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July 1990

John in the Glassed-in Labs

John in the Glassed-in Labs

The Tape-beatles Undergo Severe Trauma, Depression

In a world where the totality of all human experience has been utterly interlocked within the domain of the total commodity fetish, the Tape-beatles have been scarcely able to stretch themselves to the ‘new heights’ they have heretofore promised their audience. No doubt this has been the cause of no small dismay and disdain among their ardent followers, but far be it for the Tape-beatles to blame others for their troubles.

The things these four young people — the Tape-beatles — have attempted to do, often making use of few techniques other than sheer gall and raw audacity, have, for the most part (we are sorry to say) fallen upon deaf ears. It can be surmised from this sorry situation that these ears-who-should-hear-but-don’t are the victims of one out of two possible sets of circumstances: 1) they really are deaf and can’t hear; or 2) they’re not sure what’s going on in the best of circumstances, and wouldn’t know a good lick if it bit them.

Judge for yourself:

Performance Frenzy

In a deliberate act of propaganda designed specifically to indoctrinate their audience into becoming mindless ‘fans,’ the Tape-beatles delivered a technically competent audio-art presentation to the class of Colloquium at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History in April of this year. The audience was split down the middle and a riotous debate broke out, in which the merits of pause-editing vs. tape-splicing were discussed at length. This was followed by a badly fizzled set at Club Lower Links in which the energy level was so low that the ice refused to melt in the patrons’ drinks. The Tape-beatles faired slightly better at Iowa City’s the Sanctuary a week later. This time all their friends showed up and the ice did melt.

All this lack of razzle-dazzle in the Tape-beatles’ public life did not stop, however, KGAN TV news from taking note of this new fabulous four — the Tape-beatles. After catching the gig at Colloquium, former KGAN anchor Maggie Jensen and her cameraman visited the foursome in their neighbor’s studio for a chat and some Q&A. The rapport the parties developed between them stemmed from their thorough respect of each other’s achievements and an understanding of what it took to bring them about. Both parties were extremely polite the entire time, and the resulting report was aired on KGAN that Friday. Must have been a slow news week.

Relocation Blues

But, as they say, ‘when it rains, it pours,’ and so it was a sad day when the Tape-beatles learned they had been evicted from their home of nearly two years at 191/2 South Dubuque Street so that the landlord could put in offices, and thus increase the rent. A new space was quickly located and seemed satisfactory, but little did they know then that a mere three months would pass before being evicted again from their new space at 119 East College Street, this time for the space’s not meeting fire code. The Tape-beatles have now joined the ranks of the homeless, and are searching for studio space that they can afford. A move to Cedar Rapids may be in order, but then again, euthanasia is not out of the question.

Compilations Galore

On a more positive note, the work of the Tape-beatles has appeared on a new compilation cassette entitled Put Down Your Pencil, which was released by the Hall Walls Gallery in Buffalo NY and compiled by Paul Dickinsen. In addition, their participation is planned in several forthcoming compilation projects of all formats: the Better Jazz Through Retrofuturism cassette which is being edited by ASFi’s Colin Hinz, a Cassette Concrète Lp which is currently being planned by David Prescott at Generations Unlimited, and a compilation CD called The Death of Vinyl currently being masterminded by Gerald Belanger of Toronto. In addition, Russ Curry’s Curious Music Sampler CD should enter the compilation stages this fall, and the Tape-beatles have been invited to contribute.

New Member, New Logotype

New Logotype The Tape-beatles’ line-up has also undergone one major permanent and a minor temporary change; but first things first. Linda Morgan-Brown has joined the Tape-beatles as a new fourth member. Linda came to the Tape-beatles’ attention when she put video to their work ‘Sing Sing Sing’ from the A subtle buoyancy of pulse cassette (and when she began dating Tape-beatle Paul Neff. That’s when the other fellows stood up and took notice. Jealousy can be so ugly.) John Heck has been sojourning in Europe and is currently spending a couple of weeks in New York with friends.

In addition, a stunning new logotype has been added to the Tape-beatles’ collection, and it will adorn all letterheads and press releases until they get bored with the durn thing. Its outward countenance is disquieting, but in a friendly way, and its bold lines seem to exude power and control, the kind of control that many too easily confuse with the fond, concerned embrace of a parent protecting their child. While the globe is banded and rigidly constrained, monopolistically, it is simultaneously protected from all harm by the kindness of a large over-seeing institution. A strong sense of intense self-interest is cleverly masked behind the friendly face of a childhood friend, a once-popular motion picture personality, or perhaps just the warm glow of a family outing on golden afternoon in New England’s glorious autumn. Ahh.

Moral Support

In addition to their never ending tasks of production and the administration of their vast audio empire, not to mention the grinding monotony of having to endure one more critique in the name of ‘perfection,’ the Tape-beatles have been involved in another chore, but one which they bear lightly, in response to the urgency of the cause: that of distributing cassette copies of the Plunderphonic CD from the Mystery Laboratory of Toronto. Legal action has been taken against the creator of this CD in Canada (which resulted in all undistributed copies of the CD being crushed) and therefore the Lab⁏s director, John Oswald, is constrained from further distribution of the title. The Tape-beatles have volunteered to make copies of their copy of the CD to those who request it, in exchange for reimbursement for materials and postage. Here’s how it works: just send a blank C90 to this address along with 85� in postage affixed to a self-addressed return mailer, and we’ll dub the cassette and xerox the track listing, and return it to you toot sweet. (Lazy readers may prefer to simply send $3, and we’ll provide the tape and the mailer.)

If the sum totality of human experience is to be any guide, it shows that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and the Tape-beatles have attempted to do just that. If any group of cultural workers deserves to fail at all that they attempt, it is surely these dumb fuckers.

This item first appeared in Retrofuturism no. 13.

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