MEK IT RUN Dennis Bovell, fresh Dub from Pressure Sounds


MEK IT RUN

New Dennis Bovell Dub set,… freshly, from Pressure Sounds, Check it…

Just sent the promo for the latest upcoming Pressure Sounds release, and lovin’ it, lovin’ it, lovin’ it.. Dennis Bovell is a Dubster almighty, ignore at your aural peril… simple as.. currently rinsing my ears out on the way to work and the way back home..

An excerpt from the upcoming releases liner notes…

Following recent neck surgery Dennis Bovell was under heavy medical discipline, amongstother restrictions there was to be strictly no playing of the bass. Now, more than any musician,the bass player has an almost physical connection to his chosen instrument, umbilical even,so the prospect of no vibration sensation was going to be difficult to deal with for therecovering Dennis. Not one to let such news impede his onward path Dennis came up with theidea of returning to unfinished work in an attempt to distract attention from his enforced low-end bass cold turkey.

Down in his musical lock-up lay a stack of boxes containing old 2 inch multi-track analogue master tapes, some dating back to the late seventies; Dennis selected some likely looking titles that never had dub treatment and arranged some time in Neil Fraser’s(the Mad Professor)studio as he knew the Prof had every gadget under the sun, there he”baked”tapes ready for digital conversion via an Alesis HD24 a 24 track, 48kHz hard diskrecorder rescuing the sounds from an inevitable oxidisation process that comes with age. At the mixing end Dennis utilises a whole range of outboard gear from old analogue to the latestdigital sets, explaining the unique and separate end sounds of the dubs presented on thealbum.

Of the twenty odd tunes recovered, sixteen are featured on this set, like dubbing on a digiOuija-board they date from the late seventies through the mid eighties. It was at this time thatdeejay of the day I Roy had first come to the UK to tour, and like all visiting Jamaican stars hepicked up a local band, it just happened to be Matumbi led by the young Dennis Bovell whospent most of his time between the ages of 19 and 25 working with that most intelligent andprolific of toasters. He even recalls I Roy’s first UK appearance being double booked sold outdates at both Battersea and Action Town Halls! Of course, the pair went on to record the albumWhap’n Bap’n together for Virgin, an early reggae rap set that the deejay insisted appear underhis real name Roy Reid, lest his roots credentials were impaired.

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New from Pressure Sounds – LISTEN TO THE MUSIC – CALTONE’S Jamaican 45’s 1966 – 1969


In my opinion Pressure Sounds is the top re-issuer of Jamaican music and has been for some time, rivalled all too briefly by Blood and Fire and only given a run for their money by Rock A Shaka and Dub Store of Japan. Here’s their latest release ready to hit your listening ears.. I got my review copy today and I’m not even going to listen to it before I tell you to go get it.

Pressure Sounds latest as of 19th March 2012

I have their Safe Travel release and it’s essential. Considering all Caltone is essential listening and highly difficult to find and to afford, this release comes as a relief to those of us unable to pay £100 a 7″, whenever anything but the most average Caltone tune comes on the market.

It also comes as a welcome relief to having to listen to the ropey (as in poor sound quality and possible bandulu bizness) double vinyl release that came out a few years ago… Though it has to be saids the sound quality on the review copy of this up-coming release I was sent isn’t the best I think it could have been. Then again, some of the tunes are rare as the proverbial ‘urine of Zeus’.

‘Listen to the music’ is the second Pressure Sounds album of Caltone productions. Following on from the successful Pressure Sounds album ‘Safe Travel’ PSCD/LP47.

Its a 21 track set of tunes that cover the years from 1966 to 1969. From the late period ska years through to early reggae. For the most part the album is full of rare rocksteady gems.

Ken Lack  who founded the Caltone label was a businessman with a passion for music. His connections with Jamaica’s top session players resulted in a series of 45s that were both tasteful and well produced. Included in this 21 track album are tracks by Tommy McCook and the Supersonics. ‘Smooth Sailing’ and ‘Killer Joe’ are both superb horn driven instrumentals. There are three tracks by The Clarendonians led by the vocal talents of Peter Austin. ‘I’m Sorry’ and ‘Lonely  Heartaches’ are top draw rocksteady  songs.  Rare 45s that have never been re-issued since the original Jamaican pressings.

It was Bunny Lee and Phil Pratt who handled most of the hands-on production for Ken Lack although there was undoubtedly much input from Lynn Tait, Tommy McCook and Johnny Moore.

