“Perhaps it was only that when you try to put it into words you cannot express it truly, it never sounds as you dream it.”― Michael Shaara
Remember the cassette that Josh Rosenthal handed me, that I mentioned in the last newsletter…his new edition of Imaginational Anthem which he is first releasing on a format that many thought was wayyyyyy dead…dead before CDs and DATS were dead…dead like 8-track tapes and cylinders are dead. Remember Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing? The guy who reference’s Robert Mitchum’s Harry Powell character from Night of the Hunter with his Love/Hate brass knuckle rings? Remember his boom box that he carried everywhere with him. Those things he put into the player…those are cassettes….tapes. We used to make mix tapes on cassettes, and there are mixtapes I still have that completely changed my whole musical outlook (thank you Donna Olpe Lieberman for my introduction to XTC from that tape you passed off to me when I was a sophomore in High School). The term has been more recently recycled by streaming companies to play on our sentimentality as well as by hip hop artists when talking about underground releases (a genre that came to prominence in the era of the cassette tape).
But physical cassettes? Why the hell would Rosenthal release a cassette?
Physical cassette tape releases have been bubbling back up into our culture for a while now. In the 90s and early aughts, heavy metal bands found an audience for mixed tapes. Aquarius Records in San Francisco was one of the first record stores I knew of who had a tape section and sold noised-out metal bands. I once bought a release by the band MOSS on a cassette that was encased in moss and nails. And then the infamous Burger Records came into the picture, littering the record store countryside with cassettes of garage and punk rock vibrations. People were pulling out their old beat boxes and throwing newly purchased tapes into its guts, winding up the volume and having a portable party. Analog, baby…retro with an 80s flair…who could ask for more?
Add to the mix the insane waiting times for vinyl to be pressed…and record label owner’s extended times to get a release out…and all of a sudden, a format like tapes, that are cheap and quick to make with a direct-to-customer market that does not seem to cut into other parts of their sales margins (ie—people still buy the same amount of LPs, etc). My friend Joel Selvin got me thinking about all of this when he e-mailed me an article about a label called RecordingTheMasters who were putting out cassette-only versions of old, loved records from artists like Sturgill Simpson, John Prine, Suzanne Vega, Built to Spill, The Avett Brothers and the Mavericks (among many others). Followers of music trends, get ready: cassettes are back. And companies are banking on their popularity growing (or at least, a niche being solidified).
How big does this get and does it help an always anxious music industry find another format to lean on? Doubtfully. But as journalist David Saxe discusses in both of his books about the return of analog life, people are craving non-digital art to hold and love…that is a great thing. It just so happens that my boombox is still in my Mom’s garage. I never got rid of my high school and college mix tapes or my air-checks from both my days djing at KUSF (before my voice changed) and my college KALX years. Looks like I have a use for my old tape machine after all!
This is an excellent piece of journalism by professor Michael T. Bertrand giving a deep look on the character (or lack thereof) of Elvis. One of the best articles I have read in a while, coming from the often great website “The Conversation.”
Van Gogh is everywhere these days….and that is nothing but a good thing: “In his last body of work, he returned to nature, and more specifically the olive groves surrounding the psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the south of France where he stayed from June to December in 1889. “Van Gogh and the Olive Groves,” a new exhibition opening at Mia on Saturday, takes a focused, intimate look into six works made during that period…”
“For the first time, researchers have reconstructed the DNA of an ancient strain of E. coli, according to a new study published in the journal Communications Biology. To find the bacterium, the team turned to the mummified remains of a group of Italian nobles originally recovered in Naples in 1983.”
Wow!!! The SF Board finally did the right thing. GO LOWELL!!!!
My friend Barak Zimmerman turned me onto this one. Yes, you can own some music history…if you have millions to spare… Then you can sit in the basement, throw on The Velvet Underground Live at Max’s Kansas City and drift off into the past….
Filmmaker Isaac Julian is having quite a year, just knighted by the Queen (if you are in to that stuff), several gallery openings…and this film which looks incredible telling a story (that I did not know) about Alain Locke, the “Dean of the Harlem Renaissance.”
By: Walter De La Mare
‘Is anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head: –
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.
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