Tapers

Tapers

This section looks at the very important role played by tapers in recording and thereby capturing for posterity many Led Zeppelin concerts. Whilst a few soundboard tapes have slipped through the tight net (often stolen from Jimmy Page), the vast majority of tape sources for the shows that we enjoy were recorded in the audience by enterprising individuals. These people took a big risk, because if they were caught their recording equipment would often be smashed to pieces, sometimes by Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant, or by road manager Richard Cole or one of his cohorts. It was therefore often a big risk to smuggle recording equipment into a venue. Because of these heroic efforts many great shows are now enjoyed in superb sound ( and many can also be heard in not so good sound too). Many purists prefer a really good audience recording to a soundboard tape, the latter is often sterile and lacks atmosphere.

One man who did probably more than anyone else, and whose efforts have left us with some superb sounding recordings, is the late Mike Millard, the taper behind the best sounding audience recordings of Led Zeppelin. The shows he taped (with the best version on CD named after each show) are as follows:-
Long Beach Arena, 11 March 1975. 3CD "CALIFORNIA GRAFFITI " (Masterport).
Long Beach Arena, 12 March 1975. Only the last part of the show was recorded by Mike Millard, and can be found on "LONG BEACH ARENA FRAGMENT" (Holy). Millard had equipment problems for this concert unfortunately.
LA Forum, 24 March 1975. 3CD "DEEP THROAT I" (Empress Valley).
LA Forum, 25 Forum March 1975. 3CD "DEEP THROAT II " (Empress Valley).
LA Forum, 27 March 1975. 3CD "DEEP THROAT III " (Empress Valley).
San Diego Sports Coliseum, 19 June 1977. 3CD "MYSTERY TRAIN " (Badgeholders).
LA Forum, 21 June 1977. 3CD "WATCH AND LISTEN TO THIS EDDIE" (Genuine Masters).
LA Forum, 23 June 1977. 3CD "FOR BADGEHOLDERS ONLY" (Tarantura). Millard's tape is incomplete (he accidentally left the pause button switched on at the start of the concert) and his recording can be found on 3CD "FOR BADGE HOLDERS ONLY" (Balboa).
LA Forum, 25 June 1977. 3CD "DELIRIUM TREATMENT " (Tarantura).
LA Forum, 27 June 1977. 4CD "MIKE THE MIKE INGLEWOOD CA. 6.27.77" (Winston Remasters).

Millard used a wheelchair for a recording prop. His taping equipment was a Nakamichi stereo cassette deck and AKG microphones. Various transfers from his masters were done over the years. Often the 1st generation copies would be slightly sabotaged by Millard. This was done by him to see who traded each version of his master. For example, low recording levels on the VHS copies or a few cuts here and there. Sadly Millard, during his depression, destroyed most of his masters, certainly all the Led Zeppelin ones. Tragically he committed suicide in 1990, but his family still own all the masters. The shows that he captured on tape and saved for posterity are among the best ever concerts Led Zeppelin performed. He recorded a number of other famous bands such as Pink Floyd, Yes, and the Rolling Stones.

Thanks to Mark McFall for the illustrations of some of Mike Millard's cassette inserts reproduced below:-

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.

Mike Millard

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mike Millard, nicknamed "Mike The Mike", was an avid bootleg recorder in the 1970s and 1980s, recording mostly Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd concerts in California, especially at the Los Angeles Forum. He taped virtually every show at the Forum from 1974 to 1980.

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 6) 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.

Mike Millard reportedly died in 1990. Suicide rumors exist, but these have not been verified.

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