Was reading about the lost art of cassette tape spines at Dangerous Minds. Silly little bit of nostalgia, maybe,but it brought back some memories.
I have sooooooooooooooooooo many of these…Found a mess of wonderful compilation tapes I made back in the 80′s (before they were even called mix tapes) and I don’t even know what all the music is, even though I made them. I remember watching High Fidelity and knowing how infinitely cooler, crazier and non-bogus my compilation tapes were than their weak record geek little things. And I didn’t need no fucking theme either. Then again, mine weren’t plot devices. And it was a good movie. But I’d never invite any of those losers to a party at my place. Jack Black maybe, if he promised to be an asshole. None of the sensitive little fucks, tho’. The world is full of sensitive little fucks, and they all irritate me. Anyway, some of the tapes I found have this stoned spine art, of course. I can’t really get into the mindset of the stoner cassette (or K7, to use 80′s hipster speak) spine artist, tho’. LIke what was I thinking. Did we really have that much spare time back then? What a lazily analog world that was. We read books. Whole books. Imagine that. And we hung out and talked with people we actually knew, and could even reach out and touch, especially if we were drunk and they were female and probably played bass in a band.
And then the non-DIY variety cassettes used to be something you could pick up for a quarter (as in two bits, not weed) at your local used record store. They’d be tucked away in some hard to find nook, the shame of the store (8-Tracks you couldn’t find at all, and reel to reels were under glass, with gramophone cylinders and music rolls and quad LPs). Suddenly cassettes are collectible. Why they are collectible I have no idea. But they are. I asked my brother why. He said because they’re analog. I said but they suck. He said yeah, but they’re analog. I said but it’s such a lame technology. He said but they’re analog. I changed the subject. But it’s a shame. picking up some obscure jazz release on cassette for a quarter was s small thrill. But I will not pay three dollars for a John Coltrane cassette, I’m sorry. That is just stupid. Four bits I’m OK with though. But anything more than that seems fundamentally wrong. So I stopped seeking out the corner where they hid the cassettes away. But I have too many cassettes already. And having any cassettes at all is having too many cassettes. Not that I’m getting rid of them.
Part of the problem is that it’s virtually impossible to actually play them anywhere. I still have my ridiculously fancy double cassette deck I bought cheap in the technology’s final throes. It has all these sad features that attempted to match CDs. You can program a cassette and it will play the tunes in any order you want. One tune will end with a loud click, then the machine will whir, click, whir again, click again, and another tune will come out. All these tunes off a cassette played in random sequence. Both sides. Side A, track three followed by side two track seven followed by side one track one. Whatever. It seemed so sad and pointless. LIke making a really nifty adding machine to compete with calculators. A slide ruler that glowed in the dark to compete with personal computers. And I consider it a tragedy that cars no longer have cassette players built in. Best was a cassette/CD player. Ideal would be cassette/CD/mp3 player. Of course now cars come with a built in computer. So you have CD/mp3 player/infinite variety of web-based music. Which is when you crash the car. So you hire a chauffeur. A french maid/driver combo, ideally. She cleans the upstairs, she drives the BMW. So the perfect car would have a cassette/CD/Mp3/internet/chauffeur/french maid combo. With a back seat quintet option. For those warm summer nights on a wide open freeway going nowhere fast and East Broadway Run Down blasting from the back seat, live.
Maybe a motor home would be better. Can you imagine anything cooler? Hauling ass across the Mojave at three in the morning,, the craziest shit happening right behind you. That long sleepy night time stretch between Baker and State Line, all the scenery, the long dead volcanoes to the south, the vast beds of ancient lakes, the desiccated mountains all not there at three in the morning, utterly gone,, and you’d be ensconced in that driver’s seat, drinking coffee but thinking of whiskey and behind you some handpicked players playing as long. long set, hundreds of miles worth of jazz. Inner Urge? They’d tear into it. The Bridge? Like you’d never heard it. Giant Steps? Need you ask? Then next stop 88 miles and they break into East Broadway Run Down and you’re barreling past all those goddamn trucks. You’re flying. Like this is the most righteous motor home ever. It’s maxed out, tricked out, pumped up, and fully stocked. There’s a bar, a bartender even, and it’s like a 747 lounge but way cooler. I read about a party Jackie Gleason threw on a train from New York City to Los Angeles. A solid week of a rolling righteous party. People got off that train and they died right there in Union Station of shock. Too many sober people. Bad for the system. Well I’d throw a motor home party and zig zag across the states with live jazz and beautiful scenery and local eateries and picnics full of leftovers and produce from farmer’s roadside produce stands. Stop late at night, sit round a fire and talk and talk. Drinks, marshmallows, the sweet smell of reefer coming from somewhere. Low volume chatter, people are sleeping. Early next morning we’d relaunch with a scatter of gravel and an open road. Put something into the cassette/cd/mp3 player. Something easy to start with. And more coffee. There’d still be a little pink in the eastern sky. No fixed direction, no plan, no nothing. Just moving and looking and breathing all that air. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere the band would start., just jamming on a blues. A long lazy trumpet solo. A river off in the distance. Mountains ahead. A fork in the road. Someone flip a coin. Let or right. East, west, north, south. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. Just keep moving and jamming and living a crazy, beautiful life. Of course there’s the money thing, the reality thing. But if I were a Herb Alpert, say, that is what I would do.