Thursday, February 4, 2010

Analog kids...

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the time or energy to write, but I need a little catharsis at the moment. I see underneath is the farewell to MLR piece, which was a difficult thing to put to bed, but we needed to reshuffle the deck and take a leak, but the dealer has called us back to the table….more on that soon! Today’s thoughts are brought to you by the good folks at Facebook.

Facebook has created this really strange universe where characters from all my 41 years show up with an electronic spray can and periodically toss up some relevant graffiti, on my wall (I guess that’s why Facebook calls it a wall!). Mitch Hedberg once said “dreaming is like work, I want to go to sleep and next thing you know I gotta build a go-kart with my ex-landlord”. Facebook is like that, seeing my niece, a friend from the 80’s, and an MLR listener interact is a bit surreal. Maybe it’s crassly trendy, or perpetual performance art.

Recently, I was tossing out old cassettes that had experienced magnetic shifts, changes in temperature, and the absolute cruelty of time. Old friends that had "given up the ghost" as it were. I was lamenting the thought of the mix tape or compilation tape as a lost art form. It was brought to my attention that a digital version is superior in matters of sound quality and continuity, not to mention ease and time. I contend that it was a matter of inspiration in making it great. The difference was the creation in “real time” making the finished product a matter of dedication…for at least the length of blank space available…90 minutes was my canvas of choice.

The thread eventually morphed into a discussion about LPs and album covers, and the ritual of buying new music. The loss of physical medium in the consumption of music…even the death of a concept like “Side 2”.

I’ve commented hundreds of times over the years that I don’t ever remember being bored, especially as a kid or teen. I used to spend countless hours staring at the ceiling with a favorite album, or a new one, reading the album cover, liner notes, credits several hundreds of times. Some random things I know over the years from my obsessive vinyl youth:

I know the mailing address for Warner Brothers Records, but can’t remember my own.
The best photos were taken by Barry Levine.
The Columbia House version had a plain white sleeve.
Red Apples mean it’s over.
Phil Chen was the bassist on every record.
Side 2 and Side B are the same except for a difference of 5 inches.
Home taping is killing music.
If you trace the logo, you’ll dent the cardstock.
If you buy a used gatefold at the flea market, it will have pot in it. Really old pot too!
Germans don’t rhyme.
Every album was mastered at Criteria in Miami.
K-tel could fit 20 songs on a record with smaller grooves, compression, and quick fade edits.
Cellophane tape will turn yellow.
The artists name in pen increases value, your name in pen decreases value.
Kiss uses Gibson guitars and Pearl drums exclusively…

Here is the Reader’s Digest version of the thread thus far…

John O'Brien: I was an artist at one period of my medium was Maxell XLII, a black Sharpie, and 90 inspired minutes, with only one interruption...the flip.

Tony From Kansas City: You can still be an artist. Keep the Sharpie, use a blank CD ROM, take away 10 of the inspired minutes but have no interuptions.

John O'Brien: But it took 90 minutes to make, like a performance...feeling nostalgic for the cassette-era. We'll never again have "Side 2". I still have my vinyl, and that puzzled look on my son's face...Son, this is an album cover, a 12x12 cardboard carrying case for your soul!

Tony From Kansas City: Do you remember going to a record store on release day? I used to treat those Tuesdays like they were a national holiday. In the summer time, I was there when the store opened. During the school year, I acted sick to get Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil. That 12 X 12 carried my soul.

Chris Karlik: I still have some of your "art", Johnny. You were ahead of your time

Tom Degan: I miss opening a brand new vinyl LP.

John Mahoney: So sad that in only a few short years of their existence that we are more or less eulogizing the cassette tape..I also remember the Tuesday that Fastway released "All Fired Up"..I was there in the A.M. at Record Bar in Clearwater; FL. in my parents Ford Ranchero to get the LP. Problem was you couldn't hear it until you got home. You could only stare at the front and back covers at the traffic lights. I miss the innocence of outdated technology.

Loki: Miss the "innocence" of demo tape trading and DIY artwork too.

Tony From Kansas City: Mahoney, I remember taking records to school so we can exchange them overnight with friends. Just like you did at traffic lights, between every class, I would go to my locker to get a quick glimpse of the liner notes. By the way, it takes the bond of a close friend to lend one's vinyl.

Tom Degan: You've started a very interesting thread here Johnny. One that is bringing back too many memories to even count. DAMN! I haven't given up on the old cassette! Although the burned CD sounds somewhat better, the cassette is a lot more rugged. You would not believe the trials that some of my casstette tapes have survived.

John O'Brien: There was a time when purchasing new music was an event. The suspense of the promise of greatness. The eloquence of well written liners or the "in-jokes" in the thank you list. The album covers introduced the initial landscape of the sound, but your imagination put on the show. I would cherish the opportunity to stare at a popcorn ceiling for 45 minutes lost in a complete LP start to finish. Or watching that apple spin round and round whilst the masters held class...


  1. It's interesting. Surface noise on a vinyl LP used to annoy the hell out me. Now it soothes me - like logs burning in a fireplace on a crisp winter evening.

  2. I know what you mean John. I feel like it's immoral to listen to Triumph And Agony on anything other than cassette or vinyl, because otherwise you won't get to hear Doro saying "Hey, turn it over..."

  3. Why no posts in one year, one week, and one day, Johnny?

    This is a damned good blog!

    When you have a chance, check out some of the things I've been working on lately:

    All the best,



...and your thoughts?