Dec 8, 2020

Collecting log: THE "LIVE" 1975-1985 and THE LEGEND COMES ALIVE, Japanese 5-LP box and custom promotion-only compilation LP w/ info sheets (Part 4 of 4)

Among the three advanced promotion-only LP records CBS/SONY Japan released in the 1980s (upper row), the LIVE/1975-85 sampler (center) was treated distinctively from the other two, with the impressive sleeve artwork that is comparable to those of the standard first-pressing issues (lower row).
Undoubtedly, the collecting value of THE LEGEND COMES ALIVE Japanese compilation LP primarily lies in its superb sleeve artwork. The appearance of its front cover is in marked contrast to those of the advanced promotion-only LP editions (in a plain white sleeve with one or two unique sticker; see the picture above) for BORN IN THE U.S.A. and TUNNEL OF LOVE that immediately precede and follow the LIVE box, respectively. Some may wonder how CBS/SONY was able to issue such a Japan-exclusive, custom-color sleeve featuring his gorgeous portrait, especially considering the unusually urgent release to the domestic market to rival the imports such as those from the U.S. The answer is found in the blog written by the aforementioned ex-company staff (see Part Two), if you can read and understand Japanese (I refrain from disclosing it in my blog for a potentially sensitive reason). And finally, I close this topic with my memory when I got the first bootleg of the LIVE-box outtakes.

The images show both sides of the rear CD sleeve with the short linernotes for the first LIVE-box outtake bootleg.
As usual for bootlegs, there are errors on the song titles and recording locations.

"According to the linernotes these recordings were taken directly from the mastertapes. These tracks were considered to be included on the Live-box, again according to the linernotes. These two statements and the question whether this could be true, could easily lead to long deliberations. However, the only way we have to somehow verify these claims is to listen to the CD. We can safely say that these are indeed live-recordings that were professionally mixed in a studio. These are not your common soundboard, radio or audience recordings..."
Excerpted from WANTED magazine issue 1, p.22, December 1997 (by Jan Rodenrijs).

WANTED, first published in book style and then magazine format from 
the mid-1990s to the early-2000s, was a quite useful and excellent guide
devoted exclusively to Springsteen bootleg CD. The first issue of the
magazine (Dec. 1997) rates the double-CD bootleg for LIVE-box outtakes
and 9 out of 10 for the sound and collecting value, respectively,
with detailed information including the excerpts cited above.

It was ten years after the release of the LIVE box, and it was not the vinyl-bootleg era anymore. In 1996, the supposed LIVE outtakes were for the first time bootlegged on factory-pressed CD, which I got to know via LuckyTown Digest, a fan-based Springsteen mailing and discussion group on the internet, operating back in the mid 1990s to early 2000s. I obtained a copy of this quite intriguing release early in 1997 through a then familiar bootleg retailer in Spain who had provided me with every new release from Crystal Cat Records, E Street Records, or other European labels. It was a double CD called 85-75 THE OUTTAKES (Catch 22 Records) with a total of 20 tracks from Passaic, NJ (09/21/1978), San Francisco, CA (12/16/1978; erroneously listed as 12/15), Uniondale, NY (12/29/1980), East Rutherford, NJ (08/19/1984 and 08/22/1985), and Los Angeles, CA (09/30/1985). Interestingly, half of the bootlegged tracks were overlapped with those on the box set, although from different dates or locations, suggesting that these live takes were strong candidates that could have otherwise been chosen for the official release. Springsteen would not have decided yet which tour version should be on the record up to a certain point [Because The Night from '78 or '80, Hungry Heart from '80 or '85, and Two Hearts from '81 or '85 (either with Miami Steve), to mention a few examples].

A typical pirate copy of the LIVE-box
outtake bootleg CD pressed in
(not in my possession)

Despite the flippant title and rather sloppy packaging, the bootleg sounded outstanding (as an underground release), as cited above from the first magazine issue of WANTED, a very useful and detailed bootleg CD guide of Springsteen [Note that the Backstreets magazine #55 (Spring 1997) also highly rated this title in the bootleg column]. Furthermore, the second disc included lengthy performances that did not make on the album (i.e., Jungleland and Twist & Shout/Do You Love Me). So, I used to listen to it repeatedly way back when. By the way, the WANTED magazine issue also reports that the folks behind this bootleg were arrested soon after the release, explaining why the original pressing was hard to find, especially in Japan, until other bootleggers started to copy and press pirated editions a few years later. In fact, nobody in my known collectors and bootleg retailers knew about this bootleg when it was already available on the European market. So, I guess I was probably the first (if not, one of the very first) who was luckily able to receive and listen to this CD here in the Far East. I remember whomever I told about it desperately asked me to copy it (which I did) or disclose the overseas bootleg supplier who sent me the copy (which I didn't, because he needed to select reliable customers carefully so as not to take unnecessary risks). I wonder if that Spanish guy is still active in his business or already retired, as I have stopped collecting bootleg CDs for long since the Reunion era (1999-2000).