The music, recorded at WIRL, Federal and Treasure Isle studios, is filled with the kind of creativity and attention to detail that has made Caltone records so collectable to this day. When Ken Lack died in 2001 in Miami, Florida of a heart condition he left behind a unique set of recordings and should be remembered for bringing  a more  collaborative and cooperative spirit to Jamaican music.

There is an extra special booklet with many original graphics and photographs.

The mastering is all produced to a high standard and we are very pleased to add this fantastic album to our catalogue.

Track Listing

01. Peter Austin &The Clarendonians with The Ernie Ranglin All Stars – I’m Sorry
02. Lloyd & the Groovers With Tommy McCook and the Supersonics – Listen To The Music
03. Tommy McCook & The Supersonics- Killer Joe
04. Devon and The Tartans – Making Love
05. Alva Lewis with Lynn Taitt and his Band – Return Home
06. Chuck Jaques & with Lynn Taitt and the Comets  – Dial 609
07. The Uniques with Tommy McCook & The Supersonics – The Journey
08. The Kingstonians – Why Wipe The Smile From Your Face
09. The Clarendonians – I’ll Never Try
10. Tommy McCook & The Supersonics – Smooth Sailing
11. The Kingstonians – Love Is The Greatest Science

12. The Clarendonians with The Aubrey Adams All Stars – Lonely Heartaches
13. The Cool Cats – Hold Your Love
14. The Uniques With The Caltone  Studio Orchestra – Do Me Good
15. The Diplomats With Tommy McCook & The Supersonics – Going Along
16. Lloyd and the Groovers with Lynn Taitt & his Band- My Heart And Soul
17. Chuck Jaques & The Supersonics – Now That You’ve Gone
18. Eric ‘Monty’ Morris – Hear Them Say
19. Honey Boy Martin &  The Voices with Tommy McCook and the Supersonics – Dreader Than Dread
20. King Rocky & The Willows with the Super Sonics – You Are The One
21. The Emotions with The Lynn Taitt Band  – Gypsy

‘Looking Back’ – The Jamaican Chart Hits of 1958 & 1959


Fabulous double cd charts the tunes that influenced and gave rise to so much Jamaican musical output.

Just been turned on to a double cd out this year (2011) from Sunrise records, which collects mainly U.S. Pop and R&B tunes that were charting just as Jamaica’s own recording industry was developing into the world dominating force it would become.

Though Jamaica released its first home produced and recorded single 78rpm in 1952, it was the era of Ska music during and post independence that popularised Jamaican music worldwide. In the meantime homegrown sound systems were playing American Pop and R&B hits, interspersed with some homegrown talent & Jazz.

This double cd aims to collect some of those tunes together, many which were the blueprint for future Ska instrumentals, early and later Reggae vocal outpourings and whose influence are still being felt today.

Sleeve notes

Though of course the sleeve notes suffer from being legible only to mice or studious men with thick prescription lenses, such as they are contained within a cd booklet, they are however extensive and an education in themselves. Those that are behind this release have most certainly not skimped on effort!

Tabu

It’s one of very few places (and the cheapest by far) that you will find ‘Tabu’ by Cyril Diaz, the prototype for the Gaylads and then of course Dennis Brown’s ‘Africa’.

Flavour

And if you want to get a flavour for the music that turned Jamaicans on at the end of the 1950s this is a great place to start, and sure beats trying to pick up and pay for US R&B 78s from the USA.

Respect goes to Musical Traces friend Phil Etgart who advised on the project and is quite obviously from the sleeve notes responsible for a good deal of the knowledge contained within them.

Here’s a track list:

