when i was packing/getting rid of stuff prior to the recent move, i came across my cassette tapes.

those of you who were born in the 80’s probably never had to use tapes as a medium to listen to music. heck, you probably had never used (the shortlived) minidisc, huh?

i remembered it was the in thing to make cassette copies from CD’s as a student in the late 80’s/early 90’s. as an impoverished student, i never had the chance to buy a decent stereo with a CD player, let alone a set of hi-fi separates. so, tapes for my walkman it was. if you remembered your tape walkman from days of yore, you’ll fine a dolby NR button, which muffles the sound as opposed to properly reduce the hiss found on pre-recorded tapes. the trick is to not buy pre-recorded tapes, but to buy blanks and pretty much copy a CD onto it. welcome to the proto rip era, way before the mp3 was dreamt up by the engineers at philips.

the best recorder to use was a separate tape deck with a noise reduction facility, which came as either dolby B or C (fancier ones has the more superior dolby S). using a separate CD player as the source, you could get it to find the loudest point in a CD, which then plays the point as a loop. you could then adjust the input level of the tape deck so as to reach the desired maximum noise level. we used to buy either blank chrome (type II) tapes, or metal (type IV) if we felt a lil’ kinky. these tapes have a superior quality over the bog-standard ferric tapes. the maximum level of the sound allowed without distorting the quality was different (two red bars for type II and three for type IV). the tapes also came in various total playing times. my personal favourite for a mixtape was 90 minutes, and if i wanted to rip a whole album a 74-minute (the average time for an album) tape was also available.

i still utilised this technique up to like 7 years ago. apart from the walkman, my car had a tape player so i need a non-CD medium, in addition to my then growing CD collection (which exponentially rose since 1995). for some of my tapes, i enjoyed making DIY tape sleeves with mock lists and copied credits. until recently when the internet was more widespread, i would even have downloaded photos on them.

i think my last ever tape rip was when i first saw pearl jam, when i taped the show on my MD player using an old sony stereo pocket mic, which i then ripped onto tape so that i could mail them to my mates.

but hey, that was then. now, it’s merely clicking your mouse over the rip button on your iTunes. heck, even tenclub lets you buy pristine bootlegs the night after a pearl jam gig. kinda takes the fun out of it, doesn’t it?


which brings to me to an observation that i made over the years. as a student, hi-fi separates were all the rage. yet, nowadays you get PC’s hooked up to 7.1 speakers in student digs and nary a CD in sight. i still buy CD’s, despite my dalliance with the mp3 format. my excuse with mp3’s is that it’s merely payback for the some of the shite CD’s i got in the past (see how many i have, good ones included, and you see what i am talking about), on top of the fact that i am malaysian (you know what i mean here!).

then you get a band like radiohead eschewing convention, giving away in rainbows for essentially nothing (62% did just that, although thom yorke says otherwise, according to last sunday’s interview in the observer). rightly so, some feel this won’t work for new up and coming acts as they just cannot financially afford to do what radiohead had done, social experiment or otherwise. however, i have to say the recent experiment (yesterday was the last day to do so) speaks volumes – there is a significant number of the music-loving population who wants music for nothing, rightly or wrongly.


“so I downloaded a couple thousand songs off the internet! who hasn’t? WHO HASN’T?”

– glen whitmann, played by anthony adams, from the transformers

watch this space, that’s what i say.