The Tale of the Tape


The Tale of the Tape

Back in the mid 80’s I had a cassette tape that I recorded all of my favourite TV themes onto. My favourite shows, like Airwolf, Blue Thunder, Knight Rider, and The A Team, were usually shown on Friday or Saturday nights. If I liked the show enough I would crouch in front of the TV with my stereo balanced on my knee to record the theme, while the family tried their best to be quiet for me. Once a theme was on the tape I could listen to it as many times as I felt necessary to fill the void until the programme was on the following week.

Using one of those paint pens, I had coloured my TV Theme tape gold to highlight it’s importance; I didn’t want anyone borrowing it and recording over the contents. This was further ensured by keeping the tape in a small safe in my room when I wasn’t listening to it. These are the kinds of things that are precious to an eleven year old, so you’ll have to forgive what seems particularly anal behaviour in hindsight.

The original tape had been a C30 – a demo tape that I’d gotten with a Walkman my mum had bought me for Xmas ’83. As brief as TV theme shows are, by early 1985 the tape had run out of space and I needed a way of transferring the contents to a new one.

To accomplish this, my friend Brian agreed to loan me his stereo to duplicate the golden tape on the condition that he could have the original once the copy was made. I wasn’t convinced that it was an ideal set of conditions, but I needed the space for the themes from Street Hawk and Battlestar Galactica, amongst others, so I agreed.

It’s hard to fathom why, considering I’d been using jack leads between tape recorders to copy Spectrum games for a while at that point, but we used no such connectivity when we copied the contents of the golden tape to a new C90. Sitting one stereo facing the other, we pressed play on the original and record on the other and then sat in moderate silence for the half hour or so it took to complete the job.

When you make a copy of a tape, it’s never as sharp as the original. It’s even less so when you use the above technique, but with the poor quality of the stereo I owned at the time it wasn’t too apparent. The fact that the recordings had been made using a similar technique in the first place meant that the golden master tape hadn’t exactly been CD quality.

In fact, all sorts of external sounds had intruded on the recordings – I could only cringe in horror at the vroooom followed by a woof! that ruined my taping of the extended end theme from Knight Rider. Motorbikes and dogs just don’t go with 80’s synth.

In time I filled about a side and a half of the C90 up, before realising that recording my favourite shows onto VHS and then watching them over was a better way to re-live there excitement than listening to a poor quality version of the theme on a cassette tape. Even so, I’d made quite a collection of themes when it was all said and done, and the tape itself is with a bunch of others in a box in my attic to this day.

Maybe one day I’ll drag it down and listen to it for old times sake. After all, this side of the millennium, where else would I be able to hear this lot in order?

  • The A Team
  • The Fall Guy
  • Knight Rider
  • Automan
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Airwolf × 4 (new versions added as the theme evolved)
  • V

You know, 20 years on they don’t seem as captivating a listen as they did back in the day. Oh, to be eleven in the 80’s again.