Calling 1980s tapers and tapeowners

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bisonrav ®

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Post 11-Dec-2010 11:48

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Found this site when googling for 1980s Camden Market tapes, which is a bit of a current obsession. I remember very well that back in the mid 80s pretty much every gig in Brighton where I lived and London was easily available at some street market or other, yet many of those tapes have vanished now, unless the band involved maintained an obsessive following like (for example) the Smiths. In a lot of cases if anything been's kept at all it's a low res MP3. I actually have dreams where I come across boxes of rotting TDK D90 tape complete with dayglo artwork in landfill... I'm not innocent myself, most of my cassettes from the period disappeared somewhere in house moves and across a divorce, or were lent to someone and never returned. Tragic but true.
Specifically I'm running a Prefab Sprout archival project, in some ways similar to what this site is doing in terms of finding best quality material and archiving it in lossless formats carefully, but smaller scale reflecting the, err, more selective appeal of the Sprouts. Most of the material I discover ends up on dimeadozen or is distributed via the residual fan base. But I'm looking for more, and in particular would like to hear from anyone who taped the band, pro or fan, or who bought a tape or thinks they might have something in a bag in their loft.
And then more generally it'd be good to maybe start digitising some of the more obscure bands from the period on 1980s tapes before they deteriorate or end up being damaged in other ways, and I'd be delighted to do that and seed them onto dime or some such when done.
I have been in touch with the inestimable Steve incidentally - Smiths fans are fortunate indeed to have him on the team. Actually I've had a lot of fun poking round the forums and seeing what's around, very inspiring indeed.
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DavidA

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Post 05-Jan-2011 21:56 (after 25 days)

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Hello Bison,
Sorry it's taken a while to get back to this message.
I set up this site to do what I think you're trying to do with the Prefab Sprout project. Having run this for five years now, it's been interesting to see how each new torrent encourages more people to dig around. I started with about a dozen bootlegs which I bought off eBay, and now there's hundreds. I've been very fortunate that Steve has been so generous with his recordings.
I'd have two recommendations for you. The first is to find Prefab Sprout fans rather than bootleg fans. I think that unless you were a fan then you'd have binned the tapes a while ago. You might want to try and dig out old trader lists from EZTree and the like.
The other thing is to set up a torrent tracker. I knew nothing about trackers when I started and I know next to nothing now. Luckily there's software that makes it pretty easy. I use hosting from 1and1.
Hope that helps.
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bisonrav ®

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Post 02-Jul-2011 13:42 (after 5 months 27 days)

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And apologies for taking so long to get back to thanking you for the reply ;)
I should have said that in terms of networking amongst fans (and indeed people more closely connected to the band), I was well into that at the time I posted, and I had ((and have) an extraordinarily large amount of material. In that sense I'd class myself as in the first division of collectors and researchers, I'm very adept at finding things and I spend a lot of time and effort doing it.
It's probably true about the Smiths and any other band, but there's a strong canon of known material, most people who collect have most of that, so the main game there is just improving the quality over time by tracing back to source as far as possible.
And then there are the stubborn tapes that just defy all attempts at location. You know they existed because you can find mentions of them in old usenet postings (for example), but the actual recordings have vanished off the face of the planet. And obviously anyone around in the 1980s will remember that gig recordings onto cassettes were common currency everywhere, so the probability is very high that more exist than were ever catalogued.
I'm sure that somewhere someone is sitting on a loftful of lost Camden Town style masters (like for example Steve was). I've been looking for those people for a long time though, and they're not making themselves exactly obvious! But the hunt goes on.
Incidentally I don't know if it's widely known, but the British Library holds a stock of wonderful Capital Radio recordings from the 1980s, at least some of which were never broadcast. I've not checked it for Smiths material but I wouldn't be surprised if there was some - the BL sound library catalogue is online. Unfortunately it's impossible (seriously impossible) to get copies, but it's fairly easy for anyone in the UK to register and listen via the soundserver system in London or Boston Spa.
Probably we should all find a way of pooling efforts around holy grail searching! It's all out there somewhere!
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DavidA

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Post 02-Jul-2011 20:10 (after 6 hours)

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Nice tip on the British Library. I did a quick snoop and didn't find anything jaw dropping. Funny to see a few bootlegs made their way in.
With regard to us pooling our efforts, I'm not sure how much commonality there would be. By and large the best material is in the hands of specialists and collectors, not in the hands of people that hold archives of every band. I suppose there are some sources, like the BBC or major bootleg traders, that have a wide range but I'd think they'd be the exception and not the rule. Big Al, who was a major Camden bootlegger, is somewhere in Spain according to a post somewhere on this board.
I think the best unreleased Smiths material is in the hands of people who worked closely with the band or were in the band. For example, I know Grant Showbiz took soundboard recordings for a lot of Smiths gigs, but he's never put them into circulation. There are also some gems in the hands of serious collectors; I was considering buying the Decibel Demos (an unreleased early session) but if I recall it was on offer for a six figure sum, which was too much for me.
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