I thought I would take a deep dive into 3 particular tapes that Alan sent me that were influential in my life and hold a special place in my heart.
Alan and I were friends in school in the glory days of Michigan and have been friends ever since, even across the miles and years. He and his family moved to Denver and we were separated. In order to keep in touch, since we had been playing with tape recorders, we decided to make tapes back and forth like letters.
He made his first one in the car as he and his mom drove to Denver after I watched them drive away from his townhouse complex in Ann Arbor. That’s us on the cover.
These tapes became a vital part of my life. They were of course updates on his life with sometimes lots of info, and sometimes just him sitting in his room listening to music and talking about nothing at all really. Each one was precious and I am not exaggerating when I say that there were many low days in my life where the sound of Alan’s voice was what I needed to get me through. Having them handy was an audio life-preserver. Thank you for that my friend.
These tapes started simply, just talking and playing music in the background. Then as time went on we started putting music on the tapes as well. Now the quality of a lot of these tapes was marginal at best. We intentionally went for cheap-o tapes as neither of us had much funding, so the quality was sometimes sketchy, but we couldn’t afford Maxell. I have written about the digitizing of these tapes, which I determined to be necessary for saving them as at that time we were going on 30 years for some of them. More than one broke, or needed the tape pad glued, or broke off of the spooler when it got to the end. It was a labor of love.
Having them digital allowed me even further access to them when I wanted. I even put some on my phone, including “Lost In My Mind” the first tape I want to feature here. I wrote about it when I put it on my phone.
I received this tape from Alan I believe in 1980. This is also part of the process, trying to pick out any info that might help nail down the date of the tape since in those days it didn’t seem important. That’s me though, the archivist. On Side Two he is listening to the radio and there is an advertisement for Jethro Tull coming to the McNichols Sports Arena. So I did some digging and found that they played there in 1980.
Also on Side Two Alan mentions that he will be wearing his KC helmet to school since some people are wearing Phillies hats. Turns out this was corroborating evidence of the year.
So this tape was likely recorded in October of 1980.
Here is the cover. Drawn by Alan.
Tape # 12 – Lost In My Mind
Side One of Lost In My Mind is Alan playing DJ. He announces the songs, has some local news and plays some great music. Here is the breakdown:
Fly Like An Eagle – Steve Miller
-DJ Talks “Local Boy Accident”
More Than A Feeling – Boston
Love On The Telephone – Foreigner
-DJ Talks “Beatles”
Orion – Jethro Tull
-DJ Talks “Sugarloaf”
Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You – Sugarloaf
Hey You – Pink Floyd
Fool In The Rain – Led Zeppelin
-DJ Talks “Electrical Problems”
What A Fool Believes – The Doobie Brothers
These 8 songs were played over and over again. They were the perfect songs for the time and I still love listening to it. There was something about the familiarity with the songs and Alan’s voice afterwards that just made it like emotional butter. It was an instant classic.
Then came Tape # 26, called “Walk This Way”
This tape was a full tape of music with Alan speaking between tracks to announce them, this time his voice was right up front, perhaps he used the stereo, either way, the sound was like a pro job. This time music was on both sides and it was a wide range of sounds and artists. Behold:
Aerosmith – Walk This Way
Aerosmith – Back In The Saddle
Yes – Roundabout
Paul McCartney Interview snippet
Chicago – Harry Truman
Chicago – Any Way You Want
Elton John – Daniel
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
Fleetwood Mac – The Chain
Bob Seger – Night Moves
John Yoko Snippet
Elvis Costello – I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down
Blue Oyster Cult – The Revenge of Vera Gemini
Dan Folgelberg – Heart Hotels
Emerson Lake And Palmer – Piano Concerto No. 1 (First Movement: Allegro Giojoso)
Emerson Lake And Palmer – Cest La Vie
Emerson Lake And Palmer – New Orleans
Emerson Lake And Palmer – Pirates
Billy Joel – Sometimes A Fantasy
When this tape came into my life, of course, I loved it. I have a distinct memory of playing it in the basement of our Conway Bay townhouse, playing the whole tape over and over again. Alan didn’t speak as much on this one, but he broke in 6-7 times to announce what was coming up, or what we had just heard. The track he played by Emerson Lake and Palmer “Pirates” was a 13 minute sweeping affair that was perfect for the time and kinda blew my mind. It sent me on a spree of ELP albums.
The second recollection I have is of having it and playing it at my dad’s apartment in Mishawaka Indiana. It was one of the few tapes I could play when he was home. He wasn’t always a fan of my rock and roll, but this was a nice collection he could enjoy. It reminds me of summer days there.
Again, I could put this tape on in my room on my auto reverse tape deck and just let it play for hours. It became imprinted on me. The music and voice a familiar friend. I played it for anyone that came over. Ultra classic. I also think I played in the background while I made a tape for Alan, thus incorporating it again.
Which is a perfect segue for the last tape I wanted to highlight here on the blog.
Tape # 29 – Mike’s Revolution
This tape was an analog feat of production and engineering that has yet to be topped and likely never will since we don’t do analog anymore, but even to this day when I listen to this I am amazed at what Alan was able to put together.
The gist of this tape is that Alan used 2 tape recorders and his stereo to put together an audio montage of multiple of my tapes playing at the same time, interspersed with music and other sounds from TV and records. It is an audio masterpiece. My voice fades in and out the music sometimes takes over then fades and is replaced by random sounds and then my voice returns. I have listened to this uncountable times and there are very few breaks in it, evidence that this was pulled off in almost one hour-long stream of audio experimentation. Given the analog limitations that we faced during that time it still amazes me what he was able to do.
There is Beatles music from “The White Album” interspersed (this was a HEAVY Beatles phase for Alan) and there are occasional interjections from Alan’s voice, but primarily it is my early tapes. It was surreal when I first heard this. Mind blowing from the simple press record and talk style tapes we had been doing. Over 30 years later I still get chills listening to this. It is a true artifact.
For these tapes and ALL the tapes you have sent me over the years I must say a deep and humble thank you. These sometimes silly, sometimes pithy, sometimes music filled tapes have been a constant in my life to enjoy when things were good, and to help bail me out of some deep holes on occasion after occasion with your voice and laugh and simple “How’s it going?”
You could not possibly know how much I love them all.