The Stone Age

The analog.  The tyrannosaurus rex of the listening world.  They were once worth their weight in gold.  There was nothing like getting a padded mailer knowing that the most recent shows were in there, even if they were second generation, or DAUD2, if you’re labeling.  The Maxell XLII, with all its design changes.  The XLIIS if you’re that guy.  You could hear the difference.  For sure.  “The hiss.  Definitely less hiss,” one would confidently say.  That friend who had all the tapes you wanted, so you listened to his pedantic “knowledge” so you had access to his collection.  Great guy; in fact, we were all that guy in one way or another.  Even though they had developed high-speed dubbing technology; we all refused to use it.  Anything to preserve the any ever-degrading quality on the tape- it was all about the quality in those days.  Sure the mics mattered, but you had better hope you got the show within the first three generations or forget about it- might as well have had a pillow over your head.  Then you finally got to know a taper, or someone who knew a taper; then the goods started to roll in.

Is this not how we all started listening to and collecting Phish?  It was a total obsession, something that can’t quite be reproduced by CDs or digital collections.  You had to take the card out and actually write out the date, location and songs!  How fun was that?  We all had our system.  If you were like me, you tried to make it seem like each card was produced by the same Phish factory, giving your best effort to write neatly and uniformly.  Then I got creative at some point, and decided to make each tape unique; that was much later in the game.  It was so satisfying to watch your collection grow in size; constantly figuring out new ways to house all the tapes. Shoe boxes, shelves, or those wooden racks; if you had a big collection, you literally had a big collection!  Storing CDs on spools, or in books comes close to this dynamic, but not that close.  There’s not as much to do and CDs don’t degrade when you copy them.  Digital files?  You can’t even see them. I now can hold most of Phish’s entire career in the palm of my hand.  Yeah, definitely not the same ballpark.  The closest you can get to creativity these days is how you label your files.  Go crazy.

We all listened to, and heard, some of the sickest and most amazing Phish music on analogs when our ears and brains were the freshest, so many years ago.  Arrowhead Ranch 7.21.91 with The Giant Country Horns.  Amy’s Farm 8.3.91.  Stanford 4.18.92.  Crest Theatre 3.22.93-Gamehendge. Bomb Factory 5.7.94.  Red Rocks 6.11.94.  Just a few classics that we all had.  Shows most of us probably haven’t listened to since the last days of cassette players in cars.  Stored memories, logged in our personal hard drives.

Some of my own favorite analogs of all-time were Great Woods 7.1.95, Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA 10.8.94, Providence RI 3.13.92, Trax- Charlottesville, VA 3.25.92, Fox Theatre 11.11.95, The Edge-Orlando 4.30.94, Redwood Acres- Eureka, CA 4.21.92 (and any soundboard I could get my hands on).  But I’d have to give Binghamton, NY 3.20.92 The Anakin Skywalker Award for The Best Analog Ever– for the show itself, the highly circulated SBD copy, and one of the greatest Antelopes of all time. (Have a listen below)

I still have all mine stored in my bedroom at my parents house, many hundred deep. There’s no way I could throw them out- they are my personal Phish history. I drove out west with my best 150 or so when I moved here almost ten years ago, when they were still relevant.  Then I got a DAT player, and the rest is history.  Still got those two racks downstairs in my garage, and they will move with me when I move next.  Why?  You know, the same reason you have yours.




7 Responses to “The Stone Age”

  1. themanatee Says:

    anakins!! absurd. by the end I was coloring the background of each insert a different color and creatively writing segues, etc…that december 99 tour had the headiest looking tape inserts in my collection.
    i remember rolling around on summer 99 in my buddy’s mom’s mini van literally rocking a boom box in the back seat so we could take advantage of the massive amounts of analogs we had.
    and how about the freakin’ tape flip! you wrote an entire article about anakins and didn’t mention the flippin’ flip! Remember when you are on tour or driving cross country for one reason or another or just driving around town after having hit the traveler and a ragining antelope has taken root in your brain; trey and fishman have just taken the jam to the next level where your brain starts to scream from the simultaneously tight and disjointed rhythms pulsating your car doors. Sunglasses on, sun roof open…about to reach a peak….and …. the tape flips…..

    those are some rotund blue balls.

    shout out to 7.9.94 Great Woods Hood on analog. “Crispy”!!

