November 7, 2005 1:50 AM   Subscribe

Blank Tapes
posted by nylon (56 comments total)

This is awesome. I don't have much to say about the content, but this is what I love about the internet. Anyone with a passion can share it with the world. Sometimes it's even good.
posted by kyleg at 1:58 AM on November 7, 2005

Wow. I'm beyond using CDs and now store all my music on a hard drive, but seeing that makes me feel quite warm and nostalgic in a way I never expected it would. Great post.
posted by uk_giffo at 2:07 AM on November 7, 2005

What's this about?
posted by nicwolff at 2:12 AM on November 7, 2005

That page seems very familiar, but cool!

There have been a couple of related posts: terminal decline, low-noise heaven, and Project C-90.
posted by Chuckles at 2:27 AM on November 7, 2005

nicwolff: it's about your life. Well, it's about mine, anyway. Everything I ever taped off the radio. Every album I transferred from vinyl to tape so that I could listen to it while walking to school. Every compilation tape I made, for me or anyone else dumb and/or determined enough to listen to them. Every hour spent hunched up, surrounded by piles of records, finding something just the right length to fit at the end of the tape. Every car journey with my parents, frantically fighting for this or that tape to be played. Every album that I loved intensely for three weeks fifteen years ago, but haven't thought about in years.

It's about the fact that I remember Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade being recorded on a Sony UX Turbo 100 ["Ideal for Car Stereos"], with some Replacements on the end to fill the remaining 25 minutes. The Jesus And Mary Chain's Psychocandy? A That's MG-X 60, opened up and cut to exactly the right length for the album, because I was too lazy/impatient to piss about with fast forwarding to the end of the side. A taped-from-the-radio bootleg of Sonic Youth at Reading Festival, 1992, on a TDK SA-90, recorded on a September evening when I should have been studying for a French exam, and not listening to the radio and smoking fags out my bedroom window in a clumsy attempt to disguise it from my parents. This is all stuff that I have forgotten, years and years ago, and until I saw that page, I couldn't have remembered even if my life depended on it.

That's what it's about. Cheers nylon.
posted by Len at 2:32 AM on November 7, 2005

Cassette graffiti. Neat.

Since we're on the subject, I found this site a couple of nights ago when I was looking to see if there were Internet sites that still sold cassette tapes in bulk. It could be useful to those of you who (like myself) still have a cassette deck in their car and find themselves making mixtapes. (I'm strongly considering investing in a Plusdeck so that I can cut out the middle step of making custom MP3 CDs to make tapes with.)

On a different note, I think my favorite cassette brand was Denon (and I think it had something to do with the fact that at the time, those were the best kind that I could find with lengths greater than 90 minutes)...
posted by deusdiabolus at 3:01 AM on November 7, 2005

I sold the nakamichi.
posted by johnny7 at 3:24 AM on November 7, 2005

Oh, does this bring back memories. I played at being an audio engineer from the mid-70's into the early 80's and transferred many recordings and demo tapes to cassettes.

Thanks for the link.
posted by michswiss at 3:34 AM on November 7, 2005

I agree with Len in that this brought back far more memories than I ever would have expected. Such as the whole business of watching the tape spools as a song played in the (almost always vain) hope that there would be enough to get all the way through. Also the intricate surgery necessary to try to revive a loved tape that had been eaten by a cassette player. I had forgotten about the brands that tried to make the whole thing look like a miniature reel to reel tape. I like how TinyMixtapes have tried to recreate some of this for the digital age.
posted by rongorongo at 3:43 AM on November 7, 2005

Said in the bitterest of voices: Tapes John, tapes!
posted by furtive at 3:44 AM on November 7, 2005

C30, C60, C90, Go!

I was a TDK guy, and I was really curious what was up with this Goldstar's looking so much like the TDKs I remember. Any ideas?
posted by kimota at 3:49 AM on November 7, 2005

what Len said.

that was fucking great. i was well-acquainted with way more of those models of tape than i thought i'd be. heh. tapes.
posted by Hat Maui at 3:58 AM on November 7, 2005

oh, and conspicuously absent from this thread thus far? mr. so-called "I EAT TAPES". chicken.
posted by Hat Maui at 3:59 AM on November 7, 2005

Some of us are too young to remember the days of magnetic tape. Take pity on us, and teach us your ways.
So speaketh the stumpy.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 4:12 AM on November 7, 2005

Ditto on the wave of nostalgia. I recognized some of the cassettes the same way I would recognize pictures of old high school acquaintances.

