Bootlegs

The Sisters Of Mercy – The Last Magician Of Rational Thought

In December 1984, Andrew Eldritch travelled to Germany to attempt to remix The Sisters Of Mercy’s forthcoming album, First And Last And Always, with seasoned producer Reinhold Mack at Giorgio Moroder’s Musicland Studios in Munich. Alas, Eldritch wasn’t pleased with the results so the job was called off but that didn’t stop a number of Mack’s mixes from circulating at WEA on in-house cassettes, one of Mack’s mixes even made it on to the album’s American LP promo. An unmarked copy of the 11 January 1985 in-house cassette  – containing a selection of Mack and Eldritch’s remixes – made its way to the Phantom Twins, who were engaged in releasing “interesting and quality recordings by The Sisters Of Mercy which are unavailable through Merciful Release” on their Palazzograssi label. Four of the tape’s tracks were chosen to comprise their fourth release, The Last Magician Of Rational Thought. It contains three Mack mixes (“No Time To Cry”, “First And Last And Always”, and “A Rock And A Hard Place”) and one Eldritch mix (“Walk Away”), none of which feature on the finished album. With the help of Sisters collector Bruno Bossier, I was able to reach one of the label’s founders who kindly answered some questions about the record:

Is the source for the vinyl the “WEA in-house” cassette dated 11/1/85?

Not sure. The tape came to us as TDK with handwritten red writing, it was a copy of something. The in-house tape pics appeared years later (i.e. the ones as shown in the wiki) so I have no idea if they are fake or real.

If so, what made you pick these four tracks in particular?

We liked them and they were the most interesting to us at least. I can’t be sure if this was pre or post the Japanese [album release] with different mixes, but they were interesting so we used them. This was around the time people were trying to create ‘demos’ or ‘alternate mixes’ by rehashing the released studio tracks.

Why did you include the Eldritch mix of “Walk Away”, instead of using all four Mack mixes?

Was nothing more complex than which tracks sounded the most interesting (i.e. different) to us at the time. Not compared the Mack mix to Eldritch mix for “Walk Away” for so many years, but one must have been more interesting than the other.

What form did the master take that was sent to the pressing facility, and where was the bootleg pressed?

TDK cassette transferred via a Sony cassette deck (a good one) to REVOX B77 MkII 2 track 15 ips. Pressed in Italy. Sleeve designed and printed in the UK. They learned how to make sleeves after the first wave of Victims Of Circumstance.

Did you have any other First And Last And Always related bootlegs in the pipeline that never saw release?

Only the 50 copies that would have been Reverberation.

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I tracked down a copy of this important Sisters artefact to needledrop as the other transfers I’ve heard have been fairly poor sounding. My copy is in VG+ condition, and the transfer is very listenable, providing a good insight into these alternate mixes. I cleaned the record on my Okki Nokki RCM, and the transfer signal path was: Technics SL-1210 Mk2 > AT440MLa micro-line cartridge > Rega Elex-R amplifier > Creative X-Fi HD > FLAC 24/96. I applied some light ClickRepair and pitch corrected the tracks against a digital reference. For the sake of completeness, I have included Mack’s mix of “Walk Away” (absent from the Palazzograssi record), which I transferred from the American LP promo (1985, ST-E-60405-1). Artwork scans @ 600 DPI.

THE SISTERS OF MERCY : The Last Magician Of Rational Thought

Label: Palazzograssi Records ‎– PG 04
Format: White vinyl, 7″, 33 ⅓ RPM
Country: UK
Released: 1988

  1. No Time To Cry [Mack Mix]
  2. First And Last And Always [Mack Mix]
  3. A Rock And A Hard Place [Mack Mix]
  4. Walk Away [Eldritch Mix]
  5. Walk Away [Mack Mix] [Bonus]

High-Resolution Download

Coming soon…
ALL I KNOW FOR SURE: A comprehensive overview of the First And Last And Always recording sessions, featuring: exclusive interviews, new information, and a look at the recording diaries and original master tapes.

