The Music Will Never Stop 70

There was another pair of tapes. The first is labeled “Coffeehouse – Pork Pie Hat, Aug. 13, 1973” and “#2.” It also lists the seven members of Pork Pie Hat on the back.

The second only has a very faint scribble, “P.P.H. 2.”

Haven’t taken the second one out of the box yet. I’m working on the first one.

I played it all the way through. It sounded like utter crap. When it was done, I cleaned black gunk off the heads, rollers, guideposts, etc. and started it over. I’m three songs into that second run-through, and it sounds pretty good — not studio quality, but I’ve heard worse on commercially-released live albums. Seems like I have a formula — run through it to get the gunk off, then record it.

Anyway. Pork Pie Hat was a local band in Bedford, MA back in ’73 — five regular members, and a couple of drop-ins, according to what I wrote on the box. No connection with any band by that name you’ll find on the web. I knew four of the five members from high school, and one of the drop-ins; the other was the older brother of one of my friends.

The drummer, Chip Edgar, I didn’t know at all. No idea where they found him.

I’m pretty sure the band broke up by ’75. They were an adequate bar band, not much more than that, though they sometimes got ambitious. That anonymous jam I recorded from the previous tape was better.

Right now, as I type this, I’m listening to the Hat’s version of “Maggie’s Farm,” and it’s a bit odd — the rhythm section sounds like they’re playing “All Is Loneliness,” rather than “Maggie’s Farm.”

The tape box included a song list — but it’s for four sides, so I’m assuming it includes the tape labeled “P.P.H. 2.” It also isn’t very complete. That would be five or six hours, and believe me, they didn’t play that long at the Coffeehouse on August 13th. So far, in this first set, I don’t hear any crowd noise; maybe it was a rehearsal?

I really wish I’d kept better records back then.

Oh, hey! I just took a closer look at the box, and in the very faded ink that we see on a couple of other boxes it has a second date written in below “Aug. 13, 1973” — it says “Aug. 27, 1973.” So I guess I taped two different gigs.

And I was looking at the other tape boxes, and there’s a third one: #5, “Coffeehouse – Pork Pie Hat (Two), Aug. 27, 1973.”

This is confusing. There are play-lists for two tapes, not three. I checked all the boxes; no other lists.

So I recorded the first side of the first tape, edited, and converted it to MP3, and… it’s a mixed bag. The first couple of tracks sound good, but it gets muddier and muddier. I actually stopped the tape twice between songs to clean the heads; the first time the heads weren’t bad and it didn’t make much difference, but the second time, at the end of a thirteen-minute jam, I got a big wodge of gunk off and the difference was huge. So I’ll probably go back and re-record some of this stuff and see if I can get better versions. Some of the damage is clearly in the original tape and unfixable, but some probably isn’t.

The first two songs — an instrumental I haven’t identified and “Jive, Jive, Jive” — sound great. The third, “Parchman Farm,” is good. By the fourth, “Maggie’s Farm,” not so much…


Pork Pie Hat did not have a really extensive repertoire. On the first tape I heard “Jive, Jive, Jive” three times, “Parchman Farm” twice, “Maggie’s Farm” twice, “The Great Escape” twice, an instrumental I haven’t identified three times, “Badge” twice, and “Summertime” twice.

(Classically-trained first sopranos should not sing “Summertime” with blues-rock bands. Especially not an octave or so above the key the band is playing in. The word “screechy” is one of the politer terms to come to mind.)

And besides those favorites they played a few other songs, including “Soul Kitchen” and “Spoonful.” They didn’t do either of those as well as that anonymous band on the previous tape, but they weren’t bad.

They closed out the set with “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” That was interesting, and better than I might have expected.

I ran into trouble recording the second side. I tried to save the file to an invalid location and lost the whole thing. I was able to salvage it, but I spent two and a half hours recovering a recording that’s only an hour and forty minutes. Now I know how to do it, though; next time (I’ve made this mistake before and may well do it again) I’ll be able to do it much more quickly.

It was all still there when recovered, and I successfully translated it all to MP3.

It’s all squared away. I have thirty tracks off this tape, albeit with a lot of repeated songs. Quality is mostly good; the entire second side was clean enough that I didn’t need to filter or rebalance anything, though I did amplify a few numbers.

The first side, well, I plan to re-record that and maybe replace some of the iffy pieces, if I can get better versions.

I don’t actually know where this stuff was recorded. The song list doesn’t say. The box says it was recorded at the Coffeehouse, on two different dates in the summer of 1973, but I’m not sure I believe that. It’s probably accurate, but even if it is, I have no idea where the break between shows is. Since some songs are played three times, I can’t just go by the assumption that the second set begins when they start repeating.

Also, there is no crowd noise on the first few tracks, so that might have been a rehearsal, or maybe they just started playing when the place was still half-empty.

Whatever. It’s done, barring possible replacements. And most of it is decent music. The vocals on “Summertime” are pretty dreadful, both times — and I say this even though the singer was a good friend of mine — but the band could jam. I think their arrangement of “Maggie’s Farm” is bizarre, but they did fine with “Parchman Farm” and “Spoonful” (all thirteen minutes of it) and some of the others.

There are seven songs I haven’t identified. Some are instrumentals and I don’t recognize them; a couple have words, but I can’t make out enough of the lyrics to google them. Or at least, I haven’t yet — I’ll probably give them a more careful listen eventually.

So, on to the replay, and then the other Pork Pie Hat tapes.

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