HARRY BELAFONTE WITH ROB GORMAN’S ORCHESTRA    ISLAND IN THE SUN
LORD TANAMO    SWEET DREAMING
GENE & EUNICE    VOW, THE
RAYS, THE    SILHOUETTES
BOBETTES, THE WITH THE REGGIE OBRECHT ORCHESTRA    MR LEE
LARRY WILLIAMS & HIS BAND    HIGH SCHOOL DANCE
SAM COOKE WITH THE BUMPS BLACKWELL ORCHESTRA    YOU SEND ME
LAUREL AITKEN    NIGHTFALL IN ZION (AKA ROLL RIVER JORDAN)
CLYDE McPHATTER WITH ORCHESTRA & CHORUS    ROCK & CRY
ERNIE FREEMAN    DUMPLIN’S
JIMMY McCRACKLIN & HIS BAND    WALK, THE
MILSON LUCE WITH THE JOHNNY WALLACE SEXTET    DON’T BREAK YOUR PROMISE
LOUIS PRIMA WITH SAM BUTERA & THE WITNESSES    BUONA SERA
PLATTERS, THE    TWILIGHT TIME
BILL DOGETT    HONKY TONK, PART 1
FATS DOMINO    SICK & TIRED
CHUCK WILLIS WITH THE JESSE STONE ORCHESTRA    C.C. RIDER
NAT ‘KING’ COLE & THE FOUR KNIGHTS WITH DAVE CAVANAUGH’S MUSIC    LOOKING BACK
HUEY (PIANO) SMITH & THE CLOWNS    HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
CYRIL X. DIAZ & HIS ORCHESTRA    TABU
LOUIS JORDAN & HIS TYMPANY FIVE    SHOW ME HOW (YOU MILK THE COW)
IMPERIALS, THE    TEARS ON MY PILLOW
PEREZ PRADO & HIS ORCHESTRA    GUAGLIONE
LITTLE WILLIE JOHN    FEVER
EARL GRANT WITH ORCHESTRA CONDUCTED BY CHARLES ‘BUD’ DANT    END, THE
LAUREL AITKEN    SWEET CHARIOT
COUNT OWEN & HIS CALYPSONIANS FEATURING EUTON GAYLE AND HIS BANJO    HOOL-A-HOOP CALYPSO
JIMMY CLANTON & HIS ROCKETS    JUST A DREAM
LLOYD PRICE WITH DON COSTA AND HIS ORCHESTRA    STAGGER LEE
COUNT OWEN & HIS CALYPSONIANS FEATURING EUTON GAYLE AND HIS BANJO    ISLAND IN THE SUN
PLATTERS, THE    SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES
FRANKIE FORD WITH HUEY (PIANO) SMITH & HIS ORCHESTRA    SEA CRUISE
EARL GRANT    EVENING RAIN
HUEY (PIANO) SMITH & THE CLOWNS    LITTLE CHICKEE WHA WHA
COASTERS, THE    CHARLIE BROWN
THREE PLAYMATES, THE    SUGAH WOOGA
WADE FLEMONS & THE NEWCOMERS    HERE I STAND
OSCAR McLOLLIE & ANNETTE BAKER WITH GOOGIE RENE & HIS ORCHESTRA    HEY GIRL – HEY BOY
LLOYD PRICE WITH DON COSTA & HIS ORCHESTRA    PERSONALITY
JACKIE WILSON    THAT’S WHY (I LOVE YOU SO)
BILLY HOPE & THE BAD MEN    RIDING WEST
LITTLE JIMMY SCOTT    I MAY NEVER (SEE MY BABY ANYMORE)
ERNIE FREEMAN & HIS COMBO    LIVE IT UP (AKA BEARDMAN SHUFFLE)
MIGHTY SPARROW, THE    DEAR SPARROW
LEE ANDREWS & THE HEARTS    IT’S ME (AKA WHAP WHAP)
WILBERT HARRISON    KANSAS CITY
PROFESSOR LONGHAIR    NO BUTS, NO MAYBES
ROSCO GORDON    NO MORE DOGGIN’
DRIFTERS, THE    THERE GOES MY BABY
JOHNNY & THE HURRICANES    RED RIVER ROCK
LAUREL AITKEN & THE BOOGIE CATS    BOOGIE ROCK
LOUIS JORDAN & HIS TYMPANY FIVE    G.I. JIVE
FATS DOMINO    BE MY GUEST
HAL PAIGE & THE WHALERS    GOING BACK TO MY HOMTOWN
HAWKS, THE    I-YI
LAUREL AITKEN    COME BACK JEANNIE
TERRY & JERRY    PEOPLE ARE DOING IT EVERYDAY
GONE ALL STARS, THE    7-11 (AKA MAMBO NO5)
FITZ-VAUGHAN BRYAN’S ORCHESTRA WITH VOCALS BY KENTRICK PATRICK    EVENING NEWS

http://www.sunspotrecords.co.uk/Sunspot_Records.html

The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978 – 1983


The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978 – 1983

 

Interesting compilation coming out on Bristol Archive Records seeing an official release in the early part of next year, though it is available to purchase in advance here – http://bristolarchiverecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-bristol-reggae-explosion-1978-1983

I’ve got a promo copy for the car and have particularly enjoyed Ressurection’s – Four Point Plan, apparently Ressurection featured a young Rob Smith on guitar, he’s better known now as Smith of Smith N’ Mighty, reknowned remixers. Like a lot of good things, he hails from Bristol.

