fun with cassettes

See those things in the picture above? For those of you under the age of 25, those are called Cassette Tapes. I used to use those back in the days before MP3's, when I was still transferring my favorite LP's and CD's so I could listen to them in the car or my Walkman while I rode the bus.

Those two cassettes have been traveling with me since the late 1980's, through 5 states, 2 hurricanes, several earthquakes, and over 20 addresses. The one on top was actually originally owned by my friend Ron, whom I have not seen in over a decade. He gave it to me because he made a copy of his Key Lime Pie CD by Camper Van Beethoven for me. That way, I could listen to it in my improvised sound system in my 1975 Mustang II (an old tape recorder running off the car battery, jammed under the dash, hooked up to the old AM radio speaker) as I fought traffic on I-271 every morning while driving to class when I was in college. When I bought the LP (yes, you read that right, I preferred vinyl to CD during my show), I used that cassette to record my radio show on John Carroll University's station WUJC 88.7 FM (now WJCU) in University Heights, Ohio, the City of Beautiful Homes.

Normally, I taped all my radio shows on Sony HF-90's, which could be bought cheaply in my old neighborhood at the Monticello-Noble Revco Discount Drugs (now absorbed by CVS Pharmacy...blech). They look like this:

However, I was out of HF-90's one hot, muggy July day in 1990, so I grabbed that particular one from the car as I ran into the station since I had just bought the Camper Van Beethoven CD. Now, the other side was blank, so I used it to tape stuff at the radio station, and also off the radio while I was sweltering in my apartment.

The BASF cassette was also from my radio show era...I showed up at the station one night to visit a friend of mine during his radio show. Again, I was out of the HF-90's, so I grabbed this one out of the car. I don't remember where it came from, actually.

Now, when I popped these in the stereo, it was like listening to a time capsule. I recorded this stuff like, 15 years ago. So for the first time in a decade and a a half, from a dusty old box in my closet to the entire world, here you are...my old crap. I used Audacity to transfer certain clips from the summer of 1990 to MP3, so I could bring these old cassettes to life in remastered digital glory.

In the age of digital music, it's easy to forget just how crappy music taped off the radio sounded.

Just click on the mini HF-90 to listen. For some reason, on Firefox, the audio drops out a little in the beginning...just start it over again and it'll play normally.

This one is from my radio show...I was reading public service announcements. They were required by the FCC at the top of every hour. This particular one is 19 year-old me instructing you how to claim the loss of a burned motor vehicle in the city of Cleveland. The guy who talks after me is my friend Matt. Our Cleveland accents are so noticeable here...you'd think we were talking out of our noses or something. Gawd. I'm so glad my accent has faded, now only manifesting itself after a few cocktails. Oh, and that's Perez Prado playing in the background. Don't ask.

I can't believe I'm actually putting this one on the internet...it's from one hot, sticky, sultry night (again, from July 1990) when my friend Chuck was hanging out with me in my parents' kitchen up in Cleveland Heights (my folks were out on the town partying or something). We had gone through three 64-oz bottles of Olde English malt liquor (link is to a sketch comedy site inspired by the stuff) and a bunch of Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers. I called the local top-40 station Power 108 to request the latest flava from Technotronic: Get Up (Before the Night Is Over). Again...the flat, old-school Cleveland accent is there. That old Maxell tape was sitting on the kitchen counter; since I had flirted with the DJ so much (she's actually cracking up at the end of the clip) I knew I was going to get on the air. I grabbed it and taped the song off the radio. The phone rang almost immediately after this aired. It was my friend Rachel, laughing her ass off, telling me she had just heard me and I was "so fucking queer."

This one...well, you be the judge of this one. This was taped directly off the console at the radio station on the night of Thursday, July 26th, 1990. A friend of mine was in the middle of his show, and I popped in to turn in my playlist, see what new music came in, and say hi to my friend. The station had a library of cheezy production music LP's from Los Angeles. We were supposed to use them in any projects or shows we wanted. I had found an especially horrid track, fallen in love with it, and recorded it on one of the cartridges we used for the PSA's (I was going to use it in a promo I was doing for someone else's show). It was in my bag, and I handed it to my friend so he could hear it. He dared me to make up lyrics to the music on the spot, LIVE ON THE AIR. I accepted his challenge. He cued up the next record, popped the cart I gave him in the console, waited for the PSA he was playing to finish, and mouthed "GO!" as he hit the play button and my microphone button at the same time.

So here's the background to this asinine song (give me a break...I was 19):

At the time, my mom drove a clunky, rusty 1982 Chevrolet Celebrity, and my dad drove a 1990 Chevrolet Lumina. I had my mom's Celebrity that night, and her keychain (with both cars' keys) was sitting on the console. I had been eating a bag of Fritos. My friend's laundry was sitting in the corner of the studio in a laundry basket (he went directly from the laundromat to the studio to do his show).

So there was my inspiration. The result? Well, you decide.

Let's just say there there is a certain individual living in Seattle (my cousin Joey Lazerhead) who lists this song as one of his favorite songs of all time...in fact, he might cover that tune and sing it himself. To be honest, I had forgotten all about it until I found that BASF cassette.

I have tons more cassettes to go through...who knows what else I'll find?

BTW...now that I know how to use Audacity AND I found an old mixing board, I'll be able to start podcasting as soon as I find my goddamn microphone.

© 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Chad Fox. All rights reserved.