And the weird thing is, no one ever subpoenaed me for taping bad Foreigner songs off the radio. WHERE IS MY SUBPOENA?!
posted by neek at 4:24 AM on November 7, 2005

Holy crap, that's awesome. The bad albums of my [friends'] youth come flooding back ... Eliminator! Moving Pictures! Van Halen II! Not to mention the money I made by driving into Manhattan to buy Maxell XLII-S cases on Canal Street and then resell to local rich kids back in New Jersey.

Maxell vs TDK comparos, mangled tape recoveries with scissors and scotch tape, asphalt abuse meted out on newly hated albums, tape hiss, Dolby B and C (and dbx), chrome vs. metal and those tiny detector switches/holes ...

And then the Cassette Undergound of the late 80's (Destroy All Music, Suckdog, Daniel Johnston ...) ...
posted by intermod at 4:31 AM on November 7, 2005

Chuckles: yeah, I visited the C-90 Project, but have you been there recently? It's just pages and pages of nonsense. I guess the machine ate his tapes.

Len, you brought tears to my eyes. I think making tapes was such an important part of our youth. And early childhood. One of my earliest memories is of a white cassette with a blue label, with 'HOME RECORDINGS' scribbled across it in biro. On it was my dad 'singing' along to Dr. Hook's Sylvia's Mother in his hilarious, flat, tone-deaf boom, with my mum in the background on the knitting machine (kkkkrrrrr - kkkkrrrrr - kkkkrrrrr). Then there's me trying to tell stories, but not really knowing enough words, again with knitting machine accompaniment.

Then years later, going upstairs into the attic room on a Sunday afternoon and taping songs off the Top 40, and all the resulting compilations had little snatches of Bruno Brookes on where I'd failed to stop the recording in time.

Also, I know I've posted this before, but the more people that know about it the better: Blank Tapes by Reynols. It really is a stunning album. Made, obviously, entirely from the sound of blank tapes.
posted by nylon at 4:40 AM on November 7, 2005

This is a wonderful memory. Having the local electronics guy tweek the Nakamichi to match the dynamics of the Maxell UD-XL tapes I was using, resulting in some extremely sweet recordings.
This is where portable, personal, custom, personal mixes began. Making custom mixes to take to your friend's parties. Or to give as gifts.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:52 AM on November 7, 2005

Looking at these made my heart hurt a little... wasn't expecting that. Nice post, nylon.
posted by maryh at 5:09 AM on November 7, 2005

For every album I had taped, I had two tapes of songs I liked from the radio (with the first few seconds cut off, and bits of commercials and radio DJs) and five tapes of my childhood self rambling into a tape recorder, eating 4 C-cell batteries. Oh man.
posted by kevspace at 5:12 AM on November 7, 2005

Well said, Len.

[This is good]

Really good. What a trip down memory alley. I remember spending hours making tape J-cards and painting my custom mixtapes. Try doing that on a CD or MP3.
posted by loquacious at 5:13 AM on November 7, 2005

I'm wallpapering my wall with these. Hello colour laser printer...
posted by Thoth at 5:22 AM on November 7, 2005

Why do I feel a burning need to make a really freaking awesome mix tape for Len?

God - I can't believe I recognized so many of those too. Until about two months ago, I had a car that still only had a tape deck and even though I had switched over to plugging my ipod into it with one of those fool-it-into-thinking-it's-a-cassette gizmos, my back seat was still awash in old tapes.
Ah tapes.....I have a mix of stuff I grabbed off the radio at 16 that is like time traveling back when I listen to it. I recently found a tape of an old boyfriend being interviewed on the radio in the late 80s, which brought back intense memories not just by hearing his voice, but also hearing all those old commercials again.
And somewhere, I still have old answering machine tapes with the sound of my dead father's voice on them. But I haven't the courage to listen.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:27 AM on November 7, 2005

Oh, yes, lots of memories here, too. A few of these tapes are obviously of UK origin, eg the Winfield brand tapes (filed, incorrectly, under "A" because they also bear the name Alpha or Audition - Winfield was Woolworths' store brand in the UK), as well as Boots', and Thorn Consumer Electronics.

I had forgotten about "That's" brand tapes. I had a few of those in the late 80's. Tons of TDKs, a few Maxells, even a few Agfa and BASF in my collection.

Thanks for the memory-lane trip, nylon!
posted by kcds at 5:34 AM on November 7, 2005

Cutting sticky tape 2mm wide and 9mm long for the repairs; screaming at people in the house not to open the fridge or turn on a fluoro light for fear of that squicking 'crack'; diligently writing out every song in the bestest handwriting possible with embellishment on the folded thin label for easy recognition (TDK SA-90s here too, despite their cost); arguing vociferously with my parents about the economic sense of a tape-to-tape player (and counting the profits before they were made).......aaaah...... thanks for this. Well said you eloquent tapeheads upthread.
posted by peacay at 5:42 AM on November 7, 2005

I was surprised at how many of these cassette's looked familiar to me. Thanks for the flashback.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:43 AM on November 7, 2005

It took me a whole afternoon of practicing to get "The Wall" drawn right on the tape cover when I transferred it from vinyl......
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:46 AM on November 7, 2005

check the reviews
posted by cusack at 5:59 AM on November 7, 2005

CunningLinguist – I wouldn't say no; there's nowt like a good mixtape.

