Concert Taping…Yesterday And Today
By Toni A. Brown
The Grateful Dead's fans have been taping concerts almost as long as the Dead have been playing them. In the early years, Dead Freaks would leave shows with the same craving for more that Dead Heads leave shows with now. But in those days, you couldn't just hop into your car at the end of a show and pop one of your favorite cassettes into the tape deck. Only a very scarce handful of enthusiasts were taking tape machines to shows in an effort to preserve, and to later savor every minute. Eventually, some of these people met, and the first "Free Underground Tape Exchange" was born. This would actually later evolve into Relix Magazine. Early on, tape machines were not permitted into shows. As taping became more popular, the band and the venues began cracking down more fiercely, and an entire underground began to flourish. The inventive ways equipment was hustled into shows became a scene in itself. Equipment was far more cumbersome than it is today. But thanks to those hardy tapers, there is a wealth of live material out there. And thanks to Les Kippel, who wasn't satisfied with just seeing a show and the going home, Relix brought dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of tapers together.
What follows is an interview with Barry, who has been taping shows since 1973. He still continues this diversion, and currently maintains an extremely healthy collection of live music.
As we begin our interview, using Barry's equipment, we were off to a fine start. It wasn't until 40 minutes into the interview that we realized Barry had never taken off the pause switch. We re-started our interview with a most appropriate subject, under the circumstances.
Relix: Can you give us some insight into common taping errors?
Barry: Basically, it comes down to really checking everything and not leaving it to chance. It pays to visually check everything: are the limiter switches on or off, whichever way you prefer it; are your Dolby and metal switches in the right position. These things can often be taped down. Make sure your switches are in the right position. There are a number of fluffs, but usually they come from just being distracted. If it's time to use metal tape, but it's in the chrome position, that kind of thing. Or like forgetting batteries, or making sure you have your wind screens when you're doing an outdoor show. If you tape long enough, you'll experience almost every mistake at least once, and it will be a sore lesson to you for a while until the next time it happens. It's sort of these unconscious things to keep you honest.
Relix: What is the difference between metal and chrome tapes?
Barry: Chrome is now what they call type II position, but way back in '73 and '74, they actually made real chrome tapes, and that was what they call type II, and that enables you to record with somewhat less noise than type I formulations, if I'm not mistaken. I've forgotten a lot of the technical jargon over the years. They were better, but metal tapes are better still. But one thing that's important to remember about metal tape is, it can still saturate and over-record in the bass, and a lot of tapes will give you the highest levels when it comes to bass notes, not the high frequency notes, so a tape hitting the peak light when recording very intense bass, whether it be Phil or some other kind of music, will still saturate the tape, metal notwithstanding.
Relix: What tape do you prefer?
Barry: I find that I like Maxell tapes, although a lot of my friends use TDK. In the end, any of the highest grade tapes that have demonstrated good consistency over time. You have Maxell and TDK tapes going back 10 and 15 years, and very few of those old masters have gone to the tape cemetery. That's a good plug for those companies. In terms of any of these formulations, they seem to last. I used TDK tapes for a long time in the earlier days and switched to Maxell.
Relix: What equipment did you use in the early days?
Barry: My first tape was made with a Sony 126, and, although it was a stereo machine, back then, we poor college kids couldn't afford much money for microphones, so I bought what turned out to be a Shure omni-directional mic, what was called a 578. That microphone impressed me, even in those days, by having a very flat frequency response. It gave very deep bass response and the high end far exceeded what the machine would be capable of producing. That was one thing that seemed hard to record, even back then, getting good bass on tapes was often a limitation more of the microphone than of the tape deck.
Relix: So it's important to have a good mic.
