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The Power of Tape, a Meandering Rant from TSF2

Posted on December 5, 2009 | By Patty Pino | 2 Comments

When we were kids, it was all about the tape.  The shift of melody and voices from vinyl to magnetic-coated plastic took rhythm and word from inside to outside.

Tape gave us freedom.  No longer were we limited to music on record players in badly-paneled living rooms, plaid decorated bed rooms, or from the all-too-moist carpeted rec rooms that once were called basements.

Tape liberated us from just listening to the radio.  Now, we could pick music on the go. We brought our collective groove to the streets…
…Eight track tape put professionally recorded music into cars, and cassette tape let us mash together all of the stuff, including our own voices and music, for everyone to hear.

With tape, junior high boys who would never have the guts to write love notes could put together that perfect mix of songs – just enough lovey-dovey with just enough coolness – to entice that special someone to pay attention to them.  With tape, high school parties could happen anywhere, all you needed was a boombox, batteries, and beer.  With tape, would-be comedians could capture entertaining crank calls and launch a Jerky Boy empire.

Video tape moved it all up another notch. Instead of waiting a whole year for  “The Wizard of Oz” on ABC Disney family movie night, we had the power of tape. Empowered to watch munchkins while stoned and listening to “Dark Side of the Moon.”

Sure, tape was fragile and stretchy and heat sensitive. But it was also portable, shareable, giftable, tangible. We hung together with music, with movies, with tape. Scotch tape held all of it together when things got sliced or cracked, or when someone punched out that little plastic recording tab. 

In that fast forward way life moves, there are now tweets, status updates, the ability to share what is on your mind in an immediate, calculated way.  Packaged electronic social life that is allowing us to live with our friends without having to shower. To spend time with people without really paying attention. To filter out the stuff we deem lame. We edit our thoughts before we share them, and call people our friends, even if we haven’t seen them since junior high.

Our music, pictures, videos, and words are all carefully selected and manipulated to perpetuate our collective coolness.  No longer are we in the streets, instead we are in our headphones. Even when we actually do get together, we’re not really in the moment.  We’re anxious to connect with others, frantically checking our metal berries and ego phones for messages from someone more important than the someone’s we’re with. We’re using our thumbs to pull us away, more concerned with what is next than what is now. Our music is sharable only by permission or by wifi. Our gatherings now missing the raw innocence and fragility of the past.  It is all instant, now, immediate, distracting.  No tape required.

Is progress important? Certainly. Is progress regressive? Probably. In the struggle to move forward, we have to make sure we’re not leaving too much behind.


<Were you napping and missed TSF2: Well, At Least We Arent Napping?  Listen now at the link, above, or look for it on iTunes, Monsieur or Madam Laziness.>


2 Responses to “The Power of Tape, a Meandering Rant from TSF2”

  1. Jennifer K
    December 12th, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

    Very interesting post. Several years ago my CD player broke down (and this was just before iPods came on the market). I can’t live without my music, and my funds weren’t quite so flush so I couldn’t buy a new CD player for a while. However, I saved every single musical cassette I ever had, and started to listen to them. Listening to them wasn’t just an enjoyable timewaster. It was also a history of my musical coming of age. And even though cassette tapes are relics of a time gone by, I can’t get rid of them. Whether they were commercially-released tapes of my favorite bands or handmade tapes that dealt with everything from a broken heart to working out, these tapes are a part of me.

    The thing about tapes, whether cassettes or VHS, and about CDs and DVDs is they are tangible. You can actually hold them in your hands. You can’t hold a download whether it’s a song from iTunes or a TV show on Hulu. And when it comes to musical cassettes and CDs I always read the liner notes. I wanted to know who produced the album? Who does the band thank? And what are the lyrics? Yes, I’m one of those weirdoes who is interested in lyrics. Do iPod-devoted kids care about those things? I’m sure many of them do, and if they interested they can always use Google to find out more about their favorite songs and musical artists.

    You’re right progress is important and it’s also regressive. Move forward but don’t forget the past I guess. And because we’re on the topic of tapes you might want to check out music writer Rob Sheffield’s memoir “Love is a Mix Tape.” I actually wrote a review.

    BTW, I was introduced to your blog by the delightful JenX67. Keep up the great work.

  2. Robert LaFrance
    December 16th, 2009 @ 9:12 am

    Thanks for the kind words, Jennifer. I also enjoyed “Love Is A Mix Tape” – didn’t change my life but was certainly an enjoyable read. Keep listening/reading!

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