Four Track

The next week, we met up at the insulation warehouse for rehearsal again. “I think you’re gonna like this”, Jamie said, producing a black and purple cassette from the back pocket of his cut off just above the kneecap slightly faded black denim shorts. “What’s that?” I asked. “Troy recorded our set on his four track.” “What’s a four track?” I asked. “It’s a tape recorder that lets ya add stuff to the recording. Like instead of taping over it, you can hit record again and add another guitar or some more vocals or whatever you want.” I was amazed. I had been day dreaming about a device like this ever since I had started trying to play music. “Let’s go listen to it!” The four of us all went out to my car and sat and listened to our whole set from the party. It sounded WAY better than I thought we sounded that night. It sounded loud and immediate. It was such a good recording, I couldn’t believe it was us. There were long pauses and dumb conversations between songs. We’d need to work on that.

“So…uh, what’s up with this other band you’re in?”, I asked Jamie, intentionally putting him on the spot in front of Lauren and Erik. “Yeah! You didn’t tell us you’re in another band! What the hell man!?!”, Lauren erupted. “I was at that party talking to these guys, Ken and Troy and they’re telling me all about their band and then they tell me YOU’RE their bass player. I was like, JAMIE? OUR JAMIE!?! LITTLE JAMIE MAHON?!?!? Just so we’re all on the same page here!!! I been in a band with this guy for SIX MONTHS and I’m just finding out now that he’s in another band!?! Oh my god I felt so stupid! Like such a dumbass! Thanks a LOT Jame!!!” That was the great thing about Lauren. You could just wind her up a little bit, and she’d go on a tear, a long winded rant, like you were gettin yelled at by your Jewish mother, only she was Italian and Puerto Rican. Jamie was slick as shit though, and he didn’t answer to anyone, so he just told us all about it, all nonchalant. “It’s called ‘Invid’. We just came up with the name. It’s from Robotech.” Robotech was some deeply inaccessible Japanese cartoon/comic book shit. Like Speed Racer or Star Blazers, but without Casey Kasem or any likable characters. “It’s like thrash metal/punk crossover. Like Voi Vod…or Corrosion Of Conformity, but with anarchist lyrics, like Crass or Conflict. Ken wrote most of the songs with his old band, Whitey.” “Hmm.”, was Lauren’s only reply.

We went back into the warehouse and played our set. It was easy and fun. It wasn’t as devastatingly hot and humid as it had been in the previous months. When we took a break, Erik motioned for us to join him in the little office in the back corner of the building as he pulled a cassette out of the cargo pocket of his dark green shorts. It was Beauty And The Beat by The Go Gos. He tightened the slack with his pinkie and put the tape into the shitty, dusty black one speaker boombox that somebody had left in there a thousand years before. The song Our Lips Are Sealed issued forth. It was familiar to me. I loved it when it was a hit on the radio just ten years earlier. Listening to it now, in the context of being in a rock and roll band with a female singer, it seemed perfect. Jamie grabbed his bass and I grabbed my guitar and we started to play it unplugged right there in the office. We learned the chords quickly. The office was small and dim with one grayish green and rusted stainless desk and chair. It had a drop ceiling. All of the ceiling tiles were brown and orange from nicotine and water stains. There were moldering catalogs lined up on a shelf. Only one of the four fluorescent tubes in the ceiling fixture worked, dimly lighting this hellish, windowless former workplace. I imagined somebody’s gray aunt withering away in there, chain smoking and answering the phone for a sorry lifetime.

We went back into the big room and plugged in and started to play the tune. It sounded good. It was so fun to play. Lauren sang all of the lyrics she could remember. She repeated some parts over again. She said she’d take the tape home with her and write all the words down so she could learn them. We wrapped it up and told each other see ya next week.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that four track. I had to get my hands on one. I knew this magical machine could take my life to the next level. Troy’s had made our band sound so good. Imagine if we could record a song, then record more stuff onto the song without taping over it! That sounded like a miracle to me, like science fiction.

I went to Cintioli’s and asked Robert behind the counter if they had a four track for sale. “A four track what?”, he replied. “Recorder.” I answered. “What do ya want THAT for? Like a reel to reel?” “No, it just uses tapes….cassette tapes!” “Hey Paul”, he called out to another guy, who was farther back in the store messing with some piece of disassembled electronic gear. “We ever get any four track equipment in here?” “Nah.”, he answered, never even looking up. Robert turned back to me, “You know who might have that? You should give Eighth Street Music a try. They have all that kinda recording gear. It’s down town. It’s on eighth street. Heh heh. No wait, I think it mighta moved. Hey Paul, is Eighth Street Music actually on eighth street?” “No, it’s on Arch.”, He muttered, non-give a fuck-ily.

A few days later, I was talking to Jamie on the phone. He told me he had been talkin’ to Troy, and Troy said we could come down and use his four track any time we wanted. “Oh man! That’s awesome! When can we go?”, I asked him. “You wanna try Friday night? Basically, all we need is me, you, and Erik. Lauren can come down another time and do the vocals. ”Yeah, I can probably do Friday. I’ll see if Erik can swing it.” I called Erik and he was down. I grabbed some cassettes at the drug store and counted the hours until Friday.

Friday came and for some reason I can’t remember, I didn’t have my car, so we took the train down. 17th and Bainbridge was just a short walk from the South Street subway station. Ken and Troy were such good dudes, that they had also said we could use their amps, guitars and drums or whatever we wanted, so we weren’t luggin’ a bunch of gear on the train. When we emerged from the subway, it was just about sunset. “Hey! You want a date?” I hadn’t even oriented myself as to which direction I was facing yet, and this super hot, blond haired girl was right in my face, smiling into my soul. She looked like she was only about three or four years older than me. She wasn’t dressed like a stripper and she didn’t look strung out or fucked up or crazy. She looked a little bit like a member of Bananarama. Wow! A real live hooker just propositioned me and it’s not even all the way dark out, I thought. The truth was, I desperately wanted a date. This girl was absolutely gorgeous and she had the whole pretending to like me thing down perfectly. I was all the way turned on and terrified at the same time. Also, I was broke. “Nah, I’m okay.” I said, pretending to be above it all.

We got to the Invid house and it was a whole different scene than the last time we were there. It was clean (for a house of four dudes) and there weren’t people everywhere. Chuck (room mate #3) was sitting on the couch eating pasta watching a MASH rerun. It just had the feel of a regular domestic Friday night. We went down the basement and started setting up. Troy showed Jamie the basics of operating the four track while Erik got the drum kit tweaked to his liking. Ken came down and led me to his Marshall stack. Then he strapped a Gibson Flying V to my body, plugged it in and turned it on. I hit a chord and ascended to a higher plane. The pure tone, volume, and power were unbelievable to me. I was used to playing a Strat through a Peavey. This was another trip entirely. Everything I played sounded effortless and perfect.

We started recording instrumental versions of our songs. We blew through the whole repertoire with no mistakes pretty quickly. Jamie started playin’ some riff he had come up with recently and suddenly we were spontaneously composing new tunes on tape in real time. In the middle of one of the songs, two thin, sexy girls with 40s of Colt 45 came down the steps and sat there, rockin’ out to our shit. One of them had black hair and one of them had blonde hair. They were punks, but they weren’t over the top, fashion wise. This new song we were in the middle of writing had pauses in the half time chorus. Like, there would be two big descending chords, then a silent beat. This happened four times and then we’d go back to the upbeat verse. When we got to this part, out of nowhere, the girls started alternately shouting “FUCK” and “ME”.
I couldn’t believe any of this was happening.

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