The legendary bootlegger known as ‘Mr. Toad’ has died

Robert Langley, the bootlegger who was known by his nickname of Mr. Toad and had a high profile trial in 2007, died earlier this month.

Bootleg news site Collectors Music Reviews shared the news that Langley has died, although it’s unclear what his cause of death was.

Langley was sentenced to 20 months in prison in 2007 following a high-profile trial which saw Jimmy Page appear in court to testify against him.

Langley was arrested following a police raid at a record fair held at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in May 2005. Police found a haul of bootleg albums that Langley was illegally selling without the permission of the rightsholders.

The police raid found that Langley was in possession of £11,500 worth of Led Zeppelin bootlegs, as well as £1,790 of Rolling Stones bootlegs and £885 worth of bootlegs of The Beatles, BBC News reported.

Langley initially denied three trademark and two copyright infringements, but changed his plea to guilty when Page decided to appear in court to give evidence against him.

“The legitimate part is where fans trade music, but once you start packaging it up and you do not know what you are getting, you are breaking the rules legally and morally,” Page told fiscal Judith Hutchison according to a report in The Scotsman.

“There are some of these recordings where it is just a whirring and you cannot hear the music,” Page said. “If you have something like this that appears legitimate then it is just not right.”

Page’s appearance at the trial made headlines at the time:

Langley was interviewed in Clinton Heylin’s book “Bootleg,” which chronicles the rise of the bootleg industry. Langley, interviewed under the name “Mr. Toad,” told Heylin that producing CD bootlegs in the early nineties was a difficult task.

Here’s how his first CD bootleg of Bob Dylan turned out:

“The first CD was torturous, absolutely and utterly torturous,” Langley said. “They Don’t Deserve It was a shambles when it arrived. We sent them seventy-five minutes and it came back as seventy-two, bits had been chopped here and there … the volume level is all to cock and it wasn’t like that on the tape that went off, nothing like it. It went to Israel, Korea, you name it … And when it came back, the back cover was exactly as [Mrs Toad] had typed it out to give them the information. They’d just taken the white sheet.

Langley explained in the book that his CD bootleg label Silver Rarities started life around August 1991 when he went to Germany to scout out potential CD manufacturers. Eventually he formed a new label, Wanted Man, specifically for Dylan bootlegs.

But it was the discovery of a bootleg CD manufacturing facility in England that allowed Langley to scale up his operation.

Here’s how Heylin describes it in his book: “He had stumbled on the holy grail — a pressing plant in Britain that would press whatever he delivered without questions — and he had even found another middleman who would take all the risks on his behalf. By offering to press titles for just about every other UK wholesaler, at a price and speed previously unknown, he became someone no one could afford to cross.

“It apparently never occurred to Mr Toad that this temporary situation would one day pass, and that all the animosities he had fuelled would be brought down sevenfold upon his head. For the briefest of periods, as the protection-gap door came off its hinges, Britain became the hub of the European bootleg CD spindle; and Mr Toad presided over it like the self-styled Lord of the Manor he imagined himself to be.”

You can view a Japanese translation of this article here.

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