cover image Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry

Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry

Clinton Heylin. St. Martin's Press, $29.95 (441pp) ISBN 978-0-312-13031-2

In this exhaustively researched and absorbing volume, Heylin (From the Velvets to the Voidoids) traces the byzantine history of the bootleg record industry--and copyright law's attempts to keep up with it--from its origins in Southern California in 1969 to the CD era. There is an astonishing wealth of information, as well as a generous sampling of classic bootleg covers, on display here, even if Heylin's repetitive prose may at times make readers feel as if they are trapped in a listening booth. And while Heylin is as critical of shoddy bootleg operations as he is of official record companies, he has surprisingly little to say about the music that bootleggers have helped rescue from oblivion, beyond a generally persuasive defense of the fan's right to hear material that corporations and perfectionist artists would rather suppress. An exception is his enlightening if brief chapter on British punk, whose anarchic message found its perfect medium in illegal cassettes and vinyl. This history should be of great interest to industry lawyers and aging hippie collectors--even today, acts from the 1960s and '70s remain the most heavily bootlegged. Illustrations. (June)