Jump to content
Greasy Lake Community

Recommended Posts

I was introduced to boots thru deadhead friends who collected. While the G-Dead had an overt and accepted culture, ethos, and community, bootleggers of other bands, including Bruce, were underground. In order to grow my own collection I decided to become a taper, to have my own original master recordings to offer as "trade bait". It worked oh so well, going from zero to ~400 tapes in 6 months, back in the days when everything was done thru snail mail, cassettes and padded envelopes, and lucky encounters with other tapers willing to share other contacts and thus expand the trading network.

My mics and decks are now in storage, but I still have all my original masters, and lots of happy memories. I've only digitized a few shows, several Bruce ones for this community, and a couple of Dead shows for friends. Twenty years ago I was doing a bond deal for Guam, and in conversation with their in-house counsel found out that he had gone to Oregon for law school, and had gone to the same Dead shows I had there in August of '93. When I got home I dug out those masters and went thru all the effort to transfer them to cds, then put them in the post to him. Probably a week later I got a call, as my package had plopped onto his desk unexpectedly, and when he opened it and saw what was inside he was floored!

Today I decided to go looking for a pic of the taping pit at a G-Dead show to be able to find something to share with the rest of you so you could understand what it was like. Oh, how I wish Bruce had embraced that element as well so that we'd have comprehensive, high quality archives like the G-Dead do. I applaud what the collectors are doing at sharing freely the digital collections they have amassed. There is nothing like having a good copy of your first show, heck, of every show you personally attended

The article below was from the last shows by the reincarnated Dead, and it gives another, longer insight into the taper community. We all have lots to thank them for.

148b8c0e74427703f1e6a0c12f68eb95.jpg

 

20020803_1981.jpg

https://nyti.ms/1NJYUzX

‘Tapers’ at the Grateful Dead Concerts Spread the Audio Sacrament

William Walker, center, a Grateful Dead taper from New Orleans, set up his equipment at Soldier Field in Chicago Saturday.Credit...Bryan R. Smith for The New York Times

By Joe Coscarelli

July 5, 2015

CHICAGO — Between his first Grateful Dead show in 1988, at the age of 15, and the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, William Walker saw the band about 130 times, a modest number in the Deadhead universe. But Mr. Walker has experienced many, many more of the band’s concerts through his passion for live audience taping, collecting thousands of cassettes and terabytes-worth of digital audio, while also contributing his own recordings to the seemingly endless archive.

So when he scored passes earlier this year to be one of the few fans allowed to record the final shows at Soldier Field, culminating on Sunday, “I completely freaked out all the animals in my house — jumping, screaming and running around,” Mr. Walker said of his two dogs and two cats.

A proud member of the increasingly obsolete jam-band fan contingent known as “tapers,” Mr. Walker drove 900 miles from New Orleans armed with equipment he would lug from show to show — an intricate rig he estimated to be worth least $8,500, including furry microphones, a hydra-headed stand, tangles of wires, a Tascam digital recorder and a plastic protractor straight out of a high school geometry class. One custom-made cable alone cost him $400.

Although there would be fewer than three dozen approved bootleggers in what’s known as the taper’s section each night in a crowd of more than 70,000, it wouldn’t be a Dead show without them. Not content to relive the performances via the on-demand, high-quality video streams available immediately, the concert replays from local and satellite radio, or the band’s own commemorative 12-CD, seven-DVD box set, scheduled for release this fall, tapers like Mr. Walker still — in 2015 — insist on doing it themselves, for reasons both practical and traditional. 

“This is the last big taper section,” Mr. Walker, whose digital recordings are typically available online within hours of the encore, said of the Dead’s “Fare Thee Well” 50th-anniversary shows. “It’s legitimately the end of an era.” 

Introduced to taper culture by his older cousins, Mr. Walker, 42, sees his continued dedication as a carrying of the torch for previous generations of Deadheads. Despite taping at so many shows that he has lost count, “I still consider myself a novice — an up-and-comer,” he said, estimating that most of the remaining tapers (the vast majority of whom are men) are in their 50s or 60s.

Officially approved for noncommercial recording by the Grateful Dead since the early 1980s, tapers are a subculture within a subculture — spreaders of audio sacrament among a famously evangelical following. While the band never matched the record sales of its classic-rock peers, the Dead thrived as a freewheeling live act thanks in part to a word-of-mouth trade network of concert recordings, a system it passed down to its spiritual children such as Phish and Widespread Panic.

“The band was very farsighted — it reified an informal practice that had been going for many years,” said David Gans, the host of “The Grateful Dead Hour,” a nationally syndicated radio show. “In time, it proved to be one of the most efficient marketing mechanisms.

Authorizing the tapers and giving them their own section in the crowd had a less business-minded rationale, too, said Dennis McNally, the band’s former spokesman and the author of “A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead.”

“To stop it would require security measures so draconian that it would ruin the ambience of the show,” and the Dead “hated being cops,” he said. Corralling tapers behind the soundboard, where they remain today, allowed the band’s longtime audio engineer, Dan Healy, as well the audience, to see the stage instead of being blocked by microphone stands, he added.

David Lemieux, the Dead’s official archivist, was a hard-core taper between 1989 and 1991. “I did it specifically because I had no patience,” he said. “I wanted to walk out of that show and drive back to my hotel listening to what I’d just seen.

