Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Memories Of A Tape Deck

I recently sold my car, and my friendly car mechanic kindly lent me an old 1994 metallic green Toyota Corolla 1.6, to tide me over till I get my new one.

Driving the 1994 Toyota has been as if I’m stepping into a time capsule. Nineteen ninety-four is the year that Brazil beats Italy to win the World Cup; The Chunnel opens; South Africa dismantles apartheid; the IRA agree to a cease-fire; OJ Simpson is on the run while Nixon dies, and Kurt Cobain commits suicide.  Yes, the car brings a back many memories; especially ghosts of past driving habits. 

In the past cars must have been designed for thinner and smaller drivers, because one has to be a contortionist to get into the vehicle, twisting yourself into the drivers seat while making sure you don't bang your head in the process! Years of smoking by its past owners has left the pungent smell of cold  tobacco imbedded in its upholstery; I imagine that's how most cars smelled  twenty or so years ago, however, as at the time most of  the world was still on a nicotine trip, we didn’t notice.The car has no air conditioning because in the 90s that extra was an option and not standard, so I’ve gone back to driving with the windows rolled down; which also helps with the smokey smell! All the little odds and ends which we now take for granted, such as cup or glass holders, are missing. However there is one item which has made driving this banger a pleasure, it has a cassette deck! There is a whole generation out there who will never feel the power of pushing the ff or rew buttons, nor watching a tape being swallowed into the open, hungry, mouth of the deck. Neither will they know, that sinking feeling when the tape reel gets caught and twisted in the works and your cassette is completely ruined.

Luckily, I found a few tapes which have managed to survive numerous moves and clean outs, and playing them while I drive has been taking me back to when music ‘grooved’ slightly more than today. I must have bought John Lennon’s ‘Rock and Roll’ sometime in the 70’s; listening to it now I have to say I would have expected more quality from John and producer Phil Spector; even though the album took over a year to record, it leaves an impression of a rush job. John, though, corrects an 1969 infringement by including Chuck Berry’s ‘You Can’t Catch Me’, from which he borrowed heavily to write ‘Come Together’. The inclusion of three of Berry's songs on the album stopped a pending lawsuit.

Tears for Fears, at the time I found them to be a pleasant middle of the road group, producing good music-not earth moving-just good, full stop. However, I must have liked their 1989 album ‘The Seeds of Love’, as I still have the tape.  Ian Stanley left the band during production due to, wait for it...creative differences...ahhh! Before departing, Ian did leave his creative touch on ‘Sowing the Seeds of Love’, and ‘My Life In The Suicide Ranks’..that's an interesting title. It’s been great to rediscover Sandinista by The Clash, I taped this from the LP, and in the process made a lousy job of it, but you can’t damage great music! Sandinista is as politically rebellious now as it was then. In true keeping with ‘Clash’ philosophy the band cut out their royalties to make the album affordable for their fans! Joe Strummer and Mick Jones’s masterpiece, (ok.. they had more than one), stands at position 404 on the list of ‘The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time’. Come on! It deserves to be higher than that! But there again..., Joe Strummer was not a believer in charts, and the like.

The gem in this little treasure trove of cassettes is the one that has live recordings of the immortal James Brown, the cassette is titled ‘The Wonderful World Of James Brown 1962-1966’ and I must have bought it some time in 92. It is not without reason that he was called ‘The Godfather of Soul’! From classics such as ‘Night Train‘ and ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ to lesser known diamonds like, ‘The Things That I Used To Do’ and ‘I Lost Someone’, each track is a magnum opus of soul-music!

I have only got another couple of weeks to enjoy my, low to the road, drive back to the last millennium. The only trouble is once I step out of the car I’m back facing the realities of the twenty-first-century.

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