The Lost World of British Tape Recording Clubs
December 17, 2014 7:05 AM   Subscribe

A few years ago radio producer Mark Vernon bought a hoard of old reel-to-reel audio tapes in a car boot sale in Derby, as a job lot with an elderly and very heavy tape recorder. Coaxing the old machine back to life, he realised he had rescued the jettisoned archive of the Derby Tape Club—a group of amateurs who made, played and swapped recordings in the 1960s and 70s, when domestic tape-recording was in its infancy and before the audio cassette had conquered the world. A radiophonic elegy to an anonymous group of people and their forgotten enthusiasm: domestic tape recording and amateur radio in the 1960s and '70s.
Over the years, Vernon has acquired other archives and put together radio shows, oral histories, and a compilation CD. Listen to the lost sound-scapes of The Leicester tape recording club; the Nottingham Cooperative tape recording club; and the London tape recording club [Breakdown here].

Tape enthusiasts also engaged in tapesponding, a kind of early version of the Mefi Swap. The London Sound Survey [previously] continues the work of the tape clubs, capturing contemporary London soundscapes and archiving historical recordings, including these BBC location recordings from the 1920s–1950s. Vernon, meanwhile, continues to use orphaned tapes in his own ambient soundscapes. [Previously]; [via.]
posted by Sonny Jim (6 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Wonderful! Thank you, Sonny Jim!
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:08 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fascinating - thank you. I remember my grandfather had a Telefunken reel-to-reel recorder that he’d sometimes let my sister & I play with as kids.

A few years I happened upon this site which asks ‘Did you know that in the UK between 1957 and 1971 there were THREE completely separate monthly magazines devoted entirely to tape recording?’ (Amateur Tape Recording, The Tape Recorder and Tape Recording Magazine).
posted by misteraitch at 7:40 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If anyone else was intrigued by this part:
The Blattnerphone was an intimidating device which recorded sound onto sharp-edged steel tape either 3mm or 6mm wide. The tape moved briskly at 1.5 meters a second between reels which could weigh around 20 kg when fully wound. Errant reels which fell off the Blattnerphone's heavy iron frame and rolled away were reputedly capable of smashing through partition walls. The hazards posed to the operator by a flailing, broken tape meant that the Blattnerphone had to be worked by remote control. Editing was done by means of soldering or spot-welding.
There's a pretty neat article about it elsewhere on the BBC site, and this more detailed writeup at a fan site.

I am morbidly curious how many operators they went through before deciding it was too dangerous to operate in person and had to be run by remote control.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:51 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fascinating stuff, thanks!

Incidentally, from the [Breakdown here] link I got to London street noises 1928, where the commentary says "Unlike most Londoners today, the Commander uses the original pronunciation of ‘Beecham’ when identifying Beauchamp Place for his listeners." I thought it was "Beecham"! How do Londoners say it now, "BO-champ"?
posted by languagehat at 9:16 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Old recordings are almost like time travel. They feel like a door to the past, an old one of indeterminate age. It's locked, and you don't have the key, but you can put your ear up to the keyhole and hear what's going on in the next room, at least for a little while.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:40 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I did what I should have done in the first place and checked Wikipedia, which says "pronounced 'Beecham Place.'" So that commentary was full of shit. Just in case anybody but me was wondering.
posted by languagehat at 2:44 PM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

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