90s, Blog, League, Music — August 14, 2013 9:10 pm

Talkin’ Bootlegs

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This week, The League comes at us with a topic we can both get into: Bootlegs, knock-offs, and third-party products.

We’ve written about bootlegs before on the site, like Linz’s bootleg Sailormoon action figures and Lee’s Back to the Future DVD (and another one). Truth be told, we have a lot of different bootlegs—we come from a generation before YouTube and the wide-spread release of complete TV series on DVDs. Between the both of us, we’ve likely spent thousands on VHS copies of The Real Ghostbusters, JEM, and Rick Moranis in Gravedale High taped off cable. Those weren’t proud moments, but they happened.

pirate-satelliteSome stores don’t even try to deny their bootleggery.

Bootlegs were important to both of us, in fact, we’re only friends because of bootlegging. We traded “Weird Al” VHS tapes back in the 90s and just kept talking to each other for some reason. There’s hundreds of VHS bootlegs that have likely melted together in boxes throughout our places.

vhs-tape-collectionA very small sampling of VHS tapes that no one ever bothered to put away.

You can tell the tapes in that box are from Lee because he always used Maxell Silver brand tapes.  Linz, on the other hand, used Memorex or anything else the dollar store had on sale.


My bootlegging went beyond “Weird Al” and soon I was trading New Kids on the Block footage with people all over the world. Postal rates were low back then and my level of getting addicted to anything is always high. At one point, I had so many tapes I supplied the BBC with NKOTB footage for a documentary on boy bands.

It’s also fun to see things I know I’ve taped and sent out up on YouTube. I didn’t put them there, but I see that unmistakeable tracking mark across the bottom and know that was from my shitty VCR.

Technology changed and so did my tastes. I no longer felt the need to have every second of “Weird Al” and NKOTB footage there has ever been. I moved on to other musical acts and even bought equipment specifically for bootlegging (okay, I used the excuse of needing it for my Radio Broadcasting classes, but I’ll be honest with you… Hall & Oates ain’t gonna bootleg themselves).

tmbg-collageTrue fact: we bootlegged one They Might Be Giants concert three times, plus took photos. John Flansburgh totally called us out.


Until Linz brought it up, I didn’t even realize how close to home the subject of “bootlegs” would hit.  When it comes down to it, this site would not exist without home-copied VHS TV appearances “Weird Al” made in the 80s.

That said, I thought it would be appropriate to use this opportunity to show off an item of questionable integrity I found at a thrift store while visiting Linz a few years back.

weirdalsign01Running With Bootlegs.

I’ve never seen another one of these signs anywhere else.  It has a nice particle board backing and even promotes a song from the album that wasn’t issued as a single.  That, combined with finding it in the clothing section of a thrift store smells fishy… or like old corduroy jacket, at least.

vhscollection01Linz’s Memorex tapes spend their retirement years on my closet floor.

Looking back on the tape trading days gives me mixed emotions.  On the one hand, there is a nice nostalgic appeal of technology and hobbies from yesterday.  Tape trading, of course, is completely obsolete with high-speed downloads so easily accessible.  On the other hand, it also makes me realize how many Friday nights I sat alone at home in high school watching AL-TV #4.  Meh, time well spent, I guess.

Here’s to you, bootlegs!  You made this site happen!

What other fine bootlegs do members of The League possess?

Cool & Collected is the proud owner of a bootleg Superman flyer

Nerd Nook shares with us some sketchy superhero toy knockoffs

Rediscover the 80s digs into the mystery of Street Hawk G.I. Joe figures?!

Tupa’s Treasures has some great Flea Market finds!

Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks tells us of a love affair with Garth Nadir

Diary of a Dorkette tells us of a well-loved bootleg Power Ranger

Poe Ghostal, who came up with this week’s topic, has a great write-up about third-party Transformers


  • Oh I loved reading this! I hope my comment posts. I have had issues with posting comments before, but I love the things ya’ll write about. I think ya’ll do a fantastic job.

  • miss_m Woohoo, it worked! Thanks for the feedback– we love hearing from our readers!:)

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