Barry: It's what I felt, at least. Back then I usually managed to get the mic up on some kind of curtain rod pole. Or if you were in some place like the Beacon Theater or the Palladium, although that came later-around '74, '75, '76, hand holding a mic and having good seats, that was really the bottom line. Wherever you're recording, there is always a great recording area, and that's usually halfway between the soundboard and the stage. After the Sony 126, which had no Dolby, the first big breakthrough in making really good-quality tapes came around July, 1974, when Sony put out the 152SD, which was eventually succeeded by two other models before they retired it, the 153 and the 158. And those had separate record modules and good-size meters, and Dolby noise reduction, which meant you were making tapes with pretty good high end and relatively hiss-free. The problem with all the old audience tapes that I ever heard from '73, which is pretty much all you listened to if you wanted to hear music from that year, there were virtually no soundboards from that year, so you listened to audience tapes that were made on the side, made far back, but the ones made close weren't so bad.
After the 158, the next thing I remember was sort of a turning point for me. In 1979, the second year of Red Rocks, I was out there again for the August shows, so I had the 158 and I got it into the first show, August 12, where it was raining like crazy. They were sweeping water from the stage with brooms during "Eyes Of The World." And we're out there in the cold and rain, but we kept taping the show. That's good dedication. Anyway, the weather was so bad the next two nights that they cancelled Red Rocks and moved it into McNicholls Sports Arena. There they had much better security methods and there was no way I was able to get a big Sony 158 through the door. But inside the show there were people that had this new machine that was really small, about the size of the old 126. It was the size of a 6'' x 9'' manila envelope that was about an inch thick, and that's pretty small. It could fit into books, it could fit down your pants, and all sorts of possibilities. It had great potential, and it has become the standard concert taping machine. That machine made its first appearance in 1979, and in 1990 we're still using the same technology, basically. It is also very important to have good mics. I personally prefer Nakamichi's.
Relix: How has the taping scene progressed over the years?
Barry: In terms of Dead taping, it started with a very small number of people that weren't really friends, and back then, people were taping for a variety of reasons. It wasn't like everyone was taping. There was no underground. Everyone was basically taping for themselves. I always suspected that there are things that are first surfacing now. There are so many tapes that will never surface because people may have been somewhere and made a good tape, but those people never really though about that outer aspect, that there's tape trading, and other people that do this. They're looking at it as a personal memento or from a personal enjoyment point of view. But over the years, more and more people started showing up at shows. I remember at the Beacon Theatre in June, '76, I had a fourth row seat, which wasn't perfect for taping. I was right in front of the PA, and I held up a small pole from my seat. Even back then, you tended to stand far more than you sat. And by the time [of] the '76 and '77 shows, you started to see more poles and little clusters of people, like at Roosevelt Field in '76. I actually decided not to record the show, and just walk around and take in the scene. It was lucky that a soundboard turned up a few years later. That was a very good show. Most of the times I've gone, I've recorded. Most of the times I haven't taped were in the earlier days, from either not having equipment or I felt it wasn't important to do it every time.
Relix: How has the Taper City affected the taping scene?
Barry: I've always been able to get tapers' tickets by mail order for the shows I go to, and no matter where you wind up inside, it's always good to have those tickets to get your equipment through the door. A word to anybody else who wants to record: Don't underestimate the potential of those tickets to get your equipment in hassle-free. And then, once you're inside, well, you do what you have to do. But aside from that, the tickets seem to be available through mail order as long as you get your order off early. The toughest shows tended to be general admission, like the Greek Theatre and Frost shows, which were tough mail-order tickets. They were basically first come, first serve. Early Greek Theatre shows, '83 and earlier, those were tough shows to get equipment into. If it wasn't for the help of friends, I couldn't have, and in some cases didn't.
Relix: What are some interesting techniques you've used to get equipment in?
Barry: Down the pants works most of the time. It may not be glamorous or comfortable, but it does work. Having a pair of dungarees that are one size too large is a good investment. Being able to break down the equipment into its components is good. Having a bag helps. If you have everything on your person, they'll check your bag. And if you have a few things in there for them to see, it's unusual that they'll also frisk you. Now that they occasionally use metal detectors, it helps to have a pair of binoculars or an umbrella in your bag. It's rare that guys get frisked below belt, and girls are rarely checked seriously, aside from checking their pocketbooks. Walking in behind conspicuous characters and dressing conservatively helps, too. Back in the '70s, I'd have the equipment in an Express Mail package with the form filled out, and being dressed conservatively, helped pull that off nicely. It worked well until the '80s, when it was posted that no parcels are allowed, the contents of which can't be displayed, and Hartford was the first to say, "You have to open that parcel." But it probably works in some places. It depends, if you walk in with a tape machine packaged in gift wrapping, and you have a pair of cables or patch cords in the bag with you, it makes it obvious. But if you can stand the discomfort of putting it down your pants, it's still the easiest way. Inside a book sometimes works, too.
