Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Family Stuff Tape

Someone recently used one of my audio clips in their podcast (specifically the Nirvana interview with my mom) and it reminded me that I haven't posted anything from my personal collection in quite some time. So, let me introduce a cassette that I created 21 years ago:

There's all kinds of scraps of stuff on here ranging from school concerts to my dad arguing on the phone with my drunken uncle. It's all here, preserved in living mono.

As a child and a teenager, I recorded damn near everything. If I had a video camera, I probably would have recorded even more. However, that didn't happen until I was about 17 years old, and my fascination with recording everything only lasted for about a year after that.

My recording obsession as a teenager got to a point where I had blank cassettes loaded up in various recorders all around the house. I even wired up a concealed microphone in the kitchen to record various stuff my parents said and argued about. Some of the more funny moments were preserved on the "Family Stuff" tape. My mother eventually found the microphone and angrily ripped it off the wires.

When I was about 13 years old, I hacked an old answering machine and modified it to play regular cassettes over the phone line. I also hacked it to be a telephone recorder. It gave birth to a whole new dimension of recording things, and I recorded a LOT of things. I have cassettes full of conversations with girls I had crushes on, prank phone calls me and my best friend made, and of course conversations my parents had with other people.

I'm bringing you one of the more interesting and funny moments from the Family Stuff tape. Most of it is clips of my mother conversing with her screwball friend Kim (you can read her journal here.) There's one collection of snippets here where I added my own stupid commentary. I think I was about 14 years at the time.

Anyway, enjoy the sample of the Family Stuff tape.

Listen to it here!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

50 Top Hits of 1972

Many, many times I will pick up a cassette, a tape, or even an LP and it will have a title that's something like "Top hits of 1975 volume 16" and I know that the chances of me tracking down the other 15 volumes are pretty slim. In this incredibly rare case, I have all three volumes. I found them at an estate sale for 25 cents each. I'm only guessing that listening to these crummy tapes shortened the guy's lifespan, so if you care about your health, feel free to skip over this entry. I've got one foot and two hands in the grave already.

There were a lot of really good songs that came out of 1972, and I know probably 75% of the songs in this collection. That's why I put the entire set up for downloading. That's right, you get 50 hit songs done remotely in the style of the original artists for FREE! You can't even get a great deal like this from iTunes or Amazon! These are the real deal! Well.... they're the cheap imitation deal, but it's FIFTY FUCKING FREE SONGS! Load up your iPod and groove away to the cheap imitation sounds of 1972! They're grrrrrreat!

I'll have to give Avenue of America credit for two things. First of all, the sound quality of these recordings is actually pretty good. It doesn't sound like it was recorded onto a piece of string. The second thing I'll give them credit for is not chopping any of the songs between programs. The task of splitting fifty songs equally into 12 programs requires someone who knows his shit, so it's no doubt that they hired a mathematician who studied clocks for five years in university. I hope they paid him well. They probably didn't though. He probably sued Avenue of America after that. That's probably why they don't exist anymore.

Now that we've given credit to Avenue of America in the areas they did well, it's all downhill from here. Let's go through the tapes one by one...

Tape A
AVE 8X-3703-A
Download it!

This tape is probably the least painful of the three because the songs are actually duplicated not too badly ("How Do You Do" is a good example of this). But there are some painful moments. For instance, I absolutely love The Hollies, but this version of Long Cool Woman has a guy who sounds NOTHING like Allan Clarke. He sounds more like a fat black dude who drank a few too many beers. The evidence of alcohol is very clear because he fucked up half the lyrics.

Listen to Long Cool Woman

The next example I have is the Rod Stewart song "You Wear It Well". It barely sounds like the original one. The singer sounds identical to Michael Bolton. Perhaps it is Michael Bolton. After all, good old Mikey was into Rock n' Roll before he turned into a fucking pussy. Don't believe me? Look up the band Blackjack. It was actually pretty good stuff.

The instrumentation on this song sounds like the band smoked six joints before going into the studio to record it. I'm guessing that Avenue of America made enough money selling these tapes to maintain the studio musicians' drug and alcohol addictions.

Listen to You Wear It Well

Tape B
AVE 8X-3073-B
Download it!

And we blast into tape B with the incredibly amazing smash-hit.... Amazing Grace??? I had to verify it, and yes it was a hit in 1972, bagpipes and all. This song is so fucking annoying that I genuinely wanted to take a hammer and smash the end of the cartridge that was sticking out of the end of the player. But if I did that, I wouldn't have been rewarded with the other amazingly bad covers on this tape.

