Tag Archives: 1990′s

Keep It Analog: Cassette Tape Archive Vol. 1

It seems rather unnecessary to wax about the cassette tape. Not because as an object the tape doesn’t contain poetry — rather because if you were there you know how damn great cassettes were. Not only did you get new music on them for cheap but you could tape other tapes, tape CDs, tape records, tape radio shows, tape tv on the radio, tape over recordings over and over again creating audio palimpsests, and tape odd bits of aural ephemera. All on simple equipment that by the age of 8 you had all you needed. And that is all before the all might mix tape and pause tape. I spent countless hours on that shit. Other people have already written about that.

Instead I’m just going to get to it: I haven’t had a functional tape deck for at least 8 years. I recently borrowed one and brought back a shoe box worth of tapes from my parents’ basement. Out of a larger mess, I grabbed some demos, some mix tape made for me, some random blank mysteries, and some gems. I’m going through them, recording them, and uploading them here. Check in periodically to see what batch comes up.

This thing crushed back in the day.

This thing crushed back in the day.

First up is the dorm room classic “Me. You. Youth Crew!” Made a bit by me, a bit by my roommate Ethan (the Ten Yard Friend), this is 90 minutes of hardcore 7″s that we were jamming to in 1998-1999. I’m amused by the inclusion of Connecticut’s Death Threat, but overall it is a solid mosh down memory lane. I did have to do a little surgery, putting cello tape at the start of side two.

Go!

Go!


Side 1

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Side 2

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Tracklist:
Side 1: Youth of Today, Inside Out, Indecision, Death Threat, Ten Yard Fight, Trial, Up Front, Fastbreak, Time Flies, Better Than Thousand, Ensign, Insted, Judge, Trial, Follow Through, 97a
Side 2: Slapshot, Reach They Sky, In My Eyes, Ten Yard Fight, Side By Side, Good Clean Fun, Youth of Today, Cornerstone, Atari, 97a

The Rails and The Waves

Whiskey is the devil.

Whiskey is the devil.

In the heyday of tapes, in the time of mp3s being for nerdarios and ipods being science fiction, you just used to drop mix tapes on friends. Ethan made this one.

Rails and Waves tape

Side 1

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Side 2

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Track List:
Side 1: Johnny Horton, Rumbleseat, Murder City Devils, Templars, The Pogues, Traditional Songs, Johnny Horton, The Pogues, Murder City Devils, Pinhead Gunpowder, Ancient Mariners
Side 2: MC5, Dead Boys, CCR, The Reducers, The White Stripes, Richard Hell, The Mooney Suzuki, The Standells, The Rolling Stones, The Stooges, MC5
Stoned Wellesley Funk
Radio WelsleyDat spelling do
Birdman invited Ethan and I to do his weekly radio show and I recorded it on a boom box in the studio. Funky shit. No track list. No coherent spelling on the tape label.
Side 1

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Side 2

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Random Tape Number 1

Only in the past year did I own a car that had a cd player. I used to make tape after tape of songs I was feeling to either jam out to on a walkman or in the car. I suspect that this unidentified mix of emo/hardcore is one of those. It is stands as a pretty solid take of 1996-2000 era emo/hardcore. I was able to remember (accurately, I hope) all the bands just listening to it once.

Tape 1

Side 1

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Side 2

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Tracklist:
Side 1: Avail,Inquisition, Boy Sets Fire, 400 Years, Sleepy Time Trio, Rye Coalition, The Monorchid, Action Patrol, Current, The Promise Ring, Texas is The Reason, Jimmy Eat World, Sleater-Kinney, The Never Never, Team Dresch, Charles Bronson
Side 2:
Ten Yard Fight, Fastbreak, Ann Baretta, Hot Water Music, Discount, Kind of Like Spitting, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jazz June, The Regrets, Knapsack, Rainer Maria, Piebald, Spazz, Alan Ginsberg

Tim Dog – F-ck Compton

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F-ck Compton

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Going Wild in the Penile

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To my barely teen self, Tim Dog’s Fuck Compton, along with NWA and Boss’s “I Don’t Give a Fuck,” was part of a spate of rap releases that straddled the line between fascinating and frightening. I was fairly oblivious to the nitty-gritty of the East Coast – West Coast rap beef, but being from the northeast I just reflexively threw my lot in with the East Coast. Here Tim Dog menacingly threatens NWA and anyone in their orbit. To my mind at the time, anyone willing to call out NWA must be a real badass.

And that is the sticking point — at that time. Listening to it now it comes across as cartoon goonery over ESG and James Brown samples. On one hand he calls them out for fighting for gang turf but then he quickly goes to the other hand threatening to beat and rob them for being from the West Coast. If it wasn’t for the call to arms I don’t think Tim Dog’s flow or technique would have him stand out from his peers.

