To Live Outside the Law, You Must be Honest


MY one-way love affair with the greatest and most profound poet of my generation is without doubt obsessive.

And  it now borders on criminal.

So how did I come to live outside the law?

There lies a small story…

I’ll take you back to 1973… the hippy summers of love, acid overdoses and flower garlands were long past, and glam rock ruled.

Loon leg flares, penny collar shirts, Slade, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, T Rex and Top of the Pops were the now magnets for us Baby Boom kids.

And as a music mad teenager, I had already found Bowie and hid a guilty pleasure for also liking Marc Bolan.

But my real love was just about to be discovered.

A fellow student in my sixth form was a Bob Dylan fanatic – he even had hair like him and was forever being reprimanded by teachers for not wearing a tie and wearing baggy, non-regulation jumpers.

One day I asked him why he was so obsessed with Bob Dylan?

His blue eyes sparkled as my question registered and with unexpected enthusiasm he sat down and regaled me about the ‘greatness’ of Mr Dylan.

The next day he leant me Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits on vinyl LP and suggested I should get a copy of Blonde on Blonde to discover the real Dylan.

I was bemused, but eager to listen and so began my journey.

First, I bought a copy of More Bob Dylan Greatest Hits simply because the 21 tracks double album seemed like good value. Then I sought out a copy of Blonde on Blonde, which I had to order from my local record store as it had been released some seven years earlier, and was out of stock!

A week or two later, CBS suddenly released Dylan’s film soundtrack album Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid and the single Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door made the UK charts!

So armed with two double albums, plus the Heaven’s Door single I was beginning to discover Dylan… and it didn’t take long before I was hooked. His voice like sand and glue and words of truthful vengeance had me pinned to the floor, and like those before me I started to dissect his lyrics and find a new meaning to living.

More Greatest Hits was a delight. From Watching the River Flow to Crash on the Levee I was entering into his world of music and poetry.

I spent the rest of my sixth form and university years buying up Dylan’s back catalogue of albums on cassette tape and allowing his music and words to become the soundtrack to all I did.

Another Side of Bob Dylan and The Times They are a Changin’ led me to discover folk music and in turn Fairport Convention, while the awesome Planet Waves and Desire wrapped me up in stories, vignettes, lyrics and emotion I had never previously known.

Concerts came and concerts went, but the official CBS records and tapes were never enough to satiate my hunger.

Then during 1987-88, while I was hospitalised in Cardiff with cancer, a new world of Bob Dylan was unexpectedly opened to me.

To while away the hours and weeks of radiotherapy, my mum bought me a copy of Robert Shelton’s definitive Dylan biography No Direction Home.

I consumed the book in a couple of days. But it was while meandering through the appendices that I noted mention of a quarterly Bob Dylan fan / information magazine, simply titled The Telegraph.

With an annual subscription of just £10, including delivery, I wrote off and instantly subscribed to this gem.

And so began the expansion of my world of Bob Dylan and an enduring friendship with the magazine’s editor John Bauldie.

The first edition of my subscription (the autumn 1987 issue) to The Telegraph arrived at my hospital bedside within a fortnight.

Soon I was scouring and digesting its every page… and the reams of small ads in its supplement.

One advert shouted out to me.

A Dylan collector in Denmark was offering for sale cassette tapes of his many concerts at just £1.50 a time!

Enthused, and bored by hospital and this bloody thing called cancer, I sent off for a list of the tapes this guy named Andy, had for sale.

Within a few weeks a parcel of 12 Bob Dylan concert tapes arrived in a protectively wrapped brown paper parcel.

With a set of fresh batteries for my Sony Walkman, I began to listen to these previously unknown jewels that had arrived.

These included the famed 1978 Blackbushe Aerodrome gig, the 1984 Wembley concert, some outtakes from Infidels, and six audience recordings from his ongoing 1987 tour.

The sound quality between the tapes varied greatly from crackly and poor to just amazing and crystal clear.

But I was hooked, delighted and so began my passion for collecting Dylan recordings, which has now lasted all my life.

