The Sad Tale of Mike the Mike

I’ve been very busy writing lately, and the work in progress has exceeded 106K words. It’s my longest effort yet and may approach the length of a Stephen King novel, but hopefully not “The Stand”, which has about 500K words and is over 1100 pages long.

Tonight, I’d like to put my blog spotlight on a man by the name of ‘Mike the Mike’, and may he rest in peace in rock and roll Heaven. He was a bootlegger taper of live concerts in Southern California, and he produced some of the finest bootleg recordings of all the times. I own two complete Led Zeppelin shows he recorded at the L.A. Forum in 1977, and they are the vehicle which allows me to time travel back to that wonderful era. It feels like you’re sitting there enjoying the show in person when you listen to one of his recordings. The first one I bought for ninety bucks about twenty years ago, and the second was free via the internet. I guess that evens out, when averaged.

The really cool thing about Mike the Mike is how he taped the shows. He was sneaky. He had a wheelchair that was outfitted with a concealed tape recorder. How cool is that? He also labeled his tapes so he and everybody else could identify them. He did this by manipulating the sound at some point near the beginning. For example, he might fluctuate the volume or add some effect when the crowd cheered before the band came on.

I based a character on Mike the Mike in “Running On Empty”, the sequel to “Band On The Run”. You’ll have to read the book to see how I imagined him.

He even has a Wikipedia page!


Mike Millard, nicknamed “Mike The Mike” was an avid concert taper in the 1970s and 1980s, recording mostly Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones concerts in California, especially at the Los Angeles Forum.[1] He taped virtually every show at the Forum from 1974 to 1980. Many of his recordings found their way into the hands of bootleggers who sold Millard’s work to fans.

Starting with a basic mono recorder in 1974, Millard upgraded to a Nakamichi stereo recorder with AKG Acoustics microphones for the 1975 Led Zeppelin shows in the area. He often used a wheelchair to conceal his equipment, pretending to be disabled.[2] Unlike most 1970s audience bootlegs, Millard’s recordings are noted for their great sound quality, and are to this day considered some of the finest audio bootlegs available.

Millard’s recording of the Led Zeppelin concert on June 21, 1977 at the Forum (allegedly taped from row number six) was released under the title Listen To This Eddie, and remains one of the best-known Led Zeppelin bootlegs. His recording of the opening number from the concert, “The Song Remains The Same“, was included in the promos menu of the Led Zeppelin DVD. Millard recorded all of the Rolling Stones 1975 shows at the LA Forum, and his recording of the Sunday, June 13, 1975 show (titled ‘LA Friday’) has become one of the most widely spread recordings of a Rolling Stones concert.
Millard was never behind the sale of bootlegs and was openly against the illegal sale of his recordings – like many audience tapers today. He was notorious for “marking” copies of his tapes so that if one of his recordings turned up for sale on LP or CD, he would be able to tell which person he had traded it to. He kept a very detailed logbook of his marked recordings and who they were distributed to. “Unmarked” copies of Mike’s recordings are very scarce. Recently, several unmarked 1st generation copies of his Led Zeppelin recordings surfaced in trading circles, a truly historic moment for collectors around the world.

Millard allegedly suffered from severe depression, and committed suicide in 1990.[3]

And now you know the sad tale of Mike the Mike.

4 thoughts on “The Sad Tale of Mike the Mike

  1. I hadn’t realized that the LA Friday release from the Stones Archive was an audience bootleg! Just goes to show how good Mike’s recordings were. Great gig too.

  2. The recordings of his that I have are awesome, because you can really feel the reverb of the hall. In addition, when somebody near the microphone yells, “Hey Tanya!” at the top of their voice, the experience is complete.

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