McCartney and Zappa "Bootlegs" Due

By Kim Neely

Rolling Stone, May 16, 1991

ON THE HEELS OF THE release of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series comes the news that two other artists – Paul McCartney and Frank Zappa – will release their own entries in the "authorized bootleg" stakes.

Capitol plans an early May release for Unplugged – The Official Bootleg, culled from an MTV Unplugged taping by Paul McCarney in late January at Limehouse Studios, in London. Capitol will press only 500,000 copies, half of which will be available in the U.S.

The album should be similar to Snova V CCCP (back in the U.S.S.R.), McCartney's 1988 Soviet-released album of rock & roll standards, and will feature an assortment of oldies, Beatles tunes and McCartney solo numbers – the rarest track being "I Lost My Litle Girl," McCarney's never-before-recorded first composition, written when he was fourteen. In addition to titles like "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "I've Just Seen a Face," "Every Nigh," "Blackbird," "Junk," "Be-Bop-a-Lula," "Good Rockin' Tonite" and "Here, There and Everywhere," the album will feature three songs that MTV left on the cutting-room floor: "San Francisco Bay Blues," "Hi-Heel Sneakers" and a version of Bill Withers's "Ain't No Sunshine." The latter features guitarist Hamish Stuart on lead vocals.

"I figured there was every chance that some bright spark would tape the show and turn it into a bootleg," said McCartney, "so we decided to bootleg the show ourselves." McCartney added that the tapes of the show wouldn't be doctored but rather presented in typical nonperfect bootleg fashion.

Dylan and McCartney exercised enough control over their so-called bootlegs that the term is misleading. The recordings were culled from the artists' own master tapes. Dylan's Bootleg Series underwent more than a year's worth of tinkering in the studio, and it's doubtful that the tapes of McCartney's Unplugged appearance – unlike the typical bootleg – would have seen the light of day had McCartney deemed the recordings unflattering.

The Zappa set, on the other hand, is the real item. Zappa's ten-album box set – scheduled for release on May 28h by the Foo-Eee label, a subsidiary of Rhino Records – is a collection of actual bootlegs recorded by anonymous scoundrels during Zappa's career. Though the packaging is being redone, Zappa is issuing exact replicas of the original bootleg recordings. "I make no claims that any of the material contained on these records is of any musical value whatsoever," he remarked in a statement released by Rhino.

The material contained in the Zappa box is predominantly taken from live shows; the bootlegs were chosen by Rhino staffer Tom Brown, the label's resident Zappa fan. Zappa, who approached Rhino a year ago with the idea for his Beat the Boots campaign, approved the final selection.

"The project is based on the idea that if you must own bootleg material, why should you be paying these massive bootleg prices with none of the artists getting the cash?" Zappa said: "I have spoken to people who represent various other artists and suggested that they do the same thing."

The LP and cassette versions of the Zappa set will come in a plain cardboard box that opens to reveal a pop-up cartoon depicting a bootlegger's getting busted at a Zappa concert. CDs, sans the fancy packaging, will be sold separately; only 6000 copies will be available per format.

"The only real answer to bootlegging is the use of tactical nuclear weapons," said Zappa. "Short of that, the Foo-Eee project is the most humane solution."