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LIVE! BOOTLEG (1978)

Joe Perry: "As far as I'm concerned, I didn't want to do a live album because there're so many perfect albums coming out, all doctored and fixed — big deal. Double live album: standard of the industry... I felt like we had to top that, do a real live album" (Creem, 12/78)...


The "Draw the Line" tour had essentially ended before Christmas 1977 with early 1978 shows being canceled to facilitate the band's filming for the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" movie. With active support for the album having come to an end, management thought that the band was a mess and needed some downtime. David Krebs recalled, "I didn't become a manager to be a doctor... We had reached the top, but the band was dying, so we switched from a running game to a passing game... My idea was that I wanted to build a roof over their heads, to give them time to work out their problems. We came up with these giant events — Cal Jam, Texxas Jam — that would make so much money it would give them running room to deal with those problems" ("Walk this Way"). CCC started exercising another plan for its larger acts: Live albums. Live albums had become a bit predictable by the second half of the 1970s — they were no longer special and had become commonplace time fillers. The format had set bands such as KISS, Bob Seger, and Peter Frampton on the road to superstardom, but they also provided break from the efforts it took to record a studio album; and for Aerosmith time was needed. Ted Nugent, who had already firmly established himself, issued " Double Live Gonzo!" in January 1978. As was the case with Aerosmith, his was pieced together from multiple show recordings.

The idea of using large shows as substitute for general touring backfired when the band decided that they wanted to get back to the people. The band had felt that they had become out of touch with their audience, so they booked a series of smaller theater dates as a way to repay their diehard fans for their early support. Local radio stations held contests to distribute the available tickets. It was almost an inoculation against the massive shows to come... The idea of packaging the album similar to the unofficial merchandise the band often saw appealed to Steven in particular. As a rough 'n' tumble rock 'n' roll band they also didn't want something polished and fake sounding. They wanted it raw, but they wanted to beat the bootleggers at their own game. Joe recalled, " we started finding all these old tapes, like this one from Paul's Mall in Boston. It was right after we'd recorded the first album. All we had of it was a two-track tape off a radio broadcast. Everybody said, 'Two track! We can't put that on the album. Too much hiss, too much this and that... It's basically not gonna sound good.' And we said, 'What the fuck do you think they did ten years ago?' So, we did just a little fixing and it's gonna be on the thing. We had a sax player up there doin' a James Brown song, a lot of good shit on that tape" (Creem, 12/78). According to Jack Douglas, "It's loaded with mistakes and we left all the mistakes on the record. But anyone who's ever to an Aerosmith concert knows their shows are loaded with mistakes. And we wanted this to a sampling of an Aerosmith concert" (Dallas Morning News, 11/4/78). Throughout the summer of 1978 the album was simply referred to as "Bootleg," but in it was changed to its final form: "Live! Bootleg." Joe also wasn't interested in following the formula established for live albums: "As far as I'm concerned, I didn't want to do a live album because there're so many perfect albums coming out, all doctored and fixed — big deal. Double live album: standard of the industry... I felt like we had to top that, do a real live album, like 'Live at Leeds,' 'Get Yer Ya Yas Out,' that old Kinks album or 'Got Live If You Want It.' So, I was trying to think of something that would justify a live album in my head" (Creem, 12/78).

Keyboard player Mark Radice had joined the band for the "back to the people" tour in March and only planned on staying throughout the summer. While a friend of Steven's, he wasn't a fan of the band's songs — "They all sounded the same to me" (The Record, 8/31/78) — and he was looking forward to getting back to his own material once recording wrapped up for the album. He would, however, be persuaded to stay with Aerosmith for the live album tour. When the band wrapped up their spring tour, they and Jack Douglas got to work properly on the live album in June. A version of the album debuted at the CBS Records Convention held in Los Angeles in late-July as the band headed back out on the road. Preview tapes at this time certainly included the wavering version of "Rattlesnake Shake," though the number of covers included may have become a problem. Additional recordings would be required in August, at Boston's Paradise Club and the Wherehouse, to complete the source material for the album. According to Joe, the band wanted to keep the overdubs to a minimum: "The fixing we did was just places where the guitar or the mike went out, places where we legitimately had to fix it. I've let stuff go by on this album, like guitar mistakes, and I just don't want to change it. I don't want anybody fixin' it. That was that night. There's no multi-track vocals on this to make it sound sweeter or anything like that. In a few places Steven was singing really off, so off that it would be totally offensive to hear, so we took that part of the vocal out, if we could, and put a new one in. But I think there's only one or two places where we did something like that. You hear all those live albums and you know the band doesn't sound like that" (Creem, 12/78). The source material, in some cases, also made fixing things a near impossibility.

