-> Nostalgia -> Pre-PC Geek -> Audio Clips

In 1971 I was making my music recordings by holding the mic of a portable cassette recorder by the speaker of an AM radio. The sound quality was nasty, although 34 years later the tapes sound no worse. In this clip, 12 year-old Richard gives a heartfelt apology for a blank spot in Chase's "Get it on". This is most likely be the oldest recording of my voice in existence.

Scans of two such old cassettes used in that fashion:


A 2400 DPI scan of the tape and pressure pads of one of these old cassettes. Not for the fainthearted:

A few more treats found on these tapes:

WOLF Syracuse's Howie Castle 1973 aircheck                              Casey Kasem 1973

Syracuse station's Great Gum Giveaway 1974: This one helps to recall the days when radio stations didn't have to give out 5 and 6 figure prizes to get listeners' attention. I miss those more simple days, and fear that nothing short of bloodshed or hardcore sex will sate audiences in the near future.

There were other obvious drawbacks to this crude recording method. At the time I had an aquarium, and the cycling heater produced strong static on AM radio:    Clip 1     Clip 2

Another obvious problem was the pickup of background noise. When I was making this
1974 recording, I was hard at work at another hobby of the time, fly tying. The vice that held the hook squeaked frequently.

Also from those tapes comes WNDR Syracuse's Flying Dutchman in 1975:    Clip 1     Clip 2. 
"Dutch" was a novelty DJ on a popular AM top-40 station. His humor is tame by today's standards, but I found him to be a joy then and now. Unfortunately, he did not stay on the air for long. These poor-quality 30-minute clips were made with a microphone and inexpensive cassette recorder. Here is good Dutchman link on The Dutchman is still going strong and has his own site.

After getting better equipment, I used cassette tape to do many more things:

5-minute clip high-quality clip of Rochester's WCMF in December, 1980  at the end of their John Lennon tribute.

2.5 minute clip of Rochester's WMJQ experiencing a Dr. Demento tape mishap in 1979. The show must go on, so the host plays some late-70's "space music". I sure would love to get my hands on more music like that! Note the wind chime effect in the background when the host is talking, which was a popular effect at the time(?)

WMJQ introduces new music from Ace Frehley in 1978. There go those wind chimes again!

WMJQ ad for 2/25/79 David Bromberg Concert at University of Rochester.

One I remember well:  Chipmunk Punk add from 1980.

A Rochester-area Christian FM station jingle from 1977

Some brief clips from Rochester's WVOR FM in September, 1977. Note the comment on the recent passing of Elvis:   Clip 1        Clip 2        Clip 3        Clip 4       Clip 5       Clip 6     

In the late 1970's, one of my favorite stations to tape from was Syracuse's WKFM 104.7. It was one of many of the many "automated" FM stations that existed back then. They could be easily identified by a male voice that named the last one or two preceding songs, and a series of rotating vocal announcements like "Your music", "All the music without all the talk", "In stereo", etc. Whenever I taped a pair of songs, I left song-naming announcement on the tape, so I am discovering a number of these, all from 1976 to 1980:   

Clip 1    
  Clip 2       Clip 3      Clip 4      Clip 5     Clip 6     Clip 7     Clip 8

Clip 9      Clip 10    Clip 11    Clip 12    Clip 13   Clip 14   Clip 15  

Clip 16  (ends with a funky instrumental opening that unfortunately was the very end of the tape)

Jingle (poor quality)    Jingle (good quality but clipped at beginning)

A fond memory I have is how these stations handled a suggestive song title. When ZZ Top's "Tush" was topping the airwaves, the announcer would simply say "ZZ Top" to identify the song! Can you imagine one of today's "shock jocks" having an issue with that?

I had the opportunity to visit the WKFM studios around 1976. I remember seeing a room full of reel-to-reel decks and cart machines. I think one station engineer-type ran the whole thing.

Visit this automated radio formats site for more information (thank you Scott Davis for the link).

High-quality Dentyne, Certs, Freshen Up Gum, and Chewells commercials taken from Dr. Demento shows found in newsgroups. Dr. Demento listeners must have been heavy users of gum and breath mints:

"Brush your breath with Dentyne", 1979:    Add 1     Add 2     Add 3     Add 4     Add 5

"Certs keeps on working (even after the candy's gone)", 1979:    Add 1     Add 2    

Freshen-up Gum (he didn't know the gum was loaded)", 1979:  Add 1     Add 2 

Trident Gum, 1985:    Add 1     Add 2 

Chewells, 1985 (smack dab in the middle)  Great mid-80's sound!

Here are clips found at the ends of a tape where I randomly tuned between stations in the late 70's. In some parts, it appears that sessions were recorded over each other, with parts of both remaining. Longer intervals of well-known songs have been edited, and obscure music, jingles, and commercials are emphasized. They are sloppy and chaotic, but provide a good sample of what the FM dial was like back then:

Syracuse or Rochester FM, late 70's (3:08) I am less certain of date and location when compared to the other clips. It is between 1977 and 1979. It has a few more obscure 70's music clips, some standards, and a car dealership add jingle. Listen for analog tuning sounds.

