The Music Will Never Stop 39

April 23rd, 2014

The attempts at repair didn’t work. I went ahead and did what I could, but really, the quality is pretty bad for much of it. Two of the musical pieces are absolutely dreadful — not the musicians, just the recording. Wow and flutter and distortion.

I’ve asked the sister who originally sent it whether she has a better copy.
If not, then I’m done with the cassettes.

When I cut out the silences and rattles and footsteps as speakers walked to and from the lectern (or maybe the pulpit), and the blank stretch at the end, the ninety-minute tape wound up less than an hour.

I missed the memorial service; I was a thousand miles away and didn’t consider it worth the trip. Listening to this, I was right. I loved my father and I miss him, but there’s nothing in this service I needed to hear, and a few things would have annoyed me.

So I went on to see if the reel-to-reel works.

It mostly does. There are some issues. I needed to clean the heads, for one thing. And I’ve jiggered one of the regulator thingies that was seriously over-regulating, stopping the tape dead any time one of the reels jerked even slightly. Inserting a Q-Tip took care of it.

Now to weed out all the tapes where I already have that music. First up was a tape that claimed to have four Jethro Tull albums on it: “Thick As A Brick,” “Passion Play,” “War Child,” and “Minstrel in the Gallery.” Except Side 1 actually had “Thick As A Brick,” “Passion Play,” and part of “Aqualung” — two tracks to fill up the side.

I had all five albums on CD, so this tape is just going away.

So that left fifty-one. Then fifty; a tape of “Tommy” backed with “Jesus Christ Superstar” and filled out with two tracks from “Live At Leeds” finished up, and I have all those already, since they were just taped off my LPs.

That’s roughly 160 hours of tape left, I guess — I mostly used 1800-foot tapes recorded at 3.75 ips, which come out to just over three hours apiece, but there are also a few 2400-ft. reels mixed in, and even (I think) one 3600-footer. There may be some shorter ones, and stuff recorded at higher (or lower) speeds, as well.

They aren’t all full, by any means.

A lot of these were taped off my own records, because I liked being able to go 90-96 minutes without turning anything over; I remember in college I’d do my classwork with a tape running, and when I noticed it had ended, that meant it was time for a break.

(Observe that I don’t say “when it ended,” I say “when I noticed it had ended.” That could be anywhere from immediately to an hour or two later.)

Fifty to go — and I need to figure out what to do with the tapes after recovering whatever’s on them that I still want. Nobody still uses reel-to-reel, do they?

The Music Will Never Stop 38

April 21st, 2014

There. “The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of the 20th Century” is done — four tapes, twelve stories, about six hours.

This was a “reprint” anthology — is it still “reprint” when it’s audio tapes? Anyway, it included Wil Wheaton reading “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers.” The weird thing, though — and I have not yet figured out how this is possible — is that when it was first sold, in “More of the Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy,” it ran 33:17. Here, it’s 28:16. Both were equally speed-corrected on my end, and the intro on the original (which isn’t on the reprint) is only a few seconds, not anything close to five minutes. I don’t understand. Could they have edited it? I didn’t notice any cuts.

None of the other stories are on both anthologies.

I would not have picked these as the best of the century. There are some classics, but best of the century? I don’t think so. And there are some… well, I consider “Huddling Place” seriously overrated. “Fermi and Frost” feels surprisingly dated.

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” is barely a story; it’s mostly a lecture, a thought experiment, something to argue about. “The Nine Billion Names of God” works a lot better when read than when heard; I was a bit surprised by that.

“That Only A Mother” seems as if it could be shortened without losing anything. For that matter, “Twilight” seems overlong — but I thought that when I read it, too.

“Allamagoosa” still works really well, though. “Bears Discover Fire” is maybe even better in this form. And “Jeffty Is Five” gains from the fact that it’s Harlan reading it, and he really puts his heart into it.

On the other hand, the inconsistencies in “Jeffty Is Five” are just as annoying as ever. I mean, from internal evidence, Jeffty and Donnie were five together somewhere between 1943 and 1948 — I make 1945 by far the most likely year — and the story ends seventeen years later, which would be 1960-1965, but Ellison says phrases like “uptight” were in common use on mass media, which was not yet true in 1965. He also refers to Jeffty reading a comic book that had been out of print for “three decades.” And if you think I’ve missed something that would indicate it was really more than seventeen years and later than 1965, there’s a major plot point that the price of color TVs has just taken a huge drop, and I remember that — it happened in ’64 or ’65, when the original patents ran out. We won’t even start on the question of whether Jeffty could read yet, which varies.

Still a great story, of course.

Anyway, it’s a pretty impressive set of stories, despite my quibbles. No serious problems converting them to MP3, really — I did screw up a thing or two, but they were easily recovered/fixed.

