Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Caught In Amber

A nice diversion from all the strife that has currently been assailing Bloggertropolis Towers has been the discovery of how easy it is these days to convert old C90 cassettes into a digital format that I can play, modify and edit on the ol’ PC.

Back in 1989 when I was a somewhat awkward, repressed, geeky, closet-extrovert teen, me and a good mate of mine spent every Saturday evening for a month or two adlibbing comedy, songs and general testosterone fuelled mayhem onto C90 cassettes. I had at the time purchased one of Alan Sugar’s finest creations: a home studio 4-track recording unit replete with turntable and twin cassettes and input jacks for just about everything.

If I remember rightly it cost about £499 and looked like a Borg spaceship (hello Star Trek fans). I had visions of... I don’t know. Certainly not making it onto the music scene. Possibly not even making it onto the comedy scene. I think all I really wanted to do was alleviate the dreary scene in my head of being stuck at British Telecom for the rest of my life being ungainfully employed as a telephone operator.

In many respects they were dark days. The job was awful. Sheer anathema to an obsessively creative type like me. I was spotty and painfully shy around girls. And not much better around blokes I didn’t know (which, let’s face it, was most of them). I lived with the ever-abiding fear that I would die a lonely old social outcast and would never ever have a girlfriend. My best mate at the time, Dave, was probably not much better off socially – though he wasn’t bad looking, could sing and seemed to have a natural flair for learning to play the guitar.

And yet I remember those days very fondly. We were relatively carefree and our troubles at the time – in retrospect – were minor and bound to come good just by having a little patience and waiting for life to take its course. Whilst I couldn’t sing or instantly play the guitar like Hendrix I did have a frighteningly egotistical sense of humour which seemed to burst into life as soon as any recording device was placed in front of me and switched on.

Somehow a double act was born and over the space of 3 months Dave and I must have amassed nearly 12 hours of the most inane, embarrassingly juvenile recordings ever committed to magnetic tape. We did impressions, told jokes, made up songs and murdered existing ones by recording our own lyrics over the tops of the originals. I can lay personal claim to having murdered Bono and lyrically shitting on his grave on at least five separate occasions.

And then the recordings stopped. Dave got a job as a postman and got himself a woman. For some reason that diverted his attentions elsewhere. I’m not bitter but I do blame Dave unreservedly for ruining our chances of getting onto the telly or the radio. Because, to be honest, Rik Mayal’s and Ade Edmondson’s “Bottom” wasn’t that far removed from the type of material that Dave and I were coming up with off the top of our head’s week after week.

Well. So we thought at the time.

The tapes were mixed and then stored away. I even made covers for them. They lay forgotten for years gathering dust.

And then finally in 2011 the cost of technology had dropped so much that a simple tape to mp3 converting device set me back no more than £25. It was something I’ve always meant to do. Future proof all those Derek and Clive moments.

It doesn’t matter that the jokes are bad. That the ethics and sensibilities behind them are as blunt and callous as any teenager’s – we knew little of the world though thought we knew it all. It matters not that some of the verbal outpourings that came out of my mouth now make me cringe and want to tell myself to shut up...

They are little time machines. Moments in time – whole evenings – captured and held in amber. Exactly as we used to be. Without edits or cuts or a single layer of varnish to make any of it any more or less palatable.

I love them dearly, those recordings. They make me smile and frequently make me laugh.

We had something special, Dave and I . We really did.

A friendship. And it’s nice to know that it’s still there (if you’re reading this, Dave).

And no. I will not be posting excerpts of any of the recordings on this ‘ere blog.

I have something now that I didn’t have back then.

A reputation.

(Though do feel free to tell me I’m wrong.)



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29 comments:

Heather said...

you great tease! Fancy all that and not letting us hear them. Tut.

Wanderlust said...

What?! You're not sharing? You big tease.

Steve said...

Heather: trust me. I'm saving you from myself.

Wanderlust: I'm thinking of setting up a pay per view on YouTube.

Gorilla Bananas said...

You're right not to publish them - they're like a holy relic of your innocent beardless past, when you could make fart noises without feeling like a prat. Leave them to the historians of a future age.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: I'm glad you have given them the reverence they deserve. I look forward to them being dug up by a cyber Tony Robinson in the year 2212 and puzzled over for the following millennia.