Now like many Dylan fanatics, I own all of his 37 studio albums, 11 Live albums, 12 albums comprising the official The Bootleg Series, and too many compilation and greatest hits collections to mention.

And my bootleg CD collection (which replaced the tapes sometime in the 1990s) has grown in tandem with glistening rarities that I once only dreamed of.

As I write this, I have just ordered from a fellow Bob Cat, a CD of previously unrecognised studio recordings from 1986.

It is due to arrive by the end of the week!

My passion is certainly an obsession… but a happy one.

But as a collector of bootleg recordings, am I breaking the law, and how legal is legal anyway?

And what exactly is a bootleg?

According to Wikipedia, the online fount of all knowledge: A bootleg recording is an audio or video recording of a performance that was not officially released by the artist or under other legal authority. The process of making and distributing such recordings is known as bootlegging.

Recordings may be copied and traded among fans of the artist without financial exchange, but some bootleggers have sold recordings for profit, sometimes by adding professional-quality sound engineering and packaging to the raw material.

Bootlegs usually consist of either unreleased studio recordings or live performances, with an unpredictable level of quality.

Changing technologies have impacted on the recording, distribution, and varying profitability of the underground industry. The copyrights for the song and the right to authorise recordings often reside with the artist, according to several international copyright treaties.

The recording, trading and sale of bootlegs continues to thrive, however, even as artists and record companies attempt to provide officially-released alternatives to satisfy the demand.

While, Wikipedia is, in essence correct, there is a lot more to the definition, the law and the practise of collecting bootleg CDs.

Bootleg is a term that is bandied about freely by many people to refer to a wide array of things.

Within the music industry, everything from the traditional bootleg, to pirates, to copies, to counterfeits have at one time or another been called a bootleg.

Most of the lay population use some or all of the terms above interchangeably.

But these terms are distinctive, and to live outside the law, you must be honest:


Once you become the legal user of copyrighted material (by purchasing a recording such as a CD), the material is yours to use and enjoy within the guidelines of the copyright.

The guidelines of the copyright, however, are extremely restrictive. It is generally accepted that the user should be allowed to make one copy or backup solely for her/his own use.

There is never permission to make more than one copy.  There is never permission to give, sell, or share this backup copy with another. This one (and only one) piece made for individual use is what the industry call a copy.


If you choose to make more than one copy of copyrighted material, you have moved to this level. You have violated the copyright, and therefore, the law.

Whether you are making one or two copies to give to friends, or 50 copies to sell at a car boot sale, it is illegal.

These multiple illegal copies are what industry insiders refer to as pirates or pirate copies.


While most of us would have to admit to at some point, knowingly or unknowingly, producing a pirated copy … no one has ever accidentally made a counterfeit.

As with counterfeit money, the term counterfeit refers to the exact duplication of an item. In terms of counterfeit CDs, this is exact down to the cover artwork.

These duplicates aren’t made by accident. They are made to deceive the public into thinking they are buying an original product when they are not.  Millions have been lost by musicians due to these practices. Everybody loses except for the individual thieves who pocket all of the profits.


Everything that you have read so far is what a bootleg is NOT.

Now, for what a bootleg is.

Copyrights work in many ways on many different levels. Once a song is completed it is automatically copyrighted. The fact that the writer put it down to paper or tape gives him/her an immediate copyright.

The copyright also gives the owner the right to profit from any commercial use of the song.

But a bootleg album or CD is one that has been created completely from material that is NOT commercially available, and therein lies the legal bypass of copyright.

The material might be from an interview, radio broadcast, recording from a live concert, studio outtake tapes etc.

The bootlegger will take this material and affix it to a record or CD album to be distributed in very small quantities. Sometimes as many as a thousand … sometimes as few as a hundred or less.

The releases are not going to be mass marketed … they’re only intended for a handful of collectors worldwide.

Collectors who are usually so dedicated to the artist they collect that they will surely own every commercially available piece offered by the artist.

As in the examples of Bob Dylan’s Royal Albert Hall concert, or the Basement Tapes, if a bootleg item is ever released officially, the bootleg collector will be the first person in line to pay money for the released version.