Bristol is and was one of the important musical and particularly Jamaican musical hotspots in the UK, and alongside Birmingham and London is was where it was all happening back in the day, check out your intro into the Bristolian affect on this release, heartily recommended.

Here is what the label says about it:

THE BRISTOL REGGAE EXPLOSION 1978-1983

Released on CD, VINYL and DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

Release date 21st February 2011

From Pop to Punk, the late seventies and early eighties saw a huge explosion in the number of local bands as more and more people thought they’d give it a go, new studios and independent labels weren’t far behind and Reggae wasn’t going to be left out of the musical mix.

If the majors were even aware of Bristol they showed minimal interest and it was left to the bands themselves and the handful of indie labels to document Bristol’s contribution to what was then a vibrant UK Reggae scene. Working on tight budgets and with no money for marketing campaigns local bands managed to release a small, but steady flow of vinyl, mostly pressed in tiny quantities and often sold direct to fans at gigs, these records, although cherished by those who own them, and sought by those in the know, have been largely ignored by the wider music industry.

Fortunately Bristol music has its own champion in the shape of Bristol Archive Records, a label with a mission to share our great musical heritage with the world, “The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983” is the first and only attempt to document the local Reggae scene from the late seventies until the early eighties. With the exception of the Black Roots tracks none of the recordings have ever been reissued and all were originally released before CD had been launched, so this is their debut in the digital format.

The music itself reflects the dominance of the Roots style in Bristol, even today Roots is by far the most popular type of Reggae in both the retail and live scenes locally, Black Roots live up to their name and show why they were the equal of any UK Reggae band in their day, Talisman, Restriction and 3D Production follow in their Roots footsteps, but a real highlight of this release is the inclusion of the ultra rare “Africa Is Our land” from Joshua Moses, a UK Roots classic. Bristol wasn’t all about Roots though and the other tracks follow a more mellow template, dealing with love and relationships, both Talisman and Joshua Moses show another side to their music and are joined by tracks from Buggs Durrant, The Radicals and Sharon Bengamin who’s “Mr. Guy” is a classic UK Lover’s track in the mould of Janet Kay, Carroll Thompson, Louisa Marks et al.

“The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983” will be released as a fourteen track CD, but you can’t have a proper Reggae release without it being on vinyl so there will be a very limited vinyl pressing featuring an eight track selection and just to keep things local the sleeve art is a mid-eighties carnival shot from Bristol’s own Beezer, (www.beezerphotos.com), featuring a classic image of Jah Revelation sound-system.
This release will shine the spotlight on a long neglected corner of the UK Reggae scene and Bristol’s musical heritage, the same music that would help underpin Bristol’s musical dominance in the following decade.
www.bristolarchiverecords.com

credits
released 21 February 2011
The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978 – 1983

Track listing:

01. Black Roots : Bristol Rock (Bunny Marrett) (Arranged by Black Roots) p Nubian Music 1981

02. Joshua Moses : Africa (Is Our Land) (Joshua Moses 1978) p Copyright Control 1978

03. Talisman : Run Come Girl – Live (Taylor / Talisman 1980) p Recreational Music 1981

04. Restriction : Four Point Plan (Restriction 1983) p Unitone Publishing 1983

05. Black Roots : Tribal War 12” Mix (Black Roots) p Nubian Music 1981

06. Restriction : Restriction (Restriction 1983) p Unitone Publishing 1983

07. Joshua Moses : Pretty Girl (Joshua Moses 1979) p Unitone Publishing 1979

08. Talisman : Wicked Dem – Live ( Taylor / Talisman 1980) p Recreational Music 1981

09. The Radicals : Nights Of Passion ( John Carley 1980) p Copyright Control 1980

10. Sharon Bengamin : Mr Guy (Unknown 1980) p Unitone Publishing 1980

11. Black Roots : Juvenile Delinqent (Black Roots) p Nubian Music

12. Buggs Durrant : Baby Come Back(Home) (Errol Williams 1983) p Unitone Publishing 1983

13. 3-D Production : Riot (John Carley 1980) p Third Kind Music 1980

14. Talisman : Dole Age 12” Mix ( Joseph / Talisman 1981) p Recreational Music 1981

Tracks 1, 5, 11 originally released on Nubian Records
Track 2 originally released on More Cut Records
Track 3 and 8 previously unreleased Live Recordings
Track 4 and 6 originally released on Restriction Records 1983
Track 7, 10 and 12 originally released on Shoc Wave Records 1979, 1980 and 1983
Track 9 originally released on The Bristol Recorder 2 1980
Track 13 originally released on Third Kind Records 1980
Track 14 originally released on Recreational Records 1981

