So lately I discovered a song by the (now defunct, iirc) group called Sakura Gakuin called “Graduation Toss”. In particular, a live, extremely emotional version where nearly all the girls are on the verge of crying throughout the song, and people seem to take a rather unhealthy interest in exactly who’s near tears and when. But while that’s moderately interesting, that’s not what’s attracting me to the song.
There is something about its structure that reminds me very powerfully of a late 70s or early 80s song.
Young people don’t understand this – technology was very different when I was a child. We had radios, cassette tapes, eight-track players, and phonographs. That was pretty much it. And if you were lucky, you could get a set that had all four of those things in one, from Sears or some similar place. CDs didn’t exist until I was nearly 20. I’m old, but that’s not the point.
The technology back then, such as it was, had a very interesting quality that today’s technology utterly lacks. It was very tied to its physical medium. So, for example, with records you could hear the snaps and pops as the needle ran over bits of dust or imperfections in the grooves of the record. Cassettes would wow and flutter as the tape speed varied minutely. And AM radio could not carry the full audio spectrum – it tended to be somewhat biased towards the higher frequencies, with hints of static, whistlers, and other things that were present on radio frequencies. 8 track tapes had the hiss of a motor as the tape was transferred along its path, and a huge KA-CHUNK as the relay kicked in to change tracks at the right time. The systems even had a particular smell that current systems don’t. The music nowadays is much more perfect – I’ll easily grant that – but it lacks a certain character that music back then used to have, in the way it was composed, recorded, and conveyed.
And somehow – in some way, this particular J-pop song with a bunch of teen and preteen girls – somehow managed to capture that vibe. And I’m absolutely sure not intentionally.
I have some theories as to how, but I won’t bother.
But I remember the kind of… ethereal… quality that AM radio used to have. It was, as I said, biased towards the higher end of the audio spectrum, the transmission wasn’t perfect and was interfered with in many, many different ways, by things up to and including the background microwave radiation of the Universe, and it had this kind of dreamlike reverb that was equal parts a part of the recording and radio. It was kind of ethereal. It was mysterious. And it was peaceful. In some ways I think it was even more peaceful and mysterious than silence – given the right kind of music, of course.
And, quite frankly, I miss it.
CDs, digital music, etc., is objectively much better than anything we had back then. Everything is absolutely faithfully reproduced from what the sound engineers intend. There are no hisses, no pops, no chopping off of certain parts of the audio spectrum, it’s an absolutely, 100% faithful and perfect rendition in every way imaginable.
And yet, in some ways, it doesn’t live up to a mono AM radio in a 1973 Plymouth Valiant. And it never will.
And youngsters will never, ever understand what I mean by that. The magic is gone.
And some preteen girls back from 2012 somehow managed to remind of me of the audio magic that once was.