For the most part, we are talking about recordings that would never see the light of day any other way.

The major labels could never afford to release all of this material that would only interest a handful of fanatical fans worldwide.

Although in the case of Bob Dylan, his record label has in the past 25 years seen the light and began slowly to release the official Bootleg Series of albums. To date 12 such titles have been released, but often, as is the case of the most recent one The Cutting Edge, in highly priced packages of multiple CDs – the 18 CD option cost £640!

Generally, the only alternative to real bootlegs is for the performances to be forever lost.

Looking back to the roots of blues, jazz, country, and rock music; there are multiple thousands of lost performances and artists that we will never hear.

I any case, most bootleg collectors only ever trade their CDs with other collectors and rarely buy or sell.

This past week I have updated my collection of some 230 bootleg Bob Dylan albums with a rare double CD – a live recording from Seattle in January 1980, which until recently Dylan enthusiasts believed did not exist.

I have also added an amazing collection of 14 soundboard CDs from his 1965 concerts and a similar 14 CD boxed set of soundboards from 1978-81… the recording quality is astounding.

But while in the past 25 years I have spent well over £1,000 on official Bob Dylan CDs, the cost of my 230 bootlegs has been a small fraction of that… maybe £200 at most.

The simple reason is, I have traded copies from my collection with other fanatics like me.

So is it illegal to own bootlegs? 

No.  You do not have to worry about the record police coming to knock on your door!

Is it illegal to sell a bootleg? 

If you are a private citizen and have one or two bootlegs in your collection and are ready to put them on the collectors’ market … don’t worry.  If you are thinking of going into business selling bootlegs, you had better consult a good lawyer!

Is it illegal to manufacture a bootleg? 

In the UK, yes it is! There is a multitude of differing laws in some parts of Europe (notably Italy and the Netherlands) and the USA. Most industrialised, capitalist countries have some type of law on the books regarding the copyrights of recorded music. However, some are lax and some are completely ineffectual.

So with all that in place, I reiterate Bob Dylan’s own words: to live outside the law, you must be honest.

Dave Swarbrick RIP – the Passing of a Legend

IT has taken me the whole weekend to get my head around the death of the most wonderful and idiosyncratic of all British musicians: David Cyril Eric Swarbrick.

Even now, some three days since his passing, I am still struggling to find words for Swarb – or just Dave to his many friends.

How do I find the right words for a man who died twice and has occupied an iconic status in my life for nigh on 40 years?

And a man regarded by many as the greatest fiddle player these islands have ever produced?

Although short in stature, he has always been larger than life with his high octane virtuoso fiddle playing, wit, banter and infectious personal charm.

A legend in every meaning of the word.

I first met Dave at the bar of Fairport Convention’s annual Cropredy Convention sometime in the late 1980s. A pint of beer in one hand and obligatory cigarette in the other, he giggled and gently spat jokes with us mere mortals, before asking politely: “Whose round is it?”

In recent years we maintained a good friendship through social media, sharing the same political outlook on “a world gone badly wrong”.

When his health started to finally fail in January this year – ironically at the time of David Bowie’s untimely death – I designed him a Get Well card with a picture of Bowie on the front and a “Message from God” simply stating: “you’ll have to wait, Dave”.

The juxtaposition of Bowie’s final Lazarus album, and Swarb’s final band, also called Lazarus was obvious to us both.

I sent the card to the hospital in Aberystwyth, where he was being treated. His wife, Jill, responded that he “loved it”.

His passing six months later is tragically sad, but somehow expected.

For many years Dave suffered steadily worsening health due to emphysema.

There was huge embarrassment for the Daily Telegraph in 1999, when it published a premature obituary for Swarb, after he was admitted to hospital in his home town of Coventry, with a chronic lung infection.

When informed that the musician was still alive the Telegraph’s obituaries editor and his staff were said to be “distraught”.

