Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Detailed Foray Down Memory Lane

I was thinking about writing a blog on my weekend again, but then the clouds parted over my head and I heard this giant raspberry followed by a booming voice: “WHO CARES?”

And right away I thought, great, even God is bored by my life. Well, it was either God or I was having a flashback to a creative writing professor I had in college.

So instead I’ll tell you about the J. Geils Band. I heard them on the radio the other day. Remember them? Angel is a centerfold and all that poppycock? Well, I remember them. Because when I was eight, life blessed me in a way that it never had before. I received a buttload of first communion money. After I spent most of it on angel dust and absinthe, I took a little side-trip to Kmart to purchase the Holy Grail (which you could buy back then) of childhood: a portable black cassette recorder.

For a mere $34 dollars, you could purchase bliss. You could purchase the ability to be cool for the thirty-eight minutes your school bus traveled from your doorstep to your elementary school doors. You could sit in the back seat and entertain every tapioca-scented, chubby-cheeked passenger with taped-from-the-radio gems like Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love a Rainy Night” and The Pretenders’ “Chain Gang” and “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners and yes, “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band.

You would sit by the radio (and if you were lucky, it actually had detached speakers next to which you could perch), waiting for the DJ to play your favorite song. And then: NIRVANA! There it WAS! The Pointer Sisters' “So Excited!” Laura Branigan’s “Gloria!” Toni Basil! Rick Springfield! But the jerky DJ would keep chit-chatting right through the opening riffs, so you’d get your song, but some assclown DJ’s inane intro as well: “And now, Survivor with ‘Eye of the Tiger!’ Only on WSTD, your source for today’s hottest hits and smoothest licks! Keep listening for your chance to win tickets to the Hall and Oates show at the Blabbity Center. Have you ever seen them live? I have, and let me tell you: those tickets were worth every cent. But not when you can win 'em before you can buy 'em! Only on your station with the megaty-most fun, WSTD. What's that again? WSTD!” And that dude’s voice would stretch long into that kickass drumbeat, right up to the actual singing, and you’d be silently and frantically praying near the speaker: “Just shut up! Just play the song! This is no good, this is just NO GOOD!!!”

And you’d tape it, and then play it on the bus, turning the volume way down during the DJ, then cranking it up. Halfway through the song you’d hear your mom yelling at the dog to get off the sofa, and then a clatter when you dropped your tape recorder to give her the what-not stare: Mo-om, I'm taping Air Supply!!! Sometimes you’d miss the first half of the song altogether, but what the hell: you got the second half! And the kids on the bus loved you for it. Oh, and just think of the possibilities at RECESS! Recess with a soundtrack. Songs to chase the boys to. Could there be anything more divine?

You were on top of the world. You had a portable black cassette player and hits taped right from the Weekly Top Forty. You had the J. Geils Band, on demand, and life had never been sweeter.

Well, at least until you got your first Walkman and Purple Rain in your Easter basket.

(Don’t even get me started on my first Rubik’s Cube, which was a mail-in offer from the Chex Cereal company. Instead of bright colors, you had to line up bananas and strawberries and little Chex cereal pieces. I didn’t care, just as long as the little stickers peeled-off and re-stuck easily.)
Yeah, I was a dorky eight year old. Were you?


  1. Oh, God. Taping off the radio -- you brought me back. It never worked. If nothing else, you could always hear your own breathing on the recording. And inevitably, because you'd been too close to the (crappy) speaker, you sounded like a heavy breather, an obscene phone caller.


  2. I sat FOR HOURS next to the radio with my black cassette tape recorder (wait, is cassette and tape an oxymoron, or the same thing, or what's it called... repetitive!)... anyway, for HOURS I tell you, I sat and waited for this song to be played by the mighty DJ:

    Heart of Glass by Blondie. I sooo wanted a copy of that song!

    Then I remember having recorded Afternoon Delight, Sky rockets in flight! Afternoon delight! And I would play/pause/rewind over and over again because I was determined to get all the words written down.

    And then another time at a slumber party in like fifth grade, our gym teacher had just gotten married and all of us girls kept calling the radio station to dedicate ENDLESS LOVE to the gym teacher and his lucky, lucky wife. FINALLY at five in the freaking morning, they played the dumb song and we recorded it to share with the gym teacher.

    And then, finally, because I fear I am being a blog-hog here, I once called the radio station to ask the DJ is the song by Billy Squire was Stroke Man or Stroke Me... (which, if you just read my latest post, is quite timely cuz I was just writing about perverted songs..

    OK, Hey, You get offa my blog! (You know that song, by the Rolling Stones?)

    I'm Out girlfriend with a novel!
    Thanks for the memories (dear God, another freaking song reference...)

  3. Anonymous1:00 AM

    Yes. Yes, I was incredibly dorky. I cut out the images of the Monkees' musical group from the backs of cereal boxes. I wrote to stars who played characters on tv that I really believed were real. Join the club, baby.

  4. Anonymous6:03 AM

    OMG, my best friend and I were just talking about this the other weekend!!! How we'd sit for HOURS waiting for ONE particular song to come on so we could tape it. In my case, it was whisper-yelling at my brothers to "Shut up! I'm taping!"

    Do you ever hear those same songs now, either on CD or on the radio, and your brain inserts the background noise/voices that had been on your tape, since you listened to that tape you made so much?? To this day, whenever I hear "This Time I'm In It For Love" by Player, I always hear my own voice during the second chorus, yelling at the dog, "Dix--Dixie!!" and during "Imaginary Lover" by Atlanta Rhythm Section, I always hear bursts of static at certain parts since I had taped it off an AM radio during a thunderstorm.