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Bootlegs

$crew $hareholder ¥alue : “Go Figure”

The year is 1997. Andrew Eldritch has been on strike from his estranged record label, East West, for seven years. Elsewhere, Peter Bellendir (formally of X-Mal Deutschland), has produced “a very perverse techno record” that happens to feature sampled vocals from Eldritch. Due to these sampled vocals, “East West bought the record (without having heard it) and agreed to release Andrew from his recording contract”. The Sisters celebrated with a tour and promised “the release of a stonking new Sisters single on the day after Mr Eldritch’s contract officially expires”. That single never came, but the SSV album did…

Go Figure, SSV’s only album, has been described as: “not the Sisters”, “Not Very Good”, and “designed merely to bore and annoy”. With this in mind, it seems somewhat bizarre that, on 24 October 1997, East West Records GmbH released a sampler CD (Nr. 22) containing three tracks from the then forthcoming SSV album, Go Figure. The album was scheduled to be released on 14 November, according to an advert in a French magazine, and was assigned the catalogue number: CD 3984-21260-2 YS. East West even prepared a two-page press release (featuring a typically outdated photo), some rather terrible album artwork, and sent promotional tapes to the press.

Presumably the label must have listened to the record at some point and eventually decided to pull the plug as the official release never saw the light of day. However, one of the press tapes “landed on the internet” and appears to have resulted in this bootleg (audibly transferred from cassette). In addition, very poor quality 128 kbps MP3 files of the whole album were shared here. These files seem to be digital in origin and probably came directly from the band judging from the website’s content. Curiously, further down that archived page, it is stated: “If downloading and/or storing the MP3 files is a problem, ask around for a copy on CDR (it’s an audio CD), it’s available for about $5”. In my unending hunt for all things lossless (even “really bad trance music”) I kept my eyes peeled until an eBay auction recently popped up featuring a CD that “was sent after requesting a download from The Sisters Of Mercy website in 1997”. After confirming this was indeed the aforementioned CDR, I purchased the disc (along with the promotional tape) in the hope that it contained a true lossless version of the album. From a technical standpoint – and, as it turns out, an aesthetic one – I wasn’t disappointed.

Having procured a complete set of the original 128 kbps MP3 file shares, I was ready to compare them with the CD. There are a number of ways one can check if the files contained on an audio CD do indeed come from a lossless source (rather than a lossy, i.e. MP3, one). The easiest way is to rip the CD to .wav files and use Trader’s Little Helper or Audiochecker to scan the resulting files to check that they are truly lossless. A more precise way is to load the .wav files into a spectrum analyser and look for the tell-tale signs of lossy compression (MP3 128 kbps has a frequency cut-off at 16 kHz).

I ripped the twenty year old CDR using dBpoweramp’s Secure Rip utility and ended up with bit-perfect .wav files which I tested in both TLH and Audiochecker. I also ripped the disc as one .wav file and loaded it up in Spek to view the full spectrogram. Both TLH and Audiochecker reported that the files appear to be CDDA with probability 100% (true lossless) and the spectrogram revealed a frequency response extending up to 20 kHz.

Spectrogram

The volume of the tracks on the CD is very quiet, so I normalised the single .wav file to -0.1 dBFS, and re-exported the individual tracks using a cue sheet. Some of the tracks have silent portions at the beginning and end, and the overall sound is somewhat rough, indicating that these are probably finished mixes rather than final masters. Indeed, when one compares the songs from the CDR with the aforementioned East West sampler CD, it is clear that the same tracks on the sampler are audibly more polished.

Sisters Of Mercy aficionado, LG, kindly sent me a rip of the East West sampler, Nr. 22, so I was able to compare the “final masters” with my lossless CDR. The three tracks on the East West sampler differ slightly to the same tracks on the CDR, namely:

  • They are mastered
  • They are approximately 0.47 semitones higher in pitch and play slightly faster
  • They exhibit DC offset
  • Their polarity is reversed

It’s hard to tell whether the pitch and time anomalies on the East West sampler are intentional or not. I initially thought that my CDR was created from a malfunctioning source and the sampler must be ‘correct’, but my promotional tape runs at the same pitch and speed as my CDR, thus making the East West sampler the odd one out. Perhaps these three tracks are the ones that East West remixed, we’ll probably never know.

Go_Figure_Cover

Here, then, finally, and for possibly the first time ever, you can enjoy Go Figure in all its uncompressed FLAC beauty. This CD came from the band in 1997 and is probably as close as we are going to get to that final Sisters album… “It’s really bad trance music … you’ll download it, anyway”.