Even while recording the live version of "Come Together" at the Wherehouse, the band's studio cut from the "Sgt. Pepper's" movie was released as a single. It became the band's final Top-20 single for nearly a decade, but was noted as one of the two positives to come out of that movie (the other being Earth, Wind and Fire's take on "Got to Get You into My Life" which hit #9, making Columbia's demands for singles rights for the two songs a victory when millions of copies of the soundtrack were returned). Critics seemed to agree: "One of the strongest cuts on the 'Sgt. Pepper' soundtrack, Aerosmith sticks pretty much to the Beatle original. Steven Tyler's lead vocal is backed by the band's high-powered instrumentation" (Billboard, 8/12/78). Joe recalled recording the song: "We realized our involvement with this could look cheesy, but we looked at it as another adventure. The real hook was being able to work with George Martin on our cover of 'Come Together.' We flew to New York to work at the Record Plant. Our idea was not to stray too far from the original... We'd figure he'd have a lot to say — either adding or subtracting from our interpretation. But he had no suggestions whatsoever. So, we kept playing until we formulated a good basic track" ("Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith"). Ray suggested in "Walk This Way" that it only took the band a couple of takes to get something George liked. The song would be a centerpiece of the band's set during the Bootleg tour so a live version was cut during August.

Columbia purportedly weren't happy with what the band had produced. Jack Douglas recalled, "Columbia didn't get it, but they were afraid to tell us they wanted a remix. They went quietly crazy but kept it in the building because they were afraid of Aerosmith and David Krebs, who was capable of giving them massive amounts of grief. Anyway, Columbia though that Aerosmith had run its course after 'Draw the Line' bombed... they didn't believe in it" ("Walk This Way"). One way Columbia may have expressed its displeasure at the band's product was by torpedoing their plans for an additional special EP of material. According to Jack, "After the first 70,000 albums are sold, we're going to include an EP (a 7-inch, extended play record) with the next 300,000 albums. On one side of the EP will be a 9-minute version of an old Fleetwood Mac song that we recorded in Indianapolis in 1973. We would have included it on the regular album, but it was too long, and we would have had to take at least two songs out of the album to make room for it" (Dallas Morning News, 11/4/78). That 9-minute song likely would have been the take of "Rattlesnake Shake" recorded at Counterpart Studios on Sept. 26, 1973 (it and "Walkin' the Dog" were both issued on "Pandora's Box" in 1991). The B-side would have contained an additional three songs. There were also supposed to be three variants of the cover art. Columbia, however, did include a poster.

As the band's activities wound down, Steven's certainly didn't. In late August he was became the latest Aerosmith member to wreck his car. According to press reports, "Tyler was driving down the road in New Hampshire when a deer suddenly loomed up in front of him on the highway. He swerved to avoid hitting somebody who might be Bambi's cousin and managed to total his Porsche 911 when he smashed it into a tree. Fortunately, both Steven and the deer went, uninjured, which is more than can be said for his car (Cashbox, 8/26/78). As a result, news rumor went to press that Aerosmith were keen sponsor a Porsche racing car... Steven was healthy enough to marry Cyrinda Foxe (born Kathleen Hetzekian, the former Mrs. David Johansen) on Sept. 1 in New Hampshire. There wouldn't have been much time for a honeymoon with rehearsals for the tour. It kicked off in Buffalo, NY on Sept. 27. Highlight in the band's set was the rendition of the recent hit single, "Come Together," but the band's next single, "Chip Away the Stone" was also represented. While there some strong attendances in some markets, fatigue was starting to show elsewhere with far lower than expected audiences. One such show resulted in the perfect confluence of circumstances to generate press. When numerous fans were arrested during a show in Fort Wayne, IN, the band dispatched their lawyer to pay bail for those held, also criticizing the heavy-handed tactics employed by the local police during the show. The resulting press followed the band for several months. During the shows the band were kept on their toes by the upstart Australian band AC/DC...

