Friday, June 2, 2017

"The Fun Factory"

Down in the basement, there is an old cardboard box down in one section that has always been somewhat of a mystery ever since I found it down there. It's of an old GE stereo cassette deck that seems to be from the '70s, which included two microphones, but it does not look familiar to me at all, as I never saw a tape deck in the house in my very early years. Dad didn't even get a cassette deck until 1980 or so.

But it reminds me of an evening sometime in my kindergarten year when grandma came to the house with yet another item she'd found down in the basement, and handed over to Dad. It was a battery-operated tape recorder, with a cassette in it. One of those older-looking tapes with a white shell, and labels attached to either side.

After she was gone, Dad loaded the cassette into the tape deck on his stereo, and hit the "play" button. What was on this tape seemed to be some kind of collage of things that he had put together from various things in his album collection, strung together rather roughly, and perhaps after he'd had a few beers (and--perhaps!--a few bong hits), but it was obvious that he was definitely having fun making it.

I remember hearing the classic David Frye comedy routine about Nixon smoking grass in the Oval Office, which I had heard before and thought was funny, even though I didn't know who Nixon was then, but I at least appreciated the humor in it. Sometime after that was a few cuts from The Mothers' Fillmore East, June 1971 album, which I had never heard before. As soon as "Bwana Dik" ended, the voice of Dad came on, sort of like a deejay, saying something like "Hey! This is Fun Factory, ever wonder what it would sound like if a midget fell through the floor of an outhouse?".

Then the recording cut to a sound effect from Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House, where a guy is crossing a bridge, which collapses, and you hear him yelling Yarrrggghhhh! as he falls down into water, far down below. Then, the tape switched to yet another sound effect from the same album; this time, it was of a dripping-water noise, but Dad had gotten onto the microphone and had added some grunting and groaning noises of his own, as if he were sitting on the toilet. Pure insanity. Also, somewhere on the same side of the tape, I remember hearing "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" from the Beatles' White Album, with Dad singing along to it. Oh, boy...again, pure insanity, but whenever he had recorded this tape, he definitely had that crazy sense of humor even before I came along!

The next day, after school, I had the tape-recorder up in the bedroom, and I was listening back to the cassette again, but about a third of the way through it, the tape snarled in between the capstan and pinch-roller, ruining the tape, and rendering it unplayable. The tape was, sadly, tossed in the trash. If only I'd had the knowledge to have repaired and saved the tape then, I would have done that, but...I didn't, and I can only wonder what the rest of the tape had on it. Dad would occasionally make weird tape collages such as that, but nowhere near as weird and wacky as "The Fun Factory".

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