A Selection Of Not-So-Official "Collectables"
Russian Budkon Flexidiscs
It's common knowledge that Russia, sadly, is a country that used to have black markets for all kinds of stuff ranging from vegetables to Schwarzenegger videos, and since there was a need for Western rock music in the Soviet Union, too, an underground label called "Budkon" took over the job of giving the people just that in the form of single-track flexidiscs; including over 30 different Springsteen songs from down the years. Click here for a partial discography of these thoroughly weird releases.
Like Russia, Poland also has its history of releasing numerous underground Springsteen flexis over the years. The Polish discs were pressed on unrelated postcard motifs sporting paintings of flowers, landscapes etc.; with some of them even comprised and sold as sets that made up entire albums (like Darkness On The Edge Of Town and Nebraska). The only release on that format that actually was sanctioned by the country's government is the "Hungry Heart" flexidisc on the "Tonpress" label, details on which can be found here.
|Envelope of Darkness On
The Edge Of Town set (POLPRESS DR-BS-119) containing 5
||The Promised Land
|Streets Of Fire (119*4)||Darkness On The Edge Of Town (119*5)|
Fake "Unused" US "Born To Run"
7-Inch Picture Sleeve Slicks
Sold mainly through auction houses for substantial amounts of money, the authenticity of these unfolded "prototype" slicks has been seriously questioned by both Bruce's first manager Mike Appel (who had no knowledge whatsoever of their very existence) and renowned Springsteen memorabilia expert Billy Smith. Four different artwork variants - mostly based around the "Born To Run" album cover design, and in all instances listing "Meeting Across The River" under its original working title of "The Heist" - are known to exist. In his excellent 1994 article on fake and bootlegged items that ran in issue # 46 of "Backstreets" magazine, Charles R. Cross has dedicated two full pages to this subject; listing some very convincing reasons (printing quality, typos, missing crop marks, lack of natural aging signs etc.) as to why the slicks are forgeries.
The Electric Bruce Springsteen Box Set
Issued in Europe in the spring of 1993 to coincide with the In Concert / MTV Plugged CD; limited to a reported 2,500 copies. This 12-inch square box contained a t-shirt (plain white with black The Boss Is Back logo on back), a badge, a poster, an (admittedly superb) 52-page booklet of colour photos, a postcard and a numbered certificate. While it sure is worth to try and get hold of the booklet, the remaining inserts - as well as the box itself - are highly expendable crap.
South Korean Sampler LPs
Being one of the countries operating outside the international copyright law system, record manufacturers in South Korea have produced their own compilations of numerous major Western artists with usually pretty bizarre results. Bruce Springsteen is one of those who received that treatment, and theres at least three different samplers around featuring material culled from Greetings through Born To Run. All of these came in unique picture sleeves with the occasional misprinted song title (Marry Queen Of Arkansas, The E Street) and featured special lyric/info inserts in Korean:
The Best Of Bruce Springsteen (Creato label)
Featured tracks: Born To Run / She's The One / Thunder Road / Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out / Night / The E Street Shuffle / The Angel / Mary Queen Of Arkansas / Lost In The Flood / Wild Billy's Circus Story / Spirit In The Night.
(a.k.a. The World Of Bruce Springsteen; Shilla label)
Featured tracks: Backstreets / Born To Run / She's The One / Meeting Across The River / Jungleland / Blinded By The Light / Lost In The Flood / The Angel / For You / Spirit In The Night / It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City.
Bruce Springsteen And Bob Dylan (Seagull label)
Featured tracks: Born To Run / Thunder Road / The E Street Shuffle / Growin' Up / For You on Side One plus 6 Dylan tracks on Side Two. Also issued as a cassette credited to "Bruce Spingsteen".
