When I was 15, a friend and I worked most of the summer painting my family’s house. With the money I earned I bought a reel to reel tape recorder. It was one of my proudest and most useful possessions. Not only could I record my nascent songs, and experiment with sound-on-sound and varying the speeds (the wow when you played something back at 1 7/8 ips was REALLY cool), but at 3 3/4, I could put 2 entire LP’s on one ‘side’ of the tape. 4 LP’s on one 7 inch reel! it was an early form of piracy, before piracy was even an issue. But I was a poor teenager, LP’s were expensive, and I could borrow records from my friends, tape them, and expand my musical library, while having to live with a modicum of tape hiss.
Here’s the really cool part – I had always gone to sleep while listening to LP’s. But you only got 20-25 minutes of music that way. But put a tape on, and you got 4 times that amount of music. And the music went deep into my brain, a kind of sleep teaching if you will. And even though my piracy was relatively cheap, tape still cost money, and my listening library was still very small (by today’s standards). I listened to the music I had over and over and over.
I didn’t realize how deeply this music was in my brain until recently, when I treated myself to a couple of recordings that I’d had on reel-to-reel, but hadn’t heard since (the tape deck fell apart from constant use by the time I left for college).
One of the albums, Tower of Power’s “East Bay Grease”, I got a couple months ago. It was SO great to hear it again. It’s a flawed record, but there’s great stuff in it, too. I was a devoted fan of them when they first appeared on the scene, they gave a great live show, and I devoured their record when it came out. I’ve listened to it a few times over the past couple months. And then, while gardening in the back yard a few weeks back, I started humming the sax solo from “Back on the Streets Again”. And I kept going. And I realized, I know every squeak and honk of that solo, and all the horns hits behind it. It’s all in my brain, every moment of it! That shocked me.
And now, just the other day, I treated myself to “The Bill Evans Album”, another recording I used to go to bed to night after night. I downloaded it, heard the first notes, and was instantly transported to my 16 year old self, the joy, excitement, and comfort of this music. I LOVE this album. And as it played on my computer, I realized I know every note of every solo. Especially the bass solos, I love humming Eddie Gomez’s lines. But I know every stab and comp of Bill’s too. This music is deep inside me. I thought I’d forgotten it. But hearing it just once brings it all back instantly. Aren’t our brains amazing?