Blasts From the Past

Recently, I was clearing out some old files on one of my Macs at the office, and stumbled across a couple dozen audio files that were just labeled “rec 1”, “rec 2”, etc.  Intrigued by the uncharacteristic vagueness of the file names, I opened a few to hear the contents. Within a few seconds it became clear that these were files I had digitized from my cassette tape “archive” I had accumulated from the mid 70s through the early 80s. But these weren’t songs from Styx or Boston or Queen. These were works I had created in my bedroom studio while in high school and college – everything from very rough song demos to aural experiments to fairly full-blown finished songs. (Some of the later works were started at home or on location, then finished at a 16-track studio in Toledo, where I worked after college.)

Obviously, much of the work was very rough and it would be overwhelmingly embarrassing to have them heard in public. Some were very personal and never meant for any ears but my own.  But I did manage to pull a few items out of the cobwebs and post them here for your enjoyment. And by ‘enjoyment’, I mean ‘hysterical laughter’.  Just keep in mind these were created between the ages of 15 and about 21, with some pretty marginal gear, and even more marginal talent.

1. This was a cover of the Average White Band song, as performed by me (guitars & engineering) and 5 friends during the summer of ’76, I believe. This was the first ‘real’ attempt at recording something. I transcribed all the parts from the original recording, and we recorded everything in my bedroom. The “multi-tracking” was achieved by recording the first pass of guitar, bass and drums on my brother’s Sony reel-to-reel recorder, then playing that back and adding the other guitar part, keyboard and horns, to a cassette recorder. Then playing THAT back and adding percussion and hand claps. (Can you say “tape hiss”?) Wow. It wasn’t pretty, but it’s all we had to work with. Enjoy.

2. OK, I have no idea why I named it that. I guess there was a cornfield behind our house, and that’s what I must have been looking at from my bedroom window when I was trying to think of a title for this. This was recorded around my senior year in high school, if I recall correctly. It’s all me on guitars and bass. But I think this was one of the first things I recorded on a used Dokorder 4-track machine I purchased from a newspaper classified ad. Keep in mind, the process for many of these ‘songs’, was to roll tape with a vague idea in mind, play one instrument all the way through, then go back and add other parts (basically making them up as I went), and then see what I end up with. So, no real arranging went into these early works. Obviously.

3. This one may have a name, but it escapes me right now.  But what I do know is this must have been recorded shortly after I took delivery of a Korg Guitar Synthesizer. It was a fairly revolutionary device for it’s time (1979 or 1980.) Basically, you plugged a guitar into it, and it would trigger one of a handful of synth sounds, with minimal controls for adjusting the sound. Oh, and it was monophonic, which meant you could only play one note at a time – no chords. Again, not a lot of planning here. This was more of an exercise in exploring different sounds and textures. I believe the ‘inspiration’ for this came from a book I had just bought on the subject of home recording, and it came with one of those thin, flimsy plastic records (like you used to get on the back of a cereal box). One of the demo songs on there had a tune similar to this and it seemed like a good starting point.

Well, I think that’s enough abuse on your ears for one day. If I get feeling brave, maybe I’ll post some more. Let me know what you think.