Interview Picture Discs
Considering the fact that an artist's spoken word is not protected by international copyright laws, interview picture discs - most of which originate in the UK - can't really be deemed "illegal", although they're very certainly "unofficial". Several Springsteen releases of that kind were issued on vinyl throughout the second half of the 80s (including a double 7-inch set, a double 12-inch set and even a motorcycle-shaped disc) as well as on a handful of CD's in the early 90s. Most of these items are of rather poor sound quality and thus boast very little value for money; the only exception being a highly interesting 40-minute radio interview with Bruce from 1978 that was originally issued in the "Conversation Disc" CD series (with original copies housed in a rather useless 12-inch picture box), and later re-released on the "Telltales" label.
Fake Italian "Born In The U.S.A."
Black-And-White "Advance Promo" LP Cover
Featuring a 1978 picture of Springsteen taken by "Aquarian Weekly" photographer Bob Sorce, this bogus sleeve still turns up on eBay on a regular basis, and is usually being sold without a record.
Asian Pirate/Counterfeit CD Albums
Below find a round-up of black market releases usually manufactured in Taiwan and distributed through sources in China and South Korea; including a 2-CD set combining "Born To Run" and "Nebraska", a completely re-designed "Born In The U.S.A.", and some odd picture disc pressings of Bruce’s more recent albums. Exotic stuff!
Before The Fame / The Early
Years / Unearthed CDs
Three different releases of early 1972/73 Springsteen demo material (Before The Fame and The Early Years being double-CDs with 20 and 23 tracks, respectively, and Unearthed being a 16-track single disc) that - while still occasionally being sold through official music sources on the internet - are 100% illegal. An independent UK label called Dare International first tried to put these recordings out legitimately under the title of Prodigal Son in 1994, claiming that they owned the full copyrights before Bruce sent out his lawyers who proved otherwise. Despite an out-of-court settlement of the Prodigal Son case (with Dare handing over all the masters and relevant paperwork), these tapes eventually were subject of two further lawsuits in 1998 and 2001; both of which were related to the Before The Fame set and again ruled out in Springsteens favour. So while this material (mostly consisting of hitherto unreleased songs in excellent sound quality) may be of great historical interest to collectors, it should be noted that all three CDs are nothing more than bootlegs and can not be considered part of Bruces regular catalogue.
"Born To Run" 34-Inch "LP"
Not really an unofficial item, as it was fully approved by Springsteen and CBS, but a major curio we couldn't seem to fit into any of the other sections of the site: Manufactured by "Think Big" (a US company specializing in oversized gimmick products of all kinds), this is an obviously unplayable 34-inch reproduction of the "Born To Run" disc - complete with 12-inch red Columbia label - intended for wall display that was issued around 1984 in limited quantities of 200 copies.
Unofficial 1992/93 CD Box Sets
In the wake of the release of Human Touch and Lucky Town, several non-genuine boxed sets (most of which seem to originate in Germany) appeared on the market. These obviously were an attempt to cash in on the high collectability of Columbias official mahogany promotion casket for the albums, but of course dont even come close in terms of both quality and value. The bogus releases include a repackage of the two picture CD albums in a large black PVC case with red type, a light wooden box set containing the regular CDs (which is executed very similarly to the Columbia original except for the cheaper wood used), and a third inofficial issue that includes 1-track promo CD singles of Human Touch and Better Days. In addition, there also is a black wooden box for In Concert / MTV Plugged in circulation that bears the MTV logo and an illustration of a guitar on the lid, and has a standard copy of the CD inside. Rather than shelling out for one of these, youre better off saving your hard-earned dough for The Real Thing instead.
"The Boss" 3-Track 7-Inch Vinyl EP
Originally reported to be a genuine, withdrawn CBS Argentina release, this 3-track EP compiling Thunder Road, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out has, quite disappointingly, turned out to be a fiendishly clever fake. When first surfacing in 1985, copies of The Boss (bearing the catalogue number 23.354 and featuring a superb, totally unique full-colour picture sleeve) were originally available exclusively through dealers in the UK, which prompted a handful of skeptical collectors to do a little more research on the item. After the Argentine branch of CBS denied to ever have pressed an EP like this, it eventually came to light that the record actually had been manufactured by three bootleggers at an Irish pressing plant in a quantity of 5,000 copies.