The tour wasn't without incidents directly affecting the band. One show, in Syracuse on Nov. 21, was rescheduled — after the opening act had already performed — with Aerosmith stranded in Boston with airplane issues. A few days later, the band abandoned their Philadelphia Spectrum show when Steven Tyler was hit by glass from a beer bottle thrown from the crowd, before even getting to sing a word of "Sight for Sore Eyes," which the band had started. Brad recalled, "Five songs into a sold-out show, someone threw a beer bottle from the balcony. It hit the stage dead center, right in front of the monitor, and exploded — sending shards of glass into Steven's face. I think some glass went right through his mouth. That's it. Backstage, Steven's holding a towel to his bloody face, and he wants to go back on! The vote was four-to-one against, and we were in the limos two minutes later. Fuck this" ("Walk This Way"). By the end of November, the tour's final four December dates were postponed or cancelled, due to Cyrinda's pregnancy — daughter Mia was born on Dec. 22. The tour wrapped in Tulsa on December 10 with the band members then dispersing for an extended downtime.

The album's hype sticker promoted the inclusion of the full-color poster and the live version of "Come Together." The packaging also included specific printed inner dust sleeves for each of the albums opening a gatefold of 48 photos of the band. Details for the tracks on each LP are spartan at best. What is clear that the contents attributed to shows that circulate do not match the packaging's attributions, not that one would expect the liner notes on a bootleg to be accurate (in keeping with the theme). While it seems that tracks such as "Back in the Saddle," "Sick as a Dog," "Mama Kin" and "S.O.S. (Too Bad)" were sourced from Indianapolis (Jul. 4, 1977), and "Dream On" from Louisville (Jul. 3, 1977), it's impossible to confirm without the actual recordings from those shows. In keeping with the "bootleg" ethos the facts are as irrelevant as the lack of note of the inclusion of "Draw the Line" following "Mother Popcorn." Irrefutable (probably) are songs such as "Come Together," with its enigmatic attribution as being from a "gig so secret, nobody showed up but us," and "Last Child" from the Paradise. Both "I Ain't Got You" and "Mother Popcorn" were definitively sourced from the band's March 1973 shows at Paul's Mall in Boston which had originally been simulcast via WBCN. The album's liner notes have an incorrect date for the show, though the band did perform at the venue again on that date, but the date broadcast was Mar. 20, 1973.

Even the seemingly obvious "Last Child, (Boston, 8/9/78), the "only known recording of Dr. J. Jones and the Interns," was called into question at the time of the album's release due to the purported quality of that performance. However, Jack Douglas has commented that "Live! Bootleg" was "all recorded at a club in Boston that's much smaller than this one [The Palladium in Dallas]" (Dallas Morning News, 11/4/78). That would seem to point in the direction of the last gasp Paradise Club show on Aug. 9, rather than the circulating Mar. 28 show at the larger Music Hall. Other songs seem to be clearly wrong: "Sight for Sore Eyes" is attributed to Columbus, "2/24/78." It's not, and the Columbus date was March 24. Bootleg indeed! "Sweet Emotion" and "Lord of The Thighs" are purportedly from the Chicago March show, but bear little resemblance to the circulating soundboard recordings from that show. "Toys in The Attic," attributed to Boston (3/28/78), is clearly not with that referenced recording being an absolute train wreck lyrically in the first verse. The hypersonic speed at which the song is performed also stands out as does the "fuck off" call-out on the "Bootleg" version at 2:33. "Walk This Way," "Train Kept A Rollin'," with its "Strangers In The Night" section are attributed to Detroit (4/2/78) from which there is no SBD to compare. Finally, "Chip Away the Stone," supposedly from Santa Monica (4/8/78) is clearly from the California Jam II recording from March 18, 1978. The identical guitar figure is played at the end of the song and the remnant of Steven's "alright!" comment remains. Ultimately though, it matters not a damn, for like any "live" recording, the album was a representation — according to the band's design — of them in concert in 1978.