SSV : Go Figure

  • Music by P. Bellendir
  • Words by T. Schroeder
  • Produced by P. Bellendir in 1997
  • Featuring amazing(ly) muted guest vocal samples courtesy of one Andrew Eldritch
  • Released by no one in their right mind
  1. Nice
  2. Knife, Paper, Stone & Guns
  3. Two In The Nose
  4. Bad Vultee
  5. Gone
  6. Drugsar
  7. High School
  8. Feel No Pain
  9. Go Figure
  10. Shut The Fuck Up

Footnotes:

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Bootlegs

Rosetta Stone – Leeds – December 1992

Good morning ravers. Sorry we haven’t brought you an update for a little while, our main archivist and tape ripper has been away on honeymoon (I know, where does the bastard get off?!) and then Terminal Gods began been touring an album release, so we haven’t had as much time as we’d like to dust off old bootlegs.

To help make up for this negligence – and to fill up the time before we get back to uncovering more unheard delights of the cassette era – I’m going to share this beautiful and extremely rare Rosetta Stone live recording. Leeds Duchess Of York, December 16th 1992.

Arguably the peak of Rosetta Stone’s sonic pile driver stage sound, this performance has all the overdriven, highspeed hallmarks of their classic era. This bootleg is especially interesting for the very early live versions of The Witch and Come Hell Or High Water and a slightly developed setlist since the previous year’s Under The Rose. The band disappeared from the stage for a while towards the end of 1993, returning over a year later with a drastically altered sound, so this is one of the few bootlegs to feature such a comprehensive setlist in the classic, all guns blazing style.

DOWNLOAD HERE

Porl King

 

 

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Bootlegs, Cassette Archive

Rosetta Stone – Liverpool, 1989

Today’s submission is another delightful bootleg recording of an extremely early gig. We are treated to soundboard (or near soundboard) audio quality and a long set list packed with songs that would soon be permanently shelved. We also get a real insight into both the guitar and bass playing – stripped of the huge reverb and effects processing that characterised their later sound, it is a brutally honest document of a great band in their infancy. Although I use later output for production references, this is the kind of recording I would whack on the stereo before having a noodle on the guitar myself.

You also get a rather nice feel for the audience. Rather than indistinct cheering, we have a portrait of the kind of snakebite chugging, speed-bombing goth audience you can still expect to meet in a northern town today. The heckling starts right after the first song and, if you listen closely, you can hear Porl King breathing a heavy sigh as people begin screaming gibberish at him. You can also hear someone heckle “Adrenachrome!” right after Chapter And Verse which, if this wasn’t recorded four months before I was born, I’d swear was actually me.

This recording makes an excellent companion to the original trilogy of cassette EPs (Chapter And Verse, Retribution, and And How They Rejoice), although the sound is actually closer to the portastudio demo versions which we may or may not be sharing at a later date.

This bootleg originally came in a plain, coloured card cover with a hand written track list. A few of my original source tapes look like this, most have “© Quarrier Tapes” written on them. This leads me to suspect they are relatively close to an original source. The cover art presented here is my own design, from a photo by Andy Forster (or Andy Barra as he appears in some contemporary credits).

Enjoy.

ROSETTA STONE : Milo’s, Liverpool, UK (22 March 1989)

Lineage: Type I Cassette > Nakamichi DR-10 > Asus Xonar U7 > Adobe Audition @ 24/96 > ALAC 16/44

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  1. Intro/Revelations
  2. Evolution
  3. Hit
  4. Six Before Dawn
  5. Relentless
  6. Chapter And Verse
  7. Summer
  8. Fatherland
  9. Hour By Hour
  10. Whispers
  11. Superstition

Archivist’s note…

For a bootleg cassette of unknown generation (though, as mentioned above, the “© Quarrier Tapes” stamped on the original sparse sleeve gives us hope) the signal present was surprisingly strong and consistent throughout playback. The sound is clear – particularly the vocal – but the limitations of the taper’s recording set-up are present. Nevertheless, the  tape is a perfectly acceptable document and and you do get a real sense of being “there”, surrounded by hecklers and clinking glasses, if you listen on headphones.