Luckily the piece made flattering reading, describing Swarb as “a small, dynamic, charismatic figure, cigarette perched precariously on his bottom lip, unruly hair flapping over his face, pint of beer ever at hand, who could electrify an audience with a single frenzied sweep of his bow”

After the initial shock and apologies, Dave could see the funny side, coming out with the priceless one-liner: “It’s not the first time I’ve died in Coventry.”

“After all, I’d enjoyed the text of the obit – it was very complimentary,” he explained. “And it had answered a question I’d often asked myself: whether any paper would bother when I died.”

In fact Swarb went on to turn the newspaper’s error to his advantage, admitting that “I never got half as much attention playing as by dying.”

“So, I photocopied the obits, took them to gigs, signed them “RIP Dave Swarbrick” and sold them for £1.

“After all, where else are you going to get a signed obituary? I had to stop, though, when The Telegraph got in touch and told me I couldn’t do it as they had the copyright,” he later recalled.

Dave Swarbrick, the violinist and singer, was one of the most influential folk musicians of the 20th century.

He was born at New Malden, Surrey, on 5 April, 1941.

He was first drawn to folk music after taking up the guitar during the skiffle boom of the late 1950s.

When he was 16, the pianist Beryl Marriott invited him to join a ceilidh dance band. She also persuaded him to have another crack at the fiddle, which he had played as a child but which he had long since consigned to the attic.

In the 1960s Swarb was invited to play in some of the sessions of Ewan MacColl’s and Charles Parker’s Radio Ballads — setting stories about Britain’s fishermen, roadbuilders, miners, boxers and travellers to music.

Through these he was introduced to Ian Campbell, and joined the Ian Campbell Folk Group in time to play on their first record, EP Ceilidh At The Crown (1962); he went on to help establish them as stars of the emerging folk club scene.

I still have a faded poster from a gig the group played at Kirkwall in January 1966. It hangs on my living room wall, as one of many mementos.

A year earlier Swarb had been invited to play on Martin Carthy’s first album.

Later in 1966 – just as England were winning the World Cup – Swarb suddenly decided to emigrate to Denmark and marry his Danish girlfriend. But with little money and no return ticket, he was detained at the Hook of Holland by customs, and promptly sent home again.

He ended up staying in London with Martin Carthy, with whom he went on to develop an important partnership.

The intuitive interplay between Carthy’s guitar and Swarb’s fiddle was something entirely new. Their albums, Byker Hill (1967), But Two Came By (1968) and Prince Heathen (1969) broke the mould of traditional song arrangement and opened the door for the fusion of folk and rock.

When he was asked to play on a session for Fairport Convention in 1969, however, Dave had never even heard of the band.

He was initially booked for one number only, but he ended up playing on four tracks on Fairport’s Unhalfbricking album (1969) and was invited to join the band full time.

His first album as a fully fledged member of Fairport Convention was Liege and Lief (1969), which broke new ground in marrying traditional songs with rock.

Two members of the band, Sandy Denny and Ashley Hutchings, walked out after disputes about the direction of their music. This left Swarbrick and the guitarist Richard Thompson to take their place at the core of the band.

Over the next 15 years, Fairport Convention undertook world tours and made more than a dozen albums.

After Richard Thompson’s departure in 1970, Swarb developed into a surprisingly sensitive songwriter, and also took on the role of lead singer. In 1971 he was the prime creative drive behind Fairport Convention’s most ambitious project, Babbacombe Lee, an album based on the story of John Lee, a convicted murderer who was reprieved after three attempts to hang him at Exeter in 1885 had failed.

Swarb remained a constant presence throughout the numerous internal disputes which disrupted Fairport.

But continual playing of the electric violin left him virtually deaf in one ear, and in 1984 he decided to retire.

During his Fairport years he had also released three well- received solo albums, Swarbrick (1976), Swarbrick 2 (1977) and Lift the Lid and Listen (1978).

He reverted to the acoustic violin as he returned to folk clubs with fellow Fairport member Simon Nicol.

He also made occasional returns to the Fairport fold, playing at their annual Cropredy Reunion Festival in Oxfordshire.

“I’m always amazed to listen to my Fairport stuff,” he said in 2014. “It’s so fast. What was I on?”

