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Tax-scam Albums, Keeper Background


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#1 Graham

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 03:41 AM

I always like to keep an eye out for things that could be of use to Keepers in providing scenario material. And this tale of dodgy dealings from the late 1970s is perfect, it even has gangsters (Morris Levy...) involved.

In essence what happened was a loophole was identified in US tax law that allowed record companies and investors to make large claims on 'unsold product', if you've seen either film version of "The Producers" then the scam is almost identical to the one outlined in the film.

To make it work, bogus record companies (Often no more than a name on a door...) were created and material sourced from where-ever the scammers could get it, pressed into albums (It's speculated that no more than a few hundred of each were produced, except for a bootleg Richard Pryor album on Tiger Lily which may have been produced in the low thousands...) and then quietly dumped into the second hand market after they 'failed to sell'.

Of the bogus companies known, Tiger Lily, is the only one linked to a specific company, being associated with Morris Levy's Roulette Records. It also has one of the larger catalogs, with the other big catalog being found with the paired tax-scam labels Dellwood/Guinness. However many of the labels, like Tomorrow Records only released around 10 albums before disappearing into the ether.

As I mentioned above musical material was sourced from just about anywhere, what follows is a quick discussion of sources with the names of some actual albums (Album names are italicized.) , the first and most obvious place were performers demo recordings, albums like Red Sky, Lady Luck (Both Guinness) & Hot Ice (Tomorrow) feature a diversity of material by a single performer or group, other albums like Hotgun, Living On Giving (Both Guiness), Calliope & Made from Plate (Both Tiger Lily) mix songs by different performers lumped under a bogus band name.

A second source was material produced by defunct bands, this could either be a previously released album, 1971's Sum Pear was re-issued by Guinness in 1977 as Sum Pair or unreleased material, as in the case of the Florida rock band Boot, who broke up after their self-titled debut album failed, unreleased tracks  apparently intended for a second album wound up being released by Guinness as Turn The Other Cheek.

A third source was material obtained by even more dubious means, the Richard Prior album (L. A. Jail) released by Tiger Lily  appears to have been sourced from a discarded recording, while the album Rockets used material that had been held by a recording studio following a dispute with the band who recorded them, there also exist several recordings by real performers under pseudonyms that seem to have been intended specifically for release via tax-scam labels, though the Florida based label Illusion Records simply signed up a bunch of second or even third rate bar bands and let them do their thing in a recording studio.

Sound, music quality, styles are all over the place as might be expected, some of the better material (Such as the Tiger Lily album Stonewall) has been re-issued by bootleggers or ripped to YouTube.

How is this of use to the Keeper, well aside from the fact that many of these albums have become quite valuable (Due to their rarity and in some cases music quality.) and thus represent a form of portable wealth, there is a lot of mystery associated with them, both the origins of the material, and who were the names behind the labels. If a song should turn out to contain a Mythos reference trying to find the writer/performer could turn into a major adventure.

Links

Interview with Aaron Milenski, who is one of the major researchers into this area of the recording industry.
(Link)

Overview on Discogs.org, the site also has listing of records published with scans of the covers.
(Link)

 

Bad Cat Records -  Tax-Scam Labels (This is a commercial site run by a record collector, he has a lot of details on individual labels/albums, including information from people involved where he has been contacted by them.)

(Link)


Edited by Graham, 08 November 2017 - 12:52 AM.

"If you do good, you'll live forever, if you do bad you'll die hearing a single note for I am the one true sound...", Fragment found in a cult hideout.


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#2 carpocratian

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 05:57 AM

That is VERY interesting!  Thanks for posting it!



#3 Graham

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 11:39 AM

That is VERY interesting!  Thanks for posting it!

 

You're welcome!

 

By the way if you check the albums on the Discogs website they have links to tracks from some of the albums that have made it to YouTube...


"If you do good, you'll live forever, if you do bad you'll die hearing a single note for I am the one true sound...", Fragment found in a cult hideout.

#4 Gaffer

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 01:57 PM

The album Masquerade on the one-shot Miscatonix River label is a musical version of an obscure French play. Its few pressings were responsible for panics in a number of US cities, especially when a disc jockey at a small FM station played it in its entirety during his midnight-2 a.m. show.


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#5 Graham

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 01:31 AM

The album Masquerade on the one-shot Miscatonix River label is a musical version of an obscure French play. Its few pressings were responsible for panics in a number of US cities, especially when a disc jockey at a small FM station played it in its entirety during his midnight-2 a.m. show.

 
Ah, you've discovered the overlap zone between small press albums and tax-scam labels, a source-book I can recommend for exploring that is "The Acid Archives" (2nd Edtion), it's firmly aimed at the collectors market, but contains a lot of useful background (even if the promised section on tax-scam labels is missing from the kindle version...)
 
And I've stumbled across another article on tax-scam records, this one focuses on the album Hotgun and includes background on one of the recording artists who had his material released without consent, aside from a video featuring one of the tracks, the author of the article managed to track down some of the people behind one of the tax-scam lables (Guinness Records).
 
"Tax Scam Records”: R. Stevie Moore, the mysterious ‘Hotgun’ LP, and the record labels that were born to fail (Bart Bealmear)
(Link)
 
In addition I've just stumbled across an interesting abstract from a conference on the preservation of recorded sound, the abstract appears on pages 26 & 27, I wonder if the talk itself is available...
 
(Link)


"If you do good, you'll live forever, if you do bad you'll die hearing a single note for I am the one true sound...", Fragment found in a cult hideout.

#6 Graham

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Posted 11 November 2017 - 02:04 AM

A related scam to the one I've outlined in my OP and also dating to the 1970s was a series of adverts that appeared in "Rolling Stone Magazine" promising the reader an "Advance Reviewer Copy", supposedly of a brilliant undiscovered musical performer. What they got for the money was a short (20 - 30 min) LP in plain white covers (The label on the record would be yellow or red in color), attributed to a company called 'Audifex', 'Audiofex' or 'Grammi Fonics' and stamped "Advance Reviewer Copy - Confidential", all designed to trick the purchaser into thinking he had gotten something ever so slightly illicit. As to the actual contents of the record, probably someones unsuccessful demo.

 

Another perfect way to get the sounds of the Mythos into the ears of the unsuspecting public in the pre-internet era, and as with tax scam albums, the better of the recordings have become quite collectable.


Edited by Graham, 11 November 2017 - 02:21 AM.

"If you do good, you'll live forever, if you do bad you'll die hearing a single note for I am the one true sound...", Fragment found in a cult hideout.