Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"Mike The Mike" Millard

I must admit every time I hear the word "bootleg" I cringe a little on the inside. It's been a romantic term that lots of folks have associated with a "live recording" for YEARS. The truth is that the "B" word is a dirty word for those of us doing this to help archive live music. Many do not regard "Bootlegging" as meaning the same thing as "Taping" or "Recording a show." To "Bootleg" is to make a recording without the bands permission and consequently sell that recording to those interested thus profiting off the band instead of helping them document what's going on. I also have to admit that I stopped sneaking gear into shows years ago. Anyways, here's some of "Mike The Mike" Millard's story...

Mike Millard, nicknamed "Mike The Mike" was an avid concert taper in the 1970s and 1980s, recording mostly Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones concerts in California, especially at the Los Angeles Forum. He taped virtually every show at the Forum from 1974 to 1980. Many of his recordings found their way into the hands of bootleggers who sold Millard's work to fans.

Starting with a basic mono recorder in 1974, Millard upgraded to a Nakamichi stereo recorder with AKG Acoustics microphones for the 1975 Led Zeppelin shows in the area. He often used a wheelchair to conceal his equipment, pretending to be disabled. Unlike most 1970s audience bootlegs, Millard's recordings are noted for their great sound quality, and are to this day considered some of the finest audio bootlegs available.

Millard's recording of the Led Zeppelin concert on June 21, 1977 at the Forum (allegedly taped from row number six) was released under the title Listen To This Eddie, and remains one of the best-known Led Zeppelin bootlegs. His recording of the opening number from the concert, "The Song Remains The Same", was included in the promos menu of the Led Zeppelin DVD. Millard recorded all of the Rolling Stones 1975 shows at the LA Forum, and his recording of the Sunday, June 13, 1975 show (titled 'LA Friday') has become one of the most widely spread recordings of a Rolling Stones concert.

Millard was never behind the sale of bootlegs and was openly against the illegal sale of his recordings - like many audience tapers today. He was notorious for "marking" copies of his tapes so that if one of his recordings turned up for sale on LP or CD, he would be able to tell which person he had traded it to. He kept a very detailed logbook of his marked recordings and who they were distributed to. "Unmarked" copies of Mike's recordings are very scarce. Recently, several unmarked 1st generation copies of his Led Zeppelin recordings surfaced in trading circles, a truly historic moment for collectors around the world.

Millard allegedly suffered from severe depression, and committed suicide in 1990.

- ye trusty ole wikipedia


There has been some debate about Mike Millard recordings aside from Led Zeppelin. This is from interview with someone who used to trade with Mike Millard between 1987-1990.

Q. What other bands did Mike record beside Led Zeppelin?
A. Tons. Pink Floyd in 1975, many Yes shows, Who shows, the Rolling Stones, & Jethro Tull. Basically everyone who came to the LA Forum in the years 1974-1980s, then occasionally taping after that, ie the Who in 1989, Plant in 1990, etc. He originally used a mono recorder in 1974, then got his portable Nakamichi tape recorder and AKG microphones in 1975 for the Zep shows.
Q. How was the tape intentionally messed up?
A. He would put a marking in a song somewhere like a volume fluctuation and then keep a log book of every copy he sent out and who's copy had what markings.

Q. Did he give tape covers to the bootleg companies?
A. Never, he hated boot companies. Every boot that was made was without his approval.
Q. Any idea how much he sold tapes for to the bootleggers?
A. He didn't. He never sold a tape, and certainly never intentionally gave one out to the boot companies. He blew a gasket when For Badgeholders Only came out.
Q. Was his wheelchair due to an illness or an injury?
A. As far as I know, it was a prop for taping.
Q. How old was he in 1977?
A. He was in his twenties in 1977.
Q. With whom did he go to concerts?
A. I am not sure on this one, I know he had a few "helpers"

Q. What was his goal in recording concerts?
A. Making the best quality recordings one could make. He was also very protective of his tapes, and any tape he traded out was marked in a secret way to identify that tape if it was put onto a bootleg. He also used Dolby B and played back with it off to boost the high end, but it also increased the hiss on many of his masters.
Q. How did he love music? What other ways did he show his love for music?
A. When he sent tapes out, he would decorate the cases with colours, labels, and Xeroxes of his ticket stubs.
Q. Did he ever meet any musicians?
A. No idea here, he was a little reclusive.
Q. Any other biographical information that would be OK to know: What education did he get?
A. He was living at home with his mother. He worked as a custodian at a high school (nothing glamorous here)
It's my understanding that his master tapes are now in the possession of his family.

Q. Do they intend ever to do anything with them other than keep them?
A. No, I had a friend who knew him very well, go to his mother after his death and try to help her organize them and pack them, but she would not let him into the room where they were. As far as I know, they are still in the room he was living in during the last years of his life. - taken from a Zeppelin fan site.

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