Sunday, March 18, 2007

There's a lot of "SPIN" in this post...
...another way to look at CD's and what they do...

I have an old newspaper clipping, the headline of which is "ARE LP'S BECOMING THE 8-TRACKS OF THE '80S???" You know, I have fond memories of me cruising the strip during High School, listening to my Lear-Jet stereo8 was so cool to have 'tunes in the car. Way back then, I played tapes by Chicago, who was one of my favorite groups back then, although the group kinda lost my respect in the '80s and '90s when they started doing schlocky power ballads at the behest of the record company. In short, Chicago totally lost its' sound. They recorded an album, "Stone of Sisyphus" and submitted it to the record company, and were unceremoniously turned down. I've heard "Sisyphus" and it's GREAT. It rocks hard, but yes, there are ballads on it, so I have no idea what the record company was griping about, if it wanted ballads to issue as the next big boss-hit single or music video or whatever.

See how easily I get led astray? I didn't even mean to go that far in-depth with Chicago. So, I'll start over. I listened to 8-tracks way back then. I even had an 8-track recorder. You could buy blank 8-tracks. You could buy 80 minute tapes, which worked out to 20 minutes a track. Except, that sometimes, there was only 17 or 18 minutes a track, so you couldn't go by the "time" listed on the tape itself or the box it came in. You had to play a blank tape, with a stopwatch in hand. If track 1 was, say, 17:57, then that's what all the tracks were, since it was a tape loop, after all. Suffice it to say that 8-tracks turned into 'dinosaurs' really fast. Sometimes the tape would break. Then you'd have to rip the plastic cartridge apart, stick the tape back together, and then try to thread it the way it was originally threaded. Let me tell ya, trying to fix an 8-track tape is more irritating and problematic than having termites in yer shorts. One thing about 8-tracks, though...they had great least I thot they did.

I remember when the first Cassettes came out. My mom had a little portable cassette player, and I thot it was so cool, that a tape cartridge could be so tiny, and that there were no "tracks" to bother with, only "side 1" and "side 2". I still love cassettes, and I've got an old portable cassette deck sitting in front of me here, and it has auto-reverse, in both "one play" and "unlimited play" modes. And I've made hundreds of cassettes over the years, mostly "assorted songs" by assorted artists. (Rap musicians are SORDID artists, by the way. If they're artists at all, that is.) Let's go back to 8-tracks for a minute: There were ways to dub 8-tracks onto cassette, and the recordings came out sounding great, because most 8-track tapes were treated with Dolby, and when you put Dolby onto the cassette as well, you had "double-Dolby", and the sound was immaculate.

Alas, it's hard to play 8-tracks these days. Any 8-track is going to be 15 or 20 years old by now, and where the tape hooks together, with the little "shiny" tape-change strip, the glue on that strip, which holds the tape together, has become oxidized thru the years, and the most you'll get out of an old 8-track tape anymore is one track's worth, because when it hits the track-change strip, well, that's where the tape comes apart. But I have fond memories of 8-tracks, as well as cassettes. 8-tracks have become outmoded (as did the 4-track tape before that), while cassettes are hanging on for dear life; I hear the future doesn't portend well for cassettes, and that they, too, might become a thing of the past. I have noticed that whenever I go to second-hand stores, there are new blank cassettes that I can pick up for around 50 cents. When I see 'em, I grab 'em. I have a great cassette deck in my car, and I like to make my own custom tapes. That's me you see "rockin' down the highway". (Although, at my age, I "roll" more than I "rock".)

Of course, along with cassettes, the existence of records is also hanging by the proverbial thread. Yes, vinyl is still made; you can get new vinyl. Trouble is, you usually have to special-order it, and vinyl is made in ultra-limited qualities these days. I have ordered the Beatles "Love" album on vinyl, and so far I've waited close to 2 months for it. But it's on the way, or so I've been told, by the supplier who is waiting to hear from the distributor, who is waiting to hear from the record company, etc. etc., ad nauseum. When I heard that records in general wouldn't be made anymore back in the '90s, well, I was one of the last holdouts. I got all the Beatles' "Anthology" albums on vinyl, in addition to "Live at the BBC", and I even got the Beatles "1" album on vinyl, and that came out in 2000. I see my records as being the "masters" for the cassette tapes I make for my car. It's kinda my philosophy that you don't wanna have a permanent music collection on tape. Why? Listen to the following sounds..."crunch-grind-crunch-mangle-crunch-chew-chew-chew"...that, folks, is the sound of valuable, one-of-a-kind cassettes getting eaten up and spit out by an uncooperative tape player.

I have a CD burner that burns CD's from RECORDS. So lately, I've been doing a bunch of that. I can also burn cassettes onto records. So I can record myself playing guitar and singing, onto cassette, then dub it over to CD. I've got old tapes of bands I've played drums in, that I've also put onto CD. So I think that's really, really cool. EXCEPT...I heard someone say that the "life" of home-recorded CD's is only about 2 or 3 years, and then the sound just "fades off" the CD. IS THAT TRUE? If you are reading this and you know, please, pleeeeze, do the "comment" thing below. And now, I've recently read that the rise of the Ipod is basically causing CD sales to diminish. So now, all of your music will be "Virtual". In short, you won't be able to take a CD out of the case, and you'll have no "booklet" information included with "Ipodded" music. The music will be there in an audio sense, but not a physical sense. And, in some cases, you can choose only the tracks on an album you want, for your Ipod. This is getting scary. I know that when I've bought Cd's (or vinyl, or cassettes or 8-tracks) that there were songs included that I wasn't crazy about. Thing is, through repeated plays, I would often grow to like those songs as well as the songs I'd bought the album for.