Let me be blunt and say that any bagpipe version of Amazing Grace is interchangeable with another bagpipe version, so this might be the original hit version for all I know. I almost find it hard to believe that a little recording studio functioning out of a shit house had the resources to locate someone who owned and could play a set of bagpipes. Anyway, feel free to skip over this one. There's nothing amazing about Amazing Grace.

Now I generally hate Eric Clapton's music, but Layla (the Derek & The Dominoes version) is a cool song. Thankfully, they cut the atrocious version on here nice and short. No piano solo part because they'd probably fuck it up and start playing something else like Beethoven.

It seems that these cheap imitation companies like to pick on Elton John quite a bit. Poor guy. Tape A has Rocket Man, Tape B has Honky Cat (spelled "Honkey" here to correct any desire you may have had to pronounce it incorrectly). Tape C contains "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar". Oh wait, that might not have been Elton John.

The first song I'm going to feature is an atrocious cover of Elvis Presley's "Burning Love". The guy doesn't even try to sound like Elvis and it sounds like half the back up singers are missing due to their paychecks bouncing. The more likely story would be that a couple of the married studio musicians dragged their wifes into the recording. Those poor women probably though they were marrying REAL rock stars. I'll bet they're divorced now and took their husbands for the fortunes they made while becoming hit sensations under the wing of Avenue of America.

Listen to Burning Love

And we plow through other crappy covers like Alice Cooper's "School's Out" and Ringo Starr's "Back off Bugaloo" (does anybody actually LIKE that shitty song?) We finally get to a man who sings like a pedofile-ish Mr. Rogers performing what is probably my least favorite song of all time.... The Candy Man! I'm surprised nobody shot Sammy for doing that song. I really, really hate it. If you wanna hear it, you'll have to download the tape because featuring ANY version of that song would bring shame upon this blog, and I just can't afford any more shame here.

It's rare that you can find someone covering a Neil Young song who doesn't do a better job of it. Well, I found one! This guy sounds like he just doesn't want to sing it and puts very minimal effort into it. Luckily, these musicians don't get fired for doing a bad job. As I've said it before, these tapes were released solely to make money. This guy could have farted the lyrics and it would still get released.

Listen to Heart Of Gold

Tape C
AVE 8X-3703-C
Download it!

We arrive at the last tape! It's been one hell of a rocky ride, and the ride gets even rockier with this tape. First of all, this tape had quite a bit of damage when I ripped it apart to do the typical maintenance I do on every single 8-track I get. The tape was really bunged up inside which probably came from repeated storage and transportation over the 35-40 years that it remained unplayed. But I got it going and you get to enjoy the craptastic music, the potholes and the tape hiss that emulates the sound of the ocean into your iPod!

We slog through Program A with a bunch of songs I never gave a damn about, including "Sylvia's Mother" which is regularly used to test-drive the sound system at a karaoke place I frequent. This is the first time I've ever heard it with the lyrics intact. For all I know, they could be the wrong lyrics. It's also one of the most miserable songs I've ever heard. Get over her already, you whiny little bitch!

Program B offers a crappy re-invented version of Paul Anka's "Puppy Love", another shitty version of "Lean On Me" which joins the pile of shitty versions I've collected over the years. We also get to hear a Mott The Hoople song, and a severely disabled version of "American Pie" which has about three of it's limbs hacked off. I guess we can't have 8 minute songs when we're trying to pack 50 songs onto three 8-track tapes.

The gem of this entire collection is Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-Ling". I highly doubt that this song was genuinely recorded live. They likely worked at re-creating the 'live sound' with studio magic (aka reverb and a sound effect of a crown applauding). The married studio musicians brought in their kids so they could record them singing about their penises. In today's society, that would be considered as child pornography. It also sounds like they added a little bit of vibrato to the singing "audience". Why? It doesn't make it sound more life. It sounds like everyone's singing in the sewer. Perhaps that why this version is so shitty.

Listen to My Ding-a-Ling

Speaking of playing with one's Ding-a-Ling, we move onto Gary Glitter's biggest throbbing hit to penetrate the charts titled "Rock & Roll Part 2" If you don't know the song by the title (which most people don't), it is used regularly at sporting events. That's the only help I can give you since you may have trouble recognizing it from this recording. This cover is so bad that the guys singing can't even get the one word in this entire song right, and I'm pretty sure the bass player added some extra shit in there which isn't in the original version. Gary Glitter is rolling in his grave.... er I mean his Vietnamese victim's bed.