So that’s four more cassettes done. Only one left — my father’s memorial service. Which unfortunately appears to be damaged, which is why I didn’t do it already. I have an idea or two I want to try to see if I can recover it.

I’ve already started clearing the tape deck, though, getting ready to swap it out and put in the reel-to-reel.

The Music Will Never Stop 37

April 17th, 2014

The next tape on the stack was something of a mystery. It’s a two-hour tape neatly labeled “COMICS CLOSE-UP December 10, 1989.” I had no idea what that was. That two-hourness was intimidating, which is why I left it this long before tackling it.

Turns out it’s a radio show, originally broadcast on WQRI FM in Bristol, Rhode Island. It’s also only half an hour; the rest of the tape is blank except for about 90 seconds of a Roy Orbison song at roughly the fiftieth minute. No idea what that bit of music is doing there; I didn’t copy it.

And I have the radio show because it includes three brief interviews recorded at Noreascon 3, the 1989 Boston Worldcon: Kurt Busiek, Marc McLaurin, and me. Also an interview with Matt Wagner recorded elsewhere.

Kurt and I were discussing Open Space, the Marvel project we both worked on — Kurt was the editor, I was one of the contributing writers.

Marc McLaurin talked about his work at Marvel.

Matt Wagner, recorded at a Great Eastern Comics Convention, discussed Grendel and Mage.

The recording-to-MP3 did not go smoothly for me. The tape needed to be rewound, and didn’t spool properly, so it had to be rewound again, and then I played and recorded the entire two hours, and screwed up the first attempt to save it, losing the entire thing.

Fortunately, I now knew I only needed the first thirty-two minutes, so the next attempt was easier and went perfectly.

The hardest part was probably coming up with cover art. I made my own, compositing the cover of Open Space #1, the WQRI logo, and the name of the show.

Five to go — the last anthology, and Dad’s memorial service.

The Music Will Never Stop 36

April 17th, 2014

Only six cassette tapes left after today’s project, which was “More of the Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy,” from Dove Audio. Four cassettes, six hours, nine stories.

I’d never listened to some of these. I’d played my own story, of course, and one or two others sounded familiar, but that’s it.

Mostly good stories read well, but I think it was a mistake to not tell the reader of “Permafrost” how to pronounce “Zelazny.” I’d never heard it garbled quite that way before.

I also wouldn’t have picked “Permafrost” as the best available Zelazny story, but maybe that’s just me. (I’d have maybe gone for “Devil Car,” or “Home is the Hangman.”)

And while “The Poplar Street Study” is interesting, I wouldn’t have chosen it, because the ending (as much as it has one) is so weak.

There were odd little glitches here and there, such as a reader who mispronounced “nascent,” and a few seconds of dead air in the middle of “Permafrost,” but mostly it was good.

This was the anthology where Wil Wheaton read “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers,” and he did a fine job, except that he gave Joe a Brooklyn accent, probably because of the way I wrote his dialogue, but he’s supposed to be from Pittsburgh, so Brooklyn sounded a bit odd to me.

Nana Visitor did a very nice job with Kris Rusch’s “Skin Deep,” too. None of the other readers really stood out for me.

Anyway. That’s done. That leaves one anthology, one convention panel, and my father’s memorial service on cassette.

And then there are the four VHS tapes I turned up. I’ve recorded one of those, which turned out to be longer than I expected, so we now have two hours and twenty minutes of video of the kids, covering 1984 to 1990, on DVD. But it’s not finalized and I’ve only chapter-stopped about the first fifteen minutes.

One of the other three may be a copy of it, I’m not sure. Then there’s my sister’s memorial service, and I don’t know what the last one is. We’ll find out.

Got the reel-to-reel tape recorder out of storage, but I haven’t hooked it up yet. Don’t know if it still works.

And a sidelight: Remember the guy who sent me those “Various Artists” tapes back in ’92? Well, we’re still in touch, and in today’s mail I got, without any warning, a couple of CDs of female singers he thought I might like. He was right about one of them: Hayley Reardon. Lauren Frost isn’t bad, but doesn’t quite push the right buttons.

The Music Will Never Stop 35

April 15th, 2014

Okay, this isn’t technically music anymore, but there are still a few more cassette tapes.

At least, I think there isn’t any more music on cassettes. But… okay, one of the remaining cassette tapes is from my father’s memorial service. Somewhere around here I also have the printed Order of Service, and I thought that would be useful to have when editing the tape, so I went looking for it.

I haven’t found it yet, and in fact got one of my sisters to send me a copy, but while I was searching I did find four VHS tapes of family video. I thought I’d finished with all our VHS months ago; I had noticed the absence of one of these and assumed I must have loaned it to one of my sisters or in-laws, didn’t remember I’d ever had the other three.

