Fans reissuing old LPs

Audiophiles often complain that CD reissues of old records sound terrible. Take, for instance, what this fan says about the quality and ethics of re-releases by the legendary psychedelic band 13th Floor Elevators, fronted by the late Roky Erickson:

“What’s been done to the ‘Elevators music when it was reissued on CD is a crime. The master tapes are long lost so “they” took any old album and ripped it to CD and did a crappy job. This CD became the future “master” for all subsequent reissues and there have been a lot. Like, if another company wants to reissue they license the music and then just go buy a CD to copy. It’s crap. The sound is thin and bad. The band gets paid nothing.

The solution? Let the fans do the reissuing:

The Roky CD Club has released the first volume of Attack of the LPs by the 13th Floor Elevators. This is the band’s first album, the Psychedelic Sounds of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, backed by the “Live” album. What makes these different from all the other reissues are two things: 1) they are distributed FREE to the fans 2) the signal was ripped direct from original International Artists LP pressings. The Roky CD Club is a group of Internet-based fans (loosely affiliated with the Texas Psych Google group) who collect, catalog, restore, preserve and share ultra-rare American garage-psych music. They have been active for almost ten years producing upwards of fifty volumes of material with the emphasis being on Texas Psychedelic.

But wait, you cry, isn’t this illegal?

Isn’t the Roky CD Club worried about running afoul of the Roky Erickson Trust? “No really” says a fan; “the Roky CD Club originally began operations with the blessing and help of the Roky Erickson Trust. For many years we collected a donation for discs traded that was sent to the Trust to be distributed to Roky Erickson as needed. It was only when “‘certain other'” people took over the Trust a few years ago that our long relationship with the Roky Erickson Trust soured. They have since proven that they are incompetent by surrounding Roky with his enemies and butchering the music. We call the gang running things now the “‘Roky Robber’s Roost'”. No, the helm has passed to us to “‘save'” this music and deliver it to the fans. We will not fail in that quest. Besides, we already tried working with the new “‘Head'” of the Roky Erickson Trust. After a series of increasingly bizarre and obtuse communications from him we just cut him loose. They put out stuff like: Don’t Knock The Rok and this is just like dragging the name through the dirt. It is apparent to the fans that it is 100% up to them to save this music.”

Sounds kinda like “yeah, it’s illegal but we don’t care!”

I know nothing about the Roky Erickson trust, I have some covers of his songs by others (a hilarious version of “I Walked With A Zombie” by R.E.M., for instance) but never paid that much attention to him or his trust. What’s interesting here is the notion that the fans are the guardians of tradition, the ones on a sacred quest to preserve what they love for posterity when those who could and should have been in charge of this mission have failed. Listen to that language: crime, enemies, butchering, gang, robbers vs. save, quest. Legal or not, it’s true that often the fans are the only ones who care enough to do it right. So whatever’s up with the Roky Erickson Trust, they’re probably right to leave it alone.

Comments (7) to “Fans reissuing old LPs”

  1. No, this isn’t illegal. Fans trading CD’s is a protected activity under Federal Law. There’s something called the Federal Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) (3) that protects the fan’s rights. You ought to read up on it. Why assume that YOU DON’T have rights? The Roky CD Club titles comply with the spirit and the letter of this law.

  2. The text of the AHRA is here and I thank you for steering me toward it. I am still not convinced that this makes what the Roky CD club is doing legal though, but I’m no lawyer and I could well be wrong about that. I’ll have to ask Ted to comment. At any rate, my point in this post is not to accuse the Roky club of illegal activities, but to recognize their point that they are the ones who care enough to do right by Roky’s music.

  3. Read this part:

    No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright
    based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio
    recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording
    device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by
    a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings
    or analog musical recordings.

  4. The extract here seems to be saying that
    – distribution of a recording device or medium is always legal
    – making a recording for noncommercial use is always legal

    But it doesn’t say anything about distribution of a recording. If it were legal to distribute copies of 13th Floor Elevators albums, then wouldn’t the same apply to Metallica albums? And I’m pretty sure it is illegal to distribute free copies of Master Of Puppets.

    I’m all in favour of this kind fo activity – cos I love the Elevators and since I’ve alreday spent the money on crappy sounding CDs, I don’t feel guilty about getting a better one for free – but I don’t think fooling yourself (or other fans) is ever a good idea.

  5. Just to say Im going to see Roky tonite at his 60th B Day party in Austin Yea

  6. “fronted by the late Roky Erickson”?

    Do you know something the rest of us don’t?

  7. Jeez Jaz. My major bad on that one! Call it a Syd Barrett moment. Thanks for the correction.