Digital memories are pretty easy to save these days. Take a picture with your camera or smartphone and press the save button. That’s your picture saved.
Later you can transfer the picture or video to a laptop or a hard drive for safekeeping. Years ago it wasn’t so easy but at least today you can scan those old photographs into your PC and save them as digital media. Even old videos and 8mm home movies can be digitised and saved if you have the right software. Still, memories are not just pictures. There are all sorts of things that can trigger your thoughts and bring back some long forgotten moment or event, or just something you haven’t thought of for a while.
It could be a piece of music or passing some old haunt, some pub you used to go in when you were younger but haven’t visited for a long while.
Something that was a trigger for old memories for me was an old tape recording I made when I was in my teens.
I used to make lots of recordings when I was much younger. I saved up and bought a tape cassette recorder and apart from recording music –they call them mix tapes these days but I never heard that term years ago when I was making ‘mix’ tapes- I used to record little plays and sketches I had written. My brother was press ganged into helping with these enterprises and I used various techniques to get him involved:
- Threats and intimidation.
Yes, they all worked to greater and lesser degrees. It’s funny to listen to the tapes now because I can tell pretty much by his attitude when he went along with me willingly or otherwise. One other inducement I used was swapping. He might want a particular record or something that I had so we would swap that and some weeks later usually swap back. Lots of times I used to swap a record for my bicycle and that’s where I felt I really had one over on Colin, my brother, because he couldn’t, and still can’t ride a bike! Yes, I was on to a winner there because I’d swap my bike for a record or book and I had full use of the item while he couldn’t use the bike because he couldn’t ride it!
One time he really got one over on me. I had swapped my bike for one of his records or something or other; I can’t really remember what. Anyway, one day I went to go out on my bike- OK, his bike- opened the shed and it was gone. What had happened? Had it been stolen, where was it?
‘The bike?’ he answered blithely; he had sold it to his friend because he wanted money to buy a new LP!
My Mother facilitated the removal of my hands from his throat with a firm whack to the back of my head and asked what was going on?
‘He sold my bike!’ I yelled.
‘Your bike?’ she replied. ‘Didn’t you swap it with him? Isn’t it his bike?’
‘Yes but, yes but,’ was all I could say.
The tapes were mostly comedy sketches on the lines of Spike Milligan who was then a hero of mine. One of them went like this;
CUE COWBOY MUSIC
ME: Hey Stewart, I’m gonna knock that chip right off your shoulder!
COLIN: That’s no chip –it’s a potato!
ME: King Edward’s?
COLIN: No, he can get his own, it’s one of mine!
(These are the jokes folks, as someone used to say!)
My brother wasn’t the only person I dragged into making tape recordings. My old school friend Steve was a music fan like me. Well, I say like me but his music knowledge was prodigious. Name any record and he would say with certainty- ‘that went to number 2 in July 1974’ or whenever.
There was a radio programme we both liked. It was My Top 12 on Radio 2 and it was something on the lines of ‘desert island discs’. Someone from the music world would be interviewed and would choose their top twelve records.
Anyway, Steve and I decided to make a version for each other. One weekend I interviewed him talking about his favourite music for which he provided full chart statistics, naturally. On another weekend we reversed roles and he interviewed me for which I provided limited chart stats, usually something like, ‘that one just nudged into the top twenty to which my friend would reply, ‘yes, actually number 23 was the highest chart placing in October 1975.’
We slagged off all the music we looked down on and praised all the music we loved. Poor old Barry White (the same Barry White whose Greatest Hits is sometimes played in my car) got something of a drubbing. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were praised as a musical discovery of the highest order. (Steve who? Was he the guy who did ‘Come up and See Me, make me smile?)
Through the magic of the digital age I recently processed that old tape and converted it into a CD which I played in my car on the way into work today and it was lovely to listen to my old friend again.
Steve was the inspiration for the character of Matty in my novel Floating In Space. He was a lovely guy although something of a music nerd. We had a parting of the ways years ago when his brother came to rent a room in my house. He proceeded to wind up my bills; gas, electric and telephone, to such an incredible volume I could no longer afford to have him living with me. Steve took his brother’s eviction personally and alas that was the end of our friendship.
I always assumed one day we would have a pint together and talk about music, sci-fi and cult TV once again, just like we used to back in the seventies and eighties. We did keep in touch through an intermediary, my brother Colin. We last had a long telephone chat in the early 1990’s and talked about a reunion. I never heard from him again and when I enquired about him to his sister, whom I located on social media, she revealed he had been taken ill with cancer and had passed away.
Steve, as well as being a great music fan was something of an aircraft anorak too. He stars in my second most watched video on you tube, a documentary we made in 1986 with Steve espousing his love of aircraft. I think he’d be thrilled to find that over 11,000 viewers have watched it. Here’s another re-edited version with somewhat less views. I took out the chart hits of the 80’s and replaced them with copyright free music thinking I’d start to earn some money off YouTube. (No chance, they decided I had to have 1000 followers before shelling out!)
One tip just to finish with. Hang on to the recordings you make with your iPad and iPhone and all the other modern day gadgets. Keep them safe; invest in a portable hard drive to store them.
Get ready to invest in new software which will convert the files to whatever new application we will be using in the future because in thirty years time you’ll want to look back at those memories and relive those earlier times.
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Interesting collection of memories, Steve, the compulsive tape-recording reminds me of my own childhood. Ours was a reel-to-reel Grundig …
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