Beatles Bootlegs?
December 17, 2009 11:18 AM   Subscribe

What are the most interesting Beatles bootlegs? How do you get them? Are there any interesting "legit" bootlegs?

For years I've been reading about bootleg recordings of the Beatles in studio. These aren't the "unplugged" recordings, or alternate takes that sound more or less the same as the ones we've all heard a million times on the records. They're slow versions of songs that were released fast, or versions done to a different beat -- versions that helped the Beatles figure out what their song wanted to be.

How can I hear these? Are they available in libraries? Are there safe sites from which to download them? (Yes, I'm aware that they are illegal recordings.) Are there any legally released bootlegs with significant differences from the original release? I don't need to keep them on my computer, I just want to hear'em.
posted by musofire to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A Beginner's Guide to Beatle Bootlegs from the great folks at Note this was last updated in 1990 (an eon ago) but it's still a good starting point.
posted by anastasiav at 11:23 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, also The History of Beatles Bootlegs (again originally posted to from 1998.
posted by anastasiav at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2009

The officially-released Anthology compact discs have a bunch of different takes of released songs, plus demos and (mostly early) live or live-on-radio performances. Let It Be… Naked is an official bootleg-esque version of Let It Be that's closer to the original Get Back concept, which has been a longtime favorite bootleg, but I don't know if the songs on the official release are the same versions.

Wikipedia has an extensive article on Beatles bootlegs.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:02 PM on December 17, 2009

Do a search on for Purple Chick in your favourite Torrent aggregator/search engine and download the deluxe editions she's created for each album. She's also done a massive set called "The Complete A/B Road" which is pretty much everything that was recorded by the Beatles between January and February of 1969, which would eventually be turned into the "Let It Be" album. Also look for a bootleg called "Revolving" which is a big pile of outtakes from Revolver.
posted by wabbittwax at 1:11 PM on December 17, 2009

That should read "do a search for Purple Chick"
posted by wabbittwax at 1:12 PM on December 17, 2009

Best answer: Just dropping in to say that the full version of Paul's "Can You Take Me Back", (the song on youtube)which is sampled for around 8 seconds at the end of Lennon's "Cry Baby Cry" on the White Album, is probably my favorite bootleg for simple enjoyment of song purposes.
posted by milestogo at 3:03 PM on December 17, 2009

Just to clarify, the best "bootlegs" are on the Anthology albums, and bootlegs no longer.
posted by milestogo at 3:05 PM on December 17, 2009

Wait! I forgot about the best thing ever! Every Christmas (or, most of them) the beatles made a short (~10 min) record which they sent to members of their fan club. At first, the recordings were cutesy, just the four of them thanking fans for support, etc. (though they are quite funny, esp. John).
But later in the decade, each Beatle started looking at it at a place to channel some weird creative energy, musical and otherwise. George (I think it's him) has some weird, trippy skits on their, Ringo does a plug for one of his movies, and they all play some pretty fun Christmas music (perfect for now!).

They are AWESOME to listen to. This page seems to have some information, as well as .mp3 files of each year's record. Click on the picture of a record.
posted by milestogo at 3:13 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seriously, you have to hear this. It's a skit/song combo with all four Beatles. Hilarious!
posted by milestogo at 3:15 PM on December 17, 2009

Response by poster: Great answers, thanks, people. Milestogo lead me to YouTube, which actually has a bunch of outtakes... interesting early version of Mean Mr. Mustard -- the whole song, rather than just the chunk that appears on Abbey Road here
posted by musofire at 7:23 PM on December 17, 2009

In addition to these suggestions, sometimes you'll see stuff on eBay. I got most of mine from a store in Cambridge, MA in the 90s that sold nothing but CD bootlegs (long since shut down).

My favorite is one of the Yellow Dog label CDs, Unsurpassed Masters Vol 3. It has half a dozen versions of Strawberry Fields Forever, taking it from acoustic demo through to the finished piece, and a few isolated overdubs of brass and strings and drums. You really get to hear how it all came together.

The most revealing thing about the sheer quantity of Beatles bootlegs out there is realizing how hard these guys worked. They spent enormous amounts of time in the studio, not goofing around but being seriously productive and attentive to their craft. Just amazing.
posted by quarterframer at 10:51 PM on December 17, 2009

I was lucky enough to hear the original, withdrawn "Get Back" tracks on the radio in early 1970 and I've always preferred that version of "Teddy Boy" which I thought they screwed up on Anthology 3 but you can find it on youtube. And yeah, the '66 and '67 Christmas records.
posted by Rash at 12:29 PM on December 18, 2009

Ultra rare Trax and some Purple Chick's stuff are both on The trader's den forum.
posted by nicolin at 10:50 AM on December 20, 2009

Not bootlegs but the "Live at the BBC" recordings are very good. Its their early stuff in a more raw form.
posted by Taurid at 10:28 PM on December 21, 2009

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