New Fun With Old Tapes

I am, at heart, a lazy sod. This makes it rather strange that I’ve worked nearly every day since 2000, with only one week-long vacation last year that my fellow Ronins made me take. Anyhow, recently I’ve been rummaging through my old tapes. I like putting on music that’s going to play for a while. I don’t want to have to get up while I’m working to flip a record or change a CD. While the shuffle function on the CD player is certainly nice, I thought it’d be fun to dig out some of classic TDK 90 minute tapes. 45 solid minutes with no flipping, that’s what I’m talking about.

It reminded me of my whole philosophy of tape making, which developed when I was in high school. I had friends who would tape one LP on one side of the tape, fast forward to the end, then tape another LP on the other side. If it was a short album, like say “Group Sex” by the Circle Jerks, well, they’d just have to fast forward longer when the album finished. I thought that was insanity. If you’ve got a 90 minute tape, fill it up! Put on another LP, a 7″ EP from the same band, or assorted compilation tracks. I rarely let even a minute of tape go unused. Luckily, that’s pretty easy with punk rock, less so if you’re into prog rock or trance or something. Me, I could always fit “They Saved Hitler’s Cock” by the Angry Samoans or “Asesinos” by Los Crudos or “Circles” by the Faith. You get the idea.

Here are some of the tapes I’ve been listening to of late:

Tape #1, Obscure Hardcore Hour: This tape has the first EP and first two LPs by the British band the Stupids. They eschewed all Brit-punk traditions and whole-heartedly embraced American hardcore. Speedy, funny, and featuring a cameo by Satan! This same tape has the one and only LP by the North Carolina band Subculture, “I Heard a Scream.” They are totally forgotten today, but the record holds up. You might describe it as hardcore with heart. Pillsbury Hardcore rounds out the tape with the “In a Straight Edge Limbo” EP. They were a band from Pomona, CA, which you can learn by listening to “I Love Pomona”. While the music isn’t particularly memorable and the vocalist screeches too much, there’s something endearing about songs like “7-11 Is God” and the immortal “Hey Bob, What’s Up?”.

Tape #2, Peace Punk O Rama: This tape is slightly unusually in that I made at someone else’s house and in a hurry. If I remember correctly, it was at one the punk rock, vegan Thanksgivings at Neil’s (of Tribal War records and the bands Nausea and Final Warning). Neil was a crusty old Brit, who started out as a clean-cut young Mod in the 70s, following the Jam around. He had a great record collection and that day I taped two records that had proved simply impossible to find over here: Dirt’s “Just An Error” and Omega Tribe’s “No Love Lost” LP. I also included both band’s EPs, “Object/Refuse/Reject Abuse” and “Angry Songs” respectively, and an EP by another Crass-punk band, Anthrax (not to be confused with the rubbish metal band of the same name). Dirt and Omega Tribe were classic Crass Records peace punk outfits from the early 80s. Very political lyrics without a shred of humor, great for when you’re angry and full of angst. Dirt later reformed in the 90s and I ended up seeing them several times. Amusingly enough, when Dirt was over here, Neil started going out with Dino, their amazingly high-pitched vocalist.

Tape #3, Indiana’s Finest Plus: Punk rock and Indiana don’t exactly go together, or so you would think. The tape kicks off with the first Toxic Reasons LP, “Independence.” This is the only record with their first singer, Ed Pittman, and it rocks from start to finish. Buzzsaw hardcore with pissed off lyrics and gravelly vocals. Ah, that’s the good stuff, from the opener “Mercenary” to “Riot Squad” to the more mid-tempo “White Noise.” I love this record. Also representing for Indiana are the Zero Boys, with their “Vicious Circle” LP. Paul Mahern’s sneering, nasally vocals are quite the counterpoint to Pittman’s, but they work with the clean hardcore sounds and almost-pop sensibilities at work here. “Amphetamine Addiction” and “Living in the 80s” are still catchy as hell, though “Civilization’s Dying” is pretty dated with its references to the shootings of “the pope and the president and the big rock star who made a lot of money.” I reached down into Louisiana for the last LP on the tape, “Condition Red” by the Red Rockers. At this point, I need you MTV-generation readers to cast your minds back to 1983 or so. You may remember a band called the Red Rockers, who had a mild hit with a crap pop song called “China.” Amazingly, this is the same band, but several years before when they were angry and more political. The Clash influence is strong, but that’s not a bad thing in my book. Cuts like “Guns of Revolution” and “White Law” do, indeed, rock. They also score big points for covering Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”.

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