Tales of the Tape - September 1995

dennis-daniel--logo-aug95-tfnby Dennis Daniel

You want to experience the ultimate in embarrassment? You want to cringe so tightly that your anal cavity shrivels and contracts to the size of an atom? You want to stare straight ahead, eyes bulging, lips quivering, and little tiny hairs on the back of your head standing so straight at attention that they'd cut your fingers to tiny little shreds of exposed, bleeding flesh if you touched them?

Sure. Doesn't everyone?

Okay. Here's how to reach that particular state of nirvana. Just head towards that special closet, file drawer, storage room or shelf space that contains some of your old master tapes.

You do keep your previous spot masters filed away somewhere, don't you? Of course you do. Never know when a client might ask to rerun an old spot, right? Never know when a salesperson will say, "You remember that spot you did about six years ago for Wanda's Whole Wheat Warehouse?" I mean...you mastered the spots for a reason, didn't cha? Maybe in case the cart breaks or maybe to have a 2-track stereo copy of a mix-down. Well, they're there, nice and neatly edited together with quarter-inch editing tape, tails out, labeled and numbered. Tell ya what...go back to about 1986. Go on. Just pick any old reel to reel at random from that era. Remember that year? Perhaps it was the one where you just started at the station. Maybe it's--God help you--a master five or six years deep into your employment at that time. Got it? Good. Take a look at your master sheet. Ah, memories. Any titles spring to mind as being of any merit? Something from the past that you kinda liked? Alright, before you play that, listen to some of the other spots on there. Let's see. Uh...how about that club spot? Yeah! The one for the club that doesn't even exist anymore. The one whose owner used to drive you wacko with recuts, band changes, drink special changes and "I hate that music bed! Can't you use (fill in the blank with a popular song you can't use cause they'd sue you, the station, and the club owner)?" Cue that one up. Hit play.

AARRRHHHHRRGGGGGGG! SWEET MARY AND JOSEPPI!

You okay? Did you hit your head when you fell under the board? It sucked, huh? You couldn't believe it was you, right? Isn't it astounding to think that way back then, those poor suckers actually paid you to write, produce and voice such drivel? Worse still, a poor, gullible, unsuspecting public was (gasp!) aurally exposed to this bastard child of a thousand maniac club owners! I shiver. I wheeze. I lower my head in solemn redemption and remorse for having created this...this...evil thing!!!

Tis true my production brethren and sistren. Nothing stabs at our ego filled little hearts more than hearing old spots we cut. The flashback qualities of the listening experience rival acid in their immediacy and visual/aural stimuli. Whoa dude, what a trip.

I took this trip recently in search of buried treasure. One day I got the brilliant idea, "Hey! I should listen to some of my old master tapes! I used to come up with amazing ideas that only ran for one week, for God's sake! There must be hundreds of glorious, wonderful, theater of the mind extravaganzas just waiting to be rediscovered and reborn anew! Ideas that may have been before their time! Ideas that, if recut, would flourish and come to new life in this digital domain of production wonderfulness we now live in!" Twas a noble idea, I thought. How could I lose? The odds were so in my favor it was staggering to me! I have over seventeen years combined of master tapes sitting in closets and bins gathering dust. Surely, there must be at least one spot on every reel that's worth its weight in gold! Let's see...seventeen years. At least one new master a week. Fifty-two masters a year times seventeen years equals...yowza!! Eight hundred and eighty-four! Imagine that! With at least one good spot on each one, that's eight hundred and eighty-four little production masterpieces waiting for a new lease on life! I struck pay dirt! The mother lode! I'd never have to think of another original idea again in my life!

Wrong.

The first thing that shocked me into reality was the absolute plethora of dreadful, uninspired, typical crap that filled each reel. The weird sound of my own voice. I mean, you gotta be kidding! This was me? (This is truly one of the freakiest things to experience. Hearing your own voice from seventeen years ago, clean and crisp, like it was recorded yesterday...only you don't sound like you.) How could anyone have thought I had one scintilla of talent? The reads were below average, droning nightmares. The production values below substandard. The copy writing nonexistent! Spot after spot after spot of worn out cliches, phrases, come-ons, sales pitches, grand openings, drink specials and going out of business jargon. I heard an impression spot I did for a club imitating our then President Reagan that was an abomination! The worst impression I ever heard! I heard a department store spot where I pretend I'm a sewer worker underground, who says one of the best parts of his job is listening to the cars talk to each other up above his head! And if that wasn't bad enough, I then imitated the cars talking to each other about the motor oil on sale that week at the store! I wept, I tell you, wept!

Ten reels. That's all I could take. I put them back into the dust of yesterday where, hopefully, they will never caress the magnetic playback heads of a reel to reel ever again.

I came to the realization that the past is indeed the past. That old ideas are indeed old. Mind you, I'm sure there have to be some great old spots in those piles, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna waste my time trying to find them! The concept of "a needle in a haystack" doesn't even begin to define the futility of searching through eight hundred and eighty-four reels. I'd be better off racking my brain for fresh concepts!

So, dear reader, if you indeed get the cockamamie idea that old masters may hold the key to your future, be afraid. Be very afraid. You may doubt your own talent and your employer's own sanity. Just burn 'em.

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