"The Remix Album" CD Sampler
A totally superfluous pirate release containing the crappy 12-inch remixes of "Dancing In The Dark", "Cover Me", "Born In The U.S.A." and "57 Channels"; plus the "Streets Of Philadelphia" video version with live vocals.
“The Lost Tracks 1978-1993” CD Sampler
Compilation of alternate video song versions and guest appearances. Despite carrying a “Columbia” catalogue number and featuring clever disc design to make it look like an official promo as well, this is in fact another worthless pirate CD.
Asian Pirate Cassette Samplers
It doesn’t get much weirder than this: Black market tapes from the Far East contained odd compilations of tracks from Springsteen’s regular albums in poor sound quality; accompanied by bizarrly designed inlays. Back in 1993, numerous of these cassettes were sold by “Backstreet Records” who stated in their catalogue that “if you saw these things, you would die”...
Non-CBS/Sony Japanese CDs
The land of the rising sun not only has produced some of the rarest genuine Springsteen collectables, but also some of the weirdest unofficial CDs. Their manufacturers obviously took advantage of a copyright/publishing grey zone related to Bruces first three albums (see also South Korean Sampler LPs), so these items - at least in Japan - may not even be illegal. Heres a small selection, but only God and Mikasa Tshusho know what other similar stuff is out there..:
Burce (sic!) Springsteen: Greatest Hits 3-inch EP (ARC B-1)
Featured tracks: Born To Run / Thunder Road / The E Street Shuffle / Blinded By The Light.
The Great Artist Best Hits: B. Springsteen Album (CULTURE ERF-024)
An odd mix of Springsteen and Van Halen songs; later reissued by “Lily Records” (EPCD-003, with different cover artwork) in their “Exciting Pops Collection” series. Featured tracks: You Really Got Me (V. H.) / Runnin With The Devil (V. H.) / Aint Talkin Bout Love (V. H.) / Im The One (V. H.) / Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) / Born To Run / Thunder Road / Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out / 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) / Eruption (V. H.) / Jamies Cryin (V. H.) / Atomic Punk (V. H.) / Feel Your Love Tonight (V. H.) / Growin Up / Spirit In The Night / Incident On 57th Street.
The Great Artist Best Hits (sic!): B.Springsteen Album (ERF-053)
Featured tracks: Born To Run / Thunder Road / Night / Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out / She's The One / Blinded by The Light / The Angel / Spirit In The Night / Lost In The Flood / The E Street Shuffle / Wild Billy's Circus Story / Incident On 57th Street / Kitty's Back / Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).
Great Hits U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen Album (GH-1825) - 14 tracks
(mind you, the same 14 tracks as on The Great Artist Best Hits in exactly the same order!)
Fake Promo Bootleg
A bootleg set containing the entire second “Tunnel Of Love Express Tour” show in Worcester, Massachusetts on February 28, 1988, and designed to look like an official promotional release; complete with fake CBS catalogue number (SAMP TL-88) and white labels.
Steel Mill Green Eyed God 7-Inch/Album
As is common knowledge among most fans, one of the earliest bands Bruce Springsteen played in was a four-piece, Led Zeppelin-esque hardrock outfit called Steel Mill, which existed from 1969 to 1971. Probably less known is the fact that the Jersey-based quartet shared its name with an obscure English progressive rock group that seems to have been around at the same time and, in 1971, released an album entitled Green Eyed God; with the title track issued as a picture sleeve 7-inch single. Since Bruces popularity (and thus, the collectability of his records) reached its peak in the mid-80s, many a dealer has tried to sell said discs as Springsteen-related rarities, which they are definitely not, as the hardrock Steel Mill never got as far as signing a recording contract and had their legacy spread through bootlegs only.