Track 1, 5 and 11 Engineered by UK Scientist, Recorded at The Facility, Produced by UK Scientist and Black Roots
Track 2 Engineered by Dennis Bovell, Recorded at Gooseberry Studios London, Produced by Dennis Bovell
Track 3 Recorded Live at Glastonbury Festival
Track 4 and 6 Engineered and Mixed by The Mad Professor, Recorded at Ariwa Sound Studios London, Produced by Restriction
Track 7, 10 and 12 Produced by Gene Walsh, Recording location unknown
Track 8 Recorded Live at Bath University
Track 9 Engineered and Produced by David Lord at Crescent Studios Bath
Track 13 Recording location unknown, Arranged and Produced by Ron Green
Track 14 Engineered by David Lord at Crescent Studios Bath, Mixed by UK Scientist, Produced by Talisman and UK Scientist

All tracks re-mastered by Steve Street, July 2010
All Rights Reserved

P c Bristol Archive Records 2010

Thanks to

Martin Langford, Steve Street, Sam Giles, Gene Walsh/Joshua Moses / Shoc Wave, Brendan, Des, Denison / Talisman, Jabulani Ngozi / Black Roots, John Carley, Rob Smith / Restriction, Adrian at Great Bear, Lloyd Harris / Chris Parker/Recreational Records, Alfredo / Nubian Records, St.Pauls Carnival Office / Steve , Thomas Brooman CBE / The Bristol Recorder People, Gary Chapple and “all the musicians who played on these tracks”.

Photo credits: Thanks to the original photographers and artwork designers with whom copyright remains on their work

Front cover image Beezer

Artwork by samgilesdesign@gmail.com

This album is dedicated to Mark Simpson and Trinity Hall

Bristol Archive Records, July 2010
www.bristolarchiverecords.com
email: info@bristolarchiverecords.com

Early UK Catalogues for Jamaican Music


Melodisc, Rio, Blue Beat, Ska Beat, Dr. Bird, Island, Pyramid, Sue

On a recent visit to see Phil Etgart a well known Jamaican music collector I was told of a wonderful story of how Phil, shortly after buying a collection of records received by post a packet full of Lists and Catalogues from the seller. A packet containing lists of releases by some of the rarest and now most sought after labels in the history of Jamaican music in the UK. I’ve always had a  love the ephemera releated to the music, hence Jamaican Label Art a site I started with another mate, Ian Causer, and it’s with great pleasure and Phil’s permission that I post these here for you to see.

Calypsos from Jamaica on Ritmo


Calypsos from Jamaica – Ritmo / Sounds of the Caribbean

Calypsos from Jamaica is an album worth having for the cover alone. It has been released at least twice, on two different labels and with differing cover art. I believe the Sounds of the Caribbean release is the second of the two. From memory it does not mention that it is recorded in Jamaica B.W.I. (British West Indies), only that it is from ‘Jamaica’, which may infer that it was released after independence. The second release has a rather plain cover and is nowhere near as colourful and attractive as this classic of album art. Perhaps times had changed since it’s first release and a cover that featured artwork that has more than a dash of racism about it’s artwork was considered inappropriate?

The lack of any track listing on both Lps makes it difficult to work out exactly which singers should be attributed to the songs that are shown. I have attempted to create one here, utilising Roots Knotty Roots the guide to Jamaican single releases compiled by Bob Shoenfeld and Mike Turner and my own knowledge such as it is. I hope that those of you who either own the Lp or wish to will find it easier now to match the singers, with the songs.

Bob unfortunately is no longer with us, but Mike’s work continues with Algoriddim and the creation of an online Jamaican Single Release Discography. Those of us who regularly leaf through the paper copy will certainly enjoy the prospect of an online resource.

The rear of the Lp lists a few artists that are on the Lp, but un-helpfully, not all of them. Those artists are – Lord Flea, Hubert Porter, Wigglers and Lord Lebby, all well-known Mento’ists and Calypsonians.