Released on Oct. 27, 1978, "Live! Bootleg" was certified Gold by the RIAA on Oct. 31 and Platinum on Dec. 26, 1978. In the SoundScan era the album sold 403,265 units between 1991 and Feb. 2007. In Canada, the album was certified Gold by the CRIA on Dec. 1, 1978. The album reached #13 on the Billboard Top-200 charts on Jan. 13, 1979 during a 22-week run. During 17-weeks on Cashbox the album reached #10. The album didn't chart in international markets other than Canada, where it reached #27. The studio version of "Come Together" had been released as single in late-July, reaching #23 on the Billboard Hot-100 and #20 on Cashbox, and the song became a centerpiece of the "Bootleg" tour. The studio version of "Chip Away the Stone" was released in December but only reached #77 following a three-week run.

Assorted review excerpts:

"Heavy metal works best live and no act hones a finer edge than Aerosmith, which pushed to release this 15-cut, two-record set before a bootleg version surfaced; hence, the title, bolstered by intentionally unslick artwork in the rip-off tradition. All the hits are included, recorded from 1977 through 1978; most recent, a more exciting arrangement of 'Come Together' than the single. But unusual in its appeal is a 1973 medley of 'I Ain't Got You / Mother Popcorn,' taped at Pall's Mall in Boston, in which a surprising R&B side of the fivesome emerges. Steven Tyler's vocals sparkle consistently in his dog-stuck-in-barbed-wire style" (Billboard, 11/4/78).

"Aerosmith has always been regarded as an exceptional live outfit, and this two-record set captures the hard-rock power and sexual swagger of the group. 'Bootleg' was recorded in a variety of settings, ranging from Aerosmith's usual hockey arena gigs to its intimate club performances as Dr. J. Jones and the Interns. Steve Tyler's vocals are in top form here, as are the band's raucous guitar exchanges" (Cashbox, 11/4/78).

"Inside the faded, ring-stained cover which opens to a centerfold of 45 color snapshots, next to the official group poster, tucked away in the neatly decorated, information-filled jackets rests Aerosmith's Christmas present to the rock world. It's their first live album, a double-record set, containing 16 songs from their five-album career on Columbia Records, and it's close to delightful. Granted, there is a desultory version of 'Dream On.' Yes, Steven Tyler's raspy tenor is occasionally reduced to a croak. OK, they are most adept at milking a guitar riff until it's watery cliché. But when has the band sounded this good? Not at their Boston Garden shows. Nor at the Paradise Theater this past August. You have to give them credit, it took a lot of work to cull the best live renditions of recorded material from all those tapes. It's a job well done.

The very good cuts ('Chip Away the Stone,' 'Come Together,' 'I Ain't Got You,' 'Mother Popcorn,' 'Mama Kin') tilt the odds in the band's favor. Too bad only one of these, 'Mama Kin,' was written by them. There is enough going-for-the-jugular rhythm and blues to make 'Live Bootleg' a big success. Their musicianship is, as they say on the liner notes, 'lusty nice and ratty.' Don't pay attention to the fact that 'Sick As A Dog' and 'Sweet Emotion' are copied from the same guitar lines, or that 'Last Child' and 'Back In The Saddle' will keep you guessing which is which. So, they can't write songs anymore. How many Rolling Stones clones has that stopped" (Boston Globe, 11/16/78)?

"A series of greatest album hits, the Aerosmith album — unlike the band's live concert waves — sounds as if it were carefully in a Harvard biology laboratory, rather than pushed through masses of amplifiers. Recorded during their recent U.S. tour, the disc's vocals are surprisingly accurate and, although there are many who would prefer to believe the opposite, the Ravaged Five (as opposed to the Fab Four) sound controversially good. 'Last Child,' from the recent Paradise show of 'Dr. J. Jones and The Interns,' was miraculously recorded as a flawless tune, much to the surprise of those in attendance that steamy August night. 'Come Together,' 'Toys in the Attic,' and 'I Ain't Got You/Mother Popcorn,' the only other tunes recorded in the Boston area, come off true to life with enough spirit for these to serve as the only recorded versions of the songs. Steve Tyler's gravelly vocals, surprisingly on key here, complement the full blow barrage of distorted electric guitars and rhythm backings of the assorted decadents in attendance (on stage and off)" (Lowell Sun, 12/8/78).

