Thirty-eight years ago last week, I moved into the house where this blog is written.
As was my procedure in my too-frequent previous moves, the first thing my helper, Al, and I unloaded was the stereo gear. Because you can’t do anything without tunes.
How I listened to The Music back then was on equipment dating from my Mad City days, five to 10 years earlier. The receiver was OK, an Allied unit, as I recall, but without a lot of power. Enough, though, to run the speakers, which were no-name, but adequate, two-way acoustic suspension.
The turntable wasn’t a very good one, and that showed in the condition of the albums that I owned at the time. I didn’t have a lot — Van Morrison’s first two real LPs, some Beatles, Doors, Zappa and the Mothers, Rundgren’s Runt, oddball items like SRC — and most had been played to death with a cheap cartridge and stylus.
A lot of the music in my collection was on reel-to-reel tapes, most of those recorded by my friends Skip and Ron, dozens and dozens of them, maybe upwards of a hundred. I had a good tape deck, an Akai, purchased with most of the settlement I received for my bicycle accident. (Talk about giving up your body for something …)
I’d also recorded some borrowed albums — Tubular Bells, for one — and taped a number live concerts off the radio, mostly “The King Biscuit Flower Hour.” (Those tapes are still awaiting digitization, because the Akai’s drive belt needs to be replaced.)
A lot of my listening, and exposure to new music and artists back in the day was via FM radio, but that had decreased after I moved out of Mad City’s orbit and out of the reach of Radio Free Madison. When I lived in the Arcadia area, KRCH in Rochester was available, and was a decent replacement.
But the house I moved into Nov. 1, 1980 — renting at first, but taking ownership three months later — sits down below the level of the street, on the edge of the river bottoms, with a bluff a few hundred yards to the north. So radio reception wasn’t very good, even for the stations in La Crosse and Eau Claire; not even an external antenna improved that, and couldn’t do anything about their programming, which which at that time was “robot radio” and/or strictly Top 40
I picked up a better Sony turntable a year or two after moving in, and started to add albums again — some of them via one of those record-of-the-month club deals, which was a mistake and a pain in the butt.
Eventually, the receiver died — the spacky Siamese I had back then would run behind the bricks-and-boards shelving and loosen the speaker wires, which is bad for the output transistors. After Jeanne and I met and married, the cat went away — it hated my wife, and made it obvious, and the feeling was mutual — and the CD revolution arrived.
So I got a new stereo system, matching Onkyo equipment — receiver, cassette decks, carousel CD player — with remote controls. The first five-disk CD changer was replaced before too long, because it wouldn’t actually play songs randomly — just at random within each disk — with a six-disk carousel that would. I picked up a new pair of speakers somewhen in that time frame, purchased at a short-lived electronics store in Whitehall.
The tape deck was put away after awhile — too much machinery even for the big entertainment center which replaced the bricks and boards. The turntable was boxed up eventually, because a new entertainment center had less room, and I didn’t listen to my albums as much, many of them having been replaced by CDs.
After we built an addition to the house, which included a Man Porch for me, yards of speaker wire — actually lamp cord, because the real thing was too pricey — were strung and stapled to the joists in the basement, connecting the entertainment center to my old speakers, perched on top of the closet at the far end of the porch.
The innards of those speakers had deteriorated — not surprising that the cones cracked, after 20 years or so — and replaced. (They had been retired for awhile anyway, replaced by the aforementioned new units.)
The wires to the Man Porch eventually also powered the nice Klipsch outdoor speakers that Jeanne gifted me, for our deck parties. The fully-randomized CD changer provided the tunes, until the next revolution in music delivery arrived.
So now the Man Porch speakers — both sets are out there — can be powered by small Bluetooth amplifiers, one of which actuates the Klipsches outside. They get the tunes from an iPod — probably the seventh or eight of those devices I’ve had — another gift from my wonderful wife.
The iPod also provides input to the handy little Jam speakers that I use occasionally, sitting by the campfire or working in the basement. And the wireless headphones I use at my desk, or later at night on the deck.
That pack-of-cigarets-sized device holds many of the albums and tapes I brought to this house 38 years ago, digitized via the new turntable I bought a decade or so ago. Plus the dozens of CDs I’ve purchased since, or Jeanne has bought for me (ah, the Beatles remastered!), or that I’ve purchased as downloads, and the borrowed/loaned albums I’ve digitized
Moving into a new place, and getting the tunes up and running, would be a lot easier these days.