Archive for the ‘Generalities & Rants’ Category

The Music Will Never Stop 73

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Well, this took awhile.

I did get hold of the bassist for Pork Pie Hat and identified some (not all) of those tracks I didn’t have names for, but it’s still a work in progress.

So it was on to the next tape — #3, Coffeehouse – Dean & Buffy (sic). I recorded Side 1 — and then threw most of it out not because of excessive noise or poor quality as such, but because it recorded at so low a volume as to be worthless. I wasn’t sure whether it would be better
on a second pass, but I gave it a try.

It wasn’t much better, and dealing with the material I had was so discouraging I stopped working on it for a couple of months. But I did eventually get back to it.

Dean and Buffie (note correct spelling) Groves were friends of mine, brother and sister; Dean went on to become a full-time jazz drummer for awhile, but switched to computer programming when his first kid was born, as he did not want to be a father who came home at 3:00 a.m. smelling of whiskey and cigarettes. Buffie’s had a semi-pro music career; she’s half of a duo called Fishken & Groves.

I hoped I could somehow salvage this music, because it includes songs written by people I knew — C.R. Bryan, a.k.a. Erik David Koenig, for one. And Dean was a fabulous guitarist, if only a so-so singer.

It didn’t look good. There’s one stretch where so much of the iron oxide has come off that I can see through the tape. But I tried.

The sound quality is dreadful, but I did manage to transfer maybe half of it to MP3. The other half was too far gone, though I want to do one more pass through some of it to see if I can salvage any more.

There are fourteen more tapes after this one; I’m hoping I’ll do better with those.

Technical Detail

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

We’ve been having issues lately with comment spammers. I am therefore turning off comments on certain older posts. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear from you; if you find you can’t comment on an old post where you’d like to, e-mail me and I’ll turn the comments for that one back on.

Mostly, though, these are posts that haven’t had a legitimate comment in years.

The Music Will Never Stop 72

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Well, this was interesting, and made my life a bit easier. The tape labeled “P.P.H. 2″ is mostly blank. There are two songs at the beginning, totaling thirteen minutes of music — a jam, and yet another rendition of “Parchman Farm” — and then nothing.

I still had to do two takes. The first time through the music was barely audible, as the 40-year layer of crud interfered. The second time, after vigorously cleaning the heads and rollers, it sounded just fine. Knowing the rest was blank, though, on the second play-through I stopped after fifteen minutes and turned it around to rewind. (Have I mentioned that “rewind” and “fast forward” no longer work on my recorder?)

But hey, it’s done and sounds surprisingly good. I’m pleased.

Then it was on to #5, “Coffeehouse – Pork Pie Hat (Two),” dated Aug. 27, 1973.

Played through Side 1. Stopped it twice to de-gunk the heads, but most of it was still faint, muffled, and generally crappy-sounding. It should improve the next time through.

So I have this play-list that was enclosed with the first Pork Pie Hat tape. It lists four sides. Two of them were on that tape, and I assumed the other two would be on either this tape, or “P.P.H. 2.”

They aren’t.

Side 1 here had not quite an hour and twenty minutes recorded, which is about right, but it doesn’t match the songs on the list. It should have “Jive, Jive, Jive” and “Maggie’s Farm,” along with a mishmosh of stuff I don’t have actual titles for, and that’s not what’s there. Instead there are half a dozen abortive attempts at “Badge,” a decent rendition of “Soul Kitchen,” etc.

Notice I didn’t say it has an hour and twenty minutes of music; it doesn’t. There’s a lot of tuning up, diddling around, talking, false
starts, etc. I doubt there’s more than forty-five minutes of actual music.

Very disappointing, so far.

(And where the heck is the tape on the list?)

Then I played through it again. Mostly better. There are a couple of tracks that could stand another try, though. I had to de-gunk the heads partway through, and there are two tracks where neither recording is really acceptable.

Played Side 2 for the first time, too. About an hour and a quarter, of which about an hour is music. Most of it came out well.

What’s interesting (to me, anyway) is that the playlist for Side 2 (if there were one) starts with the same five songs that ended Side 2 of the first PPH tape. It has three songs beyond that, though.

I don’t think these are different copies of the same performance, but I’ll want to check them against each other to be absolutely sure. And given how disorganized the band was, I’m a bit boggled if they actually had a set list — but on the other hand, they apparently didn’t bother to change it up between shows, even though it was the same venue, so that’s their sort of sloppy.

