This month I've been going through my old cassette collection. Earlier I blogged about the "sellable" stuff (or at least only sellable in theory; I couldn't get any bids on the eBay offer, even though it included a CD filled with all the stuff on mp3!). This time, I'm looking through the non-sellable stuff. These are basically recordings that were all taped on store-bought blank tapes. I've got at least 60 of these.
Is this all "junk"? Well for the most part, certainly not. I've been playing in bands for a little over 20 years now, and some of these recordings are the only document of the first half of that. Say what you will about cassette tapes, but I'm so glad to have grown up in a generation when recording equipment like this was affordable for homes. Of course now a days you can get even better recording equipment for the same price, but still, I can't imagine all those garage bands of older generations who did music in the 1970s and earlier, who have little or no documentation of it.
Having said that, some of these tapes certainly ARE junk. I have tape dubs I've made of records or other cassette tapes that I've since bought on CD or could easily purchase on CD or in digital format, as well as tape dubs from movies and what not which I either don't need or could easily rip again from a DVD. I spent some time going through the unlabeled stuff and labeling these.
So here's a look at some of the cassettes I've found in my vast Sea O' Stuff. I'll get to the band stuff in another post, but here are a couple of others.
- Promo tape for an 1988 Xmas Party. My father got this tape from a business agency he belonged to. They were giving it out as an invitation. The recording was basically an advertisement for an upcoming Xmas party, in the form of a slow jazz song. I remember there was a lady doing a mix of singing and dialogue over the music, describing the event and who was going to be there. Knowing that I had an ever-growing cassette collection and that he had no use for the tape after hearing it, he give it to me to share the novelty value. I ended up recording W.A.S.P.'s "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)" single over it.
- Vinyl/TV recordings. Due to the way my stereo and my computer are set up in different rooms, and also because of the fact that my old computer didn't have a DVD drive, transferring stuff from vinyl, VHS or DVD to my hard drive was a big tricky. One way I did this was record from vinyl to cassette, then bring the cassette over to my room with the computer and transfer from the cassette to my hard drive. So I did find a number of tapes with Irish comedian Hal Roach, records from Martin Denny (one of my favorite musicians, known for his tiki music in the 1950s), and stuff that I'd use for my comedy radio show like samples from Mr. Show, Bill Hicks, South Park, and Rowan Atkinson. I also made a tape with all the dialogue from my all-time favorite movie, Clive Barker's Nightbreed. I'm going to transfer what I want, then throw them out when I'm done.
- Old tape with broken pressure pad. This may possibly be the oldest cassette I own. The first of the childhood recordings. It must be from 1982 or 1983. I tried playing it, but the sound kept fading out. Closer inspection of the tape revealed that the pressure pad was broken. For those who are too young to remember, audio cassettes had a little piece of sponge at the bottom center of the tape, behind the physical strip of tape that passed by. When you listen to a tape, the cassette player pushes a metallic reading head down on to the tape to "read" it, as the strip of tape sits between the pad and the reader.
This pad was broken off, but fortunately I was able to glue it back in place. Hopefully it will work now. If not, I'm sure I can try something else. I even fixed a tape like this back in the 80s by replacing the area with a thick piece of sponge I cut off from a cleaning sponge we had in the bathroom, and it worked.
- Black Sabbath bootlegs. One of these was messed up on the speed, and I've since gotten on CD with the corrected speed, so I can toss the tape now. Another one of these I can easily transfer, then toss. The tape with the messed-up speed was actually a very popular Sabbath bootleg: live in Worcester MA in 1983 (my second home town). One time an older friend of mine asked if I had gone to this show. I said, "Um, I was in third grade at the time."
- "Narrator" tape. Now this was weird. A tape with a torn triangular piece of pink paper taped on to it (please don't read too much into that, folks). The paper was labeled "Narrator", I think in my brother's handwriting. There was some hip-hop song on it. Maybe I'll mail this to him. Or maybe he'll just tell me to throw it out.
- Blank tape. Nothing written on the label. I listened to it. Nothing on it. So I labeled it "blank" so that I wouldn't forget. I think I got this from some arcade after trading in winning tickets from Skee-Ball. And what a weird piece of crap this looks like. It says "Nippon" (the Japanese word for Japan) yet also says "Made in China". But there's a lighthouse as if it was from here in New England. I don't know what to make of this ugly thing.
- Iron Maiden "soundtrack" plus various sound effects. We had a video camera when I was a kid. At the time, my friends and I were also writing short stories, mostly involving ourselves as characters. So I envisioned making a movie at some point. On the soundtrack would naturally be my favorite of bands whom I worshiped at the time, Iron Maiden. So there were a couple of tracks I dubbed on to this tape. That's about as far as the project went.
However, also on the same tape was a compilation I made of sound effects. Lots of rock bands have used sound effects here and there on their recordings. AC/DC's "Hell's Bells", Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and Ozzy Osbourne's "Center of Eternity" all begin with a bell tolling. Iron Maiden's "Sanctuary" and a few other songs have a police siren dubbed over some part. And so on. I ended up making a mix of all these that I think ran about half an hour. I sounds like something out of the podcast put out by Church of the Subgenius, Hour of Slack. I may just play this on my radio show for the novelty value of it.
- Tape covers. I found a few index cards for store-bought tapes that I either used to tape over, or lost. Black Sabbath's "Never Say Die". Duran Duran's "Rio". And that Xmas one I first mentioned.
- Megadeth tape. Ah yes. This will be tough to part with. I can just hold this tape and feel the raging testosterone from angry teenage youth. (OK, maybe the words "feel", "teenage" and "testosterone" don't belong in the same sentence.) I dubbed the first two Megadeth albums from my fellow metalhead friend down the street, Dana. It was my introduction to speed metal. I had been a metal fan, but here was stuff so heavy and fast that I couldn't make out the words. At the time, that made it so mysteriously avant garde to my ears. Of course, being part computer geek at the time too, I typed out the track list and titles on my Apple IIc computer, and printed them out on the ImageWriter II noisy line printer.