Saturday, 24 October 2009

If I Knew You Were Coming I'da Baked a Tape...

Some of you may remember this post back in July... My dads sister-in-law had been clearing out her loft ready to move house and unearthed two old reel-to-reel tapes marked 'Mick and Don', which had been up there for over 40 years . Mick and Don were my dads youngest brothers (twins), who in the 50's were a duo who used to perform as The Essex Brothers. Well I did a bit of research after that, and found out that due to the age of these tapes, they would need 'baking' before they could be played. The tapes deteriorate over the years because of a breakdown in the glue that holds the oxide particles on to the actual tape itself. Attempting to play the tapes without this could result in the oxide falling off as the tape is played, and your recordings will be lost forever. Baking the tape temporarily restores the tape so that it can be safely copied to another source.

I spoke to a company in East Acton called FX Rentals who specialise in this sort of work (they were recently given the task of transferring a newly discovered Beatles acetate). They told me they would bake the tapes for a day or two, and then play them to see what (if anything) was on them. Retrieval of any music would be £50 per hour (per hour of music, not per hour of work... it could take them many hours to restore an hours worth of music, but it will still only cost £50).

On Tuesday this week I finally managed to take that hike over to East Acton to deliver the tapes and chat to the guys there about the process. They said they would ring me as soon as they had prepared and played the tapes. Well, yesterday afternoon I got a call saying that everything had gone well and they had found two and a half hours of recordings across the two tapes!!! I've asked them to go ahead and retrieve it all, and they should be ready next week.

I'm dead chuffed that there were some recordings of my late uncles on these tapes after all those years, and I can't wait to hear them. My dad sounded really excited when I told him too. I'll keep you posted.



Mondo said...

Looking forward to hearing them. I reckon we should a 'family' podcast anything with bands or songs with brother, mum, dad, Uncle, sister etc...and could include one song from this tape in it. I've got an Uncle that made a single in the sixties, I'd whack that in waddya reck'?

Martin said...

Great news that you've managed to get something out of it. I guess that's all the family Christmas presents sorted.

Kolley Kibber said...

Oh, that's great news Piley. I'd love to hear them, if you can bear to share them sometime.

Piley said...

Mondo - yeah that could be a good theme. Have to see what the quality of these taprs are like though, they are only home recordings, so don't expect anything too polished.

Martin - Thanks, yes at last, I know what everyone in my family wants this year!!

ISBW - I'll wade through them ASAP, and see what the quality is like. I'll be sure to pop something up on here or in the podcast.


Cocktails said...

Exciting stuff - It's amazing what you can do with technlogy. I guess you get the music back in a digital file?

PS. Am very impressed that you took a picture of the admittedly not terribly exciting FX Rentals exterior - it all adds to the story!

E F RICE said...

I make that 125 quid + Petrol Piley, take it we have to subscribe when you publish the tapes !

Seriously great stuff and fantastic to hear your Dad's reaction. Looking forward to hearing these and I can add some of my Grandad's Syd Uren trio stuff into the mix for the family podcast !

Piley said...

Thanks cocktails - Yeah I get two 'mastered' CD's back, which I can make further copies from for the family. These were only home recordings, so the quality wont be great, but FX said they will do what they can to sharpen them up and remove any background noise. I also get the tapes back too. They told me that they will remain 'playable' for the next month or so, then the magic will wear off... But it would be possible to bake them again in 4 or 5 years time if we ever wanted to play them again for any reason - i'm guessing (hoping?!) that we'll ever need to though.

EF - Yeah that's about it!! The podcasts are going up to a fiver a download from now on ;-)!!

Seriously, it is a fair bit of money (especially at the moment), but in other ways its an absolute bargain - how could I not get it done? £125 for some genuine family history that up until a few months back, nobody knew existed.


Furtheron said...

That's brilliant - can't wait to hear them

My sister found an old cinefilm real a year or so back and got that restored and copied to DVD. It was her wedding and there was my Dad on the TV screen a year or so before he died. She surprised me showing it one day when I was round hers - I just sat there nearly crying

office pest said...

Hello Piley. Beyond a price though, the value of this kind of thing, isn't it. So pleased for you that they turned out alright.

I take it you're sorted to run off a few copies for friends and family - if not give me a buzz of course.

Axe Victim said...

Am awaiting the outcome of this story with baited breath.

Dave Whit said...

I agree with Axe. Can't wait to find out what was on the tapes -- Hope it all goes well. Keep us posted, mate.

Piley said...

Further - yes it's amazing what little gems can be found lost in atics and lofts isn't it?? real history. How many get thrown away and lost forever... these tapes easily could have. They would mean nothing to anyone else, but are almost priceless to my family.

OP - thanks for your kind comments, and kind offer too. Yes i'll be burning a few discs for the family over the weekend with a bit of luck. Just need to knock up some cover artwork and i'll be there!

Axe\Dave - rest assured, it's all turned out VERY nicely in the end. A bit touch and go for a while, and what was on there was NOT what we wee expecting... but we are pleased with it, and there is a final bit of the story which floored me!! Look out for the final chapter soon... you couldn't make this stuff up!


Anonymous said...

You could bake the tapes yourself with a Halogen Cooker, cost about 50 quid. I have many tapes 35 years old which I need to bake so I can play them and transfer them to CD before they disintegrate. Do a Google search with "If I knew You were coming I'd Have baked a tape" and you will be surprised how much info there is on tape baking to restore old tapes. Hope this is useful for the next batch of tapes you find!

Mike Spenser

Piley said...

Hi Mike, thanks for dropping by and for taking the time to comment, much appreciated. Thanks for this info that's very interesting. I had no idea you could do it yourself. Will keep the link handy just in case any more turn up!