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35 Years Ago: Aerosmith’s ‘Live! Bootleg’ Released

Columbia Records

You could make a strong case that 1978 was “the year of the live album,” with a slew of now-legendary releases including AC/DC’s ‘If You Want Blood (You’ve Got it),’ The Band’s ‘Last Waltz,’ Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Some Enchanted Evening,’ David Bowie’s ‘Stage,’ Kansas’ ‘Two for the Show,’ Ted Nugent’s ‘Double Live Gonzo,’ Sammy Hagar’s ‘All Night Long,’ Jethro Tull’s ‘Bursting Out,’ the Outlaws’ ‘Bring it Back Alive,’ Thin Lizzy’s ‘Live and Dangerous,’ the Scorpions’ ‘Tokyo Tapes,’ Bob Dylan’s ‘At Budokan,’ Cheap Trick’s ‘At Budokan’ (released in ’78 in Japan), and Frank Zappa’s ‘Live in New York.’

See what we mean?

Yet, among all of these, Aerosmith’s ‘Live! Bootleg’ was unique in several ways. While most of the albums listed above benefited from meticulous studio fixes, wholesale re-mixing, and even extensive overdubbing before finding their way into record stores, ‘Live! Bootleg,’ lived up to its title with its ugly, nondescript cover art, raw audio fidelity, slapdash song sequencing, and sometimes even sloppy band performances. Now, whether this surprisingly honest presentation of Aerosmith’s inconsistent late ‘70s tours was intentional or the best that could be achieved due to the band’s olympic substance abuse and reckless self-destruction during that time is subject to debate; but you sure can’t argue with the palpable excitement of the results.

For starters, unlike many of the aforementioned, studio-tweaked live albums, ‘Live! Bootleg’ made no attempt to create a seamless but unrealistic concert experience: audio quality and audience noise vary from song to song, recordings made in massive sheds, tiny clubs and even radio sessions are sequenced indiscriminately, and performances of Aerosmith classics like ‘Back in the Saddle,’ ‘Sweet Emotion,’ ‘Lord of the Thighs,’ ‘Walk this Way’ and ‘Dream On’ teeter ever on the brink of sheer genius, total collapse or spontaneous combustion.

And to further enhance the “unofficial” live album agenda, ‘Live! Bootleg’ includes decidedly slovenly renditions of ‘Back in the Saddle,’ ‘Toys in the Attic’ and ‘Last Child’ (where Steven Tyler sounds like a strangled chicken!) without prejudice, features an uncredited ‘Draw the Line’ that crops up unannounced at the tail-end of ‘Mother Popcorn,’ and you can even hear firecrackers-a-popping during ‘Mama Kin.’

In sum, ‘Live! Bootleg’ is one hot mess, but so was Aerosmith in the late 1970s, and therefore, this is not only a fantastically entertaining concert reproduction, it’s perhaps the most authentic live album of the period! We’ll leave that for you to debate below, but whatever your personal verdict, we can all agree that ‘Live! Bootleg’ continues to entertain, confuse and excite listeners in equal measures so many years later.

Next: Top 10 Aerosmith Songs of the 70s

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