The Elder

#344: Childhood Recording Sessions

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RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#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.

Why?

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.