Cassettes of Steal?

I’m going to talk about the 1975 Rush album Caress of Steel for a minute. Unless you’re the roughly one person who is interested in this, feel free to move on.

Whenever I think of this album, I think about the cassette version, which was my introduction to it. Back then, record labels were less interested in preserving the integrity of the album than in cutting every possible cost, so it was common to rearrange the order of the songs on cassettes and 8-tracks, to even out the sides/”programs” (4 total on an 8-track), to use as little tape as possible. (Granted, this may have been because people complained that they’d been cheated when there was a lot of blank tape on one side.)

Anyway… this particular album presented a weird scenario. Side one was four songs, but side two was a side-long suite. (OK, it could be broken up into six separate songs, but they really needed to be together, in a specific order.)

Well, that all made side one a couple of minutes longer than side two, which just wouldn’t do. So the label decided to swap the second song on each side. That meant moving side one’s “I Think I’m Going Bald,” definitely the most absurd track on the album, into a spot right after the first part of the side two suite, and it also meant sticking in side two’s bizarre “Didacts and Narpets” (really just a drum solo and a few guitar chord stabs, plus some random words shouted out representing an argument between the young hero of the suite’s story and his restrictive elders) as the second track on side one, with no context.

All of which made for me having a very warped understanding of what this album was supposed to be, until I finally got it on CD, with the tracks in the right order — and the full side two “Fountain of Lamneth” suite actually acknowledged as such.

Now on streaming services, the album just has 5 tracks… “The Fountain of Lamneth” is one uninterrupted 20-minute song. Today’s nerdy high school sophomores will never understand what I experienced when I was their age.

Now that’s really unfortunate… and gross…

But the question on my mind (besides “How is that guy not vomiting?”) is, “Why the hell were they hauling a whale carcass through the middle of a city on a flatbed truck?”

Found here via here.

But to prove that every cloud, or punctured whale carcass, has a silver lining (ugh… sorry… I don’t want that image either), a few clicks onward led me to this wonderment: a photographic compendium of audio cassettes. Now this is a dead technology, laughably inferior to what we almost take for granted today. But from about 1981 when I got my first little red portable tape recorder from Radio Shack, until 1998, when I got my first CD burner, cassettes were it, baby, and I probably went through thousands of blank cassettes from just about every available brand between the ages of 8 and 24. And if you can’t appreciate that, at least I’ve found someone who can.