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The Rockologist: Confessions Of A Music Burnaholic

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I can't help myself. I love burning music off of the Internet. However, it does get me into trouble sometimes.

A couple of years back for example, I loaded my computer up with so much spyware downloading stuff off of peer to peer sites like Limewire and Bearshare (remember them?) that I managed to fry my hard drive and had to buy myself a brand new computer.

So you'd think I would have learned my lesson, right? Au contraire, grasshopper.

Since that unfortunate incident, I've tried to be more careful. I've limited my downloading to things that friends send me, and to mostly trustworthy sources like Megaupload and Rapidshare.

I also want to set something straight right from the get-go here. I don't "steal" commercially available music. In fact, I actually prefer CDs to MP3 files and the like. A perfect case in point was Radiohead's In Rainbows. Like everybody else, I took advantage of the download option when it was offered (I paid five dollars for it).

But this was only because it wasn't being offered on CD at the time. When the album finally was released on CD, I bought it the day it came out. And you know what? It sounded so much better than the MP3 version, it was almost like hearing it for the very first time.

This is why I prefer CDs to MP3s. I do know that the so-called "lossless" formats like FLAC and MP5 can equal CD quality. But when you are downloading music the standard for now is MP3, and until that changes I doubt very much that I'll be changing my mind.

But anyway, I digress…

The type of music I like to download is that which is commercially unavailable, or what we used to refer to back in the day as bootlegs. If, like me, you are a hardcore Springsteen fan for example, you know that his best live stuff has never been officially released and that there are numerous great radio broadcasts and soundboard recordings from his legendary tours in the seventies and eighties out there that are ripe for the picking.

Winterland '78 or Nassau 1980, anyone? Hey, I can't help it if Springsteen's management or the record company refuses to put these out — even though they are amazing shows, and there are great recordings of them available out there with the click of a mouse.

So last week, a buddy of mine tipped me off about a site called Quality Boots.

I'm not gonna reveal the URL here, and trust me, you don't want to know anyway. On his recommendation, I went there to download a Pink Floyd show I'd been seeking for awhile, where the songs that would eventually show up on the albums Wish You Were Here and Animals were still being worked out in concert under titles like "Raving And Drooling" and "You Gotta Be Crazy."

Anyway, long story short, it happened again.

My attempt to download the precious cargo instead gave me the gift that keeps on giving in the form of some particularly vicious malware. You know, the type that replicates itself all over your screen, and won't let you access anything else. It's kind of like the cyber version of waking up with an STD after that drunken night with the ugly girl you met when it was last call at the bar. You'd think you'd learn your lesson, but of course you never do.

Fortunately, I caught it soon enough this time around that I was able to save my computer — but it did require a trip to the shop, and a $400 bill at exactly the time I could least afford it. Just color me another victim of the recession and we'll leave it at that, okay?

I was also without my computer for a week, which is not a good thing — particularly if you are a Blogcritics editor or are looking for a more gainful full-time job. Your friendly neighborhood Rockologist presently falls into both of these categories.

So last night, I got the computer back and I'm happy to report that it's as good as new. But I also couldn't resist getting a new CD burner, and I'll give you just one guess as to the first thing I did once I got everything hooked back up.

Don't blame me. Blame Patti Smith.

After relaxing by kicking back with a few brews and watching a concert DVD of a 1978 Patti Smith concert in Europe, I just couldn't resist surfing the net to see just what was out there in the way of live Patti Smith. Sure enough, I found a great show from the same tour and burned myself a disc of it.

Patti Smith was just an amazing performer back then with her mix of punk rock attitude and stream of consciousness poetry. I'll never forget when I saw her at Seattle's Paramount Theatre in 1978, or the way she knocked me clean on my ass from the opening notes of "Rock And Roll Nigger." She delivered it with all the fire and brimstone of a Baptist preacher preaching a rock and roll apocalypse.

To this day it amazes me how Patti Smith can on the one hand deliver a great rock and roll song like that one, and is on the other hand the woman behind the beautifully abstract poetry of something like "Birdland" from her landmark album Horses. I'd marry her were it only possible.

Anyway, that's how it usually starts and this night was no exception.

From there it was on to Springsteen. Since I've got most of the live stuff, my latest mission has been to find the studio outtakes. And damned if I didn't locate the motherlode tonight in the form of Lost Masters, a multiple disc collection that puts the officially released Tracks collection to shame.

Seriously, this thing is a history lesson. There's really cool stuff like "Summer On Signal Hill," an undiscovered E Street Band instrumental gem circa The River, as well as songs in their embryonic stage like "Candy's Boy" that later would become — well, you know.

Then there is a guy like Steven Wilson, who releases so much music with his bands No-Man, Blackfield, Bass Communion, and his main group Porcupine Tree that it's hard to keep track of it all. Wilson is a guy who I am absolutely amazed is not a much bigger star than he is. The guy is not only multi-talented and prolific as all hell, but he does his thing across multiple genres, from the ambient drone of Bass Communion, to the avant-pop of No-Man, to the prog-metal of Porcupine Tree.