Details of the two different issues are thus:

1st Issue (Above)

VINYL    LP    VARIOUS ARTISTES, LORD FLEA, HUBERT PORTER, LORD LEBBY    – CALYPSOS FROM JAMAICA  –  Label =   RITMO    Catalogue number – 12-503    LP  A Side Matrix 12 503 A1 Producer? (Ken Khouri) / Released in the U.S.A.

2nd Issue

VINYL    LP    VARIOUS ARTISTES – CALYPSOS FROM JAMAICA – Label = SOUNDS OF THE CARIBBEAN  –  A Side Matrix slp 734 a 1-14-71    Producer? (Ken Khouri) – Released in the U.S.A.

Tracklisting:

A1    HUBERT PORTER    – RUM AND COCONUT WATER
A2    LORD TICKLER    – LIMBO DANCE
A3    HUBERT PORTER & HIS JAMAICAN CALYPSONIANS    – NOT ME
A4    LORD LEBBY    – DR. KINSEY
A5    LORD FLEA & HIS JAMAICAN CALYPSONIANS    – SOLAS MARKET / WATER COME FROM ME EYE
A6    HUBERT PORTER & HIS JAMAICAN CALYPSONIANS    – MARY’S LAMB
B1    WIGGLERS    – LINSTEAD MARKET / DAYO
B2    HUBERT PORTER & HIS JAMAICAN CALYPSONIANS    – OLD LADY YOU MASH ME TOE
B3    WIGGLERS    – JAMAICA MERMAID
B4    LORD LEBBY & HIS JAMAICAN CALYPSONIANS    – MAMA DON’T WANT NO PEAS NO RICE
B5    HUBERT PORTER    – TEN PENNY NAIL
B6    HUBERT PORTER    – MISS GOOSIE

All the songs appear to have been originally recorded by one producer Ken Khouri, and most of them originally released on 78rpm on the Jamaican ‘Kalypso’ label and also on the U.K. based ‘Times’ label, and one or two also in the USA on ‘Ritmo’, which would tie in nicely with the 33rpm Lp release and possibly help to confirm it as the 1st of the two known pressings.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Jamaican Mento / Calypso then Mike Garnice’s web site Mento Music is an excellent place to find out more. http://www.mentomusic.com/

The Lost Art Of Tape Compilation


The Lost Art Of Tape Compilation

It seems like too many years ago now that amateur compilers enjoyed the vagaries of the Tape Cassette. Introduced in 1963 it became a popular way to record and store recordings from the early ’70s onwards. In a moment of daydream, thinking about how things have moved on and how we now compile to iPod, other MP3 players or to CDR I thought it would be interesting (probably only to me) to re-visit the moment when any musically mad bedroom dweller could be the next best thing to a real record compiler, offering to his or her friends small glittering gifts of musical knowledge, taste and inheritance.

Recorded Memories

I think I saw my first tape cassette, along with it’s player in about 1973-’74, when as a young kid growing up on Pennington Bend, Nashville Tennessee I recall spending long hours facinated by how I could talk, or shout (more accurately) into a small microphone attached by a spavined lead to an even more decrepit recorder, one of those that you had to depress the play and record buttons with a loud ‘Kerrchunk’ before it would creakingly deign to come alive and record my squeeky, and later, very American sounding voice. The voice of a kid, the voice that I listened to 20 years later and then never again as the tape stretched, slowed in that, I just can’t get there quickly enough to press stop way, bust and refused to be repaired. That was the thing about cassettes, once they went, that was it, few had the tape editing knowledge or equipment, to open the blighter and repair the damage with a splice or three.

As we all grew up, tape cassettes became a way to prepare for adulthood, to record our own voices, a way to pretend to DJ radio shows (in my case) or to record for all posterity our supreme taste, our genius like knowledge of music and to enhance, by their dissemination our un-assailable place upon the podium of ‘Most Knowledgable Musical Mind’ at the yearly, I’m just a kid in my bedroom awards!

Compiling Music for others pleasure

The process of creating a Tape for a friend should never be entered into lightly, there were many reasons for creating one. Here are just some reasons why you might want to spend the time and effort in the first place.