New Best Ballads CD Sampler
A 14-track compilation of official material, this claims to have been issued on Lighthouse Records/EMI United Kingdom, but in fact appears more likely to be an unauthorized pirate product manufactured somewhere in Russia. Comes with odd overall packaging; the CD itself is a colour picture disc. Featured tracks: Streets Of Philadelphia / Hearts Of Stone / Human Touch / Sad Eyes / Brothers Under The Bridge / The Fever / The Promise / Im On Fire (live) / Blood Brothers / The River / Brilliant Disguise / This Hard Land / Streets Of Fire / Everything I Do (duet w/Elliott Murphy) / If I Should Fall Behind (live).
"Maximum Bruce" UK
Issued as part of a series on the "Chrome Dreams" label that also featured similarly superfluous releases for John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Elvis Presley and The Beatles. The following description from Backstreet Records' online catalogue pretty much says it all: "Gotta be honest, this did nothing for us. But if you're a completist, or just have been dying to hear Bruce's story (told over non-Bruce music) in a British accent while you're driving, you might want to pick yourself up one of the few copies we imported." Even with its full-colour artwork and the "free mini-poster" included, this CD can only be filed under "Utter Crap".
Fake Spanish "I'm Goin' Down" 7-Inch
"Promo" Picture Sleeve
Sold twice on eBay in the first quarter of 2004 (accompanied by a plain old Dutch stock copy of the single), this item originally was reported to be a "mega-rare, 'new design' promotional sleeve" printed in Spain in 2002, which soon raised serious doubts among the Springsteen collecting community due to virtually nobody ever having seen or heard of it before (check out the various Webmasters' Notes in our News & Updates Archive for more details). Upon further investigation by major Spanish collector Salvador Trepat, the sleeve rather expectedly turned out to be nothing more than a fake, as Sony's Barcelona branch stated to have no knowledge of its very existence.
Fake Spanish "Fire" 7-Inch
"Promo" Picture Sleeve
More of the same, although this dud was offered just once on eBay before it disappeared back into obscurity.
"The Ultimate Collection" CD Sampler
An 18-track compilation that most likely originates in Eastern Europe and - despite bearing Columbia logos on both the back cover and the disc itself - obviously is an unofficial release. Featured tracks: Born To Run / Waitin' On A Sunny Day / Thunder Road / The River / Hungry Heart / Atlantic City / Dancing In The Dark / Born In The U.S.A. / Mary's Place / Glory Days / Human Touch / Better Days / Streets Of Philadelphia / Secret Garden / Into The Fire / Murder Incorporated / Blood Brothers / This Hard Land.
Fake 2008 Picture Disc LP’s
Issued between March and July 2008, and originally sold through various official online stores such as HMV.
“The Ghost Of Tom Joad” Coloured Vinyl LP‘s
Two poorly produced fakes issued on both green and blue vinyl which surfaced on the market in 2008 and 2009, respectively. It is of particular note that a fake black vinyl pressing also exists, which can be detected by the lack of the lyric inner sleeve (fakes came with a plain white one instead), large label inner rings on the record itself, and a different typeface used for the spine lettering.
“Born To Run” White Vinyl LP
Another fake that was apparently “made in Canada”.
Fake 2011 (?) 7-Inch Picture Sleeves
This series of five fake 7-inch picture sleeves was first reported in April 2011, when numerous copies were sold by a dealer from Germany at a record fair in Utrecht, Holland for € 5 apiece. Containing standard, genuine Dutch-pressed discs, these sleeves feature totally different artwork to their original counterparts (in most cases utilizing photos from non-corresponding eras; e. g., a 1975 Eric Meola “Born To Run” outtake shot for the 1980 “Hungry Heart” release) and are highlighting the respective B-side tracks over the actual A-sides. It remains unclear exactly when and where they were printed, or if there are other titles in existence.