Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Press Eject And Give Me The Tape

Last week Umlaut's 20th Century mid-level quality Sony tape deck died when I tried to play a tape for the first time in months.  The drive belt must have snapped and thankfully the tape didn't get fucked up.  What to do now here in 2015 when ancient audio equipment dies?

The answer:  Craigslist.. Where you can go for quality 20th Century analog gear that doesn't cost a fortune.  I was interested in finding an upscale direct drive deck (like a Tascam) instead of a less durable "consumer" belt drive deck like my old dead Sony... and I totally lucked out!  A Tascam 202 MKII was posted on Craigslist 2 days earlier by a studio guy clearing out gear he wasn't using anymore. He said he had barely used the deck and once I saw it I believed him; it was clean with only some minor scratches on the case.  The "new" cassette deck was acquired at a neutral location and I wasn't jumped, robbed, or shot.  Sometimes the Rock Godz work in mysterious ways, man.

Back at Casa de Umlaut, G.B.H. live in San Francisco - 1984 and Thin Lizzy live in Preston, England - 1979 (Black Rose Tour) broke the excellent new machine in:

Once this new toy was warmed up, Umlaut got sucked into a vortex of nostalgia over the cassette bootlegs and demo tapes he dubbed and traded in his salad days.  Thankfully, many of the vintage tapes hibernated like the sleeping Cthulhu in my attic... and I quickly brought them out of their slumber.

More fun than an MP3:

After this 1985 show Venom didn't visit San Francisco again for 21 years:

Kirk's 3rd show with the band supporting Venom in New York City:

Yes, Kirk did play 'The Mechanix' with Metallica.  This show was before the band entered the studio to record Kill 'Em All and the new guitarist had only been in the band around 2 weeks.

"Let's rehearse songs from our next album called Master Of Puppets and then maybe someone in the room might leave a tape deck running and record it without us knowing about it.."

Finding the following tape in my attic was pure uncut magic:  A good friend of Umlaut who now lives here in The Bay Area is from Bradford, England and he saw this show on the Master Of Puppets Tour.  He also has snapshots taken at the show with his cheap teenage camera.  I had completely forgotten I had this:

Time travel does exist!  My friend didn't know a recording of this show even existed... and what are the odds that I'd have this tape and be friends with him all these years later!?  What an amazing full circle thing, right?  Sometimes the Metal Godz work in mysterious ways, man.. and sometimes it takes almost 30 years for their full circle plan to be completed.

Achtung! Accept.. Restless & Wild Tour in Deutschland 1983:

This is one of the best Old Metal audience bootleg tapes.  You can hear just enough of the crowd so you feel like you're getting elbowed in the face by drunk teenage German headbangers while getting beer spilled on you at the same time.
July 1981.. A week after the High 'N Dry album was released. It was Def Leppard's first U.K. Tour in over a year and the crowd sounds small and lackluster at best:

Awkward... No wonder Def Leppard decided to focus on America for their success.

Murder In The Front Row:  Exodus destroys San Francisco and Berkeley - 1983-84:

The 2/20/83 recording is Kirk Hammett's first to last show with Exodus before leaving to join that other band. All of these tapes include classic Baloff between-song comments and banter that made him a legend.

A quintessential 1983 tape trade:

Penpals would send me demo tapes of bands they thought I would like. Being introduced to Hellhammer so early before they became known as the Metal legends from Switzerland was something I didn't appreciate until years later...

The Blackout U.K. Tour 1982.. and the Scorps included Uli-era songs 'We'll Burn The Sky' and 'Steamrock Fever' in the set in Europe. Unfortunately that was not the case on the U.S. Tour that followed.. "with Michael Schenker on encore."

Maiden were only 13 days into the Number Of The Beast Tour but, as Bruce says before 'Children Of The Damned' early in the set, the album wasn't being released for another 2 weeks.  So, the crowd was hearing most of the new songs for the first time. Only the 'Run To The Hills' single had been released and, as Bruce also said at this show, it was at #7 on the U.K. charts. As a bonus, the band also played the b-side of the single ('Total Eclipse'). This was the 11th show in 1982 for Maiden and a set so long that it took 1 1/4 90-minute blank tapes to capture. The Beast would be on the road in Europe, Australia, Japan, and North America for 9 more months after this night.

It's funny how old habits fell right back into place when listening to cassettes. Such as using a finger to tighten the slack on a tape before putting it in the deck before rewinding so (hopefully) the tape wouldn't snap when rewind ended.  Anyway, cassettes served a purpose back in ancient times.  It's definitely not the perfect audio medium but for those of us old people who grew up using cassettes the nostalgia is strong.  It's how we shared music back in The Day. 

I'd forgotten that part of the excitement of listening to cassettes was that the machine could destroy a tape at any moment if you weren't careful. So many precautions were needed (cleaning and demagnetizing the tape heads, etc..). It's a lost art form.  However, having a quality tape machine also reduces the chances of an analog audio tragedy.. so thanks again to the Rock Godz for sending the Tascam my way.

Ironically, Metallica, the most successful band who benefited the most from cassette trading, recently announced a nostalgic cassette release for Record Store Day 2015.  Click HERE for the story as it was announced by Rolling Stone.. and more on this release in the near future.  

Press eject... and NO Umlaut will not be putting any of these on YouTube.  Sorry, kidz of the Digital Age.