RECORD STORE TALES #886: Hand Me Downs
It’s funny. Though my music playback setup today is completely different from my first, even today there’s still one thing they have in common: both setups featured hand-me-down audio components from my parents. And I hope one of those components continues working forever.
In Getting More Tale #796: Improvisation, I explained that we kids of the 80s didn’t have the luxury to buy whatever stereo equipment we wanted. We had to make due with what we had, and improvise. And that’s exactly what we did. When I first started collecting music, I owned it on two formats only: LP and cassette. The classic duo. Compact discs existed only in Japan. We hadn’t even heard of them. All that existed in our world were the vinyl record and the compact cassette. That’s all I needed to be able to play.
Around 1985, my parents realized they weren’t going to be listening to records or 8-track tapes anymore. The living room needed to be renovated and there was no more room for that giant Lloyd’s stereo system. The 8-track player didn’t work anymore, but it was a single unit combined with a radio receiver and amplifier, which still worked fine. The Lloyd’s record player could still plug into it and play normally. I snapped them up. Only George Balasz and myself were lucky enough to have record players in our bedrooms. Everybody else on the street had to use their parents’ systems.
Don’t get me wrong: it didn’t sound great. I took my parents’ hand-me-downs and plugged them into my Panasonic ghetto blaster, which essentially was both my tape deck and speakers. Not ideal, but good enough for a 13 year old. I recall the sound was rather tinny. But it worked after a spell. If my mom wanted me to tape her old Roy Orbison LPs, I could do that. (Spoiler: my mom really abused her LPs.)
I used that setup for many years. The Lloyd’s receiver lasted seven more. It finally blew a circuit in early ’92. A few weeks later, I replaced it with a small, affordable preamp. It didn’t have a lot of power, but it enabled me to continue listening to records. Of course, that old Lloyd’s turntable wasn’t in the best shape anymore. The needle had never been changed, and I had really abused that thing, playing records backwards and trying to make funky sounds. It was cool though, because it had four speeds: 16, 33, 45, and 78. I didn’t own any 16’s or 78’s. But I could play them. And I kept it for well over a decade. I only replaced it when I did a complete stereo system overhaul in the late 90s. T-Rev and I went to Steve’s TV, and I picked out new everything. Canadian made PSB speakers, a new Technics dual tape component, a Technics receiver to go with it, and a brand new Technics turntable. Good enough for me, who had been living with a Frankenstein system his whole life.
The only thing I didn’t need to buy was a CD player. And this is the last piece of hand-me-down tech incorporated into my still-current system. (I actually have two systems today: my 7.1 setup in the main room with blu-ray, and my stereo “man cave” with all my analog stuff.)
I call this CD player “the Tank”. It is a 30 year old Sony five-disc changer and I more or less confiscated it from them when I moved out. Once they had a DVD player, I didn’t think they needed a CD player anymore, so I made the executive decision to liberate it. It wasn’t exactly a covert operation. The Sony had been in my bedroom setup for a while. I liked a numbers of its features. It had a fader! I could fade tracks in and fade out, which was perfect for recording live albums. The timer was also a nice extra — you could use it to monitor the time remaining on a track, or even album. This was great for tape-making. It was also painlessly easy to program. So I stole the Sony! When I moved out, I just said “I’m taking this CD player.” Mom grumbled a bit, but…here it is. I successfully abducted my parents’ CD player with no casualties.
I’m glad I did. Though the five-disc gimmick doesn’t work so smoothly anymore, the Tank can play any CD I throw at it. That might not sound like a big deal, but it is. You’d be surprised how many CDs you’ll have problems playing in your computer today. Some players, and many computers, still won’t play weird stuff like DualDiscs. I have an old DualDisc by The Cult that will not play properly in any computer ever invented by mankind. Even regular CDs can be weird. I have a Cinderella disc (multiple copies even) that no computer from PC to Apple will play correctly.
So I need the Tank. Just recently, I was listening to a fantastic live album by King’s X given to me by Superdekes. The last song (an acoustic version of “Over My Head”) refused to rip to my PC. I booted up the laptop and ran into the same problem, same spot. I didn’t need to try a third computer to know that this would be futile. Only the Tank could play my King’s X. I examined the CD up close for damage and saw nothing. (Good thing too as copies today run just shy of $100!) Deke sent me a good disc (and thank you once more for that!), but CDs can be fickle.
No issue with the Tank. I powered up the Sony, inserted the King’s X and played the song through. No issues! I got a good recording of it in Audacity and exported the audio into the King’s X album folder. Seamless!
Thanks mom and dad for giving me, and in some cases, allowing me to steal your stuff. I kept it all working — I even still have the remote!