So where am I going with this? I originally set out to write about CD's only, but I guess I have a 2-track mind (stereo) or an 8-track mind or whatever. I bought a new little CD player last week, and it's making me look at CD's in a whole new way. It has a clear outside shell that you open, plop in the CD, close lid and play. And you can see the CD spinning 'round and 'round. One of my endless fascinations with vinyl is watching the record spinning around. I don't know why, except that it's comforting somehow. Maybe that's why my eyes are so bad? My eyeballs going round and round their respective sockets, trying to read the label? You can't do that with CD's, however. They spin WAAAAAY too fast. If I tried reading the label of a spinning CD, I'd probably have sparks flying out of my eye sockets (not a pretty thought). Here's the little unit I bought for under 40 bucks, here in backwoods America:

This little guy is made by COBY, a company I've never heard of. I've seen it advertised online for over a hundred bucks, but most of the online firms I scanned over were selling it in the $40 or $50 range. I got mine for $39.99. (Well, that's the psychology of pricing; if you end the price with a bunch of 9's, it looks like it's a lot less than the rounded-off dollar figure. I heard that in some advertising class I took in college. I learned stuff in college. Just not very 'essential' stuff.) Anyway, this unit looks cool, huh? As you can see, it comes with a remote. The remote has no corners. It must be one of those aerodynamic remotes I've heard about, ha ha. This poses a problem, though. When you attempt to remove the little tab in the back to put the batteries in, everything is crammed in there so tightly, that I can't get it open! This is one TINY remote, after all. And since it has no corners, I can't get a good grip in order to apply the proper pressure to open the tab and install the batteries. So the remote is sitting in my desk drawer 'till I figure out what to do with it.

All that aside, this little unit sounds plenty good. Although, it should have come with a disclaimer sticker, with the following warning: "Caution: attempting to watch the CD go round and round as it spins can result in dangerous amounts of eyeball friction, causing your eyes to pop out of your skull." I think one of those overpaid bureaucrats in the company's legal division should get on it!

Frankly, the two posts before this one were MISERABLE. I'm trying to crawl out of a funk here. I suppose a good way to get out da funk is to listen to jazz? And yeah, I'm watchin' the CD. Only, I'm not trying to read the label. That could be hazardous to my ocular health! In the meantime, I'm wondering how I ended up with two different typestyles in the body of this post...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there!
Good quality "Burned" CD's have a shelf life of 40 or 50 years...altho how and where they're stored can make a big difference.

I've been recording CDs for 12 years now, and can't dociment any that have 'worn out.


9:16 AM  
Blogger Dogwalkmusings said...

Wow. What kind of equipment do you need to burn old records onto CD's? I've got collections from my parents, let alone mine and Mike's I'd love to transfer. Even some old one sided 78s!

12:17 PM  
Anonymous lil'ol' me... said...

Mari, I'll answer you first...I have a little TEAC GF-350 unit that looks like one of those old-fashioned record players...well, it's got am-fm, plus a low-quality turntable. I hooked it up to a stereo amp, and am running my good turntable thru it. Or, you can use an amp, and then hook up a cassette or CD deck to it. That way you can make CD copies, CD's from your cassettes, of CD's from records played from your good turntable. And if you use the turntable inside the CD burner unit, it has "78" so you can play those really old records and make CD's from them. Put "TEAC GF-350" into any search engine and you'll come up with results. I got mine for about $300...prices vary.

Hey, Steve-O, that's good to know. Basically, I keep my CD's in the case, never expose 'em to sunlight and try not to scratch them, so I'm doin' my best to insure long shelf life. I've had some CD's (factory CD's) for over 10 years and they still sound great. Hope thye same is true for home-burned CD's. Is one brand of blank-CD better than another, or are they all about the same?

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Generally, the CDR's that you get in ght bargain bin at Staples aren't very do want discs that have a blu-ish or green-ish color to the bottom of the disc. That's the better 'dye' than the silver-ish ones!


9:10 AM  
Blogger Dogwalkmusings said...

Thanks Dave. I'll see if my electronic guru can figure this out!

1:09 PM  
Blogger little ol' me said...

Anonymous...are you the same guy who posted here before? Actually, the CD blanks I buy are Memorex, TDK, or whatever other CD's come in those big packs that you buy at music stores, or Staples' or K-mart, or wherever. If indeed the color of the CD matters, why are 99.9% of the commercial CD's I've bought "clear" in terms of color on the "play" side? Didn't know colors had anything to do with it. I bought a pack of CD's that came in alleged 'cool colors' and there were BLACK CD's in it, which, surprisingly, worked as well as everything else. Although, I had to get a "silver" permamet marker to write on the CD surface!

Mari, I haven't seen those record-to-disc CD burners at any of the stores I've visited, so you'll probably hafta special order it. I was amazed at how easy the unit was to use. You can put a "silent sense" function in the burner to work when dubbing from another CD or a factory tape and dub straight thru, although you'll have to stop the CD you're recording at the end. You can change the track number manually as the CD dubs, or you can activate a "pause" control in case you want one track from one source, and then another track from another source. I've used my unit so much I've worn the paint off the buttons (play, pause, etc.)

1:50 PM  

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