1986-12-12 Brixton Academy - 'Big Al' version

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ianmacd

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Post 20-Mar-2012 21:28

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Luckily I managed to pick up this the following weekend from 'Big Al'. He had turned up in early 84 and was clearly into it for the money. By 1986 he had a number of bootleg stalls around Camden and Portobello, and employed quite a few people. His stalls were larger, had more of the mainstream groups, and his tapes were more expensive (actually quite a good marketing move). Ultimately he was a bit of a gangster, and was resposible for the big raids of 1987, when most of the overt bootleg stall disappeared. Anyway ... despite all this, we were actually firends of a sort. He never gave us any trouble and was happy to let us trade for some of his masters ... probably beacuse we provided quite a few ourselves. He didn't actually record all the shows ... like his stalls, he hired other poeple to help. He was particularly pleased with this one, although I'm pretty sure he didn't actually record it. From the description on Passions I suspect this is the source for the 'Someone waved Goodbye' bootleg. It has the complete intro song anyway. Apparently it was recorded right down the front almost on top of the stacks, which is the best place to be, as long as you can prevent any 'brickwalling'. The way the academy is laid out, if you're right by the stacks and are content to not get a great view, you'll get loud sound and not many people around you, which can give a soundboard type recording (i.e. the audience will sound distant and quiet). Another of Al's marketing ideas was to mark some tapes as 'Mixing Desk Quality' ... which effectively meant 'I think its as good as a desk tape, but, of course, people would just assume that it was actually from the desk. Here's the cover of the tape
Thanks for this. The above anecdote is a real blast from the past.
I knew Big Al back then, too, and recorded a few shows for him. He'd bung me the ticket price and expenses. I was on the dole at the time and taped gigs for my own pleasure and trading with others, but I could earn a few quid from him by taping stuff he couldn't get to because he had another gig to tape on the same evening.
He was into bootlegging in a BIG way. He had farms of tape dubbing equipment, expensive industrial strength machines. If a Springsteen show finished at 23:00 Friday night, Al could and would have 100 copies of it on sale the next morning in Camden and on Portobello Road, complete with his trademark photocopied fluorescent inlays sporting an accurate track listing. The other taper stalls were small fry and couldn't begin to compete with him.
Al was also big into counterfeiting tickets for football matches and no doubt other stuff that you wouldn't want to ask about, but I never got involved in any of that.
I really disliked taping gigs for him that didn't interest me. There's nothing worse than going to a gig by someone you can't stand. I gave it up after a few shows and returned to trading with him. I'd often run into him at gigs, all the way down at the front. We'd both have our head in the stacks, so that we could record on our WM-D6Cs with the gain as low as possible to reduce audience noise. As you say, his recordings were often mistaken for mixer recordings, particularly the ones at the Academy. He would spend some time EQing his recordings after the fact, which sometimes resulted in his tape sounding superior to mine, even though we had stood in the same spot and recorded using the same equipment.
Then, as you say, the raids happened in '87. Those raids had the explicit goal of shutting Al down and bringing him to justice. They did succeed in shutting down his operation, but he fled the country. A couple of the guys who worked on his stalls got arrested and banged up for their part in the operation; maybe his girlfriend, too; I can't recall. I never actually manned a stall for him, luckily enough.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing this show once it completes. If it was a Big Al show, it must be good. :-)
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DavidA

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Post 21-Mar-2012 00:20 (after 2 hours 52 minutes)

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I love hearing the background to these bootlegs. I used to enjoy going to Camden Market and picking up bootlegs, but that was more like late eighties, when there wasn't much in the way of bootlegs although you could usually find a few overpriced bootleg vinyl records.
Here's the cover again, since the link at the front seems to have broken. In fact, I'll fix it on page one while I'm here.

Also, here's the tape deck used.


Last edited by DavidA on 2013-01-20 23:01; edited 1 time in total
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ianmacd

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Post 21-Mar-2012 01:03 (after 42 minutes)

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I love hearing the background to these bootlegs. I used to enjoy going to Camden Market and picking up bootlegs, but that was more like late eighties, when there wasn't much in the way of bootlegs although you could usually find a few overpriced bootleg vinyl records.
Here's the cover again, since the link at the front seems to have broken. In fact, I'll fix it on page one while I'm here.
Ah yes, somewhere in a storage facility, I still have hundreds of old tapes, a few dozen of which resemble this signature Big Al specimen. Thanks for posting that. I'm getting all nostalgic just looking at it.
More commonly, he printed those inlays on fluorescent paper, bright pinks, oranges and greens. They looked very slick by the standards of the day.
His tapes were a definite cut above the competition, both in the quality of the recording and the presentation of the product.
Within a few weeks, copies of his newest and most lucrative tapes would turn up on rival bootleggers' stalls. They had the good sense to wait a few weeks, though, until the demand had worn off a bit. Otherwise, one of Al's friends would come over and have a quiet word to discourage you from selling copies of Al's tapes.
Al, Al, where are you now? I really do wonder.
Heady days, and despite the ease with which we can now acquire unofficial material -- or perhaps because of it, really, I think -- I do miss those days. Every trip to Portobello Road or Camden Town market was an adventure. You never knew what was going to be available or which foreign vinyl boots would have been pressed up that week. Everything is so predictable and ubiquitous now by comparison.


Last edited by ianmacd on 2012-07-25 20:04; edited 1 time in total
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matt72

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Post 21-Jun-2012 04:40 (after 3 months)

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very much appreciated. ta!
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timewind

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Post 15-Sep-2012 06:50 (after 2 months 24 days)

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thanks for this great upload!
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tobemilo

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Post 05-Nov-2012 00:18 (after 1 month 19 days)

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Great sound!
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mtlhed

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Post 28-Nov-2013 23:34 (after 1 year)

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Let's hear the last one...! Thank you.
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