Aye, Mateys, Thar Be The Buried Treasure!

László

Too Many Notes
Joined
Apr 26, 2012
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34,799
Location
Michigan
There's a backstory to this tale of buried treasure, Mateys!

In nineteen and sixty eight, I joined an established college band that was one of the busiest bands on campus. I was lucky to get the gig; they were more experienced, older, better musicians. But their keyboard player had quit to join an even bigger deal band that was starting to do original music, and they had lots of gigs lined up, so they needed someone stat, because their repertoire had a lot of keyboard parts.

A mutual friend suggested they try me out, and I landed the gig. I was the baby of the band.

One of the shows that was lined up was in a building in the center of U of Mich's campus called the Michigan Union. It was a beautiful building with a lot of tradition that's still there. Student organizations had offices there, but it had a very large hall for campus events. Every year they had a campus-wide student mixer with a band in that room, and tons of students would show up.

The band I joined had that gig lined up, so I got to play it. I was beyond excited about the whole thing. I was just a cabin boy, but to be around real Pirates...

[VideoFX/SFX: video of the rest of my life fast-forwarded at crazy speed until it reaches the point where I'm a toothless old castaway, living in a cave, going mad from the isolation]

Today I got an email from our drummer; we've remained friends. It was a download link to what he called Buried Treasure.

Shiver me timbers, mateys! Could it be?

He'd found a cassette tape of the first set we did at that very gig in a storage box. He hadn't laid eyes on it since Days of Yore.

But the tape was so old, it wasn't playable. He found a company in Canada that specialized in restoring old tapes. They eventually sent him WAV files.

I knew nothing of this until today when he sent me that link. Complete surprise out of the blue!!

It had been recorded on an early cassette deck. I knew not to expect much. I also couldn't help imagining that it was gonna be cringe-worthy. That my memories had become exaggerated with the passage of time until I built the band into my own little internal legend. I had dreams every so often that we all got together to play again, though we never did. People moved all over the country, and we lost touch.

But I would have been wrong. We were pretty damn good! OK, some of the vocals needed a little work. But still...

True, the audio quality is very lo-fi; true that because only the vocals went through the PA in those days, and the instruments just went through the amps, and the recorder had some sort of detection/compander circuit that squished the instruments' volume during the singing. I would guess it was designed to pick up speech and reduce background noise.

Nonetheless it hung together - my wife heard it and couldn't believe her ears. She saw us play back then. She sat down and listened, remarkably happy while she puttered on her iPad. (that might have been a first!).

Our opening set list? The sound of an eon ago:

Birthday (Beatles)
Come Together (Beatles)
Under My Thumb (Stones)
Sunshine of Your Love (Cream)
Let The Sun Shine (Hair)
Light My Fire (Doors)
In A Gadda Da Vida (Iron Butterfly, all 16 overdone minutes, including drum solo, organ solo, guitar solos, etc. etc.) Yes I used a wah-wah and fuzz on my organ, because wtf, I could!)
To Love Somebody (Bee Gees)
Easy to Be Hard (Hair)

I sat listening this morning, transported in time. I could see the room and the crowd in my mind's eye. Listened to every song straight through. Even forgot to have coffee.

The treasure lay buried for 55 years, mateys. We cabin boys turned into old men, Aye, one of the pirates on the ship has made the passage to Davey Jones' Locker. It is the half-crazy old castaways, long in the tooth, in ragged clothing and long gray beards, that dug for and, cackling like wild men, found Captain Whenwewere Kidd's treasure right there in the cave where legend said it would be. ;)

But what a fantastic surprise!
 
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There's a backstory to this tale of buried treasure, Mateys!

In nineteen and sixty eight, I joined an established college band that was one of the busiest bands on campus. I was lucky to get the gig; they were more experienced, older, better musicians. But their keyboard player had quit to join an even bigger deal band that was starting to do original music, and they had lots of gigs lined up, so they needed someone stat, because their repertoire had a lot of keyboard parts.

A mutual friend suggested they try me out, and I landed the gig. I was the baby of the band.

One of the shows that was lined up was in a building in the center of U of Mich's campus called the Michigan Union. It was a beautiful building with a lot of tradition that's still there. Student organizations had offices there, but it had a very large hall for campus events. Every year they had a campus-wide student mixer with a band in that room, and tons of students would show up.

The band I joined had that gig lined up, so I got to play it. I was beyond excited about the whole thing. I was just a cabin boy, but to be around real Pirates...

[VideoFX/SFX: video of the rest of my life fast-forwarded at crazy speed until it reaches the point where I'm a toothless old castaway, living in a cave, going mad from the isolation]

Today I got an email from our drummer; we've remained friends. It was a download link to what he called Buried Treasure.

Shiver my timbers, mateys! Could it be?

