Tales of the Tape - December 1990

by Dennis Daniel

Dennis-Daniel dec90If you recall, last month in Tales of the Tape we began the thrilling saga of "Dennis Daniel gets his 8-track." Your hearts pounded with excitement as you read the awe inspiring story of how one man, against overwhelming odds, tried to keep his sanity after leaving a 4-track facility at one station and moving to a new station with only a 2-track facility, with the promise of eight tracks to come! (The equivalent of going from a Cadillac to a VW bug.) You cheered Dennis on when his Tascam 8-track board arrived! You hoorayed with glee when he spoke of the beautiful 8-track reel-to-reel WDRE purchased for him. Then, when everything seemed to be going Dennis' way, you vomited blood when you read the depressing news about John, the station's engineer, breaking his leg the very day before he was about to begin the rewiring work that would eventually lead to all of Dennis' production wishes coming true. When we last left Dennis, he was sitting in his PD's office, mouth agape, lips twitching, staring in disbelief as he heard the words:

"John has broken his leg. He fell down a flight of stairs. He actually had to have a pin inserted to keep it straight, plus major surgery. He'll be out of it for at least the next three months."

The staring continued.

"This may mean we'll have to put the studio upgrades on hold even longer."

A small, but very discernible tear cascaded down my left cheek. I felt a slight tingling pain in the back of my neck. This sucked beyond sucking! I had already been mondo patient for the first four months dealing with that freakin' 2-track! I'm an artist! A visionary! How am I to create the audio visual worlds that scream from the very bowels of my brain to be born, to come to life on tape, when it takes me three times as long to produce something on the 2-track as it would on an 8-track!? Every day, as I sat in my car headed towards work, my mind would race around with the never ending possibilities afforded me by multi-track recording, and dreading the horrific reality of another wasted, boring, can'tgetwhatthehellIwantoutofthatlousypieceofcraptwotrack day! (Yes, I wanted that all to be one word. Read it fast for maximum efficiency.)

Okay. Calm down. No need to get crazy, Dennis. Just go to the station manager and ask him what can be done about this situation.

Lucky for me, my station manager, Abe Goren, had heard enough of my day to day complaining about the studio situation. He, along with station owner Ron Morey, assured me that they would go out and hire outside help to get the job done.

"We keep our promises," Ron said with a smile.

And they did! (Imagine that! As I'm sure many of my production brethren would agree, this is a rarity among higher management at many radio stations.)

The boys went out and hired five people to come in and rebuild the two studios. Our engineer John would supervise. Best of all, they would do it in a weekend! (John felt it would have taken him a month to do it alone.) What, in the beginning of the week seemed like hell on earth, turned out to be a blissful heavenly situation. When I left work that Friday, I felt like a little kid waiting to open his Christmas presents. John told me he would call the minute they finished so I could come down and start playing around with the new (gulp!) 8-track studio.

I expected the call to come Sunday evening.

It came Saturday afternoon.

"We're done."

"Completely?"

"Come on down!"

Good Lord! They finished it all in one day!

As I drove towards the station, I began to feel anxiety.

"I've never used a complicated board like this before," I thought. "What if I don't get it?"

John gave me an initial run through of the way things worked but didn't stick around too long. He was tired. So, after he left, I sat there and tried to figure the whole thing out. I had a real rough time! One of the hardest things for me to pin down was the idea that whenever you recorded in stereo, you had to use a different channel and track. I was so used to just punching up anything in stereo and running it through the same pot that the idea seemed really foreign to me. I was really frustrated. I ended going home early, too. "I'll figure it out Monday."

On Monday, I brought my video camera to work with me. John went through the entire board again and I video taped the entire lesson. Then, we did a production. It worked out fine! I really was beginning to understand, but I needed more practice. Much more.

Then, the most dreaded event a station can go through occurred!

That Tuesday, the day after I had received my basic knowledge (and I mean BASIC), WE WERE KNOCKED OFF THE AIR BY A POWER SURGE! Guess which studio we had to go live on the air from! Yes! Yes! The 8-track! The studio I just kinda, sorta learned! Suddenly, the fate of the entire frequency fell into my kinda, sorta, a little-but-not-really-too knowledgeable hands! Just two days before I didn't know dick!

Believe it or not, I found it exciting! I felt like James Bond! Here was danger. Here was drama! The fate of our airwaves rested in my hands alone! Besides John, who was busy hopping around on one leg trying to get us back on the air and tearing the air studio apart, I was the only jamok in the place who kinda, sorta knew how to run the 8-track studio.

Everything turned out fine.

I ran the board for four hours and had a blast! (It almost made me miss being a disc jockey.) It was nice to be the major dude in a tight situation. I mean, let's face it, we Production Directors are mighty important, but when are we ever placed in situations like these? When it was all over, I was euphoric!

Since that time, I have become a Zen Master of the 8-track and have produced very gratifying pieces of work. Like anything else worth suffering and waiting for, it is truly a dream come true. Now, when I walk into my studio, a studio these wonderful people at WDRE built for me to do the best work I can for them, it feels like home.

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