The Greatest Group on Earth

Highly Appreciated

Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be  (also known as The Greatest Group on Earth) is a bootleg recording of the Rolling Stones’ concert in Oakland, California, from 9 November 1969.  It was one of the first live rock music bootlegs and was made notorious as a document of their 1969 tour of the United States.  The popularity of the bootleg forced the Stones’ label Decca Records to release the live album Get Yer Ya-Yas Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert in 1970.  Live’r is also one of the earliest commercial bootleg recordings in rock history, released in December 1969, just two months after the Beatles’ Kum Back and five months after Bob Dylan’s Great White Wonder.  Like the two earlier records, Live’r’s outer sleeve is plain white, with its name stamped on in ink.  (More from Wikipedia)
Before I get into The Iguana Chronicles – the series of albums of Stooges music put out by Greg Shaw of Bomp! Records – I’ll take some time to relate my early acquisitions of albums of this kind.  There are records out there which are not authorized that can include recordings that fans cannot get any other way.  They are usually referred to as “bootleg” records and consist of music that was never officially released.  “Pirated” records are illegal copies of major-label releases, and they are a different thing altogether.  That is what got Napster into so much trouble many years ago.  Bootlegs exist in a grey area and are generally (if grudgingly) tolerated by the music industry.  In the same way, the major record labels almost never try to retake possession of the early promo copies of albums that are supplied to DJ’s and rock critics ahead of the official releases, even though they are typically marked with something like:  “Licensed for promotional use only.  Sale is prohibited.” 
That memorable time – I always thought it was late 1969, but based on the dates I see in Wikipedia and elsewhere, it must have been in 1970 – I went by the Record Bar in Raleigh near the North Carolina State University campus, and there were several tables full of bootleg records that had been set up in the middle of the store.  I picked up four that day:  two by Bob DylanGreat White Wonder and John Birch Society Blues; one by the BeatlesKum Back; and one by the Rolling StonesThe Greatest Group on Earth.  The music I got that day was a revelation and has informed my record collecting habits ever since. 
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The Rolling Stones album, on the Lurch Records label, was released in other editions besides the one that I have.  My copy of The Greatest Group on Earth has plain red lettering in one corner of an otherwise blank record cover (or maybe no lettering at all; the cover is gone now of course), but other versions have a big red star and “Greatest Group on Earth” in big block letters.  The same recordings in the same order have also been issued under the name Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be (on Lurch Records, and on Hobo Records, or with no label name at all).
The Rolling Stones” does not appear anywhere on the label or the cover on any of these discs.  Occasionally, the labels on bootleg records are misleading; for instance, some editions of Great White Wonder on Rocolian Records show the artist as “Dupre and His Miracle Sound” and have completely different song names.  More often, the record labels are completely blank or just have “Side 1” or “A” or something like that. 
The Greatest Group on Earth is typical of bootleg records that I have seen for a host of bands and artists over the years, in that it consists of a live concert with middling recording quality that was taped surreptitiously by someone in attendance.  My guess is that 90% or more of bootleg records are like this.  Listings in the Discogs items about this album say that the songs were taken from the second show performed by the Rolling Stones at the Coliseum Arena in Oakland, California on November 9, 1969
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The concert was made not long after the release of one of my favorite Rolling Stones albums, Beggars Banquet, and includes two songs from that album, “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man”, plus several more from their most recent album at that time, Let it Bleed:  “Gimme Shelter”, “Love In Vain”, “Midnight Rambler”, “Live with Me”, and “Honky Tonk Women” – a country version of this song was included on Let it Bleed under the name of “Country Honk”, while Honky Tonk Women itself was released five months earlier as a single only.  The Greatest Group on Earth was the only concert album that I had of the Stones for several years (in fact, I did not own very many albums back then, period) – just one live album by the Rolling Stones had been officially released previously, Got Live If You Want It! (1966) – so I played this record a lot. 
The Rolling Stones’ bootleg album, The Greatest Group on Earth is mostly familiar material as might be expected in a live concert.  However, until I got this album, I did not know or at least remember the song “I’m Free” (a different song from the well-known track, I’m Free from the Who’s album Tommy); it had been the b-side for the Stones’ second #1 song, “Get off of My Cloud”.  The album also includes two Chuck Berry songs, Carol and “Little Queenie”.  “Carol” was released as a single in January 1964, charting only in France, and was also on their first album, The Rolling Stones.  While Little Queenie was never recorded by the Stones on a single or a studio album as far as I have been able to tell, Carol as well as Little Queenie are included on their second live album, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert (1970).  According to Wikipedia:  “It [Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!] was reported to have been issued in response to the well known bootleg Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be” (the alternate name of The Greatest Group on Earth). 
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As with The Greatest Group on Earth by the Rolling Stones, there are multiple editions of the album, though the title Kum Back is used consistently throughout as far as I know. 
(September 2017)
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Last edited: March 22, 2021