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Mixed Tapes

Posted 11-11-2013 at 12:44 PM by BeardedSonOfNel

I'm a huge fan of music, and always have been. I got that from my father. Back in the late 70s when my father and mother bought there first house the first thing my dad did was wire the basement, upstairs, patio, and garage for sound that could be all played from his 4 channel 400 Watt Pioneer receiver. He always had the radio on, or he was playing Akai reel to reel tape deck, and of course he had a turntable (JVC) as well. Some of the earliest pictures I've seen of myself show an oversize Pioneer 4 channel set of headphones on top of my head.

I remember getting my first record player when I was 5. My dad gave me a huge stack up 45s to play on it. When I was 6 I got my first cassette recorder. It was one of those with the build in speaker, and a handle. It was awesome because I could put 4 C sized batteries in it, and take it on the go. I remember hanging it off of my huffy bike handle and riding up and down my street listening to music. God, to be 6 or 7 again.

Well it didn't take me long to figure out what the record button on my tape player did, and I promptly tried to make a mixed tape. So I'd start up one of the 45s on my little record player, and hit play and record on the tape recorder to make the mix. I was going to be ultra cool on my bike with a mixed tape. The recording didn't workout the way I had hoped for. The problem being at the time was the tape recorder's only form of input was the mic built into it. I couldn’t understand how my dad had created his mixed reel to reel tape that sounded just like the albums he was recording, and this frustrated me. So I asked my dad for help. He explained to me that he couldn't help because my tape recorder didn't have a line input, and he didn't have a cassette deck for his system, because it was inferior to his reel to reel.

This really bummed me out because I had tons of music sitting on LPs, and 45s in my bedroom, but I wanted to be able to listen to my music while I was out and about, or up in my tree house. Well for my eighth birthday I got an all-in-one Emerson radio/record/dual cassette stereo that came with a pair of 6 watt speakers. Along with the stereo I was given a pack of 5 new blank cassettes. This was the second best gift my parents ever got me (the best was an Atari 2600 I got a couple of years before this)... I take that back as my folks did get me my first car, but that's a different blog for a different day.

I finally had a setup that would make semi-ok sounding mixed tapes. I would spend the next 20 years honing the craft of making the perfect mix (I like to think of it as art.) I used to sit for hours and plan mixes out. I'd listen to the songs I might want to record, and if the LP, or tape I was using for the source didn't list the time of the track; well then I'd time it because I only had 30-90 minutes of recording time depending on the size of the tape. I wanted/needed to make sure I was using the most amount of tape I could per side. No one likes two minutes of nothing on a side of a tape, or worse yet cutting off a song because you ran out of tape.

Little did I know that the skills I started build at age 8 would be awesome to have at ages 15 and on up. I like so many young men of my generation started making tapes for girls that we liked, and wanted to... well listen to together. Mixed tapes could say so much to the person you gave them to, and not only that it was something they could listen to when you weren't with them. It was like a little part of you there with them when they listened, and it was unobtrusive, and could be played around friends or family without them knowing the meaning of the mix. I still have four tapes to this day that were given to me by a special girl. I can play those tapes around anyone including my wonderful wife, and she has no idea what memories are attached to them. It's like a private walk down memory lane in the middle of the public with the bonus feature of new memories being made at the same time with the people around you.

Over the years I've bought some really nice audio equipment including 3 different reel to reel decks, 4 nice turntables, and a couple of nice cassette decks. My kids (two girl) think all the stuff is neat, but love their iPods, and don't have a use for my “Old Stuff”. Don't get me wrong. I use the shit out of digital music, but a big part of me wishes more of the warmth of the analog still held a bigger place in the world of audio.

So, now we get to the real nuts and bolts of today's blog, and that is sadness. It saddens me that music today feels so disposable. When I say disposable I don't mean that it's crap. Every generation has had good music, and bad music. What I'm trying to say is it is all digital, and unless you buy a CD there is nothing physical about it anymore. It feels disposable because we don't have to take care of it anymore. We don't have to worry about warping tapes in a hot car, or scratching LPs or CDs. Now if we have a disk crash, or what-not we just download it again. It feels disposable because very little thought is needed to create a play list, and each play list can be as big as you want it to be (or so it seems anymore with cheap large storage). In some ways it saddens me that we don't have to listen to the song in its entirety when we add it to a play list.

It bums me out that my kids will won't experience the heartbreak of a scratched record/CD or eaten tape. They will never understand the connection between a pencil and a cassette. They will never use a matchbook shoved into the front of a car's tape deck to make the tape sound right, or to keep the deck from eating it. My kids may share play lists with friends and loved ones someday, but they will never share a mixed tape. That mixed tape that took time and effort to make. No, they will just drag and drop.

Some photos of the audio equipment I talked about in this blog. Every image is the make an model that I or my father had. The only image that is not correct is my all-in-one stereo I got at age eight. I could not find the model on the web, but what I've posted is close enough.

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  1. Old Comment
    sai tyrus's Avatar
    Beautifully personable. Good stuff!
    Posted 11-13-2013 at 08:21 PM by sai tyrus sai tyrus is offline

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