Sometimes you just have to sit back and admire what fans can achieve when they pour hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes even years into a pet project. The Beatles, Led Zep, Deep Purple, The Stones, Elvis, U2 and Bowie. They all have one thing in common and that is the devoted and loving fan who goes the extra mile. In the case of U2 & Bowie, there was one particular Dutch fan who was a student of the live output that needs no introduction. Pimm Jal de la Parra! His first book, David Bowie – The Concert Tapes became a bible of sorts in the mid 90’s as I began collecting Bowie bootleg vinyl, cassette tapes, CD’s and VHS tapes.
I now own two copies of Pimm’s book, the first copy, of which (pictured in today’s blog) fell into my lap by pure accident at a local record store sometime around 1996. That was the beauty of spending hours in record stores back then. The longer you searched, the nearer you would find yourself to finding something of distinct interest. Ok, ok, I confess, some days were indeed a fruitless search however, for the best part, i’d more often than not find something worth my troubles. There were a plethora of record stores in Brisbane back then which meant one could spend a whole day immersed inside the gloomy surrounds, sifting over racks and shelves of vinyl, compact discs, cassette tapes and the many other gems you could find. It was pre-eBay as well so you always paid a reasonable price for the harder to find items, unlike today where a limited pressing of a single can sell for $25 on the day then be sold for upwards of $900 online within hours to the deluded fans who are desperate enough to pay any stupid amount based on instant gratification society we reside in. Well, I should bite my tongue shouldn’t I? But I won’t!
Finding Pimm’s concert tape book was akin to reaching a pulsating orgasm with your partner. Owning a copy of this “bible” of sorts made life as a concert tape collector so much easier. The immaculate details of which Pimm goes to for many of the shows is incredible. Since “The Concert Tapes” was first published in 1985, there have been many a great show including some fantastic soundboard concerts come to light though, for its time this was the essential go to book for any Bowie bootleg fan.
We start off with a fabulous introduction before crossing over into a run down of Bowie’s pre-fame live output the, the author takes you head on into the mid 1960’s and some of Bowie’s best known moments on BBC radio. From there we move through every live tour and TV appearance right up to 1985. Also included is a tour by tour run down of concert dates and we are even afforded a listing of then known bootlegs released on vinyl. The only other book of its time that compared was Christian Frifelt’s “The Illustrated Bowie Bootleg file” which I will do a feature on in the coming days.
The meticulous listening hours that Pimm put into researching each show (he lists all the Bowie banter to the audience from each concert) is quite profound. With known tapes, he details the audience levels (important for deciding which bootleg was worth sourcing), interesting side notes about particular shows and even included the full set list as well as the official crowd numbers though looking over early Ziggy attendances, one can easily debate the merits of the official numbers provided as Bowie was still an unknown source in the United States when Ziggy first landed there for shows in mid 1972. I must admit too, sourcing shows in the 1990’s was not as easy as today whereby you can download almost any show you want. You see, back then, you had to either buy from mailing lists or trade with other collectors. The trading process could often include weeks or correspondence by letter and then waiting for a package to arrive in the mail. If you decided to buy from a dealer, it would often work out to be a costly affair so I generally stuck to trading tapes and later CD’s.
I didn’t own my first computer until 2002 and even then the process of downloading bordered on a nightmare which is why concert trading via post was then an exciting and viable option. Almost all my money was spent on Bowie for most of the period from when I first became a fan right up to 2005 when eBay began to slowly kill off my passion which has only been rekindled in recent months. On a personal level, nothing will ever compare to the 1990’s, not just for the discoveries I was making but more so for the excitement and passion I possessed for collecting live recordings of my favorite artists.
In April 2002, Pimm passed away suddenly at the age of 35. His funeral service attracted hundreds of friends, family and admirers from all walks of life. Aside from “David Bowie – The Concert Tapes”, Pimm produced the magnificent “U2 Live: A Concert Documentary” which detailed their live output from 1978 right up to 1997. It was yet another fine display of the dedication one man paid to his idols. Upon his passing, U2’s show designer, Willie Williams posted this beautiful tribute which sums Pimm up better than anyone else could.
“Some time after the Zoo TV tour, the book U2 Live: A Concert Documentary dropped into my lap and left me speechless. Being something of an archivist myself I was deeply impressed by such a comprehensive history of U2’s live career — especially as this was long before the Internet made such data collection much more feasible.
“The book instantly became U2’s final authority on all things regarding touring history. I would always carry a copy in my work box and there’s always one on the tour aeroplane, largely for solving arguments over important issues like exactly when we first played in Detroit, or the name of that club in Burton-on-Trent where Bono first went body surfing. It would also make us laugh too, like a family photo album, reading P.J.’s frank, objective honesty about the standard of certain events and performances.
“The most delightful thing of all though is that through all the years he spent documenting our work lives, P.J. never asked for anything. He always bought his own tickets, queued to get into gigs, never hassled anyone about wanting to meet the band or get backstage.
“We corresponded occasionally over the years, largely as I was very keen to help fill in some of the blanks in early parts of the book. He was always pleasant and grateful but never inclined to take advantage of how much U2 were in awe of his information archive.
“I finally met him during the Elevation tour when we had a chat outside the venue one day. I invited him in to join us for dinner but he politely declined as he was with friends in line waiting to get into the heart. I felt quietly humbled!
“I was very sad to hear of P.J.’s death and join all in the U2 organisation in sending much love and sympathy to his family and friends.”
Fifteen years on, Pimm is still remembered and thanks to his beautiful contributions to the world of U2 and Bowie, he will always be remembered.