Relix: When did you start taping?
Barry: I actually got into music when I saw my first concert at Stony Brook in 1969-70. That was Frank Zappa. Music was really interesting then. As a matter of fact, the Dead were really no more important then, I probably liked the Airplane better. And out of that, Hot Tuna. Taping started in 1973, when you could go out and buy a portable tape machine for a couple of hundred dollars and a mic and possibly make good tapes. And back in '73, we heard people were making audience tapes that you could play on your stereo, and not just out of a little table radio speaker, and that was almost getting to be respectable high fidelity. And if the music was loud enough, you probably wouldn't get crowd noise. I went to Watkins Glen and got up close, and stood there like the Statue of Liberty, and got a tape that still sounds good today.
Relix: You once mentioned that there was more excitement to live music than studio recordings. What got you started in taping?
Barry: I used to have records, but haven't had a turntable since 1973, since college. That's how serious the tape collecting has gotten in terms of providing you with satisfying listening music, but I have about 150 albums recorded on reel-to-reel tape, so it isn't as though I don't have a record collection of commercially released material. But back then what really impressed me were the live rock albums, like Live Dead, which got me into the Dead more than anything. That live album-the fact that these guys could get up there and, for 45 minutes, play "Dark Star," "The Eleven," and "Lovelight"-that just blew me away. Wow, these guys play long versions, the songs go into each other. It's exciting. It's not like the Beatles and three-minute songs. There's just all amounts of instrumental jamming, and that was a new way of doing things. And the Airplane did things that way, too. Bless Its Pointed Little Head was an eye-opener into how these guys performed live. So those experiences and the second live Dead album, "Skull and Roses," [Grateful Dead] which was the '71 material, that was really high-quality, that was impressive, so you began to realize that a lot of these bands sounded really different live, far more exciting. But the material isn't generally available.
Relix: When did you start networking and trading tapes?
Barry: That happened about a year after my first show at Stony Brook. I came upon a live soundboard tape of that show. It was something that was generally not around. And then you began to get live radio broadcast shows. WNEW in New York, and a year or two later, the old WLIR began putting live shows on the radio, sometimes from the studio, or from Long Island, and then they got into pre-recorded stuff. And you began to pick up a little collection. 1971 Dead Tour was nicknamed "the radio tour," where fall and winter they broadcast one show from virtually every city they played. The Felt Forum tape from New York became a major source of tape trading. That and the Stony Brook tape opened a few doors. I acquired the Fillmore East soundboards from April 26, 27, 28, and 29, and 9/20/70, which was sent to me from a guy from Connecticut. That box of 10 tapes became what I listened to all the time. Wow, this stuff is so great, it's live material, these things aren't available. You got to really hear how a live show is put together. And they were great-quality tapes. So these opened more doors. And in my senior year in Stony Brook, in the school paper, an ad appeared in the classifieds, and it said "Concert Tapes," and there was an address from California. That was about 1973. You then began to realize that there were people that had collections. Here was this guy from California with local shows, and he'd probably want shows from New York. From that came the whole tape trading chain, at least for myself. Another thing, when the Dead sort of went into retirement in '74, Relix Magazine sprung up and filled sort of a void that year. Bands like Kingfish (with Bob Weir) and Legion of Mary (Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia) were touring, so you didn't have the Grateful Dead, but you had the next best thing, at least they were out there touring. Then Relix began featuring articles and information and kept things alive in terms of "Well, maybe they're just on vacation, and they'll be back." Relix had a classified ad section on one page in the back. Then you began to realize there were other people out there that collected not just Grateful Dead, but other types of music. Now you have pages and pages of classified ads with all the people recording now, and with all the newcomers coming into the scene, and going right into the tape trading aspect. It's not like when people would first go to shows, and would often just try to get tapes of the shows they went to. It wasn't as if you could just go to a source like Dead Base and read set lists of show after show and say, "This one looks good, let's see if anyone has this show." So people just wanted the shows they went to. And as most people will probably admit, every show you go to is generally a good show.