    I also recall having said best friend call the radio station at 7 a.m. (it was long-distance for me) to request "Don't Do Me Like That" by Tom Petty. But the DJ said that was "too hard rock" for 7 a.m. Man, it took me WEEKS to get that song!!

    (and I haven't completely forgotten about making you a CD - I'm getting on it, albeit SLOOOOWLY!)

  6. Me and my best friend would tape ourselves for hours. Sometimes it would be music, other times just us talking and a few times we even taped entire episodes of TV shows, so we could relive the Partridge Family 15 more times that week.

    The one thing I remember most about those old tape recorders though is the smell. They all seemed to have this strange warm plastic/electronics kind of odor to them when you used them for awhile.

    Oops, now I'm being a comment pig.

    Great post Jess!

  7. Yeah, I was one of those geeks too. I remember some radio stations played the same song at the same time everyday. I used to sit by the radio and wait for BOC's Don't Fear the Reaper and yes I was around 8 or so years old. I would also tape from 45's, that was some really crappy quality!

  8. Oh my God, I think I had like 5 shoeboxes full of tapes of songs I taped off the radio when I left for college. I remember running across the room to get the beginning of the song!

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Too funny.

  9. I once stumbled across the signal for a radio station that I'd never heard before as they were introducing an acoustic set by Radiohead. I luckily had a tape in and pressed record, thinking of how awesome I'd be to have the only recording of this among my friends.

    Then the tape ended 30 seconds before the song did, and my little heart was crushed.

  10. Anonymous12:46 PM

    Oh god, thanks for the trip down memory lane. That was some high tech stuff we had going then, wasn't it? I remember sitting for what felt like hours, finger poised on the "record" button waiting for my favorite song.

    Hall & Oates was my first concert when I was in the 5th grade. I can still remember my outfit perfectly. I saw them again a few years ago and they really are great.

  11. I used to tape off of records...but it was the same low tech idea. Put your Olivia Newton John album on the stereo (Have You Never Been Mellow, Have You Never Triiiieeeed, To find some comfort from insiiiiiddddee you...), put little black tape recorder by speakers, push 'record'. LOVED it. I was SO impressed when I found out you could connect the two with wires and such, and you wouldn't have to worry about the phone ringing and so on.

    My husband used to tape Star Trek from the TV and follow his brother around playing it over and over.

    We were clearly meant for each other.

  12. Great trip down memory lane, Jess.

    What, no Men at Work or Toto?

  13. i too taped off the radio and records but then, i would turn off the radio and become the d.j. between tracks.

    "yes, ladies and gentlemen, 'success hasn't spoiled rich springfield yet," (bonus points if you knew that was one of his albums)


    "what i wouldn't do to be sting's zenyatta mondatta." (whatever that meant.)

    obviously, i still like the sound of my voice.

  14. Oh, I sooooo did that too. So you're not the only one!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I felt like a little old lady reading that book, too, but (apparently) birding isn't for old folks anymore. I'm going to try and pop in Cape May to see part of the swarms of birders (not birds!) who overtake the town to see if Weindensaul was right or just trying to feel cooler about himself...

    Book 5 of 52 is going to be a little less, um, stately. I think readers of the blog (all two of them) will be surprised!

  15. Anonymous8:49 PM

    OMG! I did that, except with MTV, because back in 1983, only MTV was playing cool music from Depeche Mode, Fun Boy Three and The Cure, while mainstream radio force-fed us Loverboy and Journey. I remember I would yell to everyone within earshot, "I'M RECORDING! I'M RECORDING," but invariably a door closing or someone clearing their throat would make it on to the tape. But that was okay, those noises kind of became part of the music, and it still beat the hell out of listening to the Scorpions and AC/DC

  16. I was in COLLEGE when these songs were popular.

    Way to make me feel old. But hey - I was listening to those tunes at Happy Hour while playing quarters with the most gorgeous Armenian boyfriend that there ever was, so I guess it's all good. You can keep your tape player. :>

  17. I did that AND I still have my Chex rubix cube. However, I was never able to solve the damn thing.

  18. Not only did we tape songs from the radio, we'd call in to win. All day long. Never won anything, but man, was it fun.

  19. Taping off the radio. Wow. That brings back memories.

    when i worked in radio my manager required his djs to talk over almost every intro so the music wouldn't stop. So damn annoying.

  20. Anonymous10:31 PM

    Tell them about your McDonalds song!
    Love Fee

  21. I used to spend Saturday mornings shut in my bedroom, taping select hits from Casey Casem's American Top Forty. Other children were enjoying the fresh air and learning skills that would someday help them contribute to society. I focused on achieving the perfect balance between the "Play" and "Record" buttons so I wouldn't miss a note.

  22. Um--you all are making me feel old. My "holy grail" was having my own radio--but no tape recorder. And the songs I listened to (with radio turned way down low, so as not to disturb my uncle & aunt who didn't like that "sinful" music) were more likely to be 50s or 60s songs. Some good songs, there, but none of them got taped.

  23. I could go on for hours to describe the dorkiness of my childhood. I guess that's why I'm enjoying adulthood - such low expectations.

    Again - hilarious post. Hope all is well up there. Stopping by to say hello!

  24. I was giggling through this whole post. You crack me up!!

  25. Anonymous2:07 PM

    OMG! I forgot all about my chex mix rubik cube! Oh the memories are flooding back now.