Anyway, in this case, the only thing I found was a great concert I'd not heard yet recorded on the tour behind the last PT album Fear Of A Blank Planet. I'm just finishing that one up right now.

So, like I said, I just can't help myself.

I love burning music off the Internet. Hopefully this time around it wont get me into any more trouble. Live and learn, I guess.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://www.themidnightcafe.org Mat Brewster

    You got the bug from Quality Boots? I’ve never had a problem with them and I’ve gotten a lot of cool stuff.

  • scott

    Are you generally going the torrenting route or straight downloads?

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    maybe it’s not music but something else you are downloading and watching

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I’m pretty sure Quality Boots was the source and I don’t do torrents anymore (used to, though). And no, I don’t download porn — those damn sites are a fricking spyware nightmare. If I could download a beer I might consider that though.

    -Glen

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I do know that the so-called “lossless” formats like FLAC and MP5 can equal CD quality.

    Mp5?? Huh?! Even if there was such a format & not the Heckler & Koch 9mm sub-machine gun, an Mp5 would still be a “lossy” file compression. FLAC IS CD quality because it is a “container” for audio files like RAR is (mostly) a “container” for text or picture files. There is no information lost when you compress .wav files to FLAC, APE or WMA 9.2.

    Anyways, How in the Hell did you get a “bug” from Quality Boots?!

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    If I could download a beer I might consider that though.

    F*ck Yeah!! I would love to be able to download some appetizers as well… You got the url for that?!

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *Btw*… Even if you were to listen to the FLAC file directly instead of converting them back to wave, they would stream anywhere from(I believe)700Kbps to 900+ Kbps so you probably wouldn’t hear much of a difference unless you knew how the original was recorded & if you were playing it on a high end system.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I’m not quite the tech-geek that you are Brian (more of a straight music geek), so if I misquoted the term MP5 you’ll just have to forgive me. My portable music player is an MP5 player that unlike iPods and what not can also play flacs — so thats where I came up with it.

    Anyway, the story with Quality Boots is that before you get to the megaupload link, it directs you through this other site which I am 99.9% sure is where I picked up the junk that took up residence in my computer. Usually I’m much more careful, but I really had a jones for that Pink Floyd show.

    Anyway, I can’t figure out where else I would have got it, since the only other places I really frequent are Blogcritics, music sites, news sites, and job sites. At least until they invent downloadable beer anyway…

    -Glen

  • http://everythingisamess.wordpress.com Tom Johnson

    Yes, guys, I’ve seen a few of these bootleg sites that redirect (probably unknowingly) to malicious sites. If Firefox doesn’t catch it, Avast! does.

    Glen, you’ve got to have Firefox, Spybot Search & Destroy with TeaTimer enabled, and antivirus to keep from catching anything. Missing any of those will surely lead to disaster. This is my combo and it’s worked for ages. It may slow things down a tad, but I’ve never gotten any infections.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Tom,

    I have both Firefox and Spybot S&D and did at the time of the malware attack as well. Whatever this was, I got it using Firefox as my browser and Spybot couldn’t get rid of it. Everything is fine now, but I’m just going to be a lot more careful where I go to get music from now on.

    The redirect from Quality Boots was almost certainly where I got this, and it was really nasty stuff — it more or less disabled Windows Live One Care, slowed my email down to a crawl, and seemed to really like doing its pop-up dance when I was writing or editing with BC’s editing tools. From now on, I’m just sticking to the megaupload links I get through trusted friends.

    -Glen

  • http://www.marksaleski.com MarkSaleski

    i got a lovely virus on new years day. took a large part of the day to get rid of the thing. spybot s&d, and malware bytes finally did the job.

    for some reason, i had decided that my norton was up to date on this laptop. not only was it not up to date, it wasn’t even installed! duh!

    at first i thought the virus was a browswer hijacker, because you couldn’t go to sites like symantec. as it turns out, it was a much lower level thing, intercepting tcp/ip packets and redirecting them if they were going somewhere ‘undesirable’…like symantec.

    i swear, people who write this stuff should be publicly flogged.

  • http://everythingisamess.wordpress.com Tom Johnson

    Glen, did you have TeaTimer enabled? If not, that may be why you got it. TeaTimer is like the padlock on the gate to your gate. Without it, you still have a gate, but it’s easy for the kids in the neighborhood to get through and pee in your pool.

    It’s just a little checkbox at the beginning of the install, very easy to overlook and confusing to figure out what it does if you aren’t familiar with it. There’s obviously some other way to enable it, but I’m not sure where it is in the S&D console. (Spybot S&D itself doesn’t do anything except when you actually run it. It just cleans up messes that are already there. TeaTimer prevents messes.)

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    If you ever wanna surf the net & get rapidshare or megaupload links without getting the bugs from the redirects then you should use NoScript. It’s an add-on for Firefox that allows you to control what scripts are loaded for every website that you visit. Plus, it fights “clickjacking”. If you stop the scripts from being loaded then malware,ads,viruses & all those other bugs are pretty much extinct. I’ve been running Firefox with NoScript, Ad Block Plus & Avira Antivirus(free) for about a year now and I haven’t had any issues whatsoever….

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