Saturday, 10 September 2016


I must have spent at least half of my life collecting and taping songs, singles, albums, and radio shows, and I have quite a collection going back almost 30 years. The problem is, of course, in this digital age, that old cassette tapes are not the best way of listening to great music and certainly useless in listening on the go. Even my old Walkman struggles these days to play them and you can tell by the way they make artists like Frankie Valli, for example, sound like a baritone and great guitarists like Gary Moore sound tone deaf and instead of hearing that guitar weep, it complains about being dragged through an old defunct machine.

Every LP I ever bought, or borrowed, was immediately taped and there was a time when I used to make up a compilation tape to give to someone who in return would make me up a tape with tracks that I might not have heard of before. Swapping tapes was a great way to discover "new" music or artists that I didn't know. To my shame, I must be the only person in the world to have Blackstar on cassette tape. My son loaned it to me and when I said I'd tape it, like many people he asked why when he offered to put it on a disc for me.

I realise that these days there are so many digital ways to play and save music that tapes are almost as obsolete as sending a letter carved in stone - or even sending a letter via snail mail - but not all modern CDs play on my old machine so I have no choice but to put them on my computer and then an MP3 player and that then causes problems when I want to play them without having to put earphones in. I do have a good pair of speakers my IT focused son bought for me but they don't quite have the gutsy, deep and booming sound of my Ghetto Blaster or old hifi stacking system. I don't have an iPod and wouldn't know what to do with one but I can't deny how easy it is to transfer a digital CD music to a USB.

My son was telling me that it would probably be impossible these days to transfer these old tapes onto anything digital but then he did a Google search and found a gadget that would do the job, so I bought it and have spent the last couple of days recording my tapes to a USB which I can then put onto a computer and transfer them to an MP3 and then put it back into the gadget, which is a bit like a digital Walkman, so that I can play them without earphones - but then it also plays the tapes so why should I bother?

The sound quality, clearly, is not as good and so I decided to transfer only those tapes that I don't have in duplicate on CD. I then began to think that it would save time if I could buy online the tracks or albums that I only have on tape and then download them or buy the CD. However, after finding that one of my favourites, Billie Holiday Greatest Hits is so overplayed and worn out that there is now some horrible high pitched squealing noise that is the only thing that can be heard, I realised that I have to buy it again and it took almost as long as recording the tape to find it and then set about ordering it. Even though there is an MP3 download available, for some reason, Amazon won't let me buy it.

It then occurred to me that to find and replace all of the tracks or albums that I only have on tape could take the other half of my life to collect again and cost a fortune in the process. In addition, some of the tapes I have got, especially those I acquired through tape swapping, have no information about artist or song title. One of those is a compilation tape called Reggae and Not Reggae. Most of the Not Reggae songs are identifiable but many on the Reggae side have been taped from tapes, that were themselves taped from tapes, from a friend who used to be with someone who had a DJ slot called Reggae Night at an old club in Lincoln called Lazers.

And then there are the 11 tapes I recorded from the old Rankin' Miss P Radio 1 shows of the 1980s and then edited down so that only the tracks were on tape and the velvety voice of the presenter introducing the songs was edited out. I'd never know what some of the more obscure tracks on there are called to be able to replace them and it would probably take more time in this world than I have got to just identify and find them all.

So, after some days now of considering this, I have decided that it is probably a good idea to transfer them to something digital but maybe the digital something needs to be better than the new gadget I have got. I have noticed new players on the market that look like my trusty old ghetto blaster that also have a USB port in them as well as a tape and CD player too. Perhaps this will be the solution to my problem of trying to update music recorded in what now feels like prehistoric times.

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