This had their best version of “Summertime,” and a kick-ass fifteen-minute jam of “Spoonful.”

But wow, I’m sick of “Parchman Farm.” And they used “Badge” for their soundcheck, so there are three partial takes (not counting abortive ones I didn’t bother to convert to MP3) as well as the final performance. Fact is, the band only seems to have known about a dozen songs, and I wound up with about five hours of them either playing those songs over and over, or jamming, or just messing around. (Actually, I didn’t keep most of the “just messing around” stuff, so that would be more than five hours, counting that.)

Anyway, I now had everything that was on the tape, but played through Side 2 a second time, and Side 1 a third, to get better transcriptions.

(I needed to play Side 2 a third time just to rewind the tape — “rewind” and “fast forward” aren’t really working anymore — but I didn’t bother recording it.

The third play-through didn’t help much. It was generally worse than its predecessors — the treble is noticeably degraded, and there’s added noise, maybe from crud on the heads or the tape.

So the whole thing was pretty much complete at that point, except that (a) I needed to choose my preferred takes on a couple of songs, and (b) there are eight songs I haven’t really identified yet; I have them listed as “Don’t Know 1,” “Don’t Know 2,” “Don’t Know 3,” “Don’t Know 4,” “The Great Escape (in theory),” “Don’t Know 6,” “Highway 15 (?),” and “Don’t Know 9.”

I used to have Don’t Know 5, 7, and 8, but then realized they duplicated others on the list of unknowns. “The Great Escape” and “Highway 15″ were titles on the song list in the box, but don’t appear to be correct. “Highway 15″ may have been an original.

Most of the unknowns are instrumentals, “Highway 15″ being the major exception.

I’ll track those down eventually. In fact, I just discovered that Julie is still more or less in touch with the Hat’s bass player, who ought to be able to identify everything for me.

I’ve chosen my preferred takes on everything, so that’s officially done — ID’ing things doesn’t count.

Anyway, there are fifty tracks, but I only count twenty-five different songs, since there are several repeats and one (listed simply as “Boogie”) had been split between two sides of the tape. There are also two jams, which I listed as “Jam” and “Jam Too.” It’s about five hours of music in all, as I said above.

Quality varies, but none of it totally sucks. (Mostly because I didn’t keep a few bits that did suck.)


The Music Will Never Stop 71

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

More about “Coffeehouse – Pork Pie Hat.”

So I played Side 1 again. Seemed much clearer this time, so I decided I’d be replacing some tracks before I move on to the next tape.

This proved quite interesting. A reminder for those less obsessed than I am: I’d played this tape three times. The first time was basically just to clean the gunk off, and I didn’t even keep the Audacity recording. It sounded like utter crap.

The second time mostly sounded okay. I transferred it all to MP3.

I played back the Audacity recording of the third, and compared it, song by song, with the MP3s I made from the second play-through.

The first three tracks were clearly superior on #2 — crisper, clearer highs, generally sharper. But the fourth track (“Maggie’s Farm”) was much less obvious. I wound up keeping #2, but it required playing bits of each version against each other to judge them, and it was close.

And with tracks #5 and 6 — which I haven’t identified; I think 6 is just the band jamming — Recording #3 is clearly superior. I’m replacing the earlier versions. By the end of track 6, Recording #2 was muddy sludge, where #3 is still pretty crisp.

But I cleaned the tape heads twice during Recording #2 (and not at all during #3), so I needed to see what happened when I got to those points.

And I made an unpleasant discovery.

The sound quality was significantly better on #3, but I couldn’t use a lot of it — Audacity skipped stuff. A 13-minute jam is 11 minutes — that’s the worst, but at least four tracks have skips.

You know why? Because Facebook’s Javascript is badly written. I knew my computer was having memory issues that generally cleared up when I got a “A script on this page has stopped working” message and told it to stop the script, but I hadn’t realized it was interfering with the recording.

I needed to do it again.

So I did Recording #3 of Side 2, then checked it to see if it was better than what I had.

It wasn’t. It started well, but by fifteen minutes in it was noticeably inferior to the previous take. I think the tape’s fading and probably won’t survive many more playings.

I only saved a couple of tracks from this pass. The last iteration of “Summertime” got swapped out, and I’m saving the last “Spoonful” until I figure out why it’s 20 seconds longer. But that’s all.

