Flood waters can't stop this music

Posted by Erica Noonan  April 13, 2010 03:31 PM

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For decades, my parents begged me to come sort through the boxes I left in their basement in Wellesley. Like most adult children asked to cart away the debris of their youth, I ignored them.

Last month's flooding changed all that.

My parents' basement filled with 7 inches of water. The cat's litterbox quite literally floated away, along with boxes and boxes of ruined stuff.

Dad's college notebooks, his photos from his time in the Air Force and collection of record albums, all destroyed.

Once the water levels dropped, they grimly delivered a few boxes and bags of my stuff that had survived the mess. The other day, I sat on the floor and gingerly peeled back a crusty box flap.

The lot was carbon-dated circa 1987, judging from the stacks of clattering plastic cassette cases.

There was the first tape I ever bought with my own money, Synchronicity by The Police. Mix tapes of Cat Stevens and Styx copied by my friend Elizabeth who spent the money she earned as a checkout clerk at Roche Bros. on a massive collection of music.

Ticket stubs from James Taylor and Steve Miller Band when they came to The Place Formerly Known As Great Woods, and we thought nothing of sitting on the lawn in the rain. (We kids growing up in the late 80s apparently did not listen to a lot of music made in the late 80s.)

In college, I must have woken up and smelled the 90s, because there are dubs of Erasure and Tracy Chapman and Bad Company and a recording from a band called Poi Dog Pondering, (Official, not a bootleg copy. I must have liked this group A LOT at one time to pay full price for it.)

There is a mix tape of my own making called ``WBOS Favorites,'' dated 1990, when 92.9 FM was a brand-new adult contemporary station and I was an unpaid intern there. Kenny Loggins and Steely Dan never had such a sympathetic audience since.

Was this the equivalent of discovering a metal case of my father's old 45 records when I was a teenager?

I don't think so. Back then I still had the technology to play those, and marvel at the scratchy sounds of the Supremes.

We don't even have a cassette player in the house anymore, not counting the battered old boom box we drag out for hard-core renovation work.

But I won't toss these in the trash. They harken back to a time when making a tape for someone was a time-consuming favor, or even a grand romantic gesture.

Now technology moves so fast. Sending a song file with a few clicks of the mouse just isn't the same as the effort it took to catch the first and last notes of a song, peel off the sticker, write the label in tiny print (checking off the the noise reduction box if you wanted to be really cool) lining up sides A and B, and listening for the hiss and squeak when it the tape was spent.

I decided to toss the battered boxes into my own basement for the kids to find when they are older.

They'll probably ask the question to which I currently have no good answer:

"Mom? Why the heck did you pay full price for a Poi Dog Pondering tape?"

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about the author

Erica Noonan is chief of the Globe West bureau. Before joining the Globe in 2000, she worked for the Associated Press in Boston. Raised in Wellesley, she has a master's degree in political communication from Emerson College and a BA in political science from Trinity University in San Antonio. She lives in Natick with two energetic children: Dennis, 6, and Lila, 4.

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