In 1988 Swarb linked up again with Martin Carthy. They made some successful tours, and produced a couple of fine albums, Life and Limb (1990) and Skin and Bone (1992).

He also spent some years in Australia, working with the guitarist and singer Alistair Hulett, with whom he recorded the impressive The Cold Grey Light (1998), before returning home.

Then came his hospitalisation with emphysema and the Telegraph’s infamous obituary.

Almost immediately his long-time friend and drinking buddy Dave Pegg and wife Christine launched the SwarbAid appeal.

This included a fund-raising concert at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall in July 1999, and a limited-edition EP recorded live, to raise cash for Dave whilst his poor health prevented him from working.

It is a personal joy that I still have a copy of that EP.

After a relapse a few years later, they launched SwarbAid II with a similar concert in 2004 – and yes I have that T Shirt too!

Dave received his double lung transplant on 2nd October that year and a new lease of life.

In 2006, he started touring again with fellow ex-Fairporter, Maartin Allcock, and Kevin Dempsey – calling themselves, with a wink to the Telegraph’s premature obituary, Swarb’s Lazarus, producing the album Live and Kicking (2006) and appearing at the Cropredy Festival.

He also reignited his partnership with Martin Carthy, with whom in later years he regularly hit the road for an autumn tour.

In 2007 he joined his old cohorts from Fairport Convention on their 40th anniversary as a band at Cropredy to play their legendary album Liege and Lief, in its entirity on stage.

It is one of the highlights of my life to have been there and witness Swarb play as amazingly as ever.

In 2010, backed by a stellar array of guest musicians, Swarb released Raison D’être, his first solo album for nearly 20 years.

It was reviewed in more than 20 publications, the English Folk Dance and Song Society Magazine describing it as “the work of a fine fiddler who simply refuses to lie down and rest on his not inconsiderable laurels”.

In 2003, Swarb received the Gold Badge from the English Folk Dance and Song Society and the Gold Badge of Merit from the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.

In 2004 he received a lifetime achievement award in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and in 2006 Fairport’s Liege and Lief album was voted “Most Influential Folk Album of All Time” by Radio 2 listeners.

At the 2007 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, he and Martin Carthy won the “Best Duo” Award. In 2012 he received another lifetime achievement award at the 2012 Fatea awards.

In the summer of 2014 – following a flurry of emails – I was lucky enough to visit Dave’s home in Coventry, where his wife Jill sold me one of his beautiful old fiddles from his Fairport days.

The fiddle also hangs in my living room – next to that 1966 poster.

I have determined that the fiddle is now retired and will never again be played.

Now as I type the last few words of this eulogy, I look down on the desk at a yellowed 1980 copy of The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs – distinguished by Dave’s signature on the inside cover… it was his own personal copy.

His album English Fiddler plays gently in the background.

In so many different ways, David Cyril Eric Swarbrick will always be part of my life.

Rest in Peace, great and wonderful man.

Dave Swarbrick is survived by his wife, the painter Jill Swarbrick-Banks, whom he married in 1999, and by a son and two daughters.

Born 5 April 1941, died 3 June 2016, aged 75.


Fairness, Compassion and Equality can Finally Overturn the Scourge of Capitalist Greed

No Time to Think

WHILE the political pundits in the Westminster village are twisted into knots over Jeremy Corbyn’s so-called ‘Revenge Reshuffle” and BBC duplicity over the resignation of one minor minister, it is time to reset our focus to something much more important.

Put simply, the ongoing scourge of ordinary people by the most arrogant, privileged and right wing government of my lifetime.

For decades our country – and most of Western Europe – has been sleep-walking into a world of personal greed, arrogance and self-importance with totems such as The X Factor, tanning studios, Top Gear, designer clothes labels and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Human kindness, gentleness, peace, society and social justice have been jettisoned for a ‘winner takes all’ mentality and a scapegoating of the homeless, those claiming benefits, Muslims, asylum seekers and the poor in general.

All of this is underpinned by our malicious right wing press who…

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