1. To impress a girl (or boy), to share your inner most soul by some unspoken shared ‘musical language’, hoping that the baring of your soul, expressed by the selection of tunes on the tape would unlock some hidden majical connection between you both and she (or he) wouldn’t be able to resist the power of that mutual recognition. This provided any shy young boy or girl an ideal way to make contact with the frightening, yet promising opposite sex, without the horrific terror of having to actually express what you felt, verbally, and in the moment. Just why I once truly felt that ‘The Prisoner’ by Iron Maiden, or ‘Breast Cancer’ by Peter and the Test Tube Babies was going to cement a long term relationship that included the electrifying and urgent possibility of real live sex, is now beyond me.

2. As a simple introduction to someone new. If music is really important to you, and it’s very important to me, then a tape was a great way to say who you think you were and define yourself for all the world to see. Somehow, sending someone to your Last Fm profile to see just who you’re currently listening to seems to me at least, much less significant. For a start you have to make a tape, and as you’ll see later, that’s no mean feat.

3. To excuse laziness. Compiling a tape gave you an excuse to stay in your Bedroom, or Lounge if you were a bit older, and travel through the musical world, looking for new tunes, playing old ones. An excuse to spend time doing what you really liked to do, listen to music, but to listen with some sort of purpose separate from pure laziness and indulgence. Though indulgence is probably exactly what wasting too much time compiling a tape really was, it certainly made you feel a little better if you were riddled like a wood boring worm be-speckled timber from the ship wreck of the Mary Rose by Protestant Work Ethics.

4. To Pretend. When you were compiling your tape, you could pretend you were putting together the next most important record release on the face of the planet. A carefully compiled tape cassette could rival any professionally produced double Lp set, and as Cassettes ranged in length, you could choose the ideally suited C90, with ninety minutes of recording time, it was perfect for recording what would have amounted to two Lps, one for each side of the cassette. Alternatively the C60 was slightly less perfect for a full Lp, one imagined side for each side of the tape cassette. But more of choosing your ideal length later (oh Missus!).

5. Yes I could go on, but you get the idea . . .

Selection

The first step in producing your tape was to have some idea of what should go on it, you could go by theme, genre of music, favourite tunes, new tunes, whatever floated your boat at that moment. Most important though was to to design that particular ‘release’ for it’s intended listener, to avoid your own ego and to think about what they would prefer, what they would respond to. For example I recall putting together a compilation, doing so at a time later than the tape cassettes heyday, actually, in the heady days of Minidisc compiling (but we’ll avoid that chestnut shall we?) for a friend called Mike. Like myself both in name and musical taste Mike loved Jamaican music and more than I, Soul. The selection I eventually chose included a hearty grab at a few tunes on the record Darker Than Blue put out by Blood and Fire records and others I found laying around the place/ it remains, probably, the best compilation I’ve ever done, and I wish I had a bloody copy!

Quality

Initially there was only the normal Ferric Oxide to use for your craft, however later cassettes could be compiled and then recorded on Chrome Oxide, producing a much more responsive recorded frequency range to the signal you supplied it when recording and also less background noise.

To Dolby or not to Dolby

Dolby noise reduction, as far as I’m aware was invented to help tone down the background hiss (noise floor) of Ferric Oxide tape. It was considerably noisier than Chrome. There was initially only one option, on or off, but later we were offered a confusing three types of Dolby noise reduction on our tape recorders. A,B and un-remarkably – C. I never quite understood what they did, they seemed to cut down background hiss when used, and yet they really badly affected the frequency response, dulling the recording and muddying it’s sound. I never understood if I should use Dolby at the recording stage, the playback stage, or at both stages. Thus I finally decided after experimenting that I would not use it at all, but instead I’d spend the extra few pence on Chrome cassettes, I’m guessing this is what everyone did!

Manuals never seemed to explain, so even the most anally retentive of tape compilers, and I’m proud to say I think I’m one, never quite got it!

Running Time

Timing was also an important element of the selection process to consider, ideally you wanted to have a selection as close to your cassette’s capacity available for inclusion. Remembering that though a C90’s length should be at least 45 minutes on each side, often it was quite a bit longer, allowing for the risky business of overrunning on purpose, however this was a thing to be considered by the ‘pro’ compilers only, beginners be wary.

Because of the average running time of the Vinyl Lp some tape cassettes were timed to provide the perfect partner for a bootleg recording of said Lps. This links the cassette indelibly with another dinosaur of a lost aural world, the 33rpm record, an object so completely fetishised that many online music sites offering electronic downloads represent the download link with a picture of you guessed it …. a record. Long dead Vinyl is still the very embodiment of what music means to us, and by us, I mean our future, the kids, the iPod generation. Sheeesh.

