By now, the underground Stones album had been released. At first, it was available only in small numbers. Shortly after Christmas, most stores on the West Coast had sold out. Suddenly, it became available again in larger quantities than ever before, and a price war ensued.
In the Bay Area, Leopold's, the nonprofit record store owned and operated by Berkeley students, got it first. In fact, they were told that they'd have it exclusively by the L.A. distributors who supplied them. But one other store in Berkeley got it immediately (200 copies), another a week later, and pretty soon a Palo Alto store and one in San Francisco were handling it as well.
Over a two week period, Leopold's had received about 1600 copies of the Stones album. They had planned to hold onto them all until they had saturated their market, and then start shipping them out wholesale to other stores in Northern California.
Leopold's had also been the prime Berkeley outlet for Great White Wonder. They had sold about 3000 copies at prices ranging from $6.67 down to $5.24 after paying $5 to $3.50.
They got the Stones album from the same distributor who supplied them with Great White Wonder. Shortly after receiving the Stones LP, Gervich and a couple others took a few copies over to KSAN in San Francisco, which hadn't yet received a copy. And who should be there but Sam Cutler, road manager for the Stones on their recent U.S. tour. "Cutler listened to it and really dug it, the sound, the music and everything. He bought a copy from us, then bought five more for each of the Stones. So we ended up selling the Stones their own album," Gervich laughed.
Other stores in Berkeley weren't taking the matter quite as lightly. One manager, who had stocked everything he could get his hands on, had been told by his Columbia sales representative that he should be expecting a letter in the mail pretty soon. The sales rep didn't give any hints about what the letter would say, but the store owner assumed it would be a cease and desist order.
And at Discount Records in Berkeley, manager Don Ellis was saying, "Our policy is not to sell the bootlegs. We sold Great White Wonder for a while, because I really hadn't thought about it. Like, all I could think about was, wow, it's Dylan, and I really didn't think about the moral question. Then some Columbia attorneys came in the store and asked me if I realized what I was doing. The artist should have some say about what's released, and he should get paid."
Discount Records is owned by CBS. Ellis said there was no coercion on the part of Columbia attorneys, but that they just convinced him selling bootlegs was a bad idea. "When I see it now, I know it's bad," Ellis added. "This will make the artist afraid to appear in public. It's bad for him all around."
On December 20th, the Stones album turned up in Chicago. Noel Gimble, owner and manager of seven record stores there, was doing good business with them. He'd sold about 1000 copies of Great White Wonder at $9.95, and cleared his shelves of 2000 Stones albums at $5.50 each.
"I do a service to my customers, if you want to look at it that way," Gimble said, "Because I can make more money off a normal record. These are a headache in a way. I can't exchange them, I don't know who I'm dealing with, it's getting out of hand. It's a bit of a touchy subject here. My distributors are concerned, but really pretty easy-going. They know it won't re-occur to a great proportion. It's not the kind of item I can keep re-stocking."
By early January, the prime movers of LIVE r Than You'll Ever Be were willing to speak openly, but anonymously about their business. A young man with long hair and a full beard, one of the partners, said the whole operation started in New York about two weeks before Christmas. He and a friend bought 5000 copies back East at $2.50 each, plus shipping charges, with the understanding that they'd have an exclusive on the record in the L.A. area.
"There's really nothing exciting about this," one of them remarked. "It's just an ordinary wholesaling operation, cut-and-dried.
"Do you really think the Stones miss the money we're making? Whatever we take out of their pockets, we're doing as much for them in terms of publicity and interest in their music. The word moral doesn't apply. It's a matter of get what you can, and when someone else pops up copying our stuff, we do what we can to get more product at less cost. Maybe that's what the big record companies should do — compete with us. They weren't going to release this material anyway, were they?"
At Sam Goody's, largest record store in the East, executive buyer Sam Stolon said, "We wouldn't buy them. We're a public company which isn't allowed to buy such an album. We wouldn't sell them at a nickel apiece. The dealer is as responsible as the manufacturer."
Village Oldies, however, moved about 200 copies of Great White Wonder at $4 or $5 each. Stealin' went for $6 even though a single album, because the quality was much better. They sold 50 copies. At the House of Oldies, GWW went for $15, about the highest price in the country; they sold a three-record set (including Troubled Troubador) for $25. Two store managers have been told by their distributors that they have access to unlimited numbers of the Stones album if they want it, but both refused to sell it.
One customer in a New York store said he'd bought a casette recording of the Beatles' as-yet-unreleased album, Let It Be, when he was in Miami for the Pop Festival.
One of the producers of the Stealin' album was interviewed by John Carpenter of the Los Angeles Free Press, and afterward refused all further press contact. "Some of these songs are better than the shit that Columbia has released," the bootlegger said. "They just keep sitting on them so you might say, in a sense, we're just liberating the records and bringing them to all the people, not just the chosen few."
Among the songs "liberated" are new versions of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," "She Belongs to Me," "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," and "Love Minus Zero No Limit" (misidentified on the label as "My Love Waits Like Silence").
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