I've still got two boxes, which have been carted from flat to flat, and haven't been opened in at least half a decade, full of tapes: old John Peel shows, random compilations, mixes made for me by friends, mixes made by me for others and never handed over because either I forgot or we split up or it just didn't work the way I wanted it to; every type of tape, with scrawled-in-haste tracklistings, lovingly-detailed covers, collages, in-jokes, missing labels, and all the rest.

I've thrown out mountains of personal effects over the years and i've sold CDs i never listen to, but I can't bear to throw out those boxes of tapes. Maybe I'll go back to them sometime soon.
posted by Len at 6:07 AM on November 7, 2005

Thanks for the link, nylon. And well said, Len.

CL, I illustrated many of my tape covers with renditions of the art/pictures from the albums, too!
posted by safetyfork at 6:10 AM on November 7, 2005

It made me laugh...........
posted by flummox at 6:20 AM on November 7, 2005

With delight
posted by flummox at 6:20 AM on November 7, 2005

Best birthday present I ever got, from a creepy guy at work: A tape of every No. 1 song on my birthday for all 24 years I'd been alive. It's too bad he was creepy: that was easily the coolest gift I've ever received. It must have taken him forever in those pre-digital days to amass all those songs.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:23 AM on November 7, 2005

God I recognise so many of these...I can remember what was on each and every one. The music starts playing when I look at them.
posted by fire&wings at 6:32 AM on November 7, 2005

The Maxells our stereo store sold used to have a gold sticker, which you could accumulate and trade in for prizes. The top prize was a folding director's chair which would have required hundreds of dollars in tape purchases.
Most of the customers didn't want the sticker so I'd peel them off and keep them behind the counter - I ended up with two of the chairs whose eventual fate has since faded into the boozy mist of 80's history.
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:01 AM on November 7, 2005

Mathowie had these on his site last month. I was surprised at how many of them I recognized. Nice post.
posted by hwickline at 7:10 AM on November 7, 2005

This brings back memories of highschool, especially this one, which I used to get by the 10 pack at the local K-mart...

Back in the day when I was too broke to buy all the new CD's, and getting burned CD's meant paying that one kid who had a CD-r to burn them for you, not that it mattered because every car had a tape deck, and you could always keep a few tapes in your jacket pocket for just such an occasion.

I remember making mix-tapes for my then girlfriend, i went so far as to plan the tapes out in MS Excel, and designing the tapes and the case liners in photoshop...

Something about crouching in front of a tape deck with a bunch of cd's and actually listening to everything you're recording for someone, hearing it as they'd hear it when they get it is something that's been lost from just burning a mix CD (unless you're a DJ I guess)

Somewhere I still have the tape (one like the one i linked to) I made that had Ministry's "Psalm 69" on one side, and NIN's "Broken" on the other that i listened to constantly when I was 14 on, even though I haven't used a tape deck in years.

posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:31 AM on November 7, 2005

none of these appear to be eaten.
posted by wakko at 8:01 AM on November 7, 2005

Oh man! the tape with Mighty Lemon Drops b/w Age of Chance and filled out with assorted singles from the Smiths, and Cure that a friend gave me is a defining point of my musical identity. The day my Chevy ate that tape was heartbreaking. I've looked for early Age of Chance albums/singles everywhere since.

Oh, and it was a crap TDK-60 with horrible hiss from being overplayed, but IMO that just added to the coolness that was Age of Chance to a 17 year old heartland tractor punk.

so, anyone have a spare copy of Beneath the Pavements the Dancefloor?
posted by Suck Poppet at 8:20 AM on November 7, 2005

For me that brought back memories...of just a few years ago. I arrived pretty late to CD-burning technology and still had a cassette player in my car until a couple of years ago when the player finally died. I was still hunting down blank cassettes until fairly recently, and man, they were getting mighty hard to find. Still, the pictures of some of those older tapes kind of made me misty, especially the Maxell XL-IIs, the gold standard among many of my peers. Just another reminder, I suppose, of what a dinosaur I am in some ways.
posted by schmedeman at 9:09 AM on November 7, 2005

Will there be an equivalent page showcasing CD-R designs in 10-15 years?
posted by afx114 at 9:18 AM on November 7, 2005

I have the Age of Chance LP and most of the twelve inch singles, but only on vinyl. And no tape deck. But I'll gladly hum them for you, Suck Poppet. FWIW, the album holds up pretty well considering its age, less so the cover of Kiss, but Disco Inferno is still skill.
posted by ciderwoman at 9:25 AM on November 7, 2005

I was a Maxell man as well.
I still have songs that I remember with the tape malfunctions in them - the Descendents' "Wendy" with the muffled intro, "Black Dog" with a random screech in the middle of it, and so many more. To this day, when I hear these on the radio or from another source, I remember it with the nonsensical glitch that my brain has accepted to flow with the song. I love that.