I needed one more pass, to get those cuts from Side 1 that got munged, and then the tape goes away.

But wow — I got some much nicer takes this last time around, and replaced tracks #8 through 15. Serious improvement — but I don’t know why. (Tracks #1-5 or so weren’t as good as before; on #6 and 7 the differences were inaudible to me.)

And here’s a weird thing — the timing was different. The tape apparently ran faster the fourth time through, where previous recordings (at least, all that I checked) matched. WTF. It’s never more than a few seconds, and some of it may come from trimming in slightly different places, but several of these are 2 – 6 seconds shorter than previous versions.

Anyway, it’s done. I have thirty decent tracks, from three different play-throughs. I still need to identify some tracks — but that should be easier now, because I can actually hear the lyrics on some of them now.

On to the next tape!

The Music Will Never Stop 70

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

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.

The Music Will Never Stop 69

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

You may recall there were two tapes — “Coffeehouse Jam #1″ and “Jam” — that left gunk all over the heads and sounded like crap on the first play-through. I’d originally thought they were two copies of the same stuff, but they weren’t.

Well, today I tackled “Jam.” I wasn’t expecting much, given how very crappy the sound quality still was on “Coffeehouse Jam #1,” and how horrible this one sounded on first play-through.

I received a very pleasant surprise; the sound quality is mostly pretty good, much better than CJ #1. I didn’t need to filter anything. On the very last track I did run noise suppression and then amplify it, because it’s a very quiet little piece — the drummer and horn player had left, and the bassist and guitarist turned down their amps — but other than that, I didn’t need to mess with the sound at all.

I initially had an hour and seventeen minutes recorded; by the time I’d edited out dead air between numbers and other wasted space I had it down to an hour and thirteen minutes. Ten tracks — two actual songs (“Soul Kitchen” and “Spoonful”), a couple of minutes of the guitar player pretending he was Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, and seven jams, one of which seemed several times as if it might turn into the Dead’s “St. Stephen” but never quite did.

Drums, bass, trumpet, and guitar — and I have no record of who they were. It’s possible that they were a local band called Pork Pie Hat, as I had scribbled “P.P.H.” at the top of the enclosed song list, then crossed it out.

That song list, by the way, is a mess; four of the seven jams are just listed as counter numbers with no titles, the Hendrix wannabe stuff is called “bits of guitar,” one jam is inaccurately described as “acoustic guitar, no drums,” when it’s actually electric guitar and bass (but I got the “no drums” right), etc. The two song titles are correct.

Whoever it is, they were pretty good — bluesy and jazzy. Jam #4 (I numbered the first five, gave the others names) is a twenty-minute tour-de-force, though there are a few awkward seconds in the last five minutes — I think they were looking for a way to end it neatly, and it took awhile to coordinate it.

For that matter, they gave “Soul Kitchen” seven minutes and “Spoonful” got ten — they didn’t rush through anything.

Anyway, it’s good music. It’s playing right now, and I’m typing in time with it. Nice.

That leaves eighteen tapes I haven’t played, and maybe half a dozen I may try again now that I’ve gotten better at keeping the heads clean and demagnetized.

The Music Will Never Stop 68

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Okay, here’s the situation:

There are two tapes involved. One is labeled “Coffeehouse Jam #1.” The other is labeled simply “Jam.” I had this theory that the latter was an edited edition of the former, simply because I had no idea what else it could be.

I tried playing the first one, and the volume faded quickly; ten minutes in it was virtually inaudible. I couldn’t tell what I was hearing, other than tape hiss and silence, and later squeaking that I thought meant the capstans (which have had no maintenance since 1968) needed lubrication. I stopped without playing Side 2.

I put that aside and tried playing the second one. It started fairly well, but about fifteen-twenty minutes in it, too, faded to near-inaudibility.

So I took a look at the heads on the tape recorder, and they were black with gunk — not just the usual ferrous powder, but gunk, black sticky stuff.

In fact, a blob of gunk had built up so that the tape wasn’t actually touching the heads at all — hence the diminished volume; the recorder was trying to play tapes from an eighth of an inch away.

I cleaned off the heads — and then I realized there was gunk on the guideposts and rollers, too. So I cleaned those off — mostly; there’s one roller that was so bad I couldn’t really get it clean.

That mostly fixed the squeaking; that was from the tapes being pulled across the gunk on the guideposts. Nothing to do with the capstans.

