Tape Recorders Behind Iconic Interviews
In the 2000 movie Almost Famous, director and screenwriter Cameron Crowe condensed his wild, formative experiences writing for Rolling Stone in the Seventies. None of it could have happened without his inanimate companion: the tape recorder.
"There's no way to be surreptitious with that," Cameron says, referencing the machine pictured here. "There was no built-in mic so you had to hold the mic out. You had to get used to the fact that in every interview there was going to be this clunky machine sitting between you and the interviewee. It was a workout to carry it around, it was dropped, rolled over, had a ridiculously short battery life ... but it also gave as much as it received."
Crowe used that interview as a reporter for his high school newspaper and his first Rolling Stone cover story (which, uniquely to Crowe, occurred around the same time). "[The Allmans] hadn't done an interview with [Rolling Stone] because there was a bad cover story wherein [Grover Lewis] talked about them doing coke. The group was famously really upset, because the writer did coke too, but didn't mention that fact in the story. So the magazine's relationship with the band was bad. Duane Allman had also just died in motorcycle accident. I'd written about [the Allmans] before for a local underground paper. I just kept interviewing everyone I could get my hands on. Ultimately, the band accepted me and called me to come on the road with them. When that happened, my Rolling Stone editor said it was going to be a cover.
The tape recorder and I cracked the Allmans' fears of Rolling Stone and that was my first cover story. Next was Jackson Browne [laughs]," he said.
Crowe purchased the audiocassette recorder at a local Sears with money he earned working at a record store kiosk in San Diego. "I got fired for not being able to work the cash machine," he admits. To its right is a much smaller contemporary model belonging to Rolling Stone senior writer Andy Greene.
"I got it while I was still an intern in 2004," Greene says. He used it for his firsts big interviews, which included sitting in a hotel room with Peter Gabriel, a phoner with Willie Nelson and meeting David Crosby backstage. Greene says that tape recorder was used for "hundreds" of interviews after that between 2004 and 2007. But one in particular stands out as a favorite: "Neil Young, in a van, leaving a Crosby Stills Nash & Young show in 2006."