He'd found a cassette tape of the first set we did at that very gig in a storage box. He hadn't laid eyes on it since Days of Yore.

But the tape was so old, it wasn't playable. He found a company in Canada that specialized in restoring old tapes. They eventually sent him WAV files.

I knew nothing of this until today when he sent me that link. Complete surprise out of the blue!!

It had been recorded on an early cassette deck. I knew not to expect much. I also couldn't help imagining that it was gonna be cringe-worthy. That my memories had become exaggerated with the passage of time until I built the band into my own little internal legend. I had dreams every so often that we all got together to play again, though we never did. People moved all over the country, and we lost touch.

But I would have been wrong. We were pretty damn good! OK, some of the vocals needed a little work. But still...

True, the audio quality is very lo-fi; true that because only the vocals went through the PA in those days, and the instruments just went through the amps, and the recorder had some sort of detection/compander circuit that squished the instruments' volume during the singing. I would guess it was designed to pick up speech and reduce background noise.

Nonetheless it hung together - my wife heard it and couldn't believe her ears. She saw us play back then. She sat down and listened, remarkably happy while she puttered on her iPad. (that might have been a first!).

Our opening set list? The sound of an eon ago:

Birthday (Beatles)
Come Together (Beatles)
Under My Thumb (Stones)
Sunshine of Your Love (Cream)
Let The Sun Shine (Hair)
Light My Fire (Doors)
In A Gadda Da Vida (Iron Butterfly, all 16 overdone minutes, including drum solo, organ solo, guitar solos, etc. etc.) Yes I used a wah-wah and fuzz on my organ, because wtf, I could!)
To Love Somebody (Bee Gees)
Easy to Be Hard (Hair)

I sat listening this morning, transported in time. I could see the room and the crowd in my mind's eye. Listened to every song straight through. Even forgot to have coffee.

The treasure lay buried for 55 years, mateys. We cabin boys turned into old men, Aye, one of the pirates on the ship has made the passage to Davey Jones' Locker. It is the half-crazy old castaways, long in the tooth, in ragged clothing and long gray beards, that dug for and, cackling like wild men, found Captain Whenwewere Kidd's treasure right there in the cave where legend said it would be. ;)

But what a fantastic surprise!
Great story; and well told, ye old salt.
 
I've got some software tools from several developers to to help clean up the audio and rebalance everything. I've started working with the least distorted track.

I'd like to see if I can improve it a little, and if so, try the same with the other tracks. I started after I got some work out of the way. Very slow going - it's a real audio restoration job!
 
What a cool story! I know the feeling because I have some recordings of a band I played bass with in the late 70's/early 80's.

What amazes me.............was it really that long ago?

I'm from Michigan and I've heard of the Michigan Union many times and I might have played there once. Hard to say because if I did it would have been around 1971 or 1972 so I can't say for certain. But it sounds familiar.

For me, those days were magical. Just starting out and anything seemed possible. Miss the feeling of those times.
 
only the vocals went through the PA in those days, and the instruments just went through the amps, and the recorder had some sort of detection/compander circuit that squished the instruments' volume during the singing. I would guess it was designed to pick up speech and reduce background noise.
Pardon the speculation but here's the scenario that came to mind:
In '68, for regular consumer recorders the best noise/distortion reduction tech were relatively simple limiters that just reduced the overall volume to reduce distortion. Sounds like the recording may have been made close to one of the PA speakers and during the singing, the limiter activated and reduced the overall volume. Hopefully the recording isn't too distorted and your software will let you improve it significantly.

Even like it is now I bet that pretty quickly your 'bootleg ears' kicked in and automatically adjusted so you could relive the experience.
If you want a comparison '68 audience-sourced tape, PM me & I'll send you part of a Zeppelin concert that will make you guys sound really good.

A related '68 historical note: Keith Richards loved the distortion (on an older consumer recorder without a limiter) that he got when playing his Gibson Hummingbird acoustic and he used that combination for the opening chords of the studio version of Jumpin' Jack Flash.
 
Pardon the speculation but here's the scenario that came to mind:
In '68, for regular consumer recorders the best noise/distortion reduction tech were relatively simple limiters that just reduced the overall volume to reduce distortion. Sounds like the recording may have been made close to one of the PA speakers and during the singing, the limiter activated and reduced the overall volume. Hopefully the recording isn't too distorted and your software will let you improve it significantly.
I was able to separate the bass, drum, vocal and "other instruments" tracks with software. It sounds better, but still not ready for prime time!

The worst part is I can't cut out some of my overplaying/noodling on keys without cutting out the guitar bits. And trust me when I say that at that age, I had very little sense of when to play, and when to stay the f#ck out of the mix!! ;)

So yes, great memories for me, I'll spare everyone the experience of hearing a college band cover the hits of the day! :)
 
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