These were a common sight in the latter part of 1982 – particularly around the record fairs, where the live gig bootleggers would sit at stalls behind boxes of Type 1 audio tapes. The tapes would feature performances from popular bands of the day, recorded on the sly at various venues, on a pocket tape recorder – typically a Sony Walkman. Names such as The Jam, Echo & The Bunnymen, UB40, Duran Duran, Madness, Bauhaus, Altered Images and Mari Wilson were among those well known from the UK pop charts at the time.
The Maxell UL 90 here seemed to be one of the staple cassettes used for live bootleg copies at the Birmingham (England) fairs as 1982 drew to a close. Other staples included the Sony CHF 90 and the evergreen TDK D 90. Almost certainly these cassettes would be chosen based on price rather than any particular concern about quality. They were Type I tapes on the borderline between ‘voice recording’ and music reproduction spec. Cheap and cheerful, basically. The inlays would be removed from the cassette cases, and replaced with budget photocopies – normally in monochrome, but on brightly coloured paper. The photocopies served as custom inlays and usually featured a picture of the bootlegged band or act, along with a typed song list and other info.
This UL 90 features a performance by The Beat (or The English Beat), from their UK tour of autumn ’82. The bootleg tapes would significantly undercut commercial cassette albums in terms of price to the consumer, but their quality was usually grossly inferior. This one cost £2.50, whereas a commercial album would cost somewhere around £4.99 as a rule. The recording quality on this cassette is especially poor, since far too much level has been forced onto the tape and it’s distorted. The people who made these bootlegs never seemed greatly bothered about what they were selling.
I went to see The Beat on the tour in question, although not at the gig captured on the tape. I seem to recall the ticket costing £3.50. I’ve still got it somewhere but can’t put my hands on it at the moment. Seems so cheap given what it costs to see a chart band today. Mind you, it was nearly thirty years ago I suppose.