The "Pause Tape"



The year in question here will fall anywhere between about 1987 and 1994ish…
From 87-91, you will find me in the floor in the den in my grandmother’s house, homework on my right and radio on my left. From 91-on, I am at a round table sitting in my bedroom with the arrangement of my homework and radio remaining the same.
The radio has a recordable cassette tape in it, set to “Record” and left sitting on pause, so as to not miss a song I might like when it came on the radio. The first of this period would see the radio set to “Power” 97, and from 1990 (I think) it was set to 102JAMZ – which these days is known as the worst “urban radio station known to humanity.
Keying on yesterday’s discussion of cassette tapes and recording on them, the “Pause Tape,” not to be confused for something that might include ghey-sounding one-liners from someone currently on the radio after which one might say “pause,” was the largest part of enjoying music back in those days.
Before the advent of the interwebs, radio stations were saddled with the onus of having to play good music, which was what people liked. Growing up in a family that did not bestow me with a vagina-coated silver spoon, I had to get what I got the best way I knew how. This is not dissimilar from others of my generation, so I do not feel bad.
Given the dearth of radio stations that actually played “our” music at the time, you could imagine that it would just happen to be an hour or 4 between the times that you would hear a song that you wanted to hear. What you were subject to in the in-between was not so bad that you would want to martyr yourself (like nowadays’ music), but there needed to be a solution.
The pause tape was that solution.
You waited with the set-to-record tape paused and when your song started, you un-paused until the song ended. Stop button, play button for ONE second, then press record and pause at the same time again, wait for another song to come on. Once you have 30 (or 45, if you had the big money) on one side of your tape, you flipped it and did the same to the other side. In about a night, you had all the songs you wanted to hear in your walkman on the bus in the mornings.

I was thinking about this in the shower (where I often brainstorm things that become blogs) this morning, and posted a FaceBook/Twitter update to the days I miss. I was not the only one who did this, and I am DAMN sure not the only one who misses these days. It is especially odd how the days where you could fill a 60 or 90-minute cassette tape with good material recorded from the radio, and actually ride to it for weeks/months on end.
This was also the way to learn the words to your favorite songs.

Most days I drive my own car, and as I have not put the fuse back in my subwoofer, I rarely bother turning on sounds. When I have an option, I drive Katie’s car, in which I do not have my CDs, as the one in my own plays MP3 discs, and that is all I have outside of storage. When in her car, I am subject to commercial (for-payola) radio stations and it seems that it is only about once every hour or 3 that a song comes on that I genuinely enjoy. Odd, because the same 5 songs are in the every-hour-on-the-half-hour (read: every 30 minutes) rotation. So bad, is it, that once I have grown weary of a song, I re-write it, most of the time on the fly.
  • Trey Songz’ “We Can’t Be Friends” is now a song about female bedroom incontinence.

  • Usher’s “There Goes My Baby” is now a conversation between a pimp and a prostitute just before he has to put hands on her. It HAS been several other things on the in-between.

I wish I could think of more songs that I do this to, but know that I co-opt the whole song, hooks, adlibs and all, and the song rarely comes out the same way twice in a row, unless it is INCREDIBLY hilarious.

Back to the task at hand, it seems that there are a great many things of my childhood/adolescence that technology and the internet have just ruined. Another of those things that we used to have to sit by and take an active role in. Waiting for the song to come on, properly timing the recording with the pause button and not taping over the end of the song while making sure we didn’t get the DJ babbling about some bullshit over the end of it.
These lazy bastards nowadays… They make programs/browser plugins where you can download just the audio from a youtube clip as an MP3, then burn it all back to a disc. What took us a night or three takes them an hour, all for worse overall music at that!

Whatever.
I refuse to be reduced to that old dude standing on his porch yelling at the neighborhood kids to get the fuck off my lawn (yet).

What else from our childhoods have we come to miss in the boom of technological advantages?
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