Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Rediscovering forgotten music...

Posted 7/26/16 (Tue)

Several months ago I found a Kenwood cassette deck on eBay for a great price and ordered it to go along with an already astounding Kenwood radio receiver that has provided endless entertainment in the form of FM radio.

I wanted a tape deck because upon a thorough cleaning of my garage, found a tomato box full of cassettes that I hadn’t played in a very long time.

I knew they were in the garage someplace, but didn’t remember specifically as it wasn’t a high priority. After opening the lid on that box, I just wanted to play some of the tapes again because my old cassette deck broke down years ago and was never replaced.

Over the 4th of July weekend, I finally got the opportunity to play some of those tapes and listen to a lot of music I liked when I was younger... and I still like it.

I posted a message about this on Facebook and have received a boat load of responses

I don’t know if the Kenwood deck is superior quality or if the tapes are superior quality, or a combination of the two, but most of the tapes I chose to play over the long weekend sounded fantastic.

One could argue they won’t sound as good as CDs because CDs are digital and tapes are analog, but they sound as good as they ever did.

When I started digging through that box, I found about 100 titles, some that have been forgotton and some we still hear on the radio. Some of them are so obscure, I had forgotten I had them.

Does anyone remember Jim Stafford and a song he sang called “Spiders and Snakes?” There’s a whole tape of similar music.

Many of us think that Elton John got started when he released an album called “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” in 1973. I found the tape, which is actually his seventh release. I also found “Madman Across the Water” and “11-17-70” from 1971 and “Tumbleweed Connection” from 1970.

Chicago is another band that once had a huge following. I found a couple of their tapes that I don’t think I’ve listened to since I saw Chicago in concert in Fargo in 1990.

There were also a couple that didn’t sound as good as I would have hoped. Since my wife and I both like swing music, we picked up a Glenn Miller tape and later the same CD. I played the tape over the weekend, and unfortunately, it is distorted. It’s certainly playable, but isn’t as crisp and clean as the CD sounds.

There was also a Little River Band tape that sounded really muffled and worn out.

What I was really amazed with is in blank tapes I recorded myself from albums.

In October 1979, I purchased a new MCS stereo system that J.C. Penney once sold. I still have it and use it exclusively to listen to Toronto Blue Jays baseball games.

Back then, there was a popularity contest with Maxell, TDK, Memorex, BASF and Sony tapes. After playing around with all of them, I narrowed my brands down to TDK and Maxell. It must have been the right decision because those tapes have held up remarkably well in humidity, extreme heat, extreme cold and yes, plenty of playing time.

Most of the tapes I recorded were from the early 1980s and most of them were on Maxell tapes.

There are five TDK tapes that I recorded in December 1979 that included a mosaic of music from various albums that I liked, but not necessarily the entire album.

I listened to three of the five 90-minute tapes Sunday while I was getting items ready for this season’s farmers’ markets and I was able to turn up the volume without any notable distortion.

It’s just amazing to me that recorded music can sound that good that is coming from what is considered by most to be an obsolete system.

The biggest surprise, however, was the tape of a Beatles album I recorded on a Maxell tape in May 1976. That tape was recorded on a Sony stereo system that I had while I was in high school.

Even though it was taped 40 years ago on a decent quality cassette tape, but on a mediocre system, it still sounds good and is also worthy of higher volume sans distortion.

Looking at all the titles and listening to some of the music reminded me that recording music was something I once liked to do for myself and my friends. I took it seriously and must have done a good job because of the sound that is still good after 37 to 40 years.

Nearly all of the music I recorded came from albums that I bought when I was a kid. albums I still have. I can’t wait to peruse through them.