Stuffography Bootlegs & Bobina

The rock & roll equivalent of "samizdat," the hand-to-hand distribution of forbidden texts, the bobina were reel-to-reel tapes made by musicians who handed them off to a few friends, who handed them off to a few friends, who handed them off… etc. In this manner, these tapes made their way across the USSR.

Once upon a time, all the canonical Soviet-era Akvarium albums were Bobina. As far as those albums are all now available on disc, however, the albums we currently file under this category are concert recordings of doubtful provenance that are still unavailable in any format other than tape. Many show evidence of a sound-board and were presumably recorded for band-archival purposes, a la the Grateful Dead; others seem to be true bootlegs of the tape-recorder-in-the-hat variety. Until recently, most were to be found on cheap cassettes in Moscow at ZigZag's Rock-n-Roll Shop and a few random kiosks, and no place else on Earth that we know of. This being the new millennium and all, though, most of these (along with many, many more) can now be found on the web at sites like Empty Spaces and Pavel Severov's Collection. So, happy hunting in this forest of magic mushrooms!

1980
Medium

Soon Acoustics will arrive. Be patient. Though we'd be remiss if we failed to mention that this "official bootleg," (early bobina released as an album, the album's sub-head) contains some alternate takes and stuff that's otherwise difficult to find on disc. If your goal is absolute completism—which it should be—you need this record.

1982
Medium

Sixty-minute tape with crappy typed label (the "Feel Tapes" trademark). Well-placed microphone, but the recording's still not really clean (hissy). Pretty small crowd, some patter. Just Boris with acoustic guitar and harmonica...except there's a tambourine in a few places. So there may be helpers. He's playing good but not great.

1983
Medium

60-minute tape, padded out with Akvarium's set at the 2nd Festival. The mix isn't the best, and the sound isn't the best. The insanely-long, loud, electric version of "Rock-and-Roll's Dead" is essential. The festival organizers give out awards at the end of the set (which has an encore, "Babylon").

1983
Medium

Live Akvarium, with the full band. Pretty good (probably soundboard) sound quality. Sasha Titov (presumed to be bass player) is playing a nice-sounding fretless. He gives a good performance, as do all the others. Boris's voice is in good form. Suffers from the same problems all live Akvarium suffers from—lack of immediacy.

1983
Medium

Dates and prices...like on a jar of pickles? Anyway, this bootleg, also called Elektroshok 2, preserves an entire Akvarium concert during their most intensely creative period, and, while it bounces chaotically from the sloppy to the sublime, it provides an intriguing glimpse into the band at a seminal stage of their development.

1984
Medium

A two-tape set. It's a recording made in some kitchen of Boris answering friendly questions over tea. They go through a dozen cups, stirring sugar into every one. They get interrupted by a woman who calls Boris "Borya." This is only for the serious scholar of Russian (or an actual Russian, of course), and even then maybe not. At the end of side two of tape two, there is some different Boris-talking stuff (an on-stage monologue?), then there are actually two dime-a-dozen live songs.

1984
Medium

A highly Munchkinized, low sound-quality BG solo-concert. Not one of the more interesting bootlegs at all. Bits of interview are included, but the questions are mostly inaudible and the tape-warping makes the answers difficult to understand (the second "BG raskazyvaet" section in particular seems to go on forever). Lots of Neil Young-ish simultaneous guitar and harmonica. A few uncommon songs off of Ichthyology are the highpoints, but on the whole the quality of the recording merits a "Bodhisattva" rating.

1986
Medium

It's an Akvarium concert with members of the Mit'ki artistic movement, plus cool bonus studio tracks. The concert has really good sound. It may even be a soundboard copy. You won't find a bobina with better sound. The musicians are in top form as well. This is an all-around excellent show. And the bonus tracks... well...we already said they're cool.

1986
Medium

Generally good quality recording from the fourth and fifth annual festivals at the Leningrad Rock Club. Great set list for the 1986 festival drawn primarily from 10 Arrows (indeed for all I know the versions of "Tram," "Host," and "Hard Coal" may be one and the same), while the 1987 set is mostly songs that never made it onto albums. Dzhrew would highly approve of the super-extendo 15-minute version of "Don't Waste Time" that closes Side B, but to the detriment of his lingam he's never heard it.

1986
Medium

Recordings from 1979-1986—live and otherwise. From "Feel Tapes." 60-min tape, often murky and full of what sound technicians call "wow" (it's different from what listeners call "wow!") There are also clean songs, well-recorded. The tape label is next to worthless—mistakes, omissions, misidentifications. D'oh. The track list given here is still subject to change.

1987
Medium

High-quality live Akvarium from the just-before-Boris-jumps-into-the-American-abyss era. Mostly songs from Equinox and 10 Arrows, some of the better-known Library of Babylon songs, and a smattering of more esoteric tunes as well (e.g. "They're Selling Us," "Children of the Sunrise"). Sound board is in evidence, and recording quaility is consistent everywhere except on "That Which I Must Say" which sounds whispered. Side 2 of the tape is filled out with bluesy experimentation, song titles unlisted and perhaps unlistable.

1987
Medium

Dzhon's current favorite among the bootlegs: BG gunning it solo with acoustic guitar and harmonica before a small but appreciative audience.

1987
Medium

A fairly clean, ten-song recording of Akvarium from a late-80's TV show. Groovy songs and wack audience questions. As dubbear and Sasha point out, it's a period piece.

1989
Medium

60-mins of concert from whatever the Dom Kultury MELZ (an acronym for some kind of profession, no doubt) is. Murky, distant sound quality. This is a lot of stuff off Sands of Petersburg. The last two (and half of a third, not listed in our setlist) songs are from a different concert (better sound quality).

1990
Medium

Selections from a concert, rather than a full concert recording, intentionally focusing, I think, on rarities rather than Akvarium standards. Kicks off with some fine Russian rhythmic clapping, and the devushki really scream up a storm at the end of each cut. Sound quality is pretty good throughout, though for some reason it's better on Side A than on Side B.

1997
Medium

Internet-only single.

2000
Medium

Aaaaaaaaa-oooooooo-oooooo! Live internet-only album recorded January 22, 2000 in Samara. Is that BG howling his true devotion to Artemis...or is that an attempt at Tuvan throat-singing? Sprites and dryads dance in a faerie-ring, and we, the True Believers, get a basketful of goodies на халяве. Who could ask for anything more?