“2nd Maths Mock o’level – BLOODY hard” / “After two weeks of solid revision, had to do piles of copying up” / “Got Quid for Focus ticket” / “Got Tarkus tape back from Precision”
A diary entry that has made me both remember AND forget things in equal quantities.
Firstly, conveniently forgetting that my Maths mock was BLOODY hard (please note swearing, spelled correctly, for absolute emphasis), my brain is somehow farting over the phrase “copying up”
Don’t get me wrong, I recognise the phrase “copying up” from the days at school, I just cannot – for the life of me – remember what it relates to exactly. As several of my old schoolchums might be reading this… maybe they can shed a little light on it?
The thing I CAN remember – perhaps surprisingly – is with regards to that comment about getting ELP’s Tarkus tape back from Precision. (I must have had a faulty one or something?)
The compact cassette began life in the mid-60’s, designed by Philips, primarily/initially for dictation and personal recording use. It was introduced to replace the unwieldy, huge and non-portable reel-to-reel tape recorders which had been popular for some time. The cassette was therefore an early example of product miniaturisation as a result of consumer demand, something which still exists to this day. People only have to notice how small their mobile/cell phones have become in the the past 5 or 6 years.
In 1971 three things happened almost simultaneously that propelled the cassette into the forefront of commercial recordings and allow it to take on the LP’s dominance.
The first was that the 3M company rejigged the transport mechanism inside the tape shells, making the tape run cleaner and with less flutter.
The second thing was the introduction of chromium dioxide (Cr02)tapes, giving much improved and longer-lasting quality.
The third, however, was the most revolutionary.
Tapes invariably gave off a hissing sound when played back, the result of the tape moving across the machine’s heads. In 1966 an American scientist named Ray Dolby invented a professional noise reduction system for recording studios that all but eliminated that tape hiss. That system was known as “Dolby A”. Several years later he perfected a second version – Dolby B – that made high fidelity (hi-fi) a reality on home tape machines and cassettes.
The combination of all these factors – together with the sheer portability of the format – made the cassette market take off like a proverbial rocket. (However, it would be 1979, and the advent of the Sony Walkman that would take the format all the way to the moon)
I am digressing to tell the story of the cassette, but here’s the thing I CAN remember from this period in the seventies.
Lord, then Sir, Lew Grade
Record labels did NOT release their own tapes in th UK. Instead of manufacturing the cassette versions of their best selling albums, many licensed them out to Precision Tapes, a subsidiary of Sir Lew Grade’s massive ITC Entertainment Group. (Digressing a little:- Lew Grade was the man wholly responsible for bringing shows like The Prisoner, The Saint, Thunderbirds and The Muppets to our TV screens!)
So, although the cassettes would carry the same artwork, credits and content, the sales and distribution of those tapes would be handled by Precision.
At least until the record manufacturers had tooled up their plants to churn out tapes alongside vinyl LP’s.
So, my “Tarkus” cassette was a duffer and I obviously had to return it to Precision – rather than Manticore/Island Records – for a replacement. The date being prior to the whole “sale of goods act” – which came into force in 1979 – that meant I could have merely returned the tape to the retailer for a new non-faulty one.
You know, when I actually remember something as intrinsic as this, I get genuinely excited.
(What’s the betting I have it all wrong?)
In one of life’s “chaos theories”, I would later work for the video offshoot of Precision Tapes – for a period of about two months in 1980. Worst job ever.
Hmmmn…. have I written anything about ELP’s “Tarkus”? ….. checks EFA70’sTRO search facility…. Oh…. I see I haven’t…..