The Rolling Stones

Down to the Wire

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Hello, children, and today on "How to Make a Ripoff Bootleg" we're going to show you how to create an album's worth of instrumental studio out-fakes. Follow these instructions and, before you know it, you too could be taking candy from babies. What is it about the Rolling Stones that encourages so many clumsy fakes? All those Bill Wyman-produced End tracks that once reappeared as rare Beatles/Stones collaborations, the 1966 "live" album with the screaming omitted, masquerading as rare studio outtakes, and so on and so forth -- until listeners hit rock bottom, the stax'o'trax karaoke boom that has been exposed so many times that it's impossible to believe people are still trying it on. First, take one of those old mock stereo Stones albums that London used to specialize in, with instruments in one channel, vocals in the other. Record the instrumental channel alone, then have your computer convert it into its own type of stereo. Dim the levels for any obtrusive vocal passages -- the a cappella bit of "Let's Spend the Night Together," for instance (but watch out for that static crackling when you turn down the sound). Ignore the fact that sometimes, on "She's a Rainbow" for instance, there are disembodied vocals hanging around in both channels, and hope no one actually listens to this on headphones, where the vocal bleed is in any case so pronounced that listeners might as well be hearing the original record. Slam through every track you can think of where there's a degree of separation, and what do you have? Down to the Wire -- which is, of course, simply another way of saying "reaching the end," or "scraping the barrel," or any one of a dozen phrases that ultimately denotes last-ditch desperation. Much of this has already appeared on other boots, where the sting is usually partially removed by the inclusion of a few bona fide rarities. By that token, then, Down to the Wire does serve some purpose, compiling together the worst of a lot of other albums, and if Colosseum is stuck for a follow-up, how's this? Record the other channel off the original albums, the music-less vocals that are such fun on headphones, run a few tapes together, then add a bit of echo. Hey, presto! The great lost Stones' Gregorian chant album.

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