Then I played Side 2 of the first tape. More rapid fade-out. I looked at the heads. Black.

Apparently what’s happened is that after sitting untouched for so long (over forty years) the adhesive holding the oxide to the tapes has deteriorated to the point it’s coming off with the oxide and building up black goo on every surface the tapes touch.

However, the more they’re played, the less goo they deposit. The less signal remains on the tape, too, of course, especially in the higher frequencies.

So I recorded them again, trying to get the optimum balance between the improving cleanliness and the deteriorating signal. I got a passable copy of the first tape, but I don’t seem to be able to filter out the tape hiss without significantly damaging the music. I made five tries on the first track, and the last is… marginally acceptable.

Haven’t gone further, yet.

Oh, and having now actually heard what’s on there — the two tapes are not the same. Sigh. I’ll either have to record and clean up both, or just decide some of this music is expendable.

I got Side 1 done. The middle part was the weakest, but the last half-hour was actually pretty decent. That part is two sixteen-minute jams. The first is entirely free-form, but the three musicians knew what they were doing, so it’s fun. The second drifts in and out of recognizable songs, most notably “Smoke On the Water.”

The higher frequencies are weak throughout. Nothing much I can do about it. Boosting the treble boosts the tape hiss, too, so that’s not a good solution.

Oh, the first hour is fourteen different chunks of music. A few involve singing; one I actually recognize and has intelligible lyrics, though I forget the title.

The good stuff is those last two jams, though.

As for Side 2, I had to decide whether any of it was worth saving. It was only 44 minutes; the rest of the tape was blank.

Much of that 44 minutes is filled with seventeen different versions of the silly children’s song “Alice.”

The quality is pretty terrible throughout. The enclosed song list says some of it was recorded “with Tim Ebacher’s lousy microphone.” I barely remember Tim Ebacher. His brother Chris I remember, but not Tim.

The song list, incidentally, is not in my handwriting. I don’t recognize it.

The only reason to save this… well, there are two reasons. First, some of the variants on “Alice” are funny. Second, and more importantly, these are the only recordings I have of these people, some of whom I haven’t seen since 1973, including one who was murdered while hitchhiking in Michigan a couple of years later. Which is especially macabre given that in one of the variants he sings, Alice goes hitchhiking and gets murdered.

In the song she gets sliced up, where in real life he was deliberately run down (as half a dozen witnesses testified), but still.

So I mulled it over.

I decided to save them, and just finished editing them.

Some of the variants are funny; some are just stupid. The best is probably the original “Alice” as sung by the cast of “The Maltese Falcon” — Sidney Greenstreet for most of it, Humphrey Bogart as Alice, and Peter Lorre for the “Oh my goodness” lines.

Which was done entirely by Chris, the guy who was murdered while hitchhiking. I’d forgotten how amazingly good he was at impressions. The reason he was hitchhiking in Michigan when he was killed was that he was trying to make it as a stand-up comic, and had just made the jump from open-mic nights to paying gigs in small clubs. “Paying,” however, doesn’t mean they paid enough to cover transportation from one gig to the next, so he was thumbing — I think to Ann Arbor.

Chris was the one who wrote the version of “Alice” where she gets murdered while hitchhiking, so he presumably knew it was dangerous. Sigh.

Anyway, that finishes “Coffeehouse Jam #1.” Finally. Still haven’t done the other “jam” tape, though.

The Music Will Never Stop 67

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The next tape… well, I sorted them out a little more. I have tapes numbered from 0 through 5, then I through IV, and then a bunch with letters or a blank. (A letter usually meant it was recorded off LPs, and it was an initial, e.g., Z for Zappa, M1 and M2 for the Moody Blues, D for David Bowie, etc.)(D because B was reserved for the Beatles.)

So I decided to do No. 0.

A note of explanation: In the summer of 1973, between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I had a day job in a ladder factory in my home town of Bedford, MA, but spent evenings and weekends hanging out with friends, including my now-wife Julie, many of whom were still in high school or had just graduated.

One of the local churches provided space for a weekend coffeehouse where local teens could hang out without booze or dope. They had live music as often as they could manage. Several of my friends volunteered at the coffeehouse, and several acquaintances were among the performers.

So I hung out at the coffeehouse, drinking tea, and I recorded several of the acts. That’s what tapes 0 through 5 are, at least in theory. Tapes I through IV are other stuff I recorded live various places around Bedford. In theory.

