Monday, February 12, 2018

the archival shortfall

I noted the other day that there were so many pirate tapes online that they start to blur into each other

And there are a lot

But in some ways, you can't help thinking, there ought to be a lot more

Take for instance Don FM

My favorite station. The source of many of my all-time fave tapes.

Its signal was loud and strong on account of coming from Wandsworth - and I was living in Brixton at that time (I didn't know it was based in Wandsworth then, I didn't know anything about the station at all.).

But mostly it was the deejaying (especially the Lucky Spin crew) and the MCs (especially MC OC and Ryme Time).

Just recently I went on a little jag of hunting down Don FM tapes from 92 / 93 and adding that trawl to the ones I'd already scavenged off the internet in previous years - it came to about 30 hours of recordings up there and out there.

Let's say I've missed a few -  round that up to 40 hours

I also put up there about three hours worth from my own tape archive

So that's about, let's say, 45 hours of Don FM from 92/93 captured on tape and shared on YouTube, mixcloud, and various blogs like Hardscore

45 hours seems like rather a small amount, don't you think. That's less than a hour per weekend over the course of a year and a bit.

The period I'm talking about is from when Don FM launched November 92 until the end of 1993.
(The station carried on into the early months of 1994, before going off the air March 28th voluntarily while pursuing a license, which it got, and then... well you can find out the story online).

Like most pirates, Don FM was on all through the weekend. My possibly unreliable memory is that stations would start up about 7pm on Friday (get everyone warmed up for going out), sometimes earlier...  and then would go all night on Friday and Saturday (and all day in between - often a bit mellower - sometimes even a bit of garage). Then they would wind down probably 10 PM or midnight on Sunday.

I seem to recall Don being on some weekdays here and there (producing some of my fave tapes on these days actually). But let's just stick with those weekends of continuous broadcast. 

Nov 92 to end of 93 - that must amount to some 3000 hours of Don FM transmissions.

So if there's 45 hours of it online - that means just 1 out of every 66 of its hours of broadcast in that period is archived publicly.

I'm sure people must have taped LOADS more than that. The deejays and MCs themselves must have taped a lot of their shows. But punters at home too - it was the main way to get hold of the music and have to play during the week, because so much of it was dubplate or prelease.

That suggests the ageing ravers either

-  are holding / hoarding

- played the tapes at the time until the tape wore out

- put them in a box and forgot about them, or threw them out during some big clear-out, or they got damaged through poor storage conditions

- can't be arsed to digitize them and share

- or, or, they like the idea of keeping it just to themselves, a snatch of time that they alone have access to. That's always a possibility.

Of course, not all of the 65/66ths worth of undigitized / unshared /unarchived will ever have been worth being digitized / shared / archived

I have quite a few undigitized tapes of  Don FM of my own and they are not all gold by any means. A lot of pirate shows never quite ignited, just chugged along. Probably I have around 20 tapes that fall into this category. There is a certain redundancy with the same tunes getting played in different sequences.

Still there's got to be some great sessions out there that people are sitting on and either have forgotten about or just can't be bothered.


Here's a Don FM sesh from ninety-free that I have freshly digitized and offered to the common wealth  - with some Eruption FM bits at the start and then into a full-on session with MC OC

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