Back in 1988 when I was a junior in high school I’d been playing drums for several years, but was still pretty much a hack. I’d taken some private and group lessons, but my playing was mostly confined to putting headphones on and playing to my favorite records. I didn’t ‘practice’ in any way, shape or form.
One of my friends at school was Joe Reinsel. He was the real deal. He was in the school band, could read music and also played drums. I’d go over to his house sometimes and he’d show me licks and beats he was working on or figured out. I remember one time he was breaking down some Stewart Copeland stuff from Police records. Fantastic stuff that I either didn’t know about, or couldn’t get my head around. He had some Police albums on vinyl. So I borrowed them, went back to my buddy’s house and recorded them to cassette from his dad’s turntable.
Although a few years ago I sold all my CDs, I’ve kept all my cassettes in the garage. They’re what I listen to when working out there on bikes, or whatever. Radio reception is only so-so. The cassettes are great because they don’t really mind the cold, the dirt, or whatever. They just work. And the guaranteed trip in the Wayback machine each time I throw one in is great. I’ve got mix tapes, store bought tapes, album copies. Most of them I hand-made artwork/sleeves for. The best are the non- or ambiguously labelled ones without any track listing. Throw one in and go along for the ride. Because they were often copied from other people, there are many artists/albums that I didn’t get into that much or never acquired on CD that are fun to revisit all these years later.
I borrowed 4 albums from Joe – Regatta de Blanc, Zenyatta Mondatta, Ghost in the Machine and Singles – which I recorded on 2 cassettes back to back, one album each side. One of the cool parts of listening to these is there’s a ton of vinyl hiss and fuzz recorded right in – especially in the silence between the tracks. It just dawned on me the other day that these particular Police cassettes are now 31 years old.