So, Tape #0 — I don’t know why it’s zero instead of one. The writing on the box is badly faded, but appears to be dated July 14, 1973. The title is completely illegible. There’s a sticker on the front that says “NEEDS EDITING,” and an insert on lined paper listing songs.

The first forty minutes or so are a coffeehouse performance by a bluegrass band; if they have a name, I either didn’t write it down or it’s in that faded-to-illegibility title on the spine. The tape starts in the middle of a song, so apparently I didn’t get there early enough to set up in advance. There are eleven more songs in the set, including at least one original; they’re mostly classics (“Rocky Top,” “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” etc.), but “Lookin’ Straight Ahead” was introduced as a song Allen wrote (whoever Allen was), and a couple of others I don’t recognize.

There’s a lot of crowd noise; at least once someone knocked over one of my microphones. And the sound quality leaves something to be desired, but I’m hoping I can clean the heads again and maybe get a better playback, because the actual music is pretty good.

One factor to consider: At least nine of the eleven songs are bluegrass standards, and frankly, pretty much any decent recording of them is going to sound much the same — it’s not an art form where there’s a huge amount of individual expression. One rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” sounds much like another.

So maybe I should just get myself an album or two of bluegrass standards and give up on this mess.

But I did edit and save it. It’s not great, but it’s here.

After the bluegrass set ends there are a few minutes of two of my sisters playing the dulcimer and limberjack (an Appalachian toy that doubles as a percussion instrument) and singing “Going Up Cripple Creek” and “Go Tell Aunt Rhodey.”

I saved that simply because I don’t have much by them, especially not from the one who died in 1986.

And then, inexplicably, there’s what I thought was the soundtrack album to “A Clockwork Orange.”

That’s what it said on the list, and it sounded reasonable — but it’s wrong. What I actually have here is “Walter Carlos’ A Clockwork Orange,” which is the album Carlos released because he wasn’t happy with some of what Kubrick did with his music. It’s all the music he wrote for the movie, regardless of whether it actually made it into the film, and doesn’t include any music performed by anyone else.

I have all of Side 2, which I recorded first, and about half of Side 1, which cuts off in the middle of “Timesteps.”

Side 1 consisted of “Timesteps” and “March from A Clockwork Orange,” the latter being (intentionally and openly) heavily derivative of the Fourth Movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. As I may have mentioned some time ago, I had another tape with a few cuts I thought were from the soundtrack, used to fill out a side. Now that I’ve finally realized I was working with a different album I’ve been able to identify all the pieces I had there; three were duplicates I’ve now removed, and two… well, they were actually all one track, “March from A Clockwork Orange,” where I had mistakenly inserted a break during a brief pause.

So I now have everything from that album except the last three minutes of “Timesteps.” The quality isn’t great, but it’ll do.

That’s Side 1. For Side 2 the insert just says “dance music (contra).”

So I played Side 2, and yes, it’s contra dance music. Where the hell did I get this? The sound quality is excellent. On the first few tracks it’s a full band — fiddle, pennywhistle, and I don’t know what all.

The insert says it’s not the entire side, and it’s not — but it’s more than half. Some of the later tracks are just recorder or piano, not the full band.

There were thirteen in all. I saved ‘em, and will see if any of my surviving sisters can identify them.

The final forty minutes were blank.

Another tape done.

The Music Will Never Stop 66

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Oh, dear. The next tape was just labeled “Stuff,” and I had no idea what was on it, but I recognize it. It’s from a drunken prank I played on a friend of mine who was a late-night DJ on WPRB. I really should have confessed the next day, when we were sober, but I didn’t; I made this tape to follow through on it.

The prank was that I told him that I’d found out from contacts in the music business that every song Jim Morrison wrote for the Doors was actually part of a single massive suite that was going to be his masterwork. Except that my victim believed me completely, and wanted me to tell him details.

So this tape is a bunch of Doors music rearranged more or less randomly into a fraction of this alleged “suite.”

And there’s even more crap after it, but this I didn’t remember at first. It appears to be an attempt at improvisational comedy. It’s not quite as bad as the stuff on Side 2 of the previous tape, so far.

Ah, but eventually I recognized the other voice. This is me and Steve goofing on the idea of Gabriel’s trumpet. Steve played Gabriel, explaining that the end of the world was delayed because of a stuck valve on his trumpet; I was an interviewer.

