled The King Goes Wild. Even if this one offers marginally better sound, From the Waist up is the somewhat more desirable product.
The '68 Comeback Special Pressing (#814)
Summary: If I Can Dream…Yeah, but could you ever have dreamed about a pressing of this legendary bootleg album on colored vinyl? Certainly not! As we were informed by the original manufacturer, only five copies of each color, beautifully red and slimy green, were ever manufactured. Not wanting to exaggerate too much, we still think that this is the ultimate collector’s item. Unfortunately, all but five people in the world must live without this ultrasharp vinyl release.
And the authors don’t hold back:
A Dog’s Life (#269)
Artwork: The original album cover art is so sloppily reproduced, not only do the photographs appear yellowish and less sharp but parts of them, both on the front and back, as well as parts of the song title listing, were cut off in the process. To hide his unbelievable botch, the bootlegger decided to jam it into a yellow outer sleeve to display only the better part of the actual cover through a cut-out hole. All copies of this pathetic product come with an insert sheet which lists all songs and provides minor additional information.
The History section includes a great account of how record bootlegging began, where it flourished, and provides a detailed chronological history of the Elvis boot industry from 1970 to today.
The infamous 1982 raids and subsequent Grand Jury appearances by Paul Dowling, Richard Minor, Ace Anderson and Sam Theaker, are detailed, as are subsequent actions by the authorities (bootleg police) to at least quieten, if not eradicate, what they regarded as being a nefarious underground industry.
In the Stories section we come to know several of the people who were behind a number of important Elvis bootleg releases.
Shame on you guys for providing fans with what RCA didn't!
We also learn that in 1979 you could post an LP inside the USA for 10 cents and to Australia (by Air) for $2.25! My how times have changed or should I say how times have gotten expensive.
At times, the narrative exposition resembles a fast paced and exciting thriller:
Unlike their American friends, the Dutch – even if assaulted by their record industry once in a while – could not be stopped. Detecting loopholes in present copyright laws, a handful of collectors and dealers from the land of windmills conquered the fan world by manufacturing and distributing some of the most incredible pirated Elvis records to ever surface, leave the ones from Theaker and Dowling aside.
Bootleg Elvis does not include a price guide, presumably as most releases are no longer available, the market is now comparatively small and determining an average value is highly problematic for many of the releases.
The Visual Element:
A book about Elvis records is not a real release unless it is crammed full of evocative pictures of record covers, record labels and unusually colored vinyl. As noted above, Bootleg Elvis has full color visuals in tantalising abundance! All releases that had a picture cover are represented and an often very impressive array of eye catching cover designs jump out on virtually every page.
Some of the stand-out visuals include:
- Play It Hotter (#330)
- Back In Vegas (#379)
- Elvis’ Christmas Album (#485) – counterfeit release of the legendary New Zealand RCA release featuring a stunning yuletide painting with Elvis’ “God like” image floating in the sky
- Memphis, Tennessee (#698) - superb two-part cover design including Elvis with cigarette in mouth
- the two volume My Way albums (#710 and #711) – featuring a very cool and novel cover design
- The One Million Dollar Quartet – Special Pressing (#719) – simply stunning disc artwork
- Welcome in Germany (#910) - another two-part cover with attractive 'retouched' photo of Elvis in uniform
- You Are There (#919) – a magnificent multicoloured disc
- Ger Rijff Elvis cartoon (page 72)
- Two Sun singles boots with striking, tie-dye like, yellow, orange and green colored vinyl (page 73)
- Full page image of the first Elvis bootleg record – Please Release Me (page 556) – it may be simple in design and black & white, but it was impressive in 1970 and still retains its aura in 2012
- Double page spread (pages 588-589) of The ’68 Comeback (#814) – rich, ultra rare green and red pressings
One visual in Bootleg Elvis has caused controversy due to its pornographic nature and it was a brave decision by the editors to include it in the book. While some fans will debate the necessity of featuring the image, at the end of the day Bootleg Elvis is an archival photo-journal record of Elvis bootlegs on vinyl, and the inclusion of this cover ensures that archival record is complete.
A number of full double page visuals are breathtaking.
Several fantastic Ger Rijff cartoons are presented throughout the book (long-time fans will fondly recall his many cartoon (or sketch) covers for the British fan club magazine in the 1970s and 1980s).
Other non-record visuals include bootleg promotional material and studio logs.
And if images of colored vinyl excite you (and I'm reliably informed they do excite a lot of people), there are copious brightly colored and multi-colored discs for you to salivate over as you savour Bootleg Elvis.
Verdict: It is an understatement to say that Bootleg Elvis is a magnificent release. An obvious 'labor of love' by its contributors; what they have produced is a high quality product which faithfully records a fascinating and important part of the Elvis recording story. Crammed full of intriguing information and 1,200 equally impressive visuals, Bootleg Elvis is a sensational photo-journal which will appeal beyond the world of the serious collector. Now all that is missing is a "CD Bootleg Elvis" edition!
Bootleg Elvis can be ordered from all good Elvis "import" dealers
(Note: EPE and Sony do not stock this item)
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