Relix: What are some of the pros and cons of Taper City?
Barry: Myself and a few of my friends that still go to shows have always held a certain opinion about where you should record from, and the taping section is a nice thing to have. It's the Dead realizing that something that they never controlled from the onset, that they tacitly allowed to occur, started expanding and getting out of control. I guess my memories of classic taping scenes getting out of control began at Hampton in the early '80s where I'd been to the earliest shows, the shows in '79, then over the next few years you had more and more poles appearing at various heights in front of as well as behind the soundboard. You were beginning to become aware every time you went down to Hampton that more and more people were taping. Everybody is getting equipment in and everybody is taping, to the point where it got to look like a scene from the movie King Kong, where he appears at the gates and all the natives are there with their spears in the air. And that's what it looked like in front of the soundboard-all of these poles and rods and contraptions. You got to realize in the early '80s that Healy must have been getting really pissed off about all this stuff up in their faces.
I like to sit in the 13th row and enjoy the show. I don't think you can sit and watch the show from behind the soundboard. There are more people back in the taping section, and this is fine if it's what you want to do, but they're more interested in making the tape than enjoying the show. Their heads are down watching the meters all night. And I've been in the taping section. I can't look over the soundboard and try and enjoy the show. And I like to do both.
Relix: About how many Grateful Dead shows do you think you've recorded?
Barry: I know I've been to 260 shows as of May, 1990. I'd say easily 230 of those have been taped. I'd say maybe 30 shows that I've seen were never recorded.
Relix: What are some of your most memorable shows?
Barry: I have a certain fondness for 1973 for a lot of reasons. The shows were much longer back then, and many of the 1973 shows you had a first set that would go an hour-and-a-half to an hour-and-forty-five minutes and then they would take a long break. Breaks back then were never less than half an hour. But the second set was close to two hours. In those days you always planned to record on three 90-minute cassettes. Some of us would use the old 120s, and you'd still get cuts in the middle, but those 120s often don't play back anymore. As is now, your motto should be, "Waste tape, not music." And there are many C90 tapes that I have that only have "Johnny B. Goode" on it.
I have plenty of favorite tapes. My favorite show I don't even have a tape of. It was March, 31, 1973, and I saw someone down there with a microphone pole, but no copy of that tape has ever shown up. Other shows that I like a lot, it's really a matter of going through year by year and picking which shows you like the most in a particular year. Binghamton from 1970 has to be one of the classic shows around. The Stony Brook tapes, all four shows, there's a lot of good playing. And my first Dead show, the Halloween late show, will always remain fond to heart. And a few February pieces, 2/1314/70 and 2/11/70, a piece from 2/11/70, and a few of those 45-minute tapes are really good. In April, '71, the Dead's last shows at the Fillmore still seem to be some of the best material from that period. Seems like now the whole month of April has turned up on soundboards. The Harding Theater from late '71 is a show I've always liked. It was a radio broadcast. In '73, there are so many nice shows out there. The shows from Maples Pavilion, Madison, Wisconsin, 2/9, 2/15/73, they're real high-quality soundboards, excellent shows. Winterland from 11/10-11/73 are two 90-minute pieces I like a lot.
Relix: In more recent years, the Dead were experimenting with FM signals inside of venues. Did you catch any of that?
