To fill up the rest of the tape, my cousin put on some Queen songs, some Jethro Tull stuff - all tracks I had never heard before and weren't on the radio (deep cuts). I was really into that tape! It started a dialog that continues to the present times – with my cousin and many friends. For many years I really got into making tapes for friends (and they for me – all of which I still have). And I got pretty good at creating “moods” with music on a 60 or 90 minute tape – sometimes with music from quite different genres. Now that cassette has given way to digital files, I kinda miss unwrapping a new blank tape and trolling through my record collection to piece together a collection of some favorites du jour to pass onto my pals.
So a few weeks ago, I did something I haven’t done in a long time – I dragged out my funky old cassette deck, cracked open a C-90 and set about making a mix tape of tunes that grabbed my fancy as I went along. Originally I wanted a 60 minute tape – 30 minutes per side. 90 minutes can be a long time to fill. 60 minutes is more of a challenge to put together a bunch of tunes that somehow hang together – maybe creating or reflecting a particular mood. I sure made some legendary tapes in the past. But that’s where cassette tapes have been relegated to – the past.
But in the not-so-distant past the cassette tape was the preferred format for music lovers on the go. Long before the ipod there was the Walkman and the boom-box. See this thing, kids? THIS was your 80s status symbol. No X-Box, no Playstation. This was it, dude
Even though the sound quality was never stellar on cassette, things did improve over time. I have a really early pre-recorded, massed produced cassette of the Procol Harum “Home” album that is just dreadful. It looks to me like an original 1970 issue and the signal to noise ratio is pitiful – there’s just not enough signal coming off that thing to make it worth the bother of listening to! But by the late 70s and early 80s problems of that sort were resolved enough to make the cassette the logical replacement to the just as portable, yet infinitely more problematic 8-track tape (ever try to repair one of those suckers?).
The best place for cassettes was THE CAR. Since I did a fair amount of travelling as a young man I made tons of tapes for car rides. Many of them are still in boxes in my attic (some have unique music on them…..ah….I suppose I will eventually attract the attention of the “Hoarders” show…….such is life….). The radio – then as now – could not always be counted on to suit one’s mood. Nowadays there’s all these satellite radio channels playing deep cuts, but they’re all segregated into different genres – some of which don’t make ANY sense. Like, what is this Northern Soul shit? Talk about the biggest record collector scam ever. Of all the Northern Soul stuff I’ve bothered to listen to I have to say only about .5% of it was worth a second glance. The vast majority of what collectors are paying mondo bucks for is, musically speaking……shite. Sorry – it’s true. Anyway, I like to hear all kinds of music sometimes totally thrown together in unusual combinations. I don’t have a satellite radio, but I have heard it before and it can be cool, Northern Soul notwithstanding.
So what craziness wound up on my little C90? Hmmmm….
The Core – Eric Clapton
She’s Long and She’s Lean – Mallard
Take it or Leave It – Rolling Stones
Blue Form – MU
Powaii – Sonny Rollins (live in Japan)
Babylon Sisters – Steely Dan
Lonesome – Big Bill Broonzy & Washboard Sam
TVC-15 – David Bowie
Rock and Roll Stew – Traffic
Carney and Beggard Place - Rahsaan Roland Kirk
It’s Your Thing – Isley Brothers
Killing an Arab – The Cure
Slip Kid – The Who
Reno Nevada – Fairport Convention
The Dolphins – Fred Neil
One More Chance – Sandy Denny
As Strong As Sampson – Procol Harum
Doesn’t seem like a lot of songs, does it? Yeah, I know – your ipod as GAZILLION songs on it. Everything from Celine Dion to the Butthole Surfers. Okay. I have a little MP3 player too and when I want to hear a shuffle with Three Dog Night, The Flaming Lips, Tiny Tim, Fela Kuti and Louis Armstrong in rapid succession I know where to go. But what about a purposeful juxtaposition of tracks from just as far-flung corners of the musical spheres that hang together in such a way that feels like you’re hearing them for the first time – or, at least, from a different point of view?
Alright – if you’ve never heard The Dolpins by Fred Neil – check it out:
As Lou Reed once said, “those were different times……..”