‘Vintage Grundig TK8 Reel to Reel Tape Recorder Rare’ says the advert on ebay. I checked YouTube and was delighted to see a TK8 still in playing condition.
This make of machine belonged to my father and it’s a 1958 model with an amazingly robust carrying case which I guess is the reason some of these models have survived in good condition. It was always kept in the wardrobe and it was a bit like alcohol in our house, it was brought out on very special occasions. It makes me laugh really when I read about port and how it should be drunk within a few days of opening. This beverage used to be brought out each Christmas until ‘the damn thing’ was finally finished; what must it have tasted like? I can still smell the old Victorian sideboard from which said bottle was disinterred.Small details can say so much about a character, situation or event and are always poignant.
I digress, this Grundig TK8 had apparently accompanied my father’s travels to sea. He was Chief Refrigeration Officer on The Blue Star Line so it would have wandered around the world with him. It took a long time before he accepted that his daughter could actually manage to record the ‘Top Twenty; on his beloved machine without causing damage. In the early 1970s the TK8 was already an antique, my best friend had already got her hands on a new cassette player, much to my annoyance. I was stuck with the Grundig but I kind of loved its aroma as you lifted the lid and poked the two pads of foam which protected the spool heads (sorry, couldn’t resist). It seemed very technical, like the controls of some important inter galactic machine. There was a light on the left hand side which recorded the levels and a brilliant hand held round microphone with a metal mesh that was capable of freezing me into total silence when anyone ever said, ‘well speak then!’ It was not unlike the moment I did my first live radio show where I was also almost paralysed by fear. That mesh had a specific smell which strangely I still remember. It had a case with metal studs on the bottom and the three leaf clover symbol on top just below Max Grundig’s signature emblazoned in gold; it was a real prize.
There were two large plastic reels and brown tape that would pass from one spool to the other through the bit in the middle (someone techno help me out please lol)There was a volume and tone control on the left and the tapes would smell odd as they began to heat up. Little did I realise that as I was making my first sounds and trying to make the green lights meet in the middle other more adept individuals were using the same machine to create some of the most well-known songs in pop music.
What I didn’t know at the time was the 1950s had brought tape recording facilities to ordinary members of the public by standardising tape width and speed and generally improving the quality of tape. Suddenly musicians had the means of production which would enable them to record song changes, keep records and generally take more control. John Lennon and Paul McCartney had this down to a fine art and began to collect music fragments which was easily achieved with a tape machine.
So they were writing their hits and I was talking nonsense or recording Fluff Freeman as I was one of his’ pop pickers’. I have no idea where that machine went, which is a pity really; I certainly know Cecelia by Simon and Garfunkel and I Saw The Light by Todd Rungren would will still be on a tape spool somewhere if it still exists and also me reciting some poetry aged 6; precocious? Really? 🙂
See Capacchione Lucia The Creative Journal – The Art of Finding Yourself New Page Books for more on using objects for writing.