Thursday, 19 July 2012

Mix Tapes of Yester Year and the Two Finger Manoeuvre

As some may know who follow my Twitter feed (which has been quiet of late due to the one handed typing due to splint), Elder and I finally have a car. A mini. I love it.

Its nice to be able to get out of the boring town we live in and pop over to towns which actually have shops. Its also nice to have the stereo on and listen to CDs again, as we have recently been more of a media player or YouTube for music household. Even though we have stacks of CDs and thousands of records.

Some of the CDs have been from years back, and many are home made with the tunes we were listening to at that time. It means all sorts of long forgotten memories have resurfaced.

It also made me think of the tapes we all used to pass round at school, and how this generation simply wont know the joy of a friend making you a mix tape. I can't be the only one who remembers the days of being a teen and a new album coming out?

Well, were I went to school, most of us had little money, and our parent's weren't made of money either. Its not like now when everyone has an expensive phone and an Ipod. If you had a CD Walkman you were considered pretty much a lottery winner in my day! I remember the first time someone brought a mobile in to school and most of us being absolutely green with envy. Even a Pager was considered cool back then.

So, when you knew a new album was out from a fave band, you all wanted it, but if, like me, you had a measly after school job paying just over a £1 an hour (£13.10 a week!) you had to save up. Of course, £13 would have easily covered an album, but what with buying Smash Hits, having money for chips at school, and the odd bar of Dairy Milk from the Tuck Shop, £13 went nowhere. Even less so if you wanted a top or jeans off the market. 

The alternative was to wait patiently until the mix tape was produced from your mate. I remember giving my friend Josie (now Eskimosie at Twitter) a pile of TDKs and asking her to copy me some albums and singles she had knocking around. I still have some of them in the cupboard to this day.

Most times, the well off popular kids in the year above would go off down to Our Price and buy the album we were after, and they'd make their kid brother or sister a copy on tape. That would then be recopied by half the cool kids in our year before filtering down the food chain to me and my library dwelling mates.

It may have taken about 6 weeks before you got a copy, but when you did it was played to death with glee at having got an album for the price of perhaps a "get out of Gym" note (my speciality at school- sorry Ms D and Ms B) or in some cases two B&H on the field (The RNS Fag of choice). 

There was always one other alternative, but it required skill and determination, and parent's who didn't mind you missing dinner on a Sunday between 4pm and 7pm. 

The skill was the "Two Finger Manoeuvre" and only a few were blessed with enough accuracy to become Gods of recording the Top 40, minus the annoying bit where Simon Mayo used to talk about the song before playing it. Its a lost art I'm sure, but one which probably caused an RSI in many over 30s. 

I was reasonably good at this manoeuvre, and armed with a stack of blanks, so beloved that my Dad used to buy them for me in bulk for Christmas and Birthdays, and my trusty and equally crusty yellow Boots single deck and radio combo, I'd wait for the must have tunes to come on. I would also then have to quickly rewind to the end and attempt a fade out of the song to stop any tell tale signs of it coming from the radio. Especially since the yellow box had no fade out function at all. I still had it when I met Elder for exactly the purpose of recording off the radio, even though by then the front tape door had fallen off and you had to pries tapes out with a butter knife. It once went to fall from an open window to the road 3 floors below and both of us made a jump to catch the lead. 

Yes, before you tell me off as it was highly illegal to steal from the radio or copy from albums, I know it was. I remember my Dad entered me for a competition with TDK and I came third (winning more blank tapes), but as I wasn't aware he'd entered me, I received an official looking letter from TDK and thought I was busted for illegal copying.

In my defence, why did they even sell these tapes? They must have known what we were all up to, surely? They must have known that not all of us were recording our own bands or thoughts onto their tape. 

The lost years of tapes and mix tapes, and recording the Top 40 as you were too skint to buy a proper Woolies version. How do kids do it now? Apart from Pirate Bay, of course! They can hardly pass round the Ipod can they?

Let me know whether you indulged in the mix tape at school, and what was your must have music back then?




  1. This is such a fab post. You just took me on a walk down memory lane. I had tons of blank tapes, some were used to record ourselves as radio dj's but mostly I had the two finger pause down to a tee.

  2. In my time, I didn't even use blank tapes. I used my father's old tapes and recorded over them from the radio. And like the previous commenter I also recorded myself as a disc jockey. *Sigh* This brings back a lot of jolly good memories.


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