Barry: That was sort of like diving into a new technology. We felt like we have to be in on this. Somebody has to be checking this out. So all of a sudden, are they really doing this? Does it work? This can't be for real. And the couple of shows I recorded sound really good. I think that was the '88 tour. I remember one night at the Meadowlands, I had a seventh row seat on the side, and I really didn't want to record from there. The PA was right in my face. I was also worried about security seeing my equipment, as they were enforcing the Dead's policy to the letter of no taping in front of the soundboard. If they caught you, they politely stopped you. They weren't nasty or anything. Recording one night from that seat, I did get caught about three songs into the show and at that point we though they weren't doing the FM or that we couldn't pick up the signal, but I had my little FM Walkman with me. I plugged it in and it was picking up the signal really well, so I resumed taping because security had only taken one tape and I had more. So I set this up, zipped up the bag and let it stay under my seat and hoped for the best. The problem with those FM tapes is the patch cord to the tape deck, at least with the Sony Walkman, was often the antenna, so you'd be fumbling around, figuring should it be this way, should it be that way. And sometimes I monitored on headphones when I sat in the taping section, just taking the night off, so to speak, in terms of watching the band, and I noticed that you had to be careful about how that wire was because the signal kept fading in and out. So, so much for the benefit of off-the-air recording, although I'm sure there were people who were using equipment that was more stable. An upfront tape, well made with no crowd noises around you, is still probably better than most soundboards. That seems to be the case with the 1990 soundboards I've been listening to.
Relix: What do you see in the progression of equipment?
Barry: The biggest plus has been DAT recording. I'm still very skeptical about it for myself from a standpoint of how much I want to lay out moneywise. It's a certain level, like it is with stereo systems. You can have a $500 system, a $1,000 system, or a $10,000 system. And the same thing is true with equipment. You could buy a D-5 for $500, and a pair of very respectable microphones for another $500. Or you could get a DAT machine for $2,000 and spend at least as much for microphones, because with those machines the mics might be the weak link. And not the other way around. So the investment becomes considerably more for DAT. Also, in terms of battery packs, you wouldn't want a Meadowlands security person taking your DAT rechargeable battery pack from you. And if you're on tour, that could ruin your whole taping tour. With the D-5, the worst you could lose is $3 worth of batteries, which you could replace the next day. Of course, if you're taping in the taping section, there's no problem with that happening.
As far as where the equipment's going, basically DAT and even a regular D-5, the limiting factor, aside from maybe your seat location, is the PA itself. So unless you're in a very small club, where you might get so much music off the stage that is coming through the PA, you're at the mercy of that PA. If a PA blows a stack of speakers, it's on your tape. If the sound happens to be poor that night, that's the sound you're getting. The best DAT in the world or open reel Nagra can't make the sound your ears are hearing any better. And that's the thing people have to keep in perspective. You're still recording in an audience.
Relix: Do you think the Dead will continue the taping section? Do you think they're finding it successful?
Barry: I think they're finding it successful. There have always been rumors, "Oh, we've had enough." But they always continue it. Unless a band opens for them that doesn't want taping. Crosby, Stills and Nash are opening for the Dead this summer, and they are very anti-taping. I've gotten shut down from taping at their shows in the past. They've had guys with binoculars looking out into the crowd. So, tapers beware.
Relix: Let's touch on taping etiquette a little bit here.
Barry: There's no doubt that some tapers are rude. There's still people I see at shows that go for seats close up if they don't have them, and keep their fingers crossed and hope they don't get kicked out. I've never been in favor of that. That's one of the reasons why the Dead put a stop to taping up front, that and the fact that they didn't have a clear view in front of them. So tapers can be as rude and obnoxious as non-tapers. Trying to take someone's seat is unfair. But if you have a seat in the 13th row, and you're going to keep the mics head level, I still can't see why you shouldn't be able to record the show. And not just the 13th row. If you're sitting in a side seat, in an upper level, for that matter, if you have the seats and aren't putting up poles in people's faces, it should be okay.
Relix: Don't you think the Dead just want some control over what goes on?