Rochester FM, late 1977 (7:30)  Starts with an especially dreadful "beautiful music" clip, a then-popular format that is rare today. Following that are some obscure and very funky 70's music clips, along familiar standards and pre-70's oldies. There are a few jingles, automated FM song ID's, and DJ airchecks. Also listen for analog tuning sounds and empty-channel hiss.

The equipment that I possessed allowed me to experiment with mixing and audio creations on cassette tape:

Butchered beautiful music:      Part 1       Part  2       Part 3                 Signal generator noises

Helium voices     Feedback via equalizer and 3-head tape deck    Bass plugged into tape deck

End of tape filler talk       Talking with myself

Besides these things, I made recordings of live events:

Church musical cast party, 1976. Despite my claims to the contrary, it was a well-behaved event!

I can't believe this is a church party!                String of puns                     Nernie, nernie, nernie

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" musical, 1977. I was in the show itself as brother Benjamin, so someone else no longer remembered manned the deck:    

One more Angel in Heaven
                                     Potiphar                                A Pharaoh Story

There were many more great things on tape, mostly lost forever. Perhaps I will be lucky and find a few more of my unlabelled old cassettes. A favorite that I remember and almost certainly will never find was a setup where I lined up pieces of turkey between two stereo mics and let two cats go at it! Another was a 1960's-style basement jam session in 1976 that I remember accidentally recording over.

Such "old school" audio equipment made unique sounds that are seldom heard today. The old LP records were cursed for clicks, pops, and rumbles that resulted from a diamond stylus contacting the vinyl platter which of course was not perfectly flat and free of dust and scratches. Here is a clip of an FM station around 1978 starting up a song on a record and for some reason starting again. Listen for the sound of the stylus dropping on the record, followed by clicks and pops in the background. This was all a fact of life in the pre-CD era!

Many stations used reel-to-reel tape for music programming, and sometimes
rapidly rewinding audio would accidentally get on the air as it did on this 1977 example. Here are two examples of rewind noise bleed-through from a "Soundtrack of the 60's" broadcast around 1982. It is very faint and high-pitched; headphones suggested:   Clip 1      Clip 2

Through the magic of pitch bending, the rewind audio clip can be slowed to reveal that it is Herman's Hermits "A Must to Avoid".

There were many formulations and quality levels of cassette tape. In order to assure that higher and lower frequencies were balanced, decks such as the one I used recorded alternating high and low frequency calibration tones that allowed adjustment for even frequency balance. In other words, it was a fussy process to get recordings right!

Even the FM tuners were different back then. Instead of silently seeking the next station or calling it up with a button, a manual tuning wheel was used. Hiss was heard between stations as well as staccato clips of other stations being passed over. Here is a clip from a 1979 tape when the tuning knob was accidentally moved and quickly re-adjusted, by 20 year-old me no doubt! If you left it on an empty channel, you'd get a deep, rumbling hiss that sounds like Niagara Falls when played loud through a good speaker system or headphones! Today's tuners have squelch circuits that prevent such things.

Affordable, practical VCR's weren't around yet either. Like CD players, it would be a few more years. The best that could be done was to at least capture the audio on cassette tape. Since TV's of that era did not have audio line-out jacks and other niceties, I used a multi-band VHF portable that covered TV audio frequencies. Besides the obvious problem of no picture, there was interference from public safety radio services that operated on adjacent frequencies. Here are three clips of the 1977 annual Wizard of Oz TV special recorded in this method that demonstrates that. Happily, they include considerable sponsor and commercial content:         

Clip 1
            Clip 2              Clip 3    

Clip 3 is the most significant, containing an entire commercial break. In a great moment of irony, actress Margaret Hamilton can be heard as both the wicked witch and "Cora" in the then-famous Maxwell House commercial. Listen for the voice similarity. According to the biographical link, this was done intentionally.

It was possible to use a 35mm camera and tripod to capture still TV screen images with a little care, something I became fairly good at:

Mr. Bill - My all-time SNL favorite, around 1979 Mr. Bill - My all-time SNL favorite, around 1979 Ultra Brite commercial - Lynda Carter?, 1979
My favorite Carson persona - Floyd R. Turbo, 1979. RIP Johnny, I miss you! SNL's Gilda Radner as "Candy Slice", 1979 SNL's "Weekend Update" with John Belusii and Jane Curtain, 1979
SNL's "Weekend Update" with Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain, 1979 NBC Sports Journal, Nov.1 1980 date seen on screen Panaonic commercial from Sports Journal show, 11/1/1980

The last time I recorded FM radio and LP's on cassettes was in 1985 after a lapse of 4 years. After that, I became focused compact disks and VCR recording. The highest-quality recordings that I achieved were made at this time from my LP collection. Listen for a good example of  turntable noise at the beginning of the first clip:    Clip 1      Clip 2

The following years saw much time spent as father of 1, 2, and then 3 young children, a return to radio hobbies, and the beginning of my long evolution into a computer geek, which I consider beginning in 1993 despite much earlier involvement with computing. This will be covered on an upcoming page.

In 1998 I briefly resumed recording for the purpose of making car tapes from MP3's. For this purpose I obtained a Sony TC-WE625 deck. Although that venture was short-lived, I am very grateful that I bought the deck because it has made this page possible!

The deck was also used in 2002 at the onset of the Sounds of the cul-de-sac project before discovering direct-to-PC recording. At the same time I began experimenting with cassette audio digitization.