‘DON’TTOUCHTHATDIAL’ DB 76072 plus the $100,000 Sting featuring David Bowie’s ‘The Wembley Wizard Touches The Dial’

Bowie Don't Touch That Dial

Bowie MM 28 Feb 76

Bowie Don't Touch That Dial 3Bowie Don't Touch That Dial 2

Did the originals have blue labels?

Bowie Don't Touch That Dial b 2Bowie 76 Wembley pic

Japan: Second half of 1976

Source: David Bowie at Wembley Empire Pool, 07 May, 1976. Night # five of a six night run.

Side 1: Station to Station (cuts in, first 3 mins are poor/fair) / Suffragette City / Fame / Word on a Wing / Stay / Waiting for the Man  [28:15]

Side 2: Queen Bitch / Life on Mars? / introductions-Changes / TVC 15 / Diamond Dogs [29:15]

Concert set list:

Station to Station
Suffragette City
Fame
Word on a Wing
Stay
I’m Waiting for the Man (Velvet Underground cover)
Queen Bitch
Life on Mars?
Five Years
Panic in Detroit
Changes
TVC15
Diamond Dogs

Encores:
Rebel Rebel
The Jean Genie

For years, I have been led to believe that the audio quality of this recording is terrible – Heylin calling it “godawful”. In fact, this might actually be one of the better recordings from this series of concerts.

Have a listen to two samples here: http://floorboards.blog.co.uk/2011/06/18/david-bowie-tvc15-11336034/

” it is a good sounding audience recording for the era. The performance is excellent and is great fun to hear, with Bowie in great voice and jovial mood (drunk again!) Tony Kaye really shows his class on this too. […] It’s a shame the intro to Station To Station is cut as Stacey Heydon was a class act and really did a magnificent job on it. Several tracks are missing but that’s the way with boots of this era. I remember DB created the howling effect at the end of Diamond Dogs by standing on the edge of the stage and swinging his microphone Roger Daltry style in front of the PA stack to get the feedback on every pass. Too funny.” [uploader comments]

***

Bowie 76 Wembley tix

****

THE SETUP:

While in the US, the FBI was busting bootleggers, the UK had the British Phonographic Institute (BPI) and it’s Anti-Piracy Unit. The BPI represented the interests of British record companies since being formally incorporated in 1973 when the principal aim was to promote British music and fight copyright infringement. Unfortunately (for the BPI), while the FBI was part of law enforcement, they were just a private limited company.

In 1979, the BPI ended up copying MARC’s LP – contrary to common belief, they had not picked the original bootleg and made that decision but claim to have been “forced” in order to continue their investigation, a classical case of ‘the ends justify the means’.

“The investigations started following a tip about a Manchester-based bootleg operation importing US bootleg product into Holland…” [Billboard, 8 September 1979]

“[The Wembley Wizards] weren’t pressed to implicate. They were purely pressed so the guy could maintain his cover … All the investigator did was to act as the middle man. He was approached by the gang and the gang said to him. ‘Look, you say you can manufacture records, we would like you to get 2,000 manufactured for us.’ The guy had to say yes because of his cover. But there is no question of those records being used to implicate anybody. There were literally tens of thousands of them around at the time. It’s in the press releases. They were being pressed in America and coming over via Holland.” [Richard Robson [BPI] in New Musical Express, 2 August 1980]

Robson’s final statement must have been about all Bowie bootlegs ever made and simply cannot have been about the MARC album, pressed in a run of perhaps 2-300 and imported into the UK in tiny quantities by a mail order company in the Netherlands called Unique Records. At least, he got it right about product coming in from Holland! This is probably a good point to explain that bootlegs by Western artists with material recorded before 1978 (when Japan which had become a member of The Phonogram Protection Convention),

Heylin comments Robson’s statement with “Either Mr. Robson was very good at the bare-faced lie or astonishingly ignorant ignorant …” [Bootleg, p. 214]. There is another Robson quote where gets it spectactularly wrong: “All we did was re-press and mark an album that had already been in circulation.” I would tend to lean towards ignorance, mixed with a good dose of PR exaggeration. This was going to be another proof that the institutions who dedicated themselves to fighting bootlegging in the late 1970’s usually didn’t understand this sub-culture at all.