Yet here they are.

So maybe there are more audio tapes lurking out there somewhere, too.

But meanwhile, another one bites the dust: a taped letter from the guy who originally sent those three “various artists” tapes was digitized yesterday. Ninety minutes of chitchat about life, music, his job, discount stores, and whatnot. It includes some explanation of why he chose the songs he did for the first two tapes.

That was the third of three, chronologically. The second of the three was today’s project. The last taped letter is done.

Interesting how my correspondent’s mood audibly changed from one letter to the next — the first was recorded when he was having a very rough time (medical and employment issues, a friend’s death), and the others (at roughly monthly intervals) were produced when things were improving pretty rapidly — successful surgery, quick healing, new job, etc. And you can tell the letters apart merely by the tone of his voice; the first is slow and gloomy, the next is better but still a bit down, and the third is generally upbeat.

It’s kind of funny hearing some of the discussions more than twenty years later. He talks about Wil Wheaton’s departure from ST:TNG, about the recent development of this new blue laser that may someday produce much more information-dense CDs and DVDs, etc.

Ten more cassette tapes remain: my father’s memorial service, a convention panel from 1989, and two four-cassette anthologies.

The Music Will Never Stop 34

April 13th, 2014

“Various Artists #3″ is done.

That’s all the music I had on cassette. All of it. Wow.

What I find interesting is that these three tapes, Various Artists #1, 2, and 3, were all compiled by the same guy in the last few months of 1992, yet they’re very different.

For one thing, on #3 I did not recognize the name of a single band. Some of them are sufficiently obscure they don’t even have stubs on Wikipedia. I thought I recognized some song titles (e.g., “All Together Now”), but in every case it was a different song with the same title.

Twenty-four songs by twenty-four artists and I never heard any of the songs, never heard of any of the performers. They’re from the U.S., England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand; some had a brief existence, maybe a year or two, while others lasted thirty years or more. Some were commercial disasters; one, according to Wikipedia, sold over 15 million albums back in the ’80s (though they were never big in the States). The only thing they have in common is that I never heard of them. Blue Train, Material Issue, the Stabilizers…

I should maybe mention that the guy who sent them used to work in a record shop.

Most of this music is pretty good, but none of it really grabs me. Of the three collections, I liked #2 the best, by a fairly wide margin.

Anyway, it’s done, and now I have the twelve spoken-word tapes left to do.

The Music Will Never Stop 33

April 12th, 2014

Today’s project: “Various Artists #2.” 24 tracks by 24 artists. This time I actually already had a few of them, specifically “Blood and Roses,” by the Smithereens, and “Vox,” by Sarah McLachlan, and “Awake with the Rain,” by Grace Pool, and “Naked Rain,” by This Picture. I also had “Running Up That Hill,” by Kate Bush. but the studio version, and this tape had a live version.

I have an album by Shona Laing, but not the one with “Soviet Snow” on it, so that was new. Likewise Clannad’s “The Hunter,” and the Innocence Mission’s “Wonder of Birds,” and Eurythmics’ “You Have Placed A Chill in My Heart.”

Oh, and remember I said that none of this guy’s stuff was like anything Larry Boyd sent? There’s a sort of close brush here — a song by Bob Mould, who was a member of Husker Du. Larry sent me about thirty minutes of Husker Du, you might recall.

Really, this looks like my favorite of the three, but maybe I shouldn’t say that until I’ve played #3 all the way through.

Anyway, there’s definitely some good stuff.

Oh, and I’m definitely going to finish off the music before doing any of the twelve remaining spoken-word tapes.

The Music Will Never Stop 32

April 11th, 2014

Having finished up Larry Boyd’s contributions, we come to the other frequent giver, who is still very much alive and will therefore remain nameless. This is the guy who sent me “Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back” and the “best of Squeeze.” He also sent me three “various artists” collections. All five were sent in 1992, along with some letters-on-tape, when he was laid up for months with a disabling injury (which fortunately was successfully surgically repaired later) and had lots of time on his hands.

So today I recorded and edited “Various Artists #1.” (Yes, they’re numbered. And annotated.) Quality is excellent — these were recorded on top-of-the-line cassettes that probably cost three or four times what I paid for any of my own blanks. I’d played part of each of the three, but I don’t think I played all of any of them. I had some rewinding to do.

VA 1 has twenty tracks, and as with Larry Boyd, I’d never heard of several of these bands, but that’s where the resemblance ends; this guy’s tastes were way over the other side of the pop/rock spectrum. Nothing remotely punk here, though some falls into the ill-defined and overly-broad “New Wave” category.