"Let Steve Tyler and the boys strut their stuff on your own patch, thrill to the thrum of another well-tuned hard rock machine, kiss off the final vestiges of brain detritus, stand back in awe as that East Coast derring-do nods you off into Quaalude submission. Heavy metal? Bugger my old boots, there's none heavier... The guys include all their familiar faves in the most applicable running gun order, intermeshing a couple of radiocasts from 1973 for historic credibility. Insensitive pariah that I am I cannot distinguish the overall bombast of, say, 'Back in the Saddle' from 'Walk This Way'... At this stage in the game there's little or nothing to be said that could possibly curb Aerosmith's departure for mega-universal moolah, and good luck to them for proving that there's none so dumb as Amerika's stadia regulars. Once upon a time they almost possessed some semblance of a saving grace. The resurrected five year old versions of 'I Ain't Got You' and 'Mother Popcorn' are cleaner sounding, nearly spontaneous average bar band blues. The sax player from their debut album, David Woodford, gets up to blow at length and Tyler waffles through a sub-J. Geils throat scat with extended aplomb. Aerosmith unleash their version of 'Come Together', the old Bee Gees chestnut which seems to these ears as vapidly unpleasant a number as it did on Stigwood's 'Abbey Road'. At least Ted Nugent is moderately amusing, but this lot take it seriously. Best of the rest: 'Dream On', the one that set the ball rolling, has effective back up piano, still the Perry-Whitford axis is desperately short of the mark. Lucky for some" (New Musical Express, 12/9/78).

"Aerosmith's first live album looks like an under-the-counter job. The two-record set is packaged like an actual bootleg, including a crudely printed, 'stained' cover and misspellings on the dust sleeves. The credits even omit one song on Side 4 ('Draw the Line'). Beyond this clever gimmick is 65 minutes of fierce, fiery hard rock that should more than satisfy the Boston-based quintet's many followers. 'Bootleg' may even make a few more converts among those who continue to place Aerosmith on the same level as such mindless outfits as KISS. The group's powerful, often witty guitar-and-screaming-vocals blasts put most of the competition to shame. 'Bootleg' contains a representative sampling: Most of the singles — 'Dream On,' 'Walk This Way,' etc. — are rendered with a fresh vigor, and the other selections from the band's five studio albums are generally well chosen. Of more importance to the value of the LP, however, is the careful, wise choice of live versions from a wide variety of venues. These capture the manic majesty that the group is sporadically able to deliver on stage, while avoiding, with a couple of exceptions, its equally frequent sloppy renditions. The two unsatisfactory cuts are 'Back in the Saddle' and 'Sweet Emotion,' the LP's opening tracks. The band's timing and the recording balance both are off. But from there on vocalist/chief composer Steve Tyler and cohorts are in top form. 'Lord of the Thighs,' 'S.O.S.,' 'Sick as a Dog' and 'Chip Away the Stone' are especially striking examples of Aerosmith's snarling, high-strutting style" (Los Angeles Times, 12/17/78).

"If Aerosmith us any claim to remembrance in rock history, it is through its romantic hit single, 'Dream On.' The version is the best-performed song on this two-record live album. The LP showcases the band in a variety of settings. Some of them, such as two cuts on side four recorded in Boston's Pall's Mall, are quite flattering. Those cuts include the blues 'I Ain't You' and James Brown's 'Mother Popcorn.' Lead singer Steve Tyler sounds good as an ersatz Brown. The high quality of performance on these two songs shows up the woeful lack of rhythmic tightness on most of the rest of the album. The song 'Last Child' also finds the group in very good form, running through a disco-funk type number. Both the Pall's Mall cuts and this one were recorded in the group's home town: Boston. It seems as though the band wanted to impress the folks at home.

Another stand out is 'Chip Away at the Stone,' the chorus of which sounds like the Rolling Stones via Ry Cooder. The rest of the song has tinges of the Band's sound. For most of the album, Tyler sounds like a bad imitation of Alice Cooper in his funkier moments. Some of the guitar-playing is genuinely exciting while the rest is purely self-indulgent. The majority of cuts are violent riffs strung beneath lyrics which glamorize mindlessness. This is particularly true on songs such as 'Back in the Saddle' and 'Lord of the Thighs.' 'Sweet Emotion has a tantalizing melody and arrangement, but, like many of the songs, it fails to deliver because the vocals are weakly recorded" (Courier News, 2/10/79).

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