Dec 4, 2020

Collecting log: THE "LIVE" 1975-1985 and THE LEGEND COMES ALIVE, Japanese 5-LP box and custom promotion-only compilation LP w/ info sheets (Part 3 of 4)

Is there anything my collection is missing?

Because of a multi-disc box package, LIVE/1975-85 was downsized to be issued as a single LP commercially in South America (Argentine, Brazil, and Venezuela) and for promotional use only in North America (the U.S. and Canada), continental Europe (Holland and Spain), and Asia (Japan). Notably, the four pressings from the three Latin Americas and the Far East exhibit substantial differences in title, sleeve design, and track selection/configuration from the standard North American/European edition (although the Dutch issue is unique in that it includes the original booklet and is serially numbered on a front sleeve golden sticker). The cassette-tape counterparts to these LP samplers were also released in three of these four countries (except Venezuela) and Uruguay. For the extremely rare Japanese cassette, check the previous post (07/12/2015).

Misprints and wrong information on the back cover and record label as marked
by green (see the main text for the erroneous Japanese description). Although
the flawed tracklist, where Tracks 1 and 3 are in the wrong position and correctly
to be reversed, was fixed later with the overlaid sleeve sticker, I've never seen
the vinyl discs with the correction made on the label.
Among these LIVE album compilations, the Japanese LP, better known for the subtitle THE LEGEND COMES ALIVE (CBS/SONY XDAP 93156), is probably the most popular and widely recognized variation because of the unique, sepia-tinged portrait sleeve on front, with the full album tracklist and release details on the rear for the domestic market. It is also well-known that the LP back cover carries three printing errors [a "SPRING STEEN" misspelling, the incorrect Side-Two track order (on the record label as well), and the wrong photo credit], although it seems to me that his surname was misspelled intentionally in favor of graphic design. Additionally, there is yet another erroneous description in Japanese that the BORN IN THE U.S.A. tour ended on September 30th, 1985. Of course, it's the date for the penultimate concert, from which eight tracks are culled and included on the box set, but none from the last show (10/02/1985). These errors probably reflect the situation of the company that needed to urgently complete the production of the promo LP and standard box set (see Parts One & Two of this series), which might have caused the negligent or careless proofreading.

The spine says just LIVE 1975-1985, inconsistent with what is printed on the front sleeve.
Although promotion-only releases are generally rare, THE LEGEND COMES ALIVE is relatively easy to find at not-so-expensive rates, as you see that it has frequently turned up at domestic and international auctions online. This is primarily due to the relatively large pressing number to promote the then much-anticipated live album. However, before the internet became a common and convenient tool to deal with second-hand goods as individuals, I remember that a copy of this promo sampler often cost collectors at least 10,000 Yen or more [a source in 1987 reporting that it was initially priced at 50,000 Yen (over $300 as of the exchange rate in December, 1986) in the U.S.; see the second image on 05/17/2020].

Maybe an intact copy for the Japanese edition of the promotion-only LIVE compilation. This copy is the only one among the four in my possession, with these paper sheets put together. The others came with a Japanese booklet or a 12-inch square polystyrene portrait panel the regular copies had, which I don't think were originally included in the promo package.
In the vinyl era, CBS/SONY Inc. (Japan) released three promotion-only LP/12" EP compilations that feature Springsteen exclusively, and the LIVE excerpt was the third and final one. The company also distributed advanced LP pressings to the two original albums released before and after the live anthology, as summarized below. All the five titles above came in unique sleeves. The fully intact copies contained a lyric sheet (or its photocopy), information sheets, or flyers, making them highly collectible among vinyl collectors worldwide. As for THE LEGEND COMES ALIVE, although I'm not so sure, one of the copies in my possession holds all (if not all, almost all) the paper stuff originally enclosed. These are two kinds of paper sheets, which are missing or not included from the beginning in most circulating copies.

Official CBS/SONY memo notifying the tracklist
error and requesting the on-air release date not
to broadcast before November 6th. A combination
of two large "Kanji" characters between double
angle brackets means "CORRECTION" in English.

One is a folded, stapled three-page info sheet in black and white with green color, while the other is a one-page official CBS/SONY note sheet with the company logo. The former illustrates the basic track information, such as track listing (page one), album overview and track length/configuration in LP/CD/cassette formats (page two; mostly duplicate of the rear sleeve with additional info on the single cut release), and a short description for each track (page three). The latter calls recipients' attention to the error on the Side-Two tracklist and the date when radio stations are allowed to play the album (11/06/1986, three days before the official sale). The track-listing error on the rear sleeve remains unfixed, most probably because the correction sticker was not ready when the early batch of the LP was shipped to music critics and radio stations for marketing purposes.
— To be continued to Part 4.

