"To make music tapes, I had to use a transistor radio and my clumsy tape recorder that was equipped with a microphone and a tiny switch," Ray said about days gone by.
I was creating compilation tapes of songs decades before they became popular, but back then there were no CDs or downloading. And the only thing that was digital was my handheld football game where the players were basically a series of light dashes. You would move your tiny dash of light around the defense, which also were tiny dashes of light.
If the “defense” lights touched yours, you were tackled.
To make music tapes, I had to use a transistor radio and my clumsy tape recorder that was equipped with a microphone and a tiny switch. When I was 10 or 12, the enjoyment of music was new to me and I wanted to hear as much as I could.
But I hated commercials, so I came up with the idea of taping songs off the radio.
This was a time-consuming challenge that tested my inadequate abilities to pay attention and stay focused, a fault in my young life that the nuns constantly addressed by often reminding me that it would lead to a life as a bum if I didn’t change.
Still, I tried to do more than one thing at a time. So when the commercials came on, I played Nerf basketball by lofting the ball into the hoop attached to the top of my bedroom door. But I had to be ready at the switch when a song came on.
Naturally, as I my young, immature mind was consumed by the Nerf game I was playing, I quickly forgot my main intention of the afternoon so consequently the beginning of each song was chopped off. And, conversely, as my mind wandered during the song, I would forget to stop the recording and unintentionally add the voice of the loud CKLW disc jockey.
So the tape was full of songs cut off at the beginning and the voice of the DJ at the end. Even still, creating an entire tape took hours. And, of course, I was obligated to listen to what was playing. So I had to be quick with the trigger to record a song I liked, such as “Crocodile Rock,” instead of something totally lame from Robert Flack or The Chi-Lites.
Sometimes, I would forget the tape recorder was on and capture my voice as I announced the pretend final shot at the buzzer of a tied basketball championship game (“It’s up! It’s good!”). Or sometimes I would lose focus and purposely make strange noises because I couldn’t resist hearing myself on tape.
In the end, the cassette compilation tapes were marked simply as “songs.” But in reality, each was a mixed tape of a variety of sounds that included parts of some songs and my young voice.
I actually found one not long ago and listened to part of it: “…Billy, don’t be a hero…CKLW … gosh darn it …band on the run; band on the run …. who is it? Ma I’m busy! ... do the loco motion; come on baby, do the loco motion … sound of passing gas followed by chuckling …killing me softly … ew … no, ma, I’m not hungry.
Could ya stop knocking?”
Hey, I said I started this idea; I didn’t say I was good at it.
Ray Kisonas is the regional editor of The Monroe News and The Daily Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.