Barry: They probably should have taken more control in laying out ground rules early on. The impression I always got was, "We don't want to tell people what to do, the should police themselves." And it always seemed that if someone had gone onstage before the show and made an announcement, "Hey, you people with the mic poles up front, the band and the sound crew, and everybody here would really appreciate it if you would just do your thing, but just keep your microphones down around head level." What would have been the big deal to make that announcement? It's like, "Well, we don't want the responsibility. We don't want to be authoritarian," and you get a scene out of control. And in the end, they had to create a taping section, and it was a shock to the people who legitimately got 13th row seats and were not making a big deal about the people sitting next to them. But on the other hand, if someone wants to yell in my ear all night, I don't think they have a right, whether I'm taping or not. I've been to shows, and it's very obnoxious to have the person behind you screaming in your ear all night. And if you turn around to that person and they say, "I'm here to have a good time too," that's also giving someone else a bad time. I don't think it's rude when a taper tells a person who's trying to dance in a little seat and their arms are flailing all around, that if they want to dance, go in the back. Then the person looks at you because you have a microphone in your hand, and he thinks, "Well, I'm ruining your tape." Whether I have a microphone or not, you're ruining my time! I'm getting bummed out with arms flying in front of me all night. That's not right, either.
Relix: So there are no written rules, even when your are in the taping section.
Barry: Well, you know that the people next to you are tapers, so they won't be dancing or yelling, but you have to accept recording from a pretty considerable distance back.
Relix: For the novice, what type of equipment would you recommend to someone who might be lucky enough to get tapers' seats?
Barry: I can relate to not having the money to buy premium equipment, going back to my days in college. But as a good investment for something that will last, buy a D-5, and if you have a close friend who has kept theirs in good shape, you might want to buy a second-hand one, but only if you know how it's been used. So that's maybe $500. I'd say, short of investing in really good mics, something that is above adequate and even above average are the mics I used back in '78, NAKs CM300 microphones. They used to make CM 700s, which we still use after over 10 years. Aside from spending ridiculous amounts of money, they're lightweight and concealable. So if you're going to record non-Dead shows, that's something to take into consideration. For about $800, you can come away with a very good set-up. The key thing there is where your seat is and how high you can keep your microphone.
For someone who wants to spend very little money, there's always a Walkman, something like the D-6, and a lesser mic set-up. Perhaps a stereo mic. But the only thing I don't like about the D-6 are all those mini-jacks. The headphone jacks and all your output jacks seem to be too fragile. When that deck is bouncing around at shows after a year, those are the first things that go. D-5s seldom have that problem. They're built far better.
Relix: How do you feel about the use of Dolby?
Barry: To this day, there's controversy about Dolby. There the feeling that there's noise reduction, but it's affecting the high end and I don't want anything that affects the high end, so I won't use it. There's the other side of the coin, where, if I don't use it, I get that much more tape hiss, and then you get into how to set your record levels. But on the subject of Dolby, I've always felt that if you have a tape deck and it's properly calibrated, the so-called effect on the high-end, if you could really hear it, is far worth not having all that tape hiss. That's why it was invented. That's why in '74-'75, people jumped at the chance to buy a Dolby Sony 152. But if it's not adjusted properly on your machine, that might take some looking into. It's there to serve a useful service, and I feel it does. If you're losing high end, either I don't hear it or it's acceptable to me. If you feel that the tape with the Dolby switch off is making a more accurate tape than with the switch on, you should take the machine and have it checked.
Relix: Where is technology going?
Barry: To this day, using the same machine, even though I'm on my fifth D-5M over the years, because I tend to use them for two years and then sell them and buy new ones, but I thought that possibly for the '90s the analog format of the D-5 might finally succumb to digital because digital seems to be the way to go. But I'm not satisfied that the technology is that firm. I sure don't like the format of digital video tape. I've used open reel all my life, long before I started on cassette, and in fact I've used an outboard Dolby B unit and I still record on open reel at high speed-at 7 ˝. I swear by that machine.
Relix: How have you seen the Grateful Dead's musical progression through tapes?
Barry: When you have tapes of all the years, and, as in my case, you've seen them since 1970, '73 was a favorite year. And as I said before, Live Dead was something very new. Songs that went on for 11 minutes…if you listened to the Who and the Stones and the Beatles, you heard two-and-three-minute songs. No jamming, no guitar breaks.
