Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bood on the 8 Tracks, Track Five: The Thing With Two Heads

The strangest 8-track I ever got was the bastard step-child my of desire for more 8-tracks and my  lack of funds. (It was around this time that my mom began singing her unique version of that great oldie “Get A Job”.)

Then I found out about a local electronics store that had a machine that could copy 8-track albums onto blank 8-track tapes. It was like magic! You paid for a blank tape that could hold the contents of one album (forty-five minutes should do it), and maybe a buck for the service, but that was it. Too good to be true, right? That didn’t stop me, though. I ran down there like a bat into hell.

And once there, I was so inspired that I had a brilliant idea. What if I bought one ninety minute tape and selected two albums to record? Genius!  I’d only have to pay for one tape, and get two albums!

What could go wrong?

Well, for one thing, such stores don’t have a big selection of albums to choose from - just new stuff, and no back catalog. But I did pick two records that - like Ray Milland and Rosie Greer - would naturally go together:



Cat Stevens.jpg

Brilliant, right? I mean, do you EVER hear about one without the other? Of course not. So, as you can imagine, these two parts - one ice, one fire - would come together to form, as Spinal Tap puts it, lukewarm water.

The guy at the store admitted no one had thought of doing this before. This made me proud. I felt like the guy who invented the Fluffer-Nutter.

More Like Olive Loaf:

When I got home and played it I found that the first track consisted of ten minutes of ELP music followed by ten of Cat Stevens. And as the tape progressed to the second, third and fourth tracks, 10 more minutes of ELP, 10 more of Cat and so on.  

It was kind of like an 80 minute “Donny and Marie” episode, except instead of a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n roll, it was a little bit anal British prog rock and a little bit anal British folk rock. (Just kidding, Cat. We’re cool, right Cat??)

Oh, and both albums were victims of re-sequencing.

Better Than One, After All:

The weird thing is that it kind of worked.

How?  Well, the blank tape I bought was of crappy quality. And although prerecorded 8-track tapes were more expensive than vinyl, whatever the record companies said otherwise, they were crappy quality, too!

This very crappiness-twice-over blurred the distinctiveness of each album, thus making the dour organ noodlings of Keith Emerson and dour folk croaking by Cat actually work well together. Go figure.

It turned out to be one of the best “albums” I got that year.

Worse Than When the Beatles Broke Up?:

Not really. But, not leaving well enough alone, thinking I could improve things, I eventually replaced both albums.

In the mid-eighties, I got a vinyl copy of Tea for the Tillerman, which, with the sequencing right and the sound clear made for a much less mysterious, but very good record thank you very much:

"Into White" - Dour, but beautiful, whatever the sound quality. 

(We’re cool now, Cat, right?)

This encouraged me to replace Trilogy with a CD version a few years later, which I played only once because it kind of sucked. That’s right, the correct sequencing and better sound actually made it worse:

"The Endless Enigma" - This might have been when I started to hate the organ. Ten minutes of your life you won’t get back.

Like how bright lighting can make someone look worse by making every little flaw stand out. (This is why I stay in the basement.)

So, yeah, Emerson, Lake, Palmer and Stevens were never the same once Stevens left. Kind of the Paul Simon effect. Just taking place inside my own head.

And while I keep hoping for a re-union, I know it could never live up to my expectations.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Blood on the 8-Tracks, Track Four: Hello I Must Be Going

Although I found the idea of chopping albums from two into four parts, as 8-track tapes do, unnerving, what I didn’t know at the time was to what lengths some record companies would go to save a little tape (or, to be more charitable, to avoid having long empty stretches at the end of some tracks). The sequence of the songs would often be different between the 8-track and vinyl versions of an album.

If you already knew the album, this could drive you crazy. If you didn’t, it could infuriate you later when you figured it out.

As someone who believes that, when playing vinyl, it should be against the law to play side two before side one, 8-Track Resequencing struck me as an even more egregious crime, warranting the appointment of a special prosecutor.

I didn’t find out that Fragile was a victim of resequencing until later. Which made me that much more curious to get the CD version - to hear it the way it was meant to be heard.

A Misdemeanor:

One record that went through a couple of versions before I ended up with the one that was originally released was The Beatles Rubber Soul.
Rubber Soul.jpg

First there was the one I got from a high school “friend” who sold discounted - and obviously counterfeit - versions of albums. (I know, you’d think a Beatles fiend like me would have had the record already. More about that here.)  

As you probably know the American versions of Beatle albums were trimmed down from their original fourteen songs to about ten or eleven when prepared for release in the States. (What, you don’t know? Stop reading this blog. Now!) And what my friend gave me was a resequenced version of the American release.

So what I got was twice removed from original British version, and I didn’t know it. (Yeah, I didn’t know it either. Okay, you can read the blog again.) Now one might think that Beatles songs in any order should be just fine. But having heard how great Rubber Soul was supposed to be, now that I heard it, I was vaguely disappointed, and wouldn’t have rated it any higher than any other Beatles record. I’d still give it an A, but a weak A.

I eventually replaced it in the mid-80s with the vinyl American version. Short, compact and brilliant, it’s an A+ - one of the greatest albums ever released.  (That’s right, Bach! What of it?)

Strangely enough, the British version - with more songs, but missing “I’ve Just Seen a Face” (It’s on Help, you see.) seems a little diluted. Just a strong A, and better than 99% of any other albums I own. But still.

Bloody Murder:

Most albums didn’t fare so well. I think the most egregious instance of re-sequencing is Days of Future Past, by the Moody Blues, which, as you might imagine, is supposed to go in order of the f’cking day (ie, morning, noon, night, etc.,)!

Moody Blues.jpg

Well, DOFP (the acronym kind of looks like Doh! and F*cked Up, doesn’t it?) got absolutely massacred in 8-track.

Don’t believe me?  Well, here’s the correct song sequence:
1. The Day Begins
2. Dawn: Dawn is a Feeling
3. The Morning: Another Morning
4. Lunch Break: Peak Hour
5. The Afternoon: Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)/Time to Get Away
6. Evening: The Sun Set/Twilight Time
7. The Night: Nights in Whte Satin

Notice how the MBs even idiot proof it for the...slower listeners, with helpful prefixes in the song titles like “Dawn: Dawn is a Feeling” in case you didn’t figure out that it might be about the FREAKING DAWN.

So I think you’re in my corner on this so far, right? It.Kind.Of.Makes.Sense.Right?

Well, here’s the sequence from my 8-Track, with a little helpful running commentary by yours truly:

Track 1:
1. The Day Begins 
So far so good, right? Everything is goind according to plan.
2. Evening: The Sun Set/Twilight Time (Part One)
Well, that was pretty quick, wasn’t it? But I suppose it could happen if you’d been out drinking the night before and were just waking up at 5pm. So, even though the MBs didn’t seem like the partying type,  I’ll try to keep an open mind.

Track 2:
3. Evening: The Sun Set/Twilight Time (Part Two) 
They were so anxious to cram in the Evening that it didn’t fit anyway. So here’s the rest of it. I hear the guy who did this owns a butcher shop down the block.
4. The Afternoon: Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)/Time to Get Away  
Okay, now that we’ve already jumped almost all the way to the end, we’re going back in time, like that movie Betrayal or was it Momento? I don’t remember.

Track 3:
5. Dawn: Dawn is a Feeling 
Okay, now I’m completely lost. What day is it again?
6. Lunch Break: Peak Hour 
Now I’ve never been one to turn down a meal, but this lunch is coming right after dawn, which means I either just got up and was hoping for some bacon and eggs or, if I’m having a really good time, just got to bed.
The Morning: Another Morning (Part One) 
Oh, that’s right! As a big fan of breakfast, how could I forget?  Here we are three quarters of the way through our day, and it’s only morning. It’s reminds me of the Lou Reed song about “wine in the morning and breakfast at night”. I guess he had this 8-track, too.

Track 4:
7. The Morning:Another Morning (Part Two)  
That’s right, folks. It’s STILL the morning! At this rate, we’ll never get to the end of this day. There's really only one valid response to this.
8. The Night: Nights in White Satin 
What? Well, we ended up in the right place after all. So why do I feel like I’ve got whiplash?

It’s like listening to that friend we all have who tells you about a movie he just saw, but who has to keep going back to explain things because he keeps leaving stuff out:

There’s this girl Dorothy who say’s ‘There’s no place like home’. Oh yeah, first she kills a witch, but before that she meets a Wizard who gives her friends… oh I didn’t mention the friends?  Well, there are three, unless you count the Good Witch, who she doesn’t kill, and those munchkins. But definitely not those flying monkeys.”

Who, by now, are probably flying out of your butt.

Next: Self-Inflicted Resequencing

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Blood on the 8-Tracks, Track Three: Plus Shipping and Handling

About that other CD I bought...

A few weeks after the New Stereo Phase...

My life is broken up by Phases by the way. 

Your too. But yours are normal, like High School, College, Engagement, Marriage, Kids, etc.  

Mine are more like Beatles/Sixties, Allman Brothers are God, Jackson Browne is God, The In Between Phase When No One is God (otherwise known as the Little Feat Phase, the New Wave/Punk/Neil Young is God Renaissance Phase (which has still not ended...)

Please don’t mention this to Mrs. Jaybee.

...Came the Brief Record Club Phase

I realize that these two Phases don’t appear in the above list. Let’s call them mini-phases.  

Anyway, me and some friends formed a cabal to share a single record club membership. No single one of us could scrape up the money (or survive the parental fall out) for an entire record club membership on our own. This record club deal was planned and executed with the secrecy of a heroin smuggling operation.

You know how these clubs worked: records were one cent each, with the small print explaining the $50 shipping and handling fee. You’d think that spending so much on s&h would get the damned things delivered in less that 6-8 weeks, but whatever.

And what was my take, you ask?  Well, there was Elton John’s Honky Chateau, which was out of stock and would escape me for another twenty years or so. Then there was Poco’s A Good Feelin’ To Know, which we’ll discuss later, and Yes’s Fragile.


Yes! Yes! A Thousand Times Yes! (Minus 998)

I guess I was in my Prog Rock mini-mini Phase...

As much as I loved Close To The Edge, I liked Fragile’s calmer, more song-centered nonsense almost as much at the time, and more so now. More songs, more melody, the playing just as good, just not as grandiose. Plus you don’t have Rick Wakeman waving his huge organ in your face. I still like the tunes and the guitar.And as such you can put it on in more varied circumstances.  There are several songs that aren’t all that well known but sound just great anyway.

And with Mrs. Jaybee loving “Roundabout”, Fragile has a longer half life than CCTE. You can listen to it on a long drive. (which I don’t recommend for CTTE, which is more like a religious experience, which, like drinking, shouldn’t be done while driving.)

It’s Jon Anderson and band in their prime, right before going off the deep end. A-

When to Play: When you’re high.
When NOT to Play: When you’re drunk.

Next: Hello, I Must Be Going

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Blood on the 8-Tracks, Track Two: 1972

For some reason - probably the embarrassment of us having borrowed a friend’s stereo and never giving it back - my parents made a decision they’ve regretted ever since. They decided to give me and my brother Pat a “stereo” for Christmas.

Now, technically speaking, when they asked what I wanted for Christmas that year, I said a guitar. After some grumblings about me somehow shooting my eye out (or was it them blowing their brains out? I don’t remember now), they changed the subject, and we ended up with the stereo.

Comprised of a radio tuner, turntable and 8-track tape player, it was - not counting the guitar - all either of us could have hoped for.

And if we were going to have an 8-track player, we’d need a tape or two to try it out.

Right around that time I’d heard the boffo climax to the title track from Yes’s then-new Close to the Edge on the radio. So when I ran across it in 8-track format at Korvettes, I did something unthinkable:
I Bought It For No Other Reason (not my Birthday, not Christmas, not anything) Than I FELT LIKE IT. This event rivaled that incident in 1971, when I spent almost THREE DOLLARS(!!!) on an Elton John record.  I somehow survived both incidents, but still think I’m going to Hell.

Which was how Close to the Edge became our very first 8-track.

Close to the Edge 8 Track Front Cover.jpg\

In case you don’t know, 8 track tapes divided albums up into four equal parts. Where “8 track” comes from, I have no idea and don’t care.  If you do, look it up here. but don’t try to explain it to me.

Close to the Edge 8 Track Back Cover.jpg

Given the structure of the album - one eighteen minute song and two nine minute ones - it arrived relatively unscathed in its conversion to 8-track. Oh, the title song took up two tracks and was chopped in two, but the cut was done during a spacey interlude so it sounded okay. The loud click as the track changed sounded kind of like your parents knocking on the bedroom door asking what the hell was going on in there. But once you got used to it, you weren’t startled anymore. It was fun watching your friend’s first reaction, though.

Another shortcoming of 8-tracks was the almost non-existent packaging. If there were liner notes and lyrics, you weren’t going to get them.

And when you don’t have a lyric sheet you tend to make up the words when you try to sing along. Well, now that I have the CD, I can see the lyrics. And damn if Jon Anderson wasn’t actually singing the same nonsense I was singing! But I should have known, with titles like “Total Mass Retain” and “Solid Time of Change”? I knew there was a lot of pot going around at the time, but not THAT much.

I’ve long since grown out of prog rock. After all, if you’re going to be silly, at least intend to be silly. But that’s whole other post, isn’t it?

So while Close to the Edge is totally over the top, the music is real pretty and the band is just awesome. (Technically speaking, anyway. I wish Rick Wakeman has taken some vacation days, though.)

And the proof was in the pudding as they say. Since getting the CD, we’ve played it many times.

So is it grandiose and vague and New Age-y way before the actual New Age? Sure, but is it fair to criticize Liberace for how he dressed? A-

When to Play It: When You Can’t Make it to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for high mass.
When Not to Play It: Hangovers

"And You and I"

Next: I’m Not Quite Done Saying Yes Yet.