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Ahh the halcyon days... It must be great to look back and remember your youth like that, a bit different from wading through old photos but just as rewarding.

Please stick one on your blog.

Steve said...

Very Bored in Catalunya: I'll think about it. I'm open to financial bribery and sexual gratuities.

And, yes, that includes you, Rol.

Jon said...

I'd agree with the Japing Ape - best to keep these things under wraps. Those who were there will remember, and that is really all that matters.

Steve said...

Jon: you're a very sensible chap!

Alienne said...

Maybe you could use them to blackmail Dave ....

Owen said...

Fabulous that tapes can be turned into MP3, and old negatives can be scanned into .jpg files, as we journey ever deeper into the digital age. And no harm surely in mucking about in the deep dark distant past to see if it still has any relevance to today's complicated world...

Löst Jimmy said...

Let's be having a sample of that youthful anarchy, let the audience decide!

the fly in the web said...

Better start canvassing the American universities now before you become famous...you could get quite a deal...

Being Me said...

Not even if we nag you until you do? I just have one request: Any gratuities Rol enters into with you, can they please be kept OFF the blog? Thanks ever so.

Steve said...

alienne: he'd have more scope to blackmail me, believe me.

Owen: I'm not sure if our material was relevant at the time let alone in the 21st century!


Löst Jimmy: I just might lose my audience as a consequence!

The fly in the web: where there's money there's jackass?

Being Me: I could always record the transaction and post it on YouTube...

Marginalia said...

Thank God you've saved us the horrors!

A telephone operator? I bet you looked a treat as you talked breathlessly into the phone.

Nota Bene said...

Well that's just brilliant. And you definitely should do a post including them. Have you forgotten those Pete and Dud tapes? Your reputation will only be...erm...erm...erm enhanced...erm

The Poet Laura-eate said...

So the next Pete and Dud never emerged from their crysallis owing to a postman job and a girlfriend!

How sad.

By the by, what is this amazing £25 conversion device as I have lots of old music tapes taking up far too much room (not my own, I hasten to add), which could do with converting to an MP3 format.

Steve said...

Marginalia: I'm sorry you've been disconnected.

Nota Bene: forgotten Pete and Dud? No fear. Dave and I paid them every homage.

Laura: here it is - Tape converter.

Suzanne said...

I used to have a cassette recorder with built in mic (get me!), and I would while away many a weekend singing and recording silly jokes into it with my friend.
I also have fond memories of a couple of boys making me mixed tapes for me. Those were the days.
I hope that your little wild horse is finding his way, and that you and Karen are Ok.I could do with some sort of instruction manual for my 15 year old son if it's any consolation... probably not :)

Steve said...

Suzanne: oh what fun I would have with such a device! I loved recording myself as a teen - I have several videos of me and Dave too. They also need converting somehow... Little 'un doing much better this week. So far anyway. Touch wood, his good progress will continue. I'm afraid regarding teenhood... you go first into that adventure.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Cassette tapes? I can remember recording onto reel to reel! Do you think your new gizmo could tackle them too... Er, I guess the original player/machine still has to work as well.

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: reel to reel? Sadly not! The device is kin to a walkman... but there must be technology available to convert your tapes. It seems to be all the rage these days.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Probably could get it done by a recording studio I guess. I am a bit of a Luddite when it comes to technology. But I do remember hanging out with guys like you - comedy routines, gags, and now I see it in my daughter's teen friends too. They put it all on Facebook and YouTube!
Great to hear that things are looking up with Tom :-)

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: I bet there are places that advertize online for transferring old media to new - Dr Google will have an answer somewhere.

Keith said...

Ah, the wise old man looking back on the juvenile ramblings of his youth, and thinking back.... que wavy line effect, and then the handsome actor playing you steps out of the car and looks up into the sunlight bouncing off the windows of his future...

lunarossa said...

I was hoping your very interesting rambling would prelude to an excerpt of your old tapes...Come, just a short one! Btw, I'm still waiting for your novel...Ciao. A.x

Mark said...

I've been converting old video taples (nothing dodgy mind - which is a bit sad now I think of it) - and like you said: moments captured in time. Can make me quite tearful.

Steve said...

Keith: ...just before I get run over by a number 57 bus.

Lunarossa: I emailed it to you a while ago; have you not received it? I'll try again over the weekend.

Mark: yes, mine make me cry with embarrassment too.