“The BPI’s main investigator at this time wa one Bill Hood. He had hooked up with a motley crew of Manchester bootleg retailers and was convinced that they could help him unravel the entire chain of bootleg shops in the UK. The Mancunians were operating from Bookchain, a shop on Peter Street inhabited by staff familiar to anyone who had ever frequented Manchester’s original bootleg store, Orbit Books.” [Bootleg, p. 215]

“Hood successfully infiltrated the gang and actually visited the home of a supplier. And yet, mysteriously, he was still ‘unable to gain concrete evidence against the major suppliers’ … Hood chose not to follow the tortuous path back to origins but to ‘involve myself in the manufacturing process. It was decided by me and my supervisors that I pose as a presser of bootleg records … I had been told that one of the members had some metal casts and that he wanted some pressings done urgently. … I was given these metal casts and asked to press 2,500 records from them. I took the casts back to London where a member of the BPI did the necessary pressing for me’ … And not only did Hood’s pressing amount to practically  the grand total, but the whole Moonbeam bust […] hinged on this one pressing … There were no Wizards to speak of until Hood did his pressing.” [New Musical Express, 2 August 1980]

In my opinion, this bootleg would have been pressed regardless if the BPI had lent a helping hand or not; as we can read above, the mastering and transfer to the pressing plates had already been done, someone was taking care of the art work (clearly not a Bowie connaisseur – they also forgot to list “Stay” on the wrap-around insert), the BPI’s involvement was limited to pressing the records. Not that it wasn’t entrapment, of course.

 

THE PRODUCT:

UK: Summer of 1979 (ca. 2.5 years after the release of the Japanese original)

Bowie D WWTTD

Four different versions can be identified:

1. b&w folded wrap around around insert. Blank white lables, stamped matrix: CCIA (side A) plus “The Actor 79” / CCIB (side B). “There are also the letters “EG” together with a long horizontal stroke stamped on each side. The etchings are all quite deep.” All copies seem to suffer from clicks during “Queen Bitch” and “Life on Mars?”

Bowie D WWTTD 1

2. Plain white sleeve with a sticker labelled in green print and bold letters: “The Wembley Wizard Touches The Dial” “Limited Edition”. As expected the disc itself is identical to the one described above in every way,  The obvious explanation is that they ran out of inserts and substituted the green stickers instead.

Bowie D WWTTD 2

Both versions came in dated inner sleeves that were also used for officially released records. Was this normal for UK bootlegs or could this have been a sign of a Trojan horse? On the other hand, I doubt bootleg dealers paid much attention to inner sleeves.

Writing on the left:

Bowie D WWTTD sl1And on the right:

Bowie D WWTTD sl2

3. 1 / 2 labels and pressed on thicker PVC than the standard copies shown above, however the matrix markings are still the same as described above. One can faintly see the ‘1’ on the label here:

Bowie D WWTTD 3

“The pic sleeve of [versions 1 & 3] has been printed quite dark. Since I have seen a more detailed, less dark printed cover, I started to question whether my copies are part of the original BPI release, or a release pressed soon after the raids when the album became a hot must have item.” [collector comment]

 

4. 1982 reissue with printed labels and a new/different matrix. Runs slow.

Bowie D WWTTD lbl 1Bowie D WWTTD lbl 2Again, there is no “Stay” listed on side one. The misspelling in the title might point to this reissue not having been produced in the UK.

“I got my copy at a record fair in Leeds when the BPI ones first came out. The usual price for single LPs was always £8 to £10 depending on how much bargaining you could do with the seller. I remember knowing exactly where to go when I got in to the hall, the stall with loads of people all trying to get it quick! So I got in to the small but tightly packed throng and I think it was £10. The dealer didn’t have to make any deals that day. […] on the day of the fair plenty of Bowie fans were after it, the stall I got it off was busy as soon as it was apparent he’d got them, that I do remember.” [Quotes and many of the images in this section taken from the Illustrated gb discography forum]

 

THE OUTCOME:

Most of the Wembley Wizard’s were not recovered, of course but sold as described above and injected into market of eager bootleg buyers. It is said that only 250 copies were eventually seized.

Bb 8 Sept a

Bb 8 Sept 79

Bb 15 Sept 79Billboard, 15 September 1979

“‘Britain’s recording industry has cracked a bootlegging syndicate!’ screamed the tabloid press. ‘Undercover agents working on an investigation code-named OPERATION MOONBEAM have carried out raids in London, Manchester, Newcastle and St. Helens.’

