Here we have what is our first ‘unofficial’ release, also known as a ‘bootleg’ album. This was another record fair find for me and I snapped it up without thinking twice. I’ve always been a big fan of Little Feat and this is an album that has near legendary status among fans.
Although ‘Electrif Lycanthrope’ is considered a bootleg album, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it was released with the band’s full knowledge and, it seems likely, more than a little collaboration.
The album was recorded, live, at Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead, New York, on the 19th September 1974, in front of an invited audience of around 20 people. Produced by Lowell George himself, it seems it was recorded for radio use and was offered, by the band, to various radio stations. At this point in time, though they were a popular live act, they hadn’t achieved A-list status, though they were well on the way – this recording occurred between the releases of ‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now’ and ‘The Last Record Album’. This recording was, effectively, a calling card to encourage radio play. The recording emerged as a vinyl disc early in 1975 and, while the band never claimed any responsibility for it, they were almost certainly complicit in its release. That other Little Feat bootleg albums have appeared on the Amazing Kornyfone label (‘Aurora Backseat’, ‘Beak Positive’ & ‘Rampant Syncopatio’), that the cover was designed by longtime collaborator Neon Park, along with the fact that Lowell George came close to encouraging fans to seek out the band’s bootlegs, saying that “Anyone who buys a bootleg is going to be a loyal fan who will buy every one of our official records”, suggests that the band were very involved in getting this out to the public. It’s rumoured that the album’s original appearance in the UK was down to the band selling them around the back of the Hammersmith Odeon on their first London gig. The Amazing Kornyfone Record Label was one of the principal producers of bootleg albums in the U.S. the majority of their releases being live recordings and many of them, at least tacitly, encouraged by the artists themselves.
Many have assumed that the title was a printing mistake but it seems that it was completely intentional. ‘Electrif’ is, supposedly, a combination of electric and terrific, meant to convey the power of the band’s music, and the use of ‘lycanthrope’ to convey the band’s wish to convert/change everyone to fans. The artwork was from a giveaway calendar designed by Neon Park for a local record store, and the written credits apparently contain obscure references to people in and around the band at the time.
It’s a great album. This is the classic lineup – Lowell George, guitar and vocals, Paul Barrere, guitar, Bill Payne, keyboards, Ken Gradney, bass, Richie Harward, drums and Sam Clayton, percussion – and the band really are firing on all cylinders. Track listing is Side 1 – ‘Rock & Roll Doctor’, ‘Two Trains’, ‘When the Shit Hits the Fan’, and ‘On Your Way Down’. Side 2 features – ‘Oh Atlanta’, ‘Spanish Moon/Skin it Back/Fat Man in the Bathtub’, ‘Willin’’. As live Little Feat albums go, it really doesn’t get much better than ‘Electrif Lycanthrope’, especially when you consider that fans would have to wait for 1978’s ‘Waiting For Columbus’ before they got an official live album from the band.
This is quite hard to ascertain. It’s thought that somewhere around 500 were originally pressed but there may well have been repeat pressings from the original tapes; I think my copy may be a repressing, though the quality is very good. In 2000, Prestage Records released the first CD version of the album. This was still a bootleg and was a two CD version, this consists of the full Ultrasonic Studio Sessions and additional tracks are, ‘Cold, Cold, Cold’, ‘Dixie Chicken’ and ‘Tripe Face Boogie’, Lowell George didn’t consider these good enough for the radio calling card. The second disc is the original TAKRL bootleg album as described here. There’s a second bootleg CD issued in 2013, on The Godfatherecords label, available only in Europe, and this consists of a single disc of the full Ultrasonic Sessions. In 2014 it came out again, on CD and Vinyl, with a different cover (picture of the band), and this time on the Smokin’ label. Again, it’s a single disc but includes the full Ultrasonic recordings. Finally, in 2021, Rhino Records got their hands on the tapes and it finally got an official release, but only as a limited edition (in vinyl and on CD) for Record Store Day. This is the two-disc version.
Checking availability is made more difficult by the fact that, being a bootleg, none of the unofficial releases can legally be sold on the majority of online sales outlets, so the likes of Discogs and Ebay won’t carry it. I did see a listing for it on a site called The Record Centre and it had been sold at $75. Current prices for the official Record Store Day release show between $45 and $65. I’m sure better deals are available (I only paid £20 for mine, record fairs are always a good bet) and it is well worth seeking out – you won’t hear a better live recording of a great live band at their best.
Audio clips are taken from the later, official release.