Nice seeing you again.
I haven’t been writing much lately because I’ve been struggling with depression and discontent and a bunch of other shit I’m not gonna air out to the general public. (I’ve read several great first-person blog posts about what depression feels like. This won’t be one of them.)
I decided a good cleaning out and life-scrubbing might be one thing I could do to feel better.
And as part of that, I finally went to my small storage room this afternoon and cleaned out two big cardboard boxes full of cassettes. They’re all in the trash now, on their way to the landfill.
I feel momentarily bad because, while the tape boxes are probably recyclable, the tapes themselves are not. I’m sure I’m spitting a big indigestible wad into whatever hole in the ground the township uses to dispose of its unwanted matter. But, what other option is there for a 21st century schizoid man?
It occurs to me that some future civilization will probably be able to reproduce the contents of trashed cassette tapes, thenceforth to learn a great deal about life in the late 20th century.
My guess is they won’t bother, though. Future scientists will be too busy trying to keep themselves alive to spend time on unearthed relics. The imperative of filtering mercury, piss and petroleum distillates out of the “drinking water” will outweigh the importance of restoring Grant and Michelle’s 4Ever Love Mix ’91.
(This is why I don’t believe in cryonics. Do you truly think the people living on whatever colossally fucked version of Earth is still circling the sun in the year 2400 are really gonna want to spend time reviving and curing their cancer-wracked ancestors? Those living at that point will envy the dead, not revive them. But, I digress.)
Going through these cassettes brought me back to the hours of time I spent bent over record players making them, mostly in the house where I lived during high school and college.
It was a useful reminder that all our labors are doomed to obsolescence and failure over time.
(You don’t need to go see the half-buried Sphinx to learn this. A trip to the basement will suffice. Look on my labours, garbageman, and despair.)
Some of these tapes dated back to middle school, more than a quarter-century ago. Some of them kept me company in the ’83 Nissan Pulsar I used to drive in high school.
Many of them contained music that was once very dear to me — and, in a few cases, still is. We’re talking about some truly seminal stuff in the development of yours truly.
But, the sun has set on the cassette format, at least in my house. Some of this music I still own on LP. Others, I have bought on CD or downloaded in MP3 form.
The hard fact is, no matter how much I love the music on these tapes, I’m just never gonna listen to it in cassette format again. To tell myself otherwise is just clinging to the past.
A lot of old friends with a lot of stories just went into the trash. So they don’t go untold or unrecognized, I’ll tell them now:
– At least two different tapes with the Stones’ Beggars Banquet. Mick Jagger singing “Stray Cat Blues” was just about the baddest, filthiest shit going when I was 14, and I listened to it at every opportunity.
– At least two copies of Appetite for Destruction, complete with robot-rape scene on the inside cover. Neither copy was ever mine, since I only owned the album on used CD.
– The tape my high-school band director gave me because he wanted me to learn the song on it for a school concert … which I promptly dubbed over with Aerosmith’s Rocks on one side and Draw The Line on the other.
(From the stable platform of grown-up maturity I say: Eat it, Ned.)
– The early tape mixes I made off the radio when my tastes were just waking up, back around 1986. (The one in front of me as I type this ranges from “Get Off Of My Cloud,” to Howlin’ Wolf, to “Life’s Been Good,” to “A Day In The Life.” Ah, to be 12 and have the radio present new, unknown treasures to me daily.)
– A tape with Jeff Beck’s Truth on one side and the Ramones’ first album on the other, made probably circa 1987 by a good friend who’d gotten into them both and shared the goodness, however scattershot it looks now.
– An official made-by-Columbia-Records copy of Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks that I just flat-out found somewhere — like, by the side of the road once.
I wouldn’t have bought it because the friend who introduced me to Jeff Beck and the Ramones gave me a copy of Blood on the Tracks as a high school graduation present, telling me it was a soundtrack to breakups yet to come. He was a smart son-of-a-bitch.
– A tape of Miles Davis’ final studio album, Doo-Bop, picked out of a Boston-area bargain bin by college-age me. I liked it OK then; not sure what I’d think now.
– The Vinnie Vincent Invasion tape I picked up as a joke out of an on-campus free-bin during an art-school graduation in Rhode Island. (Sample lyric: “She gives the right amount of pleasure / She blisters my love zone.”)
– Tapes my friends made me over the years with tunes they wanted to turn me on to — everything from Elton John to Queens of the Stone Age. (Thank you, friends. You turned my ears more than I ever let you know.)
– The tape with the Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead on one side and the Rolling Stones’ 12×5 on the other. Two of the earliest LPs I ever owned; both still in my collection a quarter-century later; both indispensable in their own ways.
– The tape of KISS: Alive! I put on my battered old boombox just a few years ago, it seems, when I was painting large chunks of my house. (Probably closer to a decade ago than I care to imagine.)
I wrote a blog post some time ago about the weird combinations of albums I sometimes threw onto both sides of a 90-minute tape.
See, I’d buy a bunch of albums at a time. And I’d throw the best onto tape so I could have them with me at all times, regardless of whether they made stylistic sense together or not.
Some of the unlikely bedfellows that are en route to the trash (and I have tape-case labels to prove all this, at least until my son takes out the trash next Monday night):
– Roxy Music, Flesh and Blood, and Alice Cooper, Killer
– Iggy and the Stooges, Raw Power, and Yes, The Yes Album
– Sly and the Family Stone, There’s a Riot Goin’ On, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers, Over-Nite Sensation
– The Clash, London Calling, and Free, Fire and Water. (My high school bass teacher, who died too young, turned me on to the latter. These are two damned good albums, even if they go together like … well, fire and water.)
– Bob Dylan, Desire, and Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here
– Talking Heads, Fear of Music, and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Lick My Decals Off Baby
– James Brown, Live at the Apollo, and Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ Blood and Chocolate
– Joni Mitchell, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, and the New York Philharmonic playing Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 2. (To be honest, I didn’t listen to the Ives much; but, five points to my folks for having it in their LP collection, and a point-and-a-half to me for dubbing it.)
– Santana, Abraxas, and Bob Marley and the Wailers, Catch A Fire, with the Bay City Rollers as filler
(This reminds me of a disagreement I had with my older brother back in high school. He would leave the last minute-and-a-half of his tapes empty, because he hated to have a song get cut off. I was a sucker for hooks, even if they got interrupted, so I’d fill every single last second of recordable tape on my cassettes.)
– Steely Dan, Katy Lied, and Deep Purple, Burn
– Funkadelic, Maggot Brain, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Weasels Ripped My Flesh (two distinctly different bastions of American individuality, circa 1971)
I didn’t throw out every single tape in the two boxes.
Anything involving my high school and college bands got kept. (If I played on it, I kept it.)
So did some of the tapes of me on the air at Boston University’s radio station, and some of the tapes of my friend at St. Bonaventure University’s radio station who played songs by my high-school band.
And the stolen cassette of Zappa/Mothers tunes that permanently warped my brain when I was in fourth grade survives for another day. (I’ve told that story before.)
The rest of it is gone; and bless it.
It helped Younger Kurt through all the stuff that an average American male dealt with between 1985 and, oh, 2005 or so.
It deserves a kinder fate; but, such is not the way of life.
The fate awaiting Older Kurt will probably not be any kinder, if that’s any consolation. But we’re not there quite yet.
For now, we will hit Rewind once more in our memory … let the music go backward a prudent distance … and enjoy it again.