I point out the cartoon aspect of the song not because he was likely exaggerating or speaking from a persona, many rappers do that, but because at the time I fully believed that what was presented on the song was who he was. It probably helped that I was very young and from the suburbs but I was effectively conned. I bring this up because I hadn’t given Tim Dog much though until I read that he was on the lam, accused of being a con man and possibly faking his own death. Turns out he did pass away but the accusations appear to be real. One ironic aspect is that one of his cons was promoting an all male “Chocolate Thunder” stripper tour — the b-side here is Wild in the Penile where Tim Dog breaks down his time in jail where he makes it clear he is not down for any gay shit. Anyway, the thread I’m trying to tie here is that I was fully willing to believe that he was a true goon who shouldn’t be messed with, I was willing to be hoodwinked into believing his story. I wasn’t alone judging by the amount of controversy and press Fuck Compton generated. Tim Dog apparently had gift of getting people to believe his version of reality.

Tim Dog Fuck Compton back cover Some mean mugs in this crew

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DMC Limited – December 91

DMC 2

I often overlook dollar bins but there can be records in there that are worth the digging. DMC Limited was a DJ subscription service where dance singles and mixes were sent out to DJs. The DMC records have been largely relegated to the ignominy of the land of dollar recs. For a dollar or two you can get three or four house singles on one record. I’ve been able to come across some really random tracks on the DMC records too, like a medley of the songs from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. There are also DMC records that are side long mixes by DJs for, I guess, a DJ to take a pee break during their set.

The second side of the December ’91 release, “Paradise Peaks ’91″ mixed by Steve Anderson, is one that is right in my wheelhouse. A mix that features Little Louie Vega, and Joey Negro is going in the correct direction from jump. The A side I’m a little less enthusiastic about but it is a snapshot of the time.

Download Paradise Peaks ’91
Download House ’91

The DMC subscription service was started by Tony Prince, who is on of those Forrest Gump type guys in the music industry who has been around for everything and met everyone. He started off in a band in the early 1960′s to then move onto being a pirate radio Dj, tv presenter and running a label. In the early 1980′s he played DJ mixes on his radio show and started the subscription service in 1983. He started Mixmag at that time also. Clearly the dude had some passion and energy. DMC is still going strong and Prince is still up on the latest in music.

DMC 3

DMC 1c

Shabba Ranks, Dem Bow, and Reggaeton

shabba-ranks
Mr. Loverman

In the early Oughts it was impossible to walk into a bodega and not hear Reggaeton playing loudly. Going in to by a beer was accompanied with a soundtrack by Don Omar, Calle 13, Daddy Yankee or Tego Calderon. Latin radio advertised heavily that Reggaeton was ruling the airwaves. Although the pop crossover didn’t happen to the degree expected you only have to stand a few moments on a street corner in Brooklyn or the Bronx to catch a snippet of the ubiquitous rhythm.


Daddy Yankee

The root of the genre, and the singular beat has migrated from Puerto Rico to NYC and then globally, is based on a Dancehall single. 1991 saw the release of Shabba Ranks’ song Dem Bow. The Bobby Digital produced single was one in a massive run of Dancehall dominance by Shabba. Although many in pop listeners know Shabba’s cheesier side, he had Dancehall locked down in the early 90′s. Dem Bow was one of several hard hitting singles that he released. Dem Bow itself is a re-lick of the Steely & Cleevie produced, Gregory Peck DJ’d track, Poco Man Jam.

Dem Bow 45 single
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Dem Bow 45 single VERSION
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Listening to Shabba’s song you can hear the skeleton of Reggaeton but there is something missing. And when you hear the version track it is a bit closer but there is still something not quite right. The actual track that undergirds the many Reggaeton versions is a re-lick of Shabba’s single by Nando Boom. “Ellos Benia” takes Dem Bow and adds a slight bit of sonic Sofrito that then takes the Spanish Reggae scene by storm. Dem Bow and the re-lick were unstoppable in the Caribbean with English and Spanish artists getting up on their respective riddim.


Nando Boom

What fascinates me is the both the widespread popularity of the versions of Dem Bow and its staying power. The 1990′s was an absolutely massive time for reggae riddims with many cut into versions a decade later, but none have the breadth of Dem Bow. I was on a flight in India watching Hindi movie videos to pass the time when I my jaw dropped upon hearing the open bars of Dakku Daddy. Buried within a masala intro were the bones of the Dem Bow riddim. IshQ Bector’s song was clearly the Indian re-lick of a Reggaeton beat, which itself is built upon a Reggae riddim that is a re-lick of an older riddim. This is the DNA of a riddim moving through time and place.


IshQ Bector

The musical signifiers of Dem Bow traveled well but less so the lyrics. Breaking down the patios finds lyrics typical to the Rasta rebellious Puritanism of time. On one hand Shabba is calling out oral sex as a vestige of colonial oppression (both the gay and straight variety). On the other chorus is giving a big-up to those who don’t bow to colonialism and oppressors. The problematic duality of raising demands of repression as signals of freedom in Dancehall is well discussed. What I find interesting is the moving the core track of Dem Bow away from English seemed to free up its lyrical space. In Spanish it is a rallying cry, a love song, a party song, etc, where in the Dancehall context other artists used the riddim to toast lyrics along the same theme.

The Dem Bow riddim is obviously rich culturally and I could research and say so much more. I have to give major props to two sources that I recommend and leaned on to learn about this song. Both by Wayne Marshall, there was, first, an article in Wax Poetics, and then later I found a more academic article by Mr. Marshall.

Dem Bow 45
Dem Bow single