After a slow start, this got kind of amusing.

“…I complained, and asked, why couldn’t it be the last clarinet?”

Steve really got into it.

In fact, listening to it again, I conclude that the worst parts are when I attempted to contribute; the best parts are when I got Steve started and just let him roll. It’s all improvised, ex tempore, but by the end of the bit Steve’s created this entire alternate mythology about how God provides every planet with its own Bible, and how Earth is too new to have ever heard of some of the senior angels, such as Oscar, the former director of the Heavenly Choir, who retired before Earth was created. The trumpet note that destroys worlds is A below middle C, and not being able to play it safely makes horn practice challenging.

Gabriel had originally played the clarinet, it seems, but when his family got him the job destroying worlds he had to switch to the trumpet because God had already written “trumpet” in hundreds of different Bibles and wasn’t willing to change it.

I’m saving this. May send Steve a copy.

The last half-hour of Side 1, after that stuff, was blank, so I assumed Side 2 would be, too.

Wrong. Instead there’s half an hour of me experimenting with an electric guitar, seeing just what sounds I could get out of it. Answer: Some very weird ones. Some of them are still kind of neat. Every so often it sounds as if it’s about to turn into music, but it never quite does. (I never really could play the guitar.)

I’m guessing this was with a borrowed guitar, probably Paul’s; I think this dates to well before I bought my own. Besides, there appears to be a wah-wah pedal involved, and I don’t have one, but Paul did. And I don’t think I can get such interesting feedback effects with my current amp.

I’m saving that, too. I might even find a use for it somewhere on a soundtrack.

After that, the rest of the tape was blank.

The Music Will Never Stop 65

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Well, that was interesting.

The first side of the tape has eighteen tracks, more or less, taking up a mere thirty-eight minutes.

The first five are Martha and her guitar — two originals, a Beatles tune, an old folk song, and a Joni Mitchell number that probably called for a little more range than Martha really had. The song I’ve had running through my head intermittently since 1974 turns out to be called “Photosynthesis” — there’s no enclosure, but inside the box the bottom has a track listing, and the lid has personnel.

The personnel were Martha, me, three of my four roommates, and Nadia Benabid, who was another roommate’s Moroccan girlfriend.

That only covers fifteen of the eighteen tracks, though. The last few were added later. For that matter, #15 is dated February 12.

I’m listed as playing jew’s harp and providing vocals on “Mountain Dew” (track #7), but I’m pretty sure I also played jew’s harp on “San Francisco Bay Blues,” and the unlisted tracks all feature me playing dulcimer.

Anyway. The first five tracks are Martha, then there are two silly group numbers, then Martha and Ray (I think) do a duet of “Mobile Line,” then Fred and Nadia have two and a half duets (there are two takes of “Proud Mary”), then Nadia has three solos — two in Spanish and an instrumental.

And finally there are three instrumental tracks — “Go Tell Aunt Rhodey” and two rather tuneless jams — with me playing dulcimer and Josh playing jew’s harp and Martha (I think) playing kazoo.

Martha and Nadia were both pretty good. Ray was okay. The less said about Fred and me, and especially Josh, the better. The only place I tried to sing was on “Mountain Dew,” and that was because I was the only one who remembered any of the verses, though everyone joined in on the chorus.

I’m glad to have this stuff. This is from about a week before I flunked out of Princeton, a time I get nostalgic about.

The recording quality is mostly quite good. Nadia wasn’t close enough to the mike for her three solos, so I had to amplify them to the point there’s audible tape hiss, but otherwise it’s fine. I did punch up a few tracks a little, just ’cause, but it wasn’t necessary.

As for Side 2, most of it is blank. The box says it’s got the Mothers’ “Over-Nite Sensation” on it, but it doesn’t. The first fifteen minutes or so, unfortunately, are taken up by a failed attempt at comedy by me and my high school friend Glenn Cooper, with a lot of the jokes lifted from the humor ‘zine I published my senior year of high school.

It’s really, really bad. Not funny at all. I’m embarrassed. I’m not going to preserve any of it. It can all go, as far as I’m concerned, and since it’s mostly me (Glenn’s only in about two minutes of it) and Glenn’s dead, I think it’s my call.

So I’m saving the music, and not the “comedy.” I’m debating whether I should erase the “comedy,” just to be sure.