There’s The Lover Speaks, a duo I never heard of but one of these songs sounds very familiar; the Samples, Lions & Ghosts, the Water Walk, the Adventures. Two songs from each.

And then there are the more familiar ones, like They Might Be Giants and Talk Talk and Midge Ure, though I wasn’t familiar with these particular songs.

Lions & Ghosts is pretty cool; I may look for more by them. Though it doesn’t look as if they had a very long career.

All in all, these are twenty fairly obscure songs, none of them suck, but none really grab me, either, though “Mary Goes Round” by Lions & Ghosts comes close, and of course the two by They Might Be Giants are lotsa fun.

So — two more of these mix tapes to go. (I have one recorded but not edited.) Then a dozen spoken-word cassettes, two-thirds of them from SF audio anthologies that included “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” read by Wil Wheaton. That’ll finish up all my hundred and one cassettes.

With that end in sight, I hauled out the old reel-to-reel tapes. There are fifty-two of them, of varying length and speed; most are labeled, though with an unknown degree of accuracy and often skimping on detail.

And I don’t know whether my reel-to-reel tape deck still works; I haven’t tried to use it in at least five years, probably much longer. Probably much longer. Most (maybe all) of these tapes date back to the ’70s or even the ’60s.

We’ll see, once I’ve finished the cassettes. I’ll either be embarking on another major project, or if the recorder’s dead, I’ll be done digitizing music.

The Music Will Never Stop 31

April 9th, 2014

Today I tackled the last of the tapes from Larry Boyd, a mix tape labeled “Alternative & Otherwise from the ’80s.” Twenty-three tracks from sixteen and a half bands/performers. (The half is Bonzo Goes to Washington, which existed only inasmuch as it’s the name the guys who made “Five Minutes” put on their recording.)

I’d never heard of several of these — the Mentors, Swans, World of Skin, Live Skull, Frightwig, Big Black, Holy Cow, the Proletariat. I’d only encountered Dinosaur under their later name, Dinosaur Jr. (They had to change it when they started selling overseas — there was a British band called Dinosaur that had dibs on the name.)

LL Cool J I’d certainly heard of, but I’m not sure I’d actually heard any of his numbers. Likewise Schoolly D.

Public Enemy I knew, of course — I was just playing them last night.

I knew Butthole Surfers and Motorhead and Killdozer and Henry Rollins, but hadn’t heard these particular songs. I think; I might’ve heard “Orgasmatron” before. Not a big Motorhead fan.

Frightwig is a lot of fun, but nothing very special musically.

I like World of Skin rather a lot. Gloomy chick singer — what a shock!

And Holy Cow takes the prize for most depressing, but is also extremely listenable: “Work work work work work work work work eat sleep work work…”

Nothing else stands out as anything all that very special, but nothing on here sucks, either. (LL Cool J’s “I Need A Beat” is probably the weakest.) It should be a good album to play when I’m feeling misanthropic.

The Music Will Never Stop 30

April 8th, 2014

Ohmigod, I practically laughed myself out of my chair just now…

I did the Dan Hicks CD, and also ordered some CDs from Amazon to replace some earlier bad tapes, three of which came with AutoRip, so I added those to my collection — I’m over 1,000 “albums” in iTunes now. Then I started on “Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back,” which I’d played part of when I first got it.

Then on Side B of that tape was something I’d never noticed before; I know I’d never played it. It’s “Cutting Their Own Groove,” by Big Daddy. Or most of it — it cut off halfway through the last song.

I’d never heard of Big Daddy before. What they do sounds stupid, but it is hysterically funny. They take well-known songs and perform them in the arrangements of completely different songs.

I started writing this while listening to Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” performed in the arrangement of “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Higher and Higher).” The one that had me falling out of my chair, though, was “Money for Nothing” done as “Sixteen Tons.”

“The Living Years” done as “The Leader of the Pack” was also pretty damn funny.

Why have I never heard of these guys? Why did it take me 21.5 years
(the tape’s dated 9/6/92) to get around to playing this?

I’m just glad the tape hadn’t deteriorated; it’s just about perfect.

The last cut, “Help Me Make It Through the Night” done as “Yakkety Yak,” was cut short; I paid 99 cents to download the complete version.

“Ice Ice Baby” was done as “Johnny B. Good.” “Welcome to the Jungle” as “Wimoweh.” I’m stunned.

I may want to pick up some of their other albums.

Oh, yeah — Brent Spiner’s “Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back” demonstrates that Spiner can sing the hell out of classic lounge songs. Beautiful voice well used. Unfortunately, I really don’t like that style of song, so I don’t know if I’ll ever play it again.

This leaves four music tapes, all of them “various artists” collections someone sent me, and a dozen spoken-word tapes of one sort or another.