At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, I’m going to confess to continuing to tape stuff, on one of those 19th century things called a cassette.
I know, Victorian almost, but I should quantify this by alerting you to the fact I burn stuff on to my laptop and to blank CDs, and once I get the hang of downloading stuff from the internet, I’ll be doing that too.
But …. the problem with putting stuff on the laptop is that the speaker system is woefully inadequate, while most stereos don’t even play burned CD-Rs.
You’d think in this day and age the technology for actually playing music would have improved, but no, it’s inadequate, and listeners are expected to accept it.
I have an ageing stereo, a very temperamental one. Sometimes, soon after picking out the CD that’s just played, it won’t even recognise the one I replace it with. But the sound’s damn good and it plays cassettes perfectly.
The actual tape-recording process allows me to select whatever songs I want, and in the order I want too. Sod a ballad, I want two fast tracks one after the other, or I can rearrange an album whereby the weaker songs are at the start, building to the best ones near the end of the side. Furthermore, I can tag on b-sides, unreleased tracks et al or stick on similar sounding bands.
I’ll even go through that turgid process of watching the tape go round as it nears the end of a side, to see it a whole will be recorded. More often than not it does with a few seconds to spare.
Currently I’m doing a tape of New Zealand bands from CDs from the Wellington library. Some of these, like The Verlaines, or The Clean, I don’t want the entire album, just a few songs and, played as one, the bands compliment each other. As the tape winds round I’m squeezing all the details down on the tiny label in my smallest writing possible.
Alas, I’m part of a dying breed, but By God I’m proud of my membership. Cassettes are increasingly hard to get hold of as technology moves forward so fast, and one big chain has relatively recently decided to drop them altogether. But let’s keep the C90s and C60s in the shops and new stereos should still contain a tape deck. While much of the technology we have used in the past has become obsolete (eight-track cartridge, mini-disks etc), cassettes, like vinyl, still have a niche for the music fan.
A small selection from my all-time favourite tapes:
The Associates: Sulk, American edition, on one side, which is slightly different from the UK release, and Perhaps, the second album on the next. This was one of the first tapes I had and was made by a friend who introduced me to the band and other Scottish delights such as the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Cocteau Twins.
Midnight Oil 1982 to 2003: I’d never actually buy an album from political fool Garrett, but I’ll happily go through all 49 of theirs to select about 26 songs for one collection.
Mix and match vol 67: Hot Hot Heat – three tracks; Electric Six – three tracks; Razorlight; Maximo Park – nine tracks; and a bunch of tracks by the likes of Wolfmen, The Rapture, Stephen Duffy and Manic St Preachers. Wow, this is chocca. We music writers get a lot of stuff and most of it stinks, but with the likes of Razorlight, Hot Hot Heat, et al, the albums are only partially good. So before I trade it in at a record store or give it away, I pick and choose the best. The Maximo Park tracks are a selection of the b-sides compilation and 2007’s Our Earthly Pleasures. They are a hit-and-miss band and if I recall rightly, I taped most of the debut album on to cassette.
Punk und New Wave: I came across a punk compilation put together by England’s Dreaming author Jon Savage and featuring some very good and obscure artists such as The Dils (I Hate the Rich), The Diodes, The Bizarros and the Urinals. First time I heard the truly monumental We’ve Got the Neutron Bomb by the Weirdos. For some reason I then stuck on some Purple hearts, Skids and Yachts on the second side.
Haines the Mains: Black Box Recorder’s Passionoia, not exactly their best, bits of their England Made Me, and solo tracks from Luke Haines and his first band, The Auteurs.
Reggae Classics, Vol 48: Reggae is so wonderful and there’s so many compilations around. I used to get loads of them out of the Napier City library and stick them on tape. This one features the much-missed Gregory Isaacs (Lost My Job from 2003), along with Mikey Dread, Poet and the Roots, Junior Murvin and many others.
Godzone’s Gifts: If you can get past Crowded House, Hayley Westenra, Shihad and all the other guff the country’s churned out, there are some great acts from New Zealand. This one includes Goldenhorse, The Front Lawn, Collapsing Cities, The Bats, The Clean and Cut off Your Hands. Bands without any real connection but it melds quite well actually.
David Bowie 1980-84: Nobody could truthfully say the eighties were a productive one for Bowie so this condenses the best of the early part of the decade, starting with Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, which takes up most of the tape. By 1984 and the Tonight album, he’s lost it, and the confusion would continue until 1993.
Porky embraces most new technology,such as hi-tech equipment that can detect and treat diseases and cancers, or something simple like DVDs, which have replaced the cumbersome and ugly video tapes – how we put up with them for so long is beyond me. But some new technology is not as fab and groovy, and I’ll put downloads in that basket.
If downloads allow for good and obscure music to be heard by others, then fair play. But downloads should not be the primary outlet for music, just as cassettes weren’t. If CDs disappear and all we have to rely on is downloads then music will have lost much if its allure. You can’t pass on a downloaded album as a present, you can’t have a laugh or debate about the contents of the cover or inserts; you can’t add a special free single, cassette or CD; you can’t throw it at someone you don’t like, or most importantly stick it in a dartboard and do your best to crack the bloody thing. Keep it real folks: use download when necessary but don’t neglect the real thing,