Welcome to issue #73 of Tape Op.
We've lost a few innovators, musicians, recordists and peers in the last couple of months. Our hearts go out to their families and friends. -LC
Mark, owner of the Gray Room Recording Studio in Glendale, Arizona, passed away unexpectedly in July. I first met Mark at the inaugural TapeOpCon in 2002, where we discovered we had much in common when it came to bands and friends in Arizona. Mark helped with the next six conferences and was instrumental in driving students to our humble event. Two years ago he offered me a job as an adjunct faculty member at Scottsdale Community College, where he was heading the recording department. Mark's skill as a teacher and his ability to relate to the students was unmatched and he was instrumental in creating a great program with limited budget and resources. Mark was also a talented guitar player and a fixture in the Phoenix music scene. His sudden death is a great shock to all of us here in Arizona and we are currently rallying the music community to help raise funds for his wife Robin and his two teenage children, Alex and Chelsea. (If you'd like more info on how to help out, please send an email to: email@example.com)
James Luther Dickinson
I knew Jim Dickinson long before we ever met. Like a lot of musicians of my generation, I bought Big Star's infamous Third/Sister Lovers record which fell on me like love from the first groove. The sound on the record gave me many answers I had been looking for, but posed an equal number of questions that only one man could answer. We got in touch.
Over the nearly 20 years I knew Jim, he spoke with me generously about the endless refinements of music, folklore, chicanery and of the things to which poetry cannot do justice. Jim had insight into them all. He hated lazy ears. He wooed nature and conjured sound but he would never pimp you out in the service of his own ego. He loved musicians and thought of himself as an ally in the fight against a music business that often tried to confuse and exploit the wellspring of its success. I think he was fascinated with anyone who could make the air move. It was hard work, and often for Jim it did not pay well. But when you got lucky, that air could become a distant second-line beat or calamitous blues. Do it right and you were defenseless against it. Jim knew better than anyone, it was bigger than all of us.
The enormity of Jim's contribution to music in general could be haggled over and studied for the rest of time. He wouldn't want a laundry list. I can tell you from personal experience that he changed a room when he walked into it. That might be the most important skill anyone in a recording session can have.
Earlier this year I called Jim and we found ourselves talking about the horrendous state of the business of art and what it takes to stick with it. "You know," he said in his graveled clip, "you get to point where you know you can only press that red button so many more times. So, it's got to count."
Lester William "Les Paul" Polsfuss
Les Paul had an amazing life, or rather, lives. We have so much to thank him for — our patron saint of recording. The still mind-boggling recordings that he made in his garage, on equipment that he built himself, sold millions. The technologies that he invented, innovated and furthered (the solid-body electric guitar, multitracking, looping, tape delay and so much more) are that much more useful because he was a practitioner. He made people happy by performing music his whole life. He had such a wealth of acquaintances, from Django Reinhardt to Jeff Beck, and his supply of anecdotes was seemingly endless.
All of his accomplishments, the sum of such massive energy, intelligence, curiosity and enthusiasm, have made Les Paul an icon, a hero and a legend. But now in one last amazement, we find that they were the works of a mortal after all. This man who was so vividly alive, who delighted so in bringing delight to others, has left us. Farewell, Red. The world, that of musicians and recordists in particular, is better and brighter thanks to your untiring efforts. -Mark Rubel