July 29, 2010

Blast from the Past: Tale of the Tapes, from July 2005

Five issues into the existence of Modern Acoustic, the magazine started to gel for me. I realized I was not confident as an album reviewer (still working on that...), was not a great photographer and, being a family man, not getting to concerts as much as I'd liked. So how was I going to fill empty pages of a magazine I had just created? For the most part, what I like best about Modern Acoustic is dealing with musical issues that are personal to me. One of the first "issue-oriented" stories I wrote was on my despair at getting rid of my huge cassette tape collection. Recently, in a funny turn, the Boston Globe did a story on cassette tapes making a comeback (click HERE). They even used the same headline as my story! Anyway, below is MY tale of the tapes, from Issue No. 5, July 2005 (click HERE to read the whole issue) . Enjoy!


It was a collection that spanned more than 30 years 
of my life as a music listener and lover. 
The music was special; the memories attached to them even more so.

  About 400 empty cassette tape boxes are set out for recycling; the tapes that once filled them take up multiple trash bags. My once-majestic tape collection is no longer.
It was a collection that spanned more than 30 years of my life as a music listener and lover: rock records I bought second-hand, taped in my basement bedroom and returned for more albums during high school; then-cool jazz fusion tapes I made from my college roommate’s records which blew me away; classic and obscure blues I fell in love with after a trip to Chicago; and countless other genres, bands and musicians that led me to the musical place I am today. I will most likely never buy or download many of those albums again.
  But it was time, I suppose. Most of the cassettes sat dusty on shelves or in closets for years without a listen.
  Oh, there were days when a certain song or a mention by someone somewhere would send me scurrying deep into my collection for a certain tape.
Just to find that tape was an experience – even a chore. But over the years those searches had gotten fewer.
  The quality of the tapes had eroded badly in some cases. In the age of digital and MP3, tape hiss and album crackle – let alone sound dropout – had made some unbearable to listen to.
Even still, knowing I somewhere had copies of John
Mayall’s “Turning Point” or Jeff Beck’s “Truth” validated my musical taste, as self-indulgent as that sounds.
  There were also tapes I had of Stanley Turrentine given to me by a former co-worker, a crazy mixtape by a friend that moved away 10 years ago, and the UB40 album shared with me by my soon-to-be-girlfriend as I drove her home on our first date. (She later became my wife!)
  The music was special; the memories attached to them even more so.
  I remember the day I said goodbye to my albums – probably 15 years ago now – when compact discs became the Next Great Thing. That was an easier decision. I handed them over to my brother, sure they would be in good hands. Whether he has them anymore doesn’t matter; at the time I knew
they were appreciated. This is different. No one was going to take my recorded tape collection.
  There is little that is nostalgic about it – except to me.
  It’s time to move on, to start a new collection. I have hundreds of albums on CD and loaded into iTunes. I’ve downloaded many of those CDs into my iPod. Those that I haven’t will most likely become the next target for disposal ... but probably not for another 15 years.

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