Beneath familiar mug-shots of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Elton John (‘BOOTLEGGED!), the reports went on to stipulate how, in April 1979, a telephone tip-off had set into motion the greased wheels of Operation Moonbeam.

‘Inquiries led to Manchester where stocks of bootleg records were being imported from America.’The ingenuity of the Moonbeam agents was such that ‘One investigator posed as a manufacturer to infiltrate the network’ while ‘Suspects were trailed all over the country by BPI investigators with long-range cameras’.

Both Orbit Books and BOOKCHAIN (the third Savoy outlet, Peter Street) were hit by the operation. David Britton found himself in the High Court in London, agreeing to pay the BPI a sum of £7,250 for damages and costs, as well as to a permanent injunction, not to make, sell or offer for sale any bootleg recordings.

“We were two days late making the first payment of £l,000,” says Butterworth of the fine. “They sent the cheque back and instructed the bailiffs to move in straight away and stuck further costs on top. This was our second bust… at Orbit Books we had been done over by the BPI as early as 1976.” [http://www.savoy.abel.co.uk/HTML/hdprss.html]

Bb 15 Dec 79Billboard, 15 December 1979

***

In a meeting on June 24, 1981 the BPI celebrated the profitable conclusion of ‘Operation Moonbeam’. The association’s lawyer Tony Hoffman tallied up the final numbers. $100,000 had been spent by the BPI with won damages of $60,410 already received and another $44,562 expected. Seized equipment was valued at $4,000 and the street valued of confiscated bootlegs was valued at $200,000.

Ironically, Hoffman called the album “a great success” and mentioned the favorable review it had received in Hot Wacks Quarterly as if the BPI had been involved in its artistic creation. “The final accolade, he said was a new American bootleg album of Bruce Springsteen which carried on the jacket the legend “Produced by William Hood and manufactured by Moonbeam Records Inc.” [Billboard, 4 July 1981]

***

Operation Moonbeam’s most significant result was the implication of Rough Trade Records as a bootleg retailer. The store, on the verge of becoming an independent record label was fined GBP 10,000. “Virgin had been busted in 1973 for carrying shifty product, and the spotlight now turned to Ladbroke Grove.

Today’s hipster darling label was mostly a shop back then and Punky bootlegs were part of its scheme, especially for mail order customers in the States.  That stopped.  However, the rest of Operation Moonbeam was covered in dog mess steam.  Stores that never had a bootleg before stocked the BPI knockoff, and charges were served to the wrong names with duff addresses.  The Police first were frustrated, then livid. The Courts were even less helpful – reminding all that stung wholesalers were “perfectly entitled to stay silent about their customers and suppliers…alleged offenders protected from self incrimination by long standing legal privilege.”  The Judges involved curled out much angry scat on the BPI and its faux cops.

Retarded press statements were made by Bill and the BPI, a lot of congratulations all round until the dust settled on a pint of the cold piss that is reality.  A tonne of punters had been turned on to bootlegs. And the confusion around international copyright had also been exposed.  Western acts had no protection in Japan, and on the Continent major loopholes about what was recorded live, when, by whom and the nationality of the artists concerned appeared like magic in the dusty law books.  The stage was set for a new explosion of bootlegs from Europe.  Bill retired in mockery.  Ken cracked a knowing smile and put up the mainsail.” [http://www.ratrecordsuk.net/blog/item/99355-loose-booty-3-the-man-strikes-wack.html]

Springsteen MGfAPNJ b

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8 comments
  1. John said:

    never understand the story about this record. So there were covers printed by the BPI..and therefore they need vinyls?
    how ever could the bootleggers fall into that trap? btw….ive tried for years to obtain a copy but failed in seeing one..it must be a very rare one…with only a few available on the market that years.

    • This post will grow in size by at least a third. It will be clearer then.

      Set up an alarm on eBay and be patient – one will eventually be offered. It’s on discogs.com of course but people want outrageous money for it based on its notoriety.

  2. John said:

    ok thanks mate for cleaning this story. Lots of copy’s of the Wizard were sold on marketsites…but that MUST be fakes.

  3. John said:

    hey just noticed that the story continued….gonna go for a fast read….GREAT!!

  4. Alfie said:

    You’d be better off looking for a Marc original as Wembley wizard skips several times on queen bitch and ends early on diamond dogs!!

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