Note: There’s stuff about the old music biz and the Deuce at the end. You might want to click through!
So yesterday, two days after it arrived at Best Buy, I mosied on down to the superstore to pick up my $25 boom box/4 band radio/cassette to mp3 converter. As I mentioned previously, I wasn’t expecting much for the price I paid. And those expectations were met.
The first and biggest problem lay in the volume control – which was somehow stuck on el blasto! Even when I moved the knob from ten to zero!
Rather than completely piss off the neighbors, I found an old pair of headphones I don’t care about…wore them slightly off my ears to preserve my hearing…and proceeded. File that one under necessity is the mother of invention. Despite the glitch, I wasn’t that angry. With a legitimate reason to return the faulty product once I’m done transferring the relevant files, I vowed to do just that.
Problem #2 was one I already knew about from reading reviews of the product. Even though the unit has two speakers, they’re just for show. There’s no stereo. Buy the J22 and you’re not just dialing back the calendar to 1980 (by purchasing a boom box with cassette player) but to the 50’s when you could still listen to music in mono.
Surprisingly, the cassette player actually worked. And the frequency response was not bad. Predictably, the speed of the motor is a little fast and thus, the old tracks were a tad supercharged. (Back in the day, cassette decks always had that problem. None ran at the same speed. So ubiquitous was the situation that high end decks actually had a varispeed dial to deal with the issue.) Still, no deal breakers yet.
Sifting through hours and hours of old tapes, I found one of the few tracks I really wanted to preserve. Time for the acid test. Could I make the transfer to a flash drive? And how would it sound? To my utter surprise, the process is simple and the results better than I expected. The lows and highs aren’t that great (it’s midrange heavy). But warble is minimal and the transfer acceptable and presentable.
Beyond that, I can’t even begin to relate how emotional it was to hear the voices and banter from songwriting partners long gone from this world. A picture is one thing. And a vocal performance is another. But when you hear conversations which took place before and after the actual song demo was recorded, it gets very personal (we used to simply run the cassette recorder during the songwriting process). I’ll not bore y’all with a bunch of crap I found. But the following is more than I remembered it to be.
Brenda was a sexxxy size zero. A less is more kind of girl with a huge talent. Mom and dad were songwriters (they wrote “All Right, OK, You Win – I’m In Love With You” and “Baby Let Me Bang Your Box” which became Robyn Byrd’s theme song) and she got the gene.
Ms. Thing was a down and out single mom – and a booth girl on the Deuce. I knew this because LENNY WELCH (Of “Since I fell For You” fame) “fell” on hard times and was driving a cab when I met him. He used to duck into the squeeze-through window and booth joints and one day when the window opened, there was Brenda giving up feels for a buck (literally).
Anyway…one day I handed Brenda a track to write over. And the following is what she came up with. “Who Needs a Sucka Like You?” is obviously a narrative aimed at somebody (not me) who’d played her. And she was intent (a la Taylor Swift) to make a statement through her song. It’s all predictable songwriting until she approaches the hook to declare “I deserve someone to love me…not just someone to fill an empty space.” That’s when you know squeeze-through window girl or not, this girl has it. For me, this is sexual metaphor at its best.
Brenda is a little pitchy (just a little) in spots but this vocal is a bluesy tour de force. I can see how I never had a hit record. But I don’t know how the world missed her. Here it is: And by the way…the rap at the end is her 12 year-old daughter who Brenda wanted to involve in the process.