I know I'm a dinosaur. I know I'm behind the times. I know I'm below the curve. It really seems as if the days of analog tapes are gone and I, for one, mourn their passing.
I have never really warmed up to the concept of CDs. I have a few, and the sound is fine, but they aren't like tape. There's something very utilitarian about tapes. But to be fair, I felt kind of the same when tapes replaced vinyl LPs. I don't mind the hiss just as I didn't mind the crackle. Rock n' roll is meant to be kind of messy. Clean is not better.
It's kind of like the new roller coasters they have at all the theme parks. They're fast, they're high, they're steep - they have all kinds of fanciness. But they are just too damn smooth. Give me one of the old rickety wooden ones anytime. I grew up in Chicago and we had this place called Riverview Park. It was just an amusement park, not a theme park -- they actually had a "freak show" (all fakes, but it was cool). They had a great collection of wooden roller coasters: The Bobs, the Fireball, the Flying Turns -- well you get it. There was an element of danger to riding them, even after you'd done it many times. Getting tossed around the seat... really great! The new ones are an assault on the senses, but they just don't cut the feeling. But I digress...
I know analog is coming to an end. Here are two examples:
Everything is "dissolving into a wall of digital sound". Didn't Neil also say that CDs were "a piece of crap"?
Maybe the analogers that are left could start a society. We could call ourselves the Society of Creative Anachronisms.
Sure Jim, how do I sign up? ;-)
Yes, I'm another one behind the times here. I see all the CDR trees come and go from the sidelines. I haven't ventured into digital recording, and haven't a clue what the consensus is on what's a good blank, so I am feeling like a dinosaur myself.
There's much good to be said for CDs. They sound great, and they are so convenient in the car. I've not had any CD disasters -- something I can't say for my tapes. My old car tape deck appeared to require a sacrifice now and then for its hours of thankless work -- by chewing a beloved tape to bits. When I see strips of magnetic tape fluttering on the highway, I remember that tape deck. Also, I've never had a CD stretch on me. Or play at slightly different speeds, depending on which deck I was using.
With CDs, there is no need to wait while rewinding or fast-forwarding. You have the ability to play your favorite tracks and easily skip the ones you think you can live without. On rock and pop albums, it's hard to resist the temptation to play with the remote.
Which brings me to say why tapes are still VERY much a part of my life. When I want to get to know an album it really helps to make a tape of it as opposed to just having the CD. Having an album on a tape seems to force me to listen to the whole thing, in order. And as I listen over time, some of the tracks that didn't make an immediate impact during the initial phase of "CD track hopping", begin to settle into my brain. The albums become albums, and not just something that contains a song I know.
Of course, after I have become familiar with the albums, I enjoy moving on to making mix tapes. It's fun to put on headphones, and fiddle with dials, trying to get the recording level just right for each song, and plan out 90 minutes of tape, listening as I go along. And mix tapes are a fun way to share music. I like to make custom tapes, geared towards the recipient, even including dialog at times. And I've received many great tapes.
I have an amusing one from my best friend in high school, dated 8/23/85. She put in all these tunes I'd like, along with beautifully handwritten liner notes. But one track simply read, "Surprise! by Inspector Cruelo et al." I wasn't sure what was coming. It turned out to be eight seconds of Phil Collins' Sussudio a song she knew really irritated me. And it was at an annoyingly higher recording level then the other tunes. It was followed by the rat-tat-tat of distant machine gun fire, from a sound effect record from the library that I instantly recognized from a project we had worked on together. I laughed when I heard this sequence. She finished up the tape with the soothing Tara off Roxy Music's Avalon, as if to say, "no hard feelings, okay?" She called, inquiring after my health that evening... Yeah, what she really wanted was to find out if I had listened to the tape yet... ;-)
There is a lot one can do with a simple cassette deck and a little creativity, to personalize a tape. I think she'd have liked to have joined the Society of Creative Anachronisms too. Unfortunately, she died in an accident in December of 1985, just before she reached her 17th birthday. Jim's story reminded me of her custom tapes. Coincidentally, Jim also mentioned roller coasters, and she happened to really love them. It brought back happy memories.
Analog audio tape really has no future as a medium for spreading music -- at least in a tree system -- now that digital recording is available to the masses. That's the single biggest advantage to the new technology: lack of generation loss. It's truly wonderful, and I understand people wanting to only deal with CDR now.
I'm not bitter about it. I'm looking forward to getting a burner one of these days, and beginning to figure out how to make CDs something like the way I like to make tapes. I suppose I'll have to learn how to handle complex software, instead of using headphones and cranking the volume to set the tape at precisely where I want it to be and looking at peak level settings and doing recording level adjustments and manual fade outs...
Okay, maybe I am a little bitter... ;-)
Analog cassette tape will always have a special place in my heart. I'm still experiencing and sharing a lot of music thanks to tape. And for some reason, I sometimes enjoy my tape copies of my CDs better than the CDs themselves. And many Rusties have given me wonderful music I'd never have heard otherwise. Analog tape still serves me well, and I will always treasure it. Even as I, too, one day venture forth into the digital recording age and begin new adventures in music.
fields of green