progress is a lie?

I’m sitting here in disbelief, slack jawed and boggling. Nicholas Cage’s rant about The Beatles White Album from the movie “The Rock” is poking around the borders of my consciousness. I’m trying in vain to rationalize this experience away, but this cassette sounds so good! Last week sometime I saw a story about Robert Smith of The Cure playing an acoustic set in Spain during a glitch with the instruments on stage. There were three songs he played, none of which I remember particularly fondly, but they were good and it was very classy how he smoothed over the interruption with something personal. It reminded me that when I switched over from cassettes to CD’s that I only managed to repurchase (don’t get me started on that) a couple of the albums. My favorite tape from the Cure was “Faith”, which was the first to make it to the technologically advanced collection, but the first album that made me a fan was “Standing on a Beach – the Singles”. I don’t think I’ve actually listened to that album in literally 20 years. Thinking about it I hurried online and picked up a used copy for $.01 plus a couple bucks shipping. Unfortunately, the CD is called “Staring at the Sea: the Singles”, and doesn’t include the B-Sides that are on the cassette. It does have a couple bonus songs, but I think it was the missing songs that really got me.

I joked that I needed to dig up a cassette player and try to rip my old cassettes that have been boxed up and sitting in the basement for 10 years. It was really a joke. Really. But I couldn’t shake the thought. I’ve got so much on my plate I don’t have time for a silly diversion. Yet, somehow, here I am at 11:30 headphones plugged in to a partially broken and completely dusty boom box listening to The Cure. And I’m blown away. Maybe it is just that I’m tweaking neurons that are dustier than the stereo and cassettes combined and it’s sparking some additional serotonin, but the technologically ancient, magnetic coated tape sounds so much better than anything I’ve heard in years. But it can’t be, can it? Not that I’m any sort of luddite, or even an audiophile snob, but there’s something to this experience that is more than I’ve been getting from my usual listening habits. For several years I’ve been pondering how I used to buy an album every payday and head home to plug in and just stare at the walls while the music took me away. I’d written it off as something unique to youth or inexperience, and that maturity changed things. But maybe I was wrong, because as I sit here, right now, trying to write as I listen to this tape, with the fire rekindled between my ears, I’m finding it hard to complete a sentence as I keep drifting off. My eyes glaze and I’m carried away with that feeling from my youth.

Sorry, as I wrote that last, the song “New Day” ended and I had to rewind the tape to listen to it again. No kidding. I had to rewind the tape and stop it three or four times to get beyond the start of the song and then listen to the last 45 seconds or so of “Stop Dead” before it started again. No click of the mouse and ‘dit’ I’m back at the start of the song. I remember how much I hated some songs and to skip past it to the next song was murder. Manual song search before AMS (look it up, kids, you won’t believe me) was probably as dangerous as texting in the car. Skipping songs or replaying them was one of the best things about cd’s when they came out. That and not having to listen to blank tape, waiting for the end on the shorter side, which I’m doing now. My first copy of Pink Floyds “Dark Side of the Moon” had the song “Time” swapped to the other side of the album to even the tape run time out. Talk about Sacrilege. Also my Rush “2112” cassette cut the final song in half. It just sort of faded out, the cassette would flip over and it would fade back in and finish.

But I digress.

And I drift away again.

Maybe I need to find me a Walkman.