“There was nothing more thrilling than getting two or three padded envelopes in the mail every day,” he said, recalling the camaraderie he felt with strangers as they created copies of their favorite shows to share. “We would plan our days around 46-minute intervals” — the length of one cassette side — “so you could be back to flip the tape. I remember sleeping and setting alarms every 45 minutes.”

Even as its necessity has faded, with bands like Phish offering a free MP3 download of every show to attendees straight from the venue’s soundboard, the seemingly archaic hobby has thrived thanks to technological advances. Most tapers switched to digital recording in the ’90s — although there was at least one analog holdout at Soldier Field, Mr. Walker said — and sites like etree.org, taperssection.com and the Live Music Archive, part of the archive.org, offer meticulously organized, easily downloadable databases.

Alex Whitney, a Deadhead with taper tickets to all five farewell shows, including those in late June in Santa Clara, said tapers are similar to wine connoisseurs: “They know the vineyard, they know the grapes, they know the farmer, they know the vendor,” he said. “Deadheads who are uploading stuff to archive.org are including every tape deck, every cable, every microphone, every preamplifier.”

Mr. Whitney added that while the Dead’s studio albums are “decent enough, they don’t really capture the sound quality of the live experience.”

It’s all about the ambience, Mr. Walker concurred: “There are some recordings of shows where you can almost feel how hot the room was. That just doesn’t transfer to a soundboard recording.”

Yet he knows it’s a dying art. “It’s built on this culture of sharing,” he said of taping. “Younger people don’t really understand the effort that people put into it, and that’s a bummer.”

When his sister graduated from college, Mr. Walker gifted her about 4,000 hours of live music, including Phish and the Dead, on tape — “a significant portion of my analog collection,” he said. The rest of his cassettes were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. But he is committed to carrying taping through the digital age, even helping to spread “the entire opus” of the Grateful Dead online — more than 10,000 recordings, including multiple sources for some shows, across 12 terabytes of data.

Of having his own microphones at the farewell shows, Mr. Walker said, “I don’t want to sound sappy, but this is the closing chapter to a part of my life.”

  • Like 6
  • Thanks 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

It's awesome hearing the stories of tapers, but I feel like the "unofficial" status of Bruce taping makes better stories than if taping was openly allowed.

Also, I hope that one day every tape is available out there openly for anyone to listen to. That all the tapers out there would put all their tapes online. Before the tapes are no longer recoverable.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, lilbud said:

It's awesome hearing the stories of tapers, but I feel like the "unofficial" status of Bruce taping makes better stories than if taping was openly allowed.

Also, I hope that one day every tape is available out there openly for anyone to listen to. That all the tapers out there would put all their tapes online. Before the tapes are no longer recoverable.

Better stories? IDK, maybe. I still like the ones involving my traveling with all my gear. I had a Pelican case with foam insert cut out for my  mics, tape deck, 4 channel battery powered mixer, cables, and batteries. Then I had my mic stand (the G-Dead imposed an 8' extended limit after a bit, as some rigs were getting excessive, and if they fell over posed a danger). To travel I put it in an unused rifle case I had. Running thru the airport with that, and then getting to security, was always fun, even pre-9/11. One time I had the dw grab my gear to meet me at the show at MSG. She could just walk a few blocks crosstown with it. She described getting to the corner of 7th Ave and 33rd St standing next to some cops, holding the Pelican case in one hand and the rifle case slung over her shoulder - and no one said a word to her! :D 

But it is unarguable that better quality recordings resulted from a dedicated community out in the open

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Promise61 said:

Great stuff.

Jim, did you tape Bruce at Wembley and Rotterdam in '85?  At the time there were stories of a taper on the pitch with quite 'sophisticated' gear.

I was at all 3 shows at Wembley, and taped. But that was my "1st generation" gear, and my clandestine rig (just a WM-D6C Pro with a ECM-939 mic, that I could sneak into anywhere back then wth a trick I had ;)) I digitized my opening night tape back in the day, for someone whose first show it was, and tree'd it out thru SPL - it still circulates ;) 

The key is not so much the equipment, as long as it is up to the job - it's the location: getting clear air between the sound source and your microphone, and minimal crowd noise around you.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Tapers and bootleggers, we are all indebted to both of them to a great extent. Without them, I would not be here as an avid Springsteen fan. I would not even think that Springsteen without the un-official tape/video recording would ever attained that 'legendary' status by his official studio records alone.

So my everlasting thanks goes to JimCT, Flynn, Perisic, Vicky Vinyl, Great Dane, Chrystal Cat, E-Street Records, Doberman, Godfather Records, TattooDad, Ev2, JEMS, dvddubbingguy and countless others for keeping this flame burning through the years

 

Note: there seems to be exist a picture of Bruce in his home with the 'Live In The Promised Land' vinyl bootleg in the background. Anyone seen this picture?

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
47 minutes ago, Promise61 said:

Great stuff.

Jim, did you tape Bruce at Wembley and Rotterdam in '85?  At the time there were stories of a taper on the pitch with quite 'sophisticated' gear.

There was also one taper (Chrystal Cat?) during the Ghost of Tom Joad tour who was plugged in directly to the PA

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...