Flipping the Tape, where to stop and where to begin again?

The next most important thing was to remember that your tape was going to need to be turned over for the B side approximately 45 minutes after you started it. Thus you had to consider making certain that there was a suitable gap in your playlist, where side A’s recording could be finished and side B’s begun. So you might have 10 tunes for side A, the last of which finishes at a total time of … say… 49 minutes, the tune before it would take the total time to only 40 minutes, there were always some difficult decisions to be made in this instance! You could replace the last tune for something that timed better, but shouldn’t ever have for-gone the playlist’s coherence just to make your tape time better! Alternatively you could risk the overrun, or finish early. If you stopped the tape early though what happened was that you had to FF (that’s Fast Forward to non tape’ees) to the end of the cassette, then flip it. This was an inconvenience to be avoided if you wanted to be considered amongst the best of the amateur set of cassette creators. So what other options did you have? Well, you could flip the cassette just as soon as the end of the tune that was running a bit short of the tape’s end and then rewind a couple of inches of the cassette on the side you were about to record on, put it back in the deck, press record and pause and get going again.

Tricks of the trade

If you’d got this far it’s likely that you’ll have encountered a few of the tape cassettes jolly little traits along the way, such as, Jamming, Tightening Up, Breaking and Twisting. < Have you noticed that those few words of description are all either styles of Dance, or references to Reggae songs!

Jamming – Jamming was most normally caused by tightening up inside the case, if you had this happen I found that, three sharp bangs on a flat surface and then twisting the cassette by gripping the two opposite ends and rotating in opposite directions works well. Alternatively fast forward and then rewind the entire tape. If it continues to be a problem, throw it in the bin. If it continues to be a problem and it was once amongst your favourite cassettes, cry and then throw it in the bin.

Tightening Up – See Above

Breaking – If the tape snaps, you were generally done for, but you could if you were really determined, repair it. This was done by drawing the two opposites sides of the break carefully out of the cassette, then gently sandwiching the two between the thinnest sellotape you could find, splicing the bits together and then praying to your chosen deity to keep them together while you made a back up copy of your precious recording. A ghetto blaster recorded bootleg of ‘Hawkwind live at Stonehenge‘, where a bloke nearly gets knifed right next to a mate of mine called Chris by an Hells Angel, was saved in just this manner. Obviously you don’t want to do this too much as I’m certain the abrasive qualities of sticky sellotape are not appreciated by your tape deck’s playing head.

Twisting – Twisting was truly the most frustrating of all the fault peculiarities of the tape cassette. It looked like an easy problem to fix, nothing about it suggested the hours of tortuous ‘fixing’ you were going to have to go through in order to finally give up and throw in binwards. Twisting happens when the thin magnetic tape of the cassette somehow, it’s a bloody mystery how, falls through the moulding of the body shell of the actual ‘cassette’. It then becomes (in my case) permanently twisted inside the cassette. If this happens to you, believe me, GIVE UP trying to repair it, cry, hit walls, whatever it takes to get over your loss, and throw it … urm… binwards… again.

The Insert Card

The insert card opens out for the artistic amongst us a gamut of possibilities. Generally you could plumb for two approaches,

1 – The detailed approach, Tracks / Artiste, where they were gleaned from, how long they were, what time they could be found at on the tape, that sort of thing. 2 – The artistic approach, giving free range to those of us, who not only thought we were the next best thing to a real record compiler, but also those of us who thought we’d be the next Rothko, or Keinholz, Robert Crumb or Bridget Riley.

And finally..

Somehow I just can’t imagine that compiling a list of tunes for a 60 minute CDR, burned to Red Book format in audio, or throwing unlimited amounts of tunes on an iPod means as much as the well chosen tape compilation once did. Somehow the process encouraged detailed thought, well considered choices, timing and choices over the quality offered. Now I wonder if I should encode at 128kbps or 192, and if the CDR I’ve just burnt should have a crappy jewel case, or and even crappier plastic sleeve. Either way my CDR compilations are already ignored, getting scratched and laying in piles with no sleeves at all and, even though I have nothing to play them on currently, my Tape Cassettes are in the Attic, in their cases, replete with liner notes, stored thoughtfully, away from strong electro magnetic sources.

Putting a tape together was a real joy, an art, an indulgence and a great way to meet chicks (not!)

post script – if you want to manually rewind your tape cassette you will find and average sized hexagonal pencil absolutely perfect for the job!