Friday, September 14, 2007

Thrift Store Archives: Mystery Tape (Reel-To-Reel)

Mystery Tape-Go Away Little Girl (excerpt) (1mb)
Music and music formats were always a part of my childhood. We always had records, 8-track tapes were plentiful, most cassette decks had one speaker, except for the Sony component deck my dad had with his quadraphonic record player. The cassette deck was in stereo though, but it had one of the BEST pause buttons I had ever seen. I say this because I would fool around and make my own mix tapes, and in time some of my Saturday fun would involve making goofy edits of whatever records I had nearby. It would be awhile before I did those edits rhythmically, and for years I thought I had invented this style of song extension, where a five section portion of a song could go on for five minutes, ten minutes. It may have taken three hours, but it was great to play the final tape and have them hear something that had not existed. Little did I know that there were thousands of music geeks like myself doing this thing called pause tape mixing, and that many of us who produce/make beats started out this way.

In my childhood, I also saw my share of reel-to-reel tape machines. My uncle had one and he would use it for "special listening". Unlike a record player, which I was allowed to use at home, I was never allowed to use my uncle's reels. NEVER. This was high pro, at least to my eyes. A few of my dad's friends had reel machines in the living room next to the turntable, and I always wondered why my dad never picked up one. My dad was a big car and motorcycle buff, but he also loved his music, but any money he had extra would go into fixing cars and bikes. When there was a bit more, he would buy a new album. In a good month we'd have about four to five new records, my mom would be the one to buy me 45's behind his back, because at a young age I was already becoming a music junkie. However, reel-to-reel tape machines were way beyond our means, and I would later find out why: they were very expensive.

The first time I would have a chance to play with reel-to-reel tape machines was when I was in Radio/TV Production Class in high school. Between 1986-1988, everything was of course done in analog, including the production of commercials and promotional service announcements (PSA's). Being a Beatles junkie, the thing I wanted to do was record my voice, then flip the tape around so I could hear myself backwards. In truth this was nothing new, since in intermediate school I had a friend who was of the church, and he taught me a way to unscrew a cassette, flip the tape upside-down, and do it that way. By flipping it upside-town, we are now hearing the other, unplayable side of the tape, and it sounds completely muffled. By doing this, you can hear a muffled version of what was recorded, but backwards. Apparently for the church, this was a revelation, and it was possible to hear those messages from Satan himself.

Anyway, back to school. I had already made tapes of myself at home, so working with a reel-to-reel tape machine meant "professional". I wanted to be a recording engineer once I got out of high school, and this was a chance to play with the tools of the trade. I made a few interesting tapes, especially when I was able to make the tape feedback upon itself. I thought it was cool, I could now make my own "Revolution No. 9".

Well, I didn't go to the Art Institute Of Seattle to become a recording engineer. Instead, I bought a hell of a lot of music. Being a fan of experimental and avant-garde sounds coincided with me becoming a genuine thrift store junkie. This would involve exploring the world of dead formats, which included 8-track tapes and reel-to-reel tape machines. I eventually found a Sony mono reel-to-reel machine from the 1950's or 1960's for under $10, and with the abundance of discarded reels for sale, it would end up being my way of making the music on some of my first albums.

I would also look for 8-tracks and reels not only for music, but to find custom made tapes that may have home recordings, anything odd and unusual. I did this not only for my curiosity, but if they were good I could sample them in my own music. This is when I came across a random 3 inch reel.

With any tape I bought, I would play it to see if there was anything worthy. Most of the time it was familiar music, but there was one 8-track tape which featured a young woman singing to a Kansas song. I put this on one of my tapes, and that was that. A few years ago I discovered that an MP3 of a woman doing the exact same thing had been widely circulated online. I am almost certain that the source of that recording was from my album which used the tape.

But back to the random 3 inch reel. I put it on the machine and played it. Silence for about a minute, and then the sound comes on. A girl (age unknown) says she is going to sing "Go Away Little Girl". She and her sister begin to sing, and it's a bit cute, as they stay on key and tempo. Before the song completes itself, it is interrupted by the girl in question, who now sings a very different tune, a more sinister tune to the sister who was just heard on the tape. The sister is calling her sibling a pig, "Piggy Renee". She stops singing, and now we hear what seems to have been recorded as a personal message to her sister: "you know what Renee?" For the next few seconds this girl rips her sister verbally. No "swear words" or anything, but she's steamed and she lets it all out. We hear the reason for her anger, and this MP3 is an excerpt of that tape, and in truth it is most of the recording that was on the tape. It goes on for another 15 seconds and I can only assume that as she was recording this message, her sister walks in the room and she begins to sing a few lines of "Go Away Little Girl" again, before concluding with and that's all, thank you.

The tape and the box it was in had no handwriting or date, so I have no idea who this girl is, where it was recorded, or when. This is very different from those Recordios with personal messages for family members and/or friends, this is a homemade recording made by an angry girl because her sister... well, you'll have to find out.

And that's all, thank you.

No comments: