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.

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