The Studio 86 Sessions, Volume 1

January 26, 2011

First, I haven’t abandoned my record culling project. I was forced to put it on the back burner for a while because of “stuff” (you know, curve balls life likes to throw your way), but things are getting back to normal and I’ll be updating The Culling soon.

But today I’m beginning a weekly series called “The Studio 86 Sessions.” I was digging through a box of audio cassettes (remember those?) the other day and came across my collection of Studio 86 tapes.

Studio 86 was a professional-quality recording studio that anyone with $15 in their pocket could rent to lay down a vocal track over a pre-recorded musical bed. For your money you got the services of a recording engineer, a lyric sheet, and one rehearsal. At the end of it you walked away with a cassette of your opus. For another $3 each, you could get dubs made to give to family, friends and fans.

Apparently the concept started in Nashville in the early 80s. The first Canadian incarnation was at Expo 86 (hence the name) in Vancouver, where it was a huge hit with fair-goers. In January 1987 a location opened at West Edmonton Mall where it was a popular attraction for many years. This is where the bulk of my collection comes from, though I do have some from Vancouver and a few from other companies.

Studio 86 has been defunct for some time now (not sure exactly when it closed), but the similar B Scene Studios has been operating in Edmonton since 1993. The price is has gone up a bit ($25 per song) and cassettes have been replaced by CDs.

I was a little surprised to see how many of these tapes I’d gathered over the years. I guess they were more common in thrift stores back in the day (a decade or more ago) than they are now, though I hardly look at cassettes anymore (I don’t even have a deck to play them on – I had to bring one from my parent’s house).

Almost all the Studio 86 tapes I own were recorded by groups of teenage girls, invariably tone-deaf. Often they where made as part of a birthday celebration. Most begin with a spoken dedication, usually to boyfriends. All are charming, in their way.

The Expo Sisters: How Will I Know

Today’s tape was recorded at Expo 86 in Vancouver. The original was a hit for Whitney Houston in 1985.

More to come next week and every Wednesday for about the next 6 months.


3 Responses to “The Studio 86 Sessions, Volume 1”

  1. The Sister Says:

    I listened as long as I could (not very), then had to apologize to my cats – who all had pained expressions on their faces!

  2. The Sister Says:

    And the only reason I didn’t have to apologize to the consort was because he was out and didn’t have to hear it.

  3. Rev, Josh Says:

    This is fantastic. Looking forward to the rest of the series. Thanks!

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