Listen to Rock & Roll Part 2

We step through the squishy "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" and a lousy version of Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue", then clunk on over to Program D which starts with something that sounds kind of like Three Dog Night's "Black & White". The layout of the song is totally wrong and I don't remember hearing a goddam oboe ANYWHERE in the original. But the singer kinda sounds like a drunk version of the guy from Three Dog Night, so at least they got that part right... Sort of...

This version is so far from Three Dog Night's version that I had to do a Google search to make sure it was Three Dog Night who had a hit with it in 1972. It was, so I don't know what the hell they were trying to do to make it better. The studio musicians forgot to bring their kids in that day to sing the backup, so they just did it themselves. Good enough! One take! It's a hit! Or a miss! Who cares! Money in the bank!

Listen to Black & White

Then we barf our way through "I Am Woman" and onto Michael Jackson's "Ben". I think it's funny that every time I hear a cheap imitation of Michael Jackson, it's always a woman singing it. Then we gag and choke on yet another shitty version of Popcorn, and end it all with "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do"? Huh? This was released in 1962 although it's entirely possible that some other one-hit-wonder had a VERY minor hit with it and it's been duplicated here. I would have been happier with two more verses in the wheelchaired version of "American Pie", but I guess "49 Top Hits of 72" wouldn't have been as good of a title.

And that's it! I really can't help but wonder how much this three tape set cost in 1972. 50 super hits by people who had absolutely nothing to do with the original writing or recording of them, but occasionally put their own spin on it. It really made my day. I hope it made yours. Feel free to let this tape collection enhance your summer barbecues and beach parties. Your friends will love you! You will get laid more! And you have me to thank for all of that.

Also, if you haven't voted for the song I entered into the songwriting contest, you can do that here!

See you next time with something really cool or crappy! Sorry, I haven't figured out what I'm doing for the next entry yet.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Entry for a Song Writing Contest

Someone posted a song writing contest on Facebook, so I decided to enter. Here's the criteria for the song:

We’re looking for original songs that lyrically not only enlighten us about young people’s issues, but also inspire and challenge us to make things better. Musically (if you’re choosing to send a musical performance too), the song can really take any form, from rap to classical to country and everything in between. So go ahead and make it your mission to move us – evoke tears, joy, laughter, sorrow, make us think – through your words, melodies, or both!
So I went to work and created something that I thought was at least worthy of competing in a contest. The result of my creation bears the title "You Can't Solve These Problems (With Just a Song)" which I think is the greatest title out of all the entries in the contest. If by some chance I don't win, I'll at least have another creation under my belt.

Over the next month, the songs are open to public voting (upon registering on the website) and the top ten entries will go through a round of judges. The winner gets to record their song professionally and be in a music video.

So without further ado, here's my entry. Feel free to vote for it!

You Can't Solve These Problems (with just a song)

I had to alter one lyric because they couldn't accept the line "You can't cure disease with a rubber on your dick." I hate censorship.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Polish Postcard Records

I found these in the "45 RPM" section of one of my favorite thrift stores (which is fair because that's the speed they play at). What you're supposed to do is take a trip to Poland, pull one of these off the postcard racks at the souvenir store, not listen to it (because you didn't bring a record player with you to Poland), write some stuff on the back like "Hey buddy! I'm eating sausage and perogies. Wish you were here", put a stamp on it, and throw it in the mailbox.

When it arrives at your buddy's house, he listens to the music that you didn't hear, reads your message, and gets jealous that he had McDonalds for supper instead of sausage and perogies.

You can collect all of them, just like the previous owner did! We have the snot green one, the puke green one, the turquoise one, the orange one, the dark orange one, and the grandma's couch one.

If you've ever put a piece of paper on your turntable and tried to play it, then you get almost the exact same effect as the sound quality of these records. I can't imagine how much worse they sound when they've traveled through the mail from Poland.

The songs are awful and you get two of them on each record. Perhaps you're better off mailing someone a death threat with these.

That being said, I'm sure you're dying to hear a couple of these things...

The Snot Green One
The Orange One

Weren't those great? No? Then you probably hate Polish people. You're mean.