I still see people on the subway using Walkmans (gallery!).
I'm thinking of making a mix tape and keeping it in my bag, just to have that opportunity to approach a stranger and say "hey, I made a mix tape for you".
posted by hellbient at 9:47 AM on November 7, 2005

i also remember way way back when all we had were simple single tape boom-boxes and to make mixes or copy tapes we held them really close to each other, hit play on one and record on the other. it didn't get more lo-fi than that.
posted by garethspor at 9:57 AM on November 7, 2005

A That's MG-X 60, opened up and cut to exactly the right length for the album, because I was too lazy/impatient to piss about with fast forwarding to the end of the side.

Len, you nutter. (And surely this is as good a time as any to unleash your legendary Sub Pop distribution anecdote?!)

For me these reek of Slipmatt, Ellis Dee, Mickey Finn, Ratty, Sy, Swan E, Top Buzz etc. etc., complete with garish flyers promising improbably huge PAs and non-existant laser lightshows, and the heady sound of piss-poor MCs requesting that the crowd blow their whistles or make some noise for the boys outside.

*sounds air horn in the faces of indie kids*
posted by jack_mo at 10:24 AM on November 7, 2005

Will there be an equivalent page showcasing CD-R designs in 10-15 years?

posted by stumcg at 10:40 AM on November 7, 2005

garethspor - simple single tape boom-boxes and to make mixes or copy tapes we held them really close to each other

Quick! We must plug this analog hole with legislation!
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:48 AM on November 7, 2005

Last one on that page is my favorite. Used to have a bunch of those, along with a 300 baud modem and free access to a dialup CompuServe account (but only after business hours, which was roughly 7 pm - 6 AM.) Most of y'all have NO idea how good you have it these days. :)
posted by keptwench at 11:29 AM on November 7, 2005

ciderwoman: If you send them to me I can digitize them for you! Then we can both have copies!


Damn. Well, would you hum Be Fast Be Clean Be Cheap then?
posted by Suck Poppet at 11:30 AM on November 7, 2005

I still have songs that I remember with the tape malfunctions in them - the Descendents' "Wendy" with the muffled intro, "Black Dog" with a random screech in the middle of it, and so many more. To this day, when I hear these on the radio or from another source, I remember it with the nonsensical glitch that my brain has accepted to flow with the song. I love that.

Same here. For years I had a Replacements tape that I'd accidently hit record for just a few seconds while listening to it at my parents grocery store. You could here a page in the background. It took me years to hear the song and not expect that part.

There's a whole generation of kids 25 and under who have grown up with "perfect" sound and will never know this.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 1:12 PM on November 7, 2005

Suck poppet, if I ever get my tape machine fixed an AoC mix for you will be the first thing I do on it. Well, second actually as I owe Nylon a mix of Danielle Dax albums first.
posted by ciderwoman at 2:05 PM on November 7, 2005

I used so many of these tapes to make Mixes for cute girls, from Stephanie Miller in 1989 to my wife last year. It makes me all misty.
posted by mikrophon at 2:19 PM on November 7, 2005

garethspor, only the rich kids in my neighborhood had boomboxes. We used an old Radio Shack recorder, you know, the ones with a built-in microphone, the kind also used to store data on my TRS-80, with my dad's stereo speakers pulled in close. That's REAL old school.

I still have only a cassette player in my car. I picked up a sweet, sweet collection of mix tapes from a local FreeCycle list recently. You know, if anyone out there has some tapes floating around, I'll take 'em.

CunningLinguist, I, too, have a tape of my now-deceased father I've yet to listen to.

Hey, nylon, great post!
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:52 PM on November 7, 2005

There's a whole generation of kids 25 and under who have grown up with "perfect" sound and will never know this.

not been rooting around the 128kbit filesharing undernet?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:24 PM on November 7, 2005

I too can remember the music I had on some of those tapes. I was always partial to the TDK SA90's (type II).
posted by Skygazer at 9:23 PM on November 7, 2005

An unexpected source of nostalgia. I like the final image he uses to punctuate the statement: a VIC=20 BLANK PROGRAMMIG CASSETTE.
posted by soiled cowboy at 7:51 AM on November 8, 2005

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