Back in my family home I still have an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. I am not absolutely sure how old it is, but I think I may have received it as a birthday present in 1970. It was an Uher recorder, much like this one. For the next few years I recorded lots of stuff – much of it music recorded from the radio, but also some television programmes (sound only, obviously), people talking, that kind of thing. Then towards the end of that decade I decided that cassettes were more practical, and the old tape recorder was put away.
Recently I was cleaning out a little and I came across the old machine, and the dozen or so four-hour tapes that I had kept. So I plugged the thing in, put on a tape (which reminded me how fiddly all this was), closed my eyes and was transported back, initially to 1971. I was living in Germany at the time, and I recorded lots of music from German radio stations, and also from the British one broadcasting to their armed forces there. So here it was, all back again: the terrible bubblegum music, but also the Beatles, and long forgotten bands like the Tremeloes and the Small Faces. But also bands we still know or remember, like the Rolling Stones, Slade and T Rex. That summer I spent a few weeks in Ireland and recorded from RTE radio (only one RTE radio station was around at the time), and there was Larry Gogan, sounding exactly as he does now and playing some tracks which made me wince – did we really ever listen to such stuff?
I also recorded some TV programmes, including an episode of ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.‘ (long forgotten, although the star actors are both still known – Robert Vaughn is on our screens quite a bit). What intrigued me there, more than the (audio only) show, was the advertisements: heavily weighted towards cigarettes and beer: ‘On a hundred airlines around the world, the greatest name in cigarettes is Rothmans'; and ‘Carling Black Label, light-hearted lager’ (whatever that means) – if you were around at the time, you may still be able to sing along.
As I said, it was audio only, so I was spared the sight of flares and dodgy haircuts. But as I sat there I was right back in the 1970s, and it felt like yesterday. I must get the whole thing digitised; but maybe if it’s not whirring around on a tape it won’t be the same.