A handy aspect of archiving drum machine bands is that it’s possible to accurately speed correct transfers based on pre-existing digital sources. I used the excellent digital transfer of Chapter And Verse, featured on the On The Side Of Angels compilation, as my basis for speed correcting this recording. The speed difference was minuscule but noticeable in an A/B comparison. Having speed corrected this recording using a known correct source, it is now possible to use this transfer as a reliable source for other (i.e. demo) recordings of these early songs. I used Brian Davies’ DeNoise software to remove a heavy and steady hiss from the recording without removing any musical information. I’ll write in more detail about this application in a future post dedicated to analogue-to-digital preservation.

There is some tape damage which results in skipping during Relentless.

RC.

Milos cover

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Bootlegs

ROSETTA STONE – THE MARQUEE – 1990

Andy forster again

DOWNLOAD HERE
Rosetta Stone live performances were surprisingly well documented by their dedicated fanbase in the early 1990s. Despite the fact that many shows were taped, only a few ever emerged outside the tight fan circles and tape traders (unlike The Sisters, who were often bootlegged to vinyl for public consumption).

Over the course of time, I’ll share different recordings from different eras of the band, charting a marked progression and development in their sound. Most dedicated fans will have heard the famous Under The Rose live album, recorded at live at Leeds Warehouse in 1991 by the King/North/Young three piece line up. This 1990 bootleg will be a real treat for those that loved Under The Rose, as it shows the band in action as a two piece, the year before the recording sessions for An Eye For The Main Chance and the resulting expanded line up. We have a stripped back, rock and roll set –  all flanger soaked guitar and frantic riffing between lead and rhythm parts.

Part of the joy of bootleg collecting is hearing how your favourite artists came to the  sonic conclusions they finally put down on their albums. You hear the song as its still growing up, which has a magic all of its own. As well as this you get hear unreleased tracks and unique live touches – Rosetta were excellent on the intro tape front, which got progressively more and more ostentatious throughout the early 90s.

I’ll be sharing a few more Rosetta gems over the coming weeks, aiming to chart their changing sound and attitude. Stay tuned.

Huge thanks to photographer Andy Forster, who took the snap above (from the very gig featured here). He did most of the classic era Rosetta Stone photography, live and in the studio. Including album covers and on set at video shoots. When I approached him about sharing some of his archive to go with these posts he was extremely generous – so another treat for the fans will be some of previously unseen photography!

rosettamarq1 Andy F12799321_1237415606272895_4303893200200157125_n

Live photos at The Marquee by Andy Forster.
Load out photo by Anthony Hawkes. Loading out from Dock Road rehearsal studios with Porl King, manager Ramone and Martin from the band Playtime providing some assistance. 

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Bootlegs

ULTERIOR – ARABELLA

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Just a short post from me today while I decide what to dig out next for a more exclusive offering.

I’ve been a passionate fan of Ulterior since just before the release of their Sister Speed 10″ in 2009. They were one of the bands that awakened in me a desire for new, visceral music.

The sessions that produced their last album, The Bleach Room, also offered up this demo track. For me it was one of the best things to come from those sessions – but for some reason, the band opted never to release it officially (although they did leak it in the run up to the release).

I’ve recently dug up a load more early 90s goth tapes to digitise, so let me know if there’s anything you guys are interested in hearing. Also, I’d would be very keen to get hold of any good quality Ulterior live recordings (full gigs only please).

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Bootlegs, Uncategorized

JAMES RAYS GANGWAR – BEST BOOTLEG EVER?

Cover

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 Although James Ray is mostly famous for doing guest vocals on a Sisters of Mercy related recording, his own projects are a gold mine of vicious, industrialised, amphetamine rock and roll. In terms of their influence on Terminal Gods, this might be the single most important bootleg that I ever owned .The chaotic and nightmarish sound palette is strangely liberating and I’ve long aspired to write a set of songs that teeter so haphazardly on the edge of falling to apart. The way the guitars move from tight riffs to totally out of control noise and the layers of synths and drum machines only add to the sense of mania, keep me constantly coming back to this performance as a musical reference.

James Ray never really escaped the shadow of Merciful Release in the eyes of the wider music world – which is a real shame as this performance is a unique and monstrous beast all of its own. Like all great live albums it shows the songs in their most exciting and feral form, with all the fetters of studio production cast off.

Totally essential for fans of more contemporary acts like Ulterior or A Place To Bury Strangers.

This bootleg has recently been reissued as “Before And After The Storm” on d-monic records. I highly recommend you purchase it, although I personally prefer this pre-remastered version.

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