Saturday, December 09, 2006

Death of a Tape Deck

My dual cassette tape deck just died. At 2:58 Eastern time, I declared the Teac dead. It woke me from a sound sleep with a horrible shriek from the living room. As it's death rattle vibrated along with the noises from the mechanical closet, I initially thought my furnace was dying, which, of course, set me into a "I'M WIDE AWAKE, NOW, THANKS!" kind of panic.

But then I realized, it was coming from the stereo shelf. Rattling away, thrumming with an awful high pitched whine, and strangely warm to the touch, was my old trusty Teac, maker of quality mix tapes since 1988. Frankly, I didn't even know she was still turning on and off along with the rest of my equipment. I guess I've just grown used to the small row of green lights from the top of the unit. I haven't actually used the Teac in, probably, 6 or 7 years. Although my car only has a tape player in it, I haven't made a mix tape for ages. I used to buy the 3 for $10 cassettes at Tower Records (generally my only purchase from that massively overpriced, dying retailer) or just use a portable Discman-type critter in the days before MP3 players.

Yeah, I've just ignored the Teac for too long, I guess. And tonight, she died of old age and neglect. The Teac was purchased off a clearance shelf at a stereo store in Moline, Illinois. I was quite excited by the buy back in '88. She made dozens and dozens of mix tapes over the years, including many in Moscow, where she provided endless entertainment for me, spitting out music I played in U.S. embassy vehicles, driving way too fast on craptacular Soviet roads. I had the "motorcade mix" tape, which I played when I had to drive in police-escorted caravans out to the airport for the arrival of dignitaries, and a different mix for the departures, which almost always started with Erasure's "Star": We go waiting for the stars/to come showering down/from Moscow to Mars/universe falling down... it required speed, and a feeling of release.

But time moves on. The Teac got horribly dented and abused on the return trip from Moscow, and her black paint job was scraped and peeling on the top. Yet she still produced fine entertainment. I made tapes for the Sasquatch, I made tapes for myself. I made tapes for friends for birthdays and holidays and as peace offerings and quiet signs of love, just like any good schmaltzy American who grew up with John Cusack movies and John Hughes movies and believes that a good mix of music can sway anyone's heart. Christ, I am stuck in the 80s, huh?

By the way:

Which John Cusack Are You?

That result did not surprise me.

But I digress...

I hit the off switch on the Teac a half hour ago. I turned off the life support. Frankly, I didn't want to wake up with the apartment on fire.

But I felt awful about it. It is the end of an era. I carry an iPod with me everywhere. I haven't bought a blank cassette tape in so long, I'm not even sure where they're still sold. Staples, maybe?

I'll take the Teac down to the trash room tomorrow. Or maybe to Salvation Army. Perhaps there's a kid out there who can revive her, stop her from shrieking and shuddering (and getting frighteningly warm.) Regardless I know her days of service to me are over.

And Sasquatch? I guess this means you'll never have to gently complain about my inability to get recording levels right - or the old, long spaces between my songs - ever again. But I hope, somewhere in your car, you have a little bit of my musical affection still floating around in a plastic case with my awkward handwriting spilled out on a tiny piece of cardboard wrapping.

(I still have tapes that this nice kid from Nebraska made for me in 1985 or 86. And I smile whenever I see his handwriting, which hasn't changed at all over the years...)

So, goodbye tape deck. May you rest well in the great stereo afterlife.

Thanks for all the memories.


E :) said...

RIP, trusty Teac. You'll be in good company - my old Sony tape deck died recently too!

Claire said...

Mix cds just aren't the same- not quite so special since they're so easy to make. No adding columns of song times to see how much will fit per side...

I have 2 in my car (now that I finally have a car with a tape deck), but it's rare I listen to them being more of a radio person when driving. You can still get cassettes most anywhere...drugstores, walmart, etc.

Anonymous said...

For me, it's my tapes doing the dying! A fav old Dolby one did a spectacular snap on me recently - it was an appearence on a UK TV show called "pop quiz" and had a small snipet of him singing an old donovan number "catch the wind" (a few seconds). Another dolby radio concert snapped as well. Thanks to the PC I'm transferring my collect over to digital. near_earth_object

spocko said...

BTW, I'm Lloyd Dobler!

Anonymous said...

I got a dual tape modul thing as a "morning gift" after our wedding (96), never been a jewellery kind of girl.. I can't remember the last mixed tape I've made either. (But hey - it IS true, a good mix of music CAN sway anyone's heart.. Yes, I'm Rob Gordon too...