It always seemed that no matter how many shows you saw, you missed that one special number you were hoping for. So by the mid-'70s, I realized the only way to do it was to see a whole bunch of consecutive shows.
Relix: What differences do you find between indoor and outdoor shows?
Barry: Outdoor shows can be general admission or reserved. The big problem with outdoor shows is weather. I've recorded many shows at the Pier (New York City) over the years, and even at the Wollman Rink (in Central Park) in the mid-late '70s, and there was always the weather to deal with. So many shows are recorded with an umbrella over you, and if it rains hard enough with the rain pitter-pattering, it can create a problem. That brings to mind a tape of Red Rocks where you can actually hear the rain pattering on the tarp we were holding over us. The fact that you're outside also means you have daylight. So if you're taping outdoors in the early summer, security can spot you, so that's a consideration. Either indoors and outdoors, covering the mic in a black hairnet, and wearing dark clothes also helps.
Relix: But you don't get to enjoy a whole lot of shows if you're taping.
Barry: That's not true. More and more, recently, I've been trying to find ways that I can enjoy the show, and the tape is sort of secondary. Even at this late date, I remember taping at one of the recent Nassau shows, the one that was being broadcast, and this is embarrassing when you've been doing it for so many years and you haven't smoked or had a drink, and I think it was subconscious because I knew the show was being taped from the radio, but I never took the first show tape out and put a second tape in. Suddenly we're taping during the second set, and a friend looks down and sees the decks are off. The tape ran out. I just forgot to put that second tape in.
Relix: You really seem to enjoy doing this. Do you expect to carry on the tradition?
Barry: I still enjoy it. It's interesting. In all the years I've been doing it, a lot of people have come and gone in the scene. They sort of fell out of it, came back into it. Some haven't had time to do it, a lot of people don't go to as many shows as they used to, and a lot of people just don't find music out there they enjoy. A lot of people don't like the way the Dead sound as much as they did five or 10 years ago. And other friends of mine just don't like the hassle.
In all fairness to the bands and the record companies, I think I've been exposed to more kinds of interesting music by hearing it live by someone giving me a live tape of somebody from the Bottom Line or the Blue Note. It's like, "Wow, this is what these guys sound like?" So I'll spend $15 to go see them. It's worth it. I don't buy records, but I do spend the concert dollar, and I do go back and see performances. I really don't think that artists have to worry that much about loss of sales because of bootlegs.
Relix: You get outside of the Grateful Dead pretty often. What are some of your other favorite types of music?
Barry: There's so much else. I recently went to Avery Fisher Hall and taped a contemporary classical concert. That's not something I do often. But there's a lot of jazz and jazz-fusion stuff, the kind of music Pat Metheny plays. I've always liked him.
Relix: How many hours of recorded shows do you think you have?
Barry: That's a hard one. It's certainly several thousand. The Grateful Dead are about 40-to-50 percent of the collection, but I have a lot of non-Dead on cassette as well. I probably have over 400 open reels and there's close to 1,000 cassettes.
Relix: Are there many other collectors with as many hours as you?
Barry: It's hard to say. I don't know everyone that's out there. About a dozen or so. But in terms of people collecting over the years, people connected with band members and road crews, even people connected with concert halls that have gathered lots of shows over the years, have probably tapped into some private collections. I look at songlists now, in terms of if I have a lot of tapes from that tour or that year of high quality. I don't want to be a library or an archive, so I don't have to have everything. So I've become a little more selective. But if I see a list of songs I like, I'll take another show. So I look for favorites. I look for sound quality, too, because when you have thousands of hours, you can't listen to everything, and you'll listen to the shows that have the best quality and that you like the best. Everybody gets something different out of a show. The worst show I ever saw was Watkins Glen. Not the soundcheck, but the actual performance the next day. But I'm sure there are lots of great shows down the road. Don't miss them!
Relix would like to thank Barry for his time in sharing something as personal as his passion for taping. He's been around a long time, and I'm sure he's looking forward to much more of the long, strange trip.
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