Nov 23, 2020

Collecting log: THE "LIVE" 1975-1985 and THE LEGEND COMES ALIVE, Japanese 5-LP box and custom promotion-only compilation LP w/ info sheets (Part 2 of 4)

Collecting-wise, I have two notes on the Japanese vinyl-box edition (CBS/SONY 75AP 3300-3304). First, there has been confusion around the OBI strip. Some established online databases, such as Discogs and Lost In The Flood, describe that the first pressing features a gold OBI with red title lettering (simply called gold OBI) and the second release with a red OBI with gold title lettering (red OBI). This rather widespread perception is incorrect. Accurately, the red OBI came first, and then the gold OBI followed, which is evident by the following facts and observations.

A boxed description on each OBI (encircled) provides a clue to
which color strip came earlier.

  • First, I do remember that I saw the red-OBI copies exclusively and none of the gold versions at a retail shop when I bought my first copy on the release day (Nov. 9th, 1986). 
  • Second, an ex-company staff at CBS/SONY back then in charge of Springsteen realled "red-OBI first" in his blog a few years ago when he wrote about the hectic days around the extraordinary rapid manufacture and subsequent immediate release of the box set, not to fall behind the U.S. release. He was previously mentioned in this blog (04/26/2015). 
  • Third, OBI is a target for cost reduction in offset printing, and normally, using multiple colors is rare (e.g., the DARKNESS OBI; see 03/05/2016). Metallic gold also costs high because it is not a CYMK-process color but a spot (solid) color that must be pre-mixed and used in a single run. The company probably adopted the red OBI (less gold/less cost) for the initial run to save production costs and see how the sale went on.
  • Fourth, the color scheme aside, the two versions of OBI strips show a few noticeable differences. There is a boxed description at the lower part on the backside of the red OBI, which says something like, "The photo booklet (referring to the original English booklet) and liner notes (meaning the Japanese booklet) are not included in the box and handed to the customers at retail shops."  This allowed the manufacturing process to be shortened, explaining why the company was able to ship the first run so quickly to the retails in order to compete with the imported copies in domestic markets (see Part 1). The gold OBI deletes the description that was unnecessary for the second run (that needed no rush to be released). Instead, it has another short text in a box saying, "With the original photobook and lyric & liner notes," on the front face.
  • Finally, when SONY MUSIC (Japan) reissued in 2005 the 17-CD titles with the replica paper LP sleeves, it was the red OBI that was recreated with the miniature box set (MHCP 729-733; see the picture immediately below). This reissue project faithfully reproduced an original sleeve and OBI of the first press for each title, if you remember. Just for your information, although SONY released for the first time LP-style CD reissues back in 1999, their mini-OBI strips did not necessarily mirror the original ones [for example, the GREETINGS CD (SRCS 9466) recreated the famous wrap-around OBI used for the second pressing].

Are these enough?  In contrast to the vinyl box, the CD edition (75DP 700-702) was originally released with a gold OBI (see the last image on Part 1), just like the second vinyl issue, which might be a major cause of confusion, especially to overseas collectors. By the way, some years ago, I communicated and discussed on this topic with Eddy (of Springsteen lyrics). Taking this opportunity, I thank him for his insights and thoughtful discussion.

The LIVE box was reissued twice in Japan in 1999 (3-CD format; SONY SRCS 8985-8987) and 2005 (5-CD; MHCP 729-733upper right corner), with an elaborate miniature paper sleeve of the original LP form. Both reissues feature red OBI strips, although they are slightly different in their design. Note that the second wave of the 1999 reissue project (BORN IN THE U.S.A. to THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD) was ceased at the request of Springsteen's management, and the seven reissue titles, including this one, were hastily withdrawn that fall. The project abortion forced the pre-order at the Backstreets Records (see the flyer) to be canceled. Since then, these CDs have become extremely rare collectibles (see the previous post on 09/10/2016). The 1999 issue shown in the image includes three CDs, three inner sleeves, and two booklets.

In my opinion, the promotional copies for the LIVE box is the
hardest to come by among those
with the red "sample" labels
for the original albums released in the 1980s
One more note is about the sample copies that are distinguished from the regular pressings only by two measures: three Japanese Kanji letters (meaning "sample disc") in a box printed on each record label and a rectangle "Sample" sticker pasted on the bottom lid of the box package. CBS/SONY has abolished white record labels for promotional LP pressings and adopted these sample/promo indicators since as early as 1979 (since THE RIVER for Springsteen's case). Although such copies are generally neither so rare nor highly sought after unless some promotional materials are included (e.g., info sheets, custom flyers, etc.), the copy number for the LIVE box sample seems quite limited. Indeed, I've rarely found these copies in the market here (BTW, a few sample boxes I've seen thus far, including my possession, all featured the red OBI, supporting the above conclusion for the "Which OBI was earlier" issue). This was undoubtedly because of its large volume; distributing the 5-LP box sampler must have been impractical and costing quite high. And that's why CBS/SONY, like Columbia and CBS labels in some other countries, has released the custom promotion-only single LP compilation (CBS/SONY XDAP 93156) that contains 10-track excerpts from the box set.
— To be continued to Part 3.