  2. Zac Williams Says:

    Don’t forget trying to get started in the tape trading scene before the days of the Internet (at least for me)… I remember back before I discovered the Internet scouring the ads in the back of Relix and sending out 50 letters (via snail mail) hoping that some collector would be kind enough to mail me back a copy of their list, and allow me to send “b&p”. I only received a response from one of those letters. That is how it all started 15 years ago, and, really, it has not stopped since.

  3. R1 Says:

    HA! Man, this shit brought me back – so funny that you (meaning you, me and everyone else) still have those tapes – they’re like a pleasant, reassuring presence in the background. Mine are all at my parents place too and they’re not going anywhere! I had/have the worst handwriting and used to spend like 30 minutes doing each insert to try to make them look presentable! Trading and accumulating tapes was such a huge part of the whole thing for me in beginning. I took such pride in breaking out the Case Logic 60-pack monsters and laying ’em on unsuspecting heads. It’s insane to think of the sound quality on some of the tapes that I used to listen to relentlessly – but that of course was all I had and to me, at the time, they sounded like the sickest shit on earth! All those 92 tapes with the secret language explanations and cracklin rosies and sleeping monkey and fire encores. One of my favorites, which just came to mind, was a ’93 Roxy Theatre tape with a crazy Mikes into all kinds of shit but ending with Rock & Roll All Night into sick Weekapaug. Makes me smile.

    And just a little FYI for Miner and Manatee – the white van still lives.

  4. Miss_Miner Says:

    Oh the tapes. So hard to let go of. I will admit I got really sick of moving them from state to state when I did not even have a tape player anymore. I did give some away at my buddies head shop. Left them in a crate and put up a note that said “Phree to a good home”- they were gone in a day!
    I do still have about 100 of my best tapes. I could not bare to part with all of them~ just a few hundred had to go. I wonder how much money I spent on my tape collection?

  5. boomboom Says:

    “Mmmmmm…..tapes” (said in a Homer-like voice).

    I still have quite a few of my faves lying around in a shoe box in the garage. They made the cut when we moved into our new house. Just can’t bare to let go quite yet. (I think I may even have a few of the manatees that I somehow inherited from Trin-trin. Sorry manatee, you got straight jacked!)

    I can remember a few in particular that used to get so much usage back in the high school days, I’ve memorized the parts where the tape must have stretched from the constant overplaying and rewinding. I love how Mr. Miner mentions that ’91 Arrowhead Ranch show with the GCH’s. Talk about wow! Another heavily rotated XL II was the Ian McClain’s Farm show with Marley, or some other raucous pup, barking away in the background. That tape in particular shaped much of my adolescence. It was so crispy and wooden-sounding. If you happen to have this tape shoved away in the basement somewhere, I suggest you dig it out and give The Curtain and Shaggy Dog a good listen. Inspiring. Perhaps it’s time to take my own suggestion….As he saw his life runaway from him, thousands ran along………

  6. nate Says:

    nice post. i gave up all my tapes when I moved out of the country — didn’t make sense to lug them around or store them. i posted an ad on craigslist and i had a taker for my whole collection immediately. I believe I had 5 racks of 100 tapes, all individually labeled as described. In my case I had colored and printed sleeves, complete with phish logo.

    In any case, at that point, I had long since switched to cd, and subsequently to mp3. As nostalgic as this post made me, there’s something to be said for typing in “arrowhead” and instantly calling up that show, or sorting all 3000 individual tracks by length, to listen to the long jams. 🙂

  7. Mathew Says:

    i want to say sorry to matt for taking so many of his tapes. he was my friends older brother, who didnt really listen anymore and i was more than happy to borrow and forget to give them back. it was bad, but at the time it made perfect sense

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