#344: Childhood Recording Sessions


#344: Childhood Recording Sessions

When we were kids in the 1980’s, pre-internet, pre-downloading, the only avenue we had to share music with each other was taping.  If a friend had an album you wanted, you could try to record it.  For example my next door neighbor George had all the Kiss albums, on LP.  All he was missing was The Elder.  What Kiss albums I didn’t own myself (which was most of them) I gradually taped one by one from George.  I’d write down the song titles and make a cassette cover.  When George wrote down the songs, I couldn’t always read them.  When he did get The Elder in ’86, he made a copy for me.  For a little while, I thought Kiss had a song on it called “Escape from the Ish”.

One Sunday afternoon in ’85 I went over to his place with a 60 minute tape, intending to record Unmasked.  George dusted off the LP, dropped the needle and hit “record”.  At the same time, he also decided to play bass along to the whole album.  Somehow, his bass bled through to the tape recorder.

I didn’t find an original copy of Unmasked for two more years.  Until that time, all I had to listen to was my taped copy, complete with George’s bass “overdubbed” on top of Gene’s!  If I think back and remember really hard, I can still hear in my mind how George kept playing through the song fade outs!

Other recording sessions were far more elaborate.  When George acquired Kiss’ Animalize Live Uncensored on VHS tape, he brought it over along with his own VCR, so we could dub a copy, VCR to VCR.  On other occasions I would bring our VCR over to my best friend Bob’s place, and record there.  My parents hated it when I disconnected the VCR!  My dad always seemed to fear we’d never get it hooked up properly again!  Or that we’d lose the controller, or worse, break it.  But then, if we were recording at my house, my dad would always walk in and mock the bands.  “What’s wrong with that man?” my dad said of Bruce Dickinson.  “He keeps on screaming as if he’s in terrible pain!”

Copying music improved greatly in the 1990’s.  The durability of the blank tapes improved, and dubbing from CD was infinitely better than recording tape to tape.  Because of the improvements in quality, the cassettes we dubbed in the 90’s are still playable.  Still, there is no comparison in sound to a CD.  Finally in 2001, I purchased my first CD burner, enabling me to create the best possible sounding copies of music.

None of those improvements in technology, nor the advent of the CD-R, swayed me from owning an original CD or LP.  I may have had a burned copy of the Sultans of Ping F.C., but there’s nothing better than an original.  Somebody could send me a CD rip of some amazing rare bonus tracks by bands I like, which is great…but not as great as owning the original.


I don’t really know.  Certainly I have plenty of friends from every age group who are content not to own any CDs.  They don’t need to own it in order to listen on an iPod.  That’s not good enough for me.  I want the whole experience.  I want the cover art (on paper, not a computer screen), I want the liner notes.  I want to file the new CD on my shelves in the right order, and then gaze upon my collection of a given artist.  I like to handle the artwork, the CD, and take a hard squint at the pictures.  It’s hard to explain.  I can justify it by saying CD just sounds better than an mp3.  And as good as CD gets, sometimes vinyl can sound even better.

Even though I don’t need them anymore, I miss the old days of the Sunday recording sessions.  I miss the social aspects of friends gathering in somebody’s basement or living room to share and discuss and enjoy music (all of which I later bought, anyway).  I miss that feeling of heading home with some new music to listen to, right out of a friend’s collection.  But I don’t miss having only enough money to buy blank tapes, instead of originals.  I’m much happier now with my collection of well loved physical, original music.



  1. I nice nostalgic piece. It IS hard to pin down the need/desire to have the physical article. In the early 00s I made some high quality ‘facsimile’ CD-Rs with colour photocopies of the artwork and brand new CD cases. Until you opened the case, they looked like a shop one. But I still buy an original, even now, and pass on my perfectly good copies. Maybe there’s something about supporting the artist, too.

    PS. My first recording experiences were taping off the radio onto my Dad’s old Elcon reel-to-reel.


    1. Wow. Reel to reel! How cool is that? (My first recording were on 8 track!)

      I put a lot of effort into my CD-R’s too. Not as much as you, though. I would be satisfied making computer generated artwork rather than photo copies.


  2. Maaaaaannnnn kids today just don’t understand…… :)

    I had a load of cassettes back in the day. A friend’s brother copied And justice for All for me. Frayed Ends of Sanity cuts off half way through at the end of side 1 so he restarted the song from the guitar solo on side b. That’s dedication!

    I used to have a cassette case like this one that I would carry around with me in my backpack to allow maximum choice for my walkman. Also a spare biro just in case I had any spooling issues….

    As far as physical media goes, it depends on the band for me. There are certain bands that I will always want the physical copy as (Metallica, Maiden, Kiss, Floyd, Genesis….) but others I’m happy with just the digital copy. Finances dictate that these days I only buy releases that I want to keep. Same with books, there are authors that are automatic buys and some that are Kindle only.

    And, of course, trading Metallica bootlegs as well. Great days


    1. Hah! My folks have that plastic tape case at the cottage still, I’m sure. (Theirs had a window in it!)

      Have you seen that Metallica are now selling PHYSICAL COPIES of their live bootleg series? I haven’t bought any, but COOL.

      I hate when tape runs out and people continue songs on side B. A kid did that when he taped Shout at the Devil for me. Side two begin partway through “Ten Seconds to Love”, on the line, “My mind is set.”


  3. This brings back memories for me. I can remember your dad having a fit when you took the vcr to someone’s house. They were quite expensive to buy in those days. I remember Uncle Phil paying over a thousand dollars for their first one. We waited until the price was down to about six hundred before buying one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True! And we had a weird 80’s VCR, a JVC I think. The control panel on the player WAS the remote control. You docked it and undocked it. And dad was terrified of losing it to the point of paranoia and extreme annoyance. It always bugged me because I knew more about the VCR than he did but was always worried I’d be the one who broke it!


        1. God I’ll never forget the time he came home from work all grumpy, and Kathryn said to him, “Dad, I lost the TV controller, but I found it again.” I was thinking WHYYYYYY would you tell him anything at all!


  4. I’m so with you, having the box and the booklet and the shelving is so entertaining in and of itself.

    Also when I was a kid I had the exact same thing with cassette taping and then having my voice on the tape, or taping stuff off the radio and having the dj talk over the end of it. Youtube playlists aren’t as much tactile fun as a cassette tape compilation.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh the days! One of us would be a vinyl record and pass it around so the rest of the group could tape it. Economically, it was the best idea for us although the record companies and artists weren’t so impressed by it. Good post bringing back those memories.


    1. It’s funny in hindsight that anybody would care about taping a record. Most of my friends wouldn’t lend out records. They would record it for you, on their equipment. They were too picky.


  6. Yeah we spent hours making mixes. But I still think of it as a present tense thing – I still have a cassette player here, and play them often. I just bought a few tapes yesterday for $0.50 each. Ain’t no “used to” for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How do they sound today, to your ears? I admit I struggle with cassette listening today, but that could be because some of the cassettes I’m trying to play here haven’t survived that well.


      1. Sound fine to me. I don’t have any issues. And I love getting full albums for $0.50. Sometimes at yardsales you can get whole boxes of them for a couple of bucks, throw out the chaff and get yer rawk on!


  7. We used to spend countless hours making tapes some mixed and some just of the albums. One of my all time favorites was High n Dry on one side and Point of Entry on the other…wore that tape out one summer….good times!


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