The Tape Don't Lie • Intro: Berkeley Stereo

berkeley, 2015 —

Berkeley Stereo started around 4 years ago as a way to dispose of a couple thousand pounds of sound equipment that I inherited from… myself. 

This collection was not patiently accumulated, meticulously curated or painstakingly catalogued. It was more like furiously piled up into a world class hoarder's junk mountain of irrational techy acquisitiveness. In 1971, after being exiled from New York for standing up to a bunch of capitalist pigs, I went to work up the Hudson River, in Woodstock, for a bunch of capitalist hedgehogs. This happened long ago and far away, at Albert Grossman's Bearsville Sound Studios, where I worked sporadically as a recording engineer in the early 1970s. 

(Albert was a manager of musical talent who changed the music business in major ways. He insisted that his clients —Bob Dylan,Janice Joplin, The Band, Todd Rundgren—  be treated as artists. And he collected an unprecedented 25% commission from them.)

There wasn't much recording work, so there was plenty of time for tooling around New York and New England, picking up old audio equipment and clocks and stuff at garage and barn sales, sometimes selling, but mostly just collecting. And then, soon after, losing all of it. 

The barn in which these hundreds of assorted gizmos were stored collapsed in the winter storm of '74, a total loss, including some pretty cool items. They were nothing special at the time, but are highly appreciated these days: tube amplifiers made by McIntosh, turntables and sound mixers by RCA, and huge speakers by Altec, from a lost era of grand old American manufacturers of the clunky but beautiful. And they sounded great!

But I had already moved back to New York, a chapter was over and I forgot about the old stash, not realizing that decades later, having become an antique myself and ready to retire after slaloming through a fun and  occasionally lucrative career in the record business, we would reconverge, all of those old tubes and wires and transformers and me, here, now, knee-deep in the 21st century. Because forty years after, an old friend spotted it all— intact— in a warehouse in Kingston, NY. He remembered. He called me. And soon, the whole shebang was rolling its way to California, in two semi trailer-trucks.

Berkeley Stereo, a little brick-walled storefront, gave me a venue (augmented by eBay) through which I could start moving this stuff into the hands of others. But something else happened too:  I had a great time doing it.

And now, here is another random collection——  of stories from a life in the music business, and the exhilaration of getting paid to do a job both technical and creative, a job I loved, during a time when it was possible to make a pretty good living at it, without "going viral" or even being famous at all. 

--- Warren

PS: Copout Time: This is all just a work in progress. I'm mostly writing it directly into these web pages. So — I hope— over time, the initial lameness will be magically transformed into completely brilliant and compelling prose as I agonize over word choices and eventually figure out how to write good. Meanwhile some real crap will be laid down here, but with luck it will turn into something possibly worth your while.

(to be continued)

1. radio days