Ready, Cassette, Go

A few days ago, my dad told me he had a boxful of cassette tapes he wanted to get rid of, and asked me if I was interested before he tossed them.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” I replied.

And then I saw this article and was like, wait a second. Maybe I was a bit hasty?

pile-of-audio-cassette-tapes

Anybody who knows me at all is well aware of my fondness for vinyl. The only “new” music I actually buy these days is records. Our album collection now exceeds 400. Obviously, I love nostalgia and all things retro. Not just in music; this fondness extends to lava lamps, the VW Bus, beaded curtains, avocado green appliances, and so forth and so on.

But I’m just not a fan of cassettes.

I owned them growing up. Quite a few, actually. I alternated between records and tapes growing up, preferring the sound of LPs but the convenience (and portability!) of cassettes once the Walkman came out. Tapes are such a pain in the ass, though. Forget about skipping to a particular song; you pretty much had to immerse yourself in the whole album experience. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – bands concentrated on cohesive full-length records rather than putting out collections of disposable singles, and music was truly art – but tell that to a 16 year-old who wants to hear Night Ranger’s “Sentimental Street” without having to wade through the drivel that is “I Need a Woman.” At least a record allows you to pick up the needle and skip to the next track, if so desired.

Tapes also fail to satisfy your desire for instant gratification. If you want to listen to “Separate Ways” but your cassette copy of Frontiers is stuck on “Faithfully,” you’ve gotta hit rewind and wait a couple of minutes. Life is too short for that nonsense.

Exactly! The reason I kept pencils next to my music collection.
Exactly! The reason I kept pencils next to my music collection.

Don’t even get me started on the cassette players’ fondness for eating tape. There is nothing more frustrating than Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” devolving into an incoherent mumble-jumble midway through the song because the tape got tangled up. Unspooling that shit and praying it would still sound okay is one pastime I do not miss.

I guess I should have seen this coming, though. If the hipsters can revive Pabst Blue Ribbon and somehow make that cool again (strike that; PBR was never cool to begin with), cassettes are simply the next logical step. I would argue that anybody longing for a cassette tape is really craving novelty, not nostalgia. They’ve probably never seen one before, and certainly haven’t been forced to deal with the problems listed above. Things become obsolete for a reason: it’s called technological progress, not regress.

Last week, my beloved favorite band, The Moondoggies, announced a cassette release party for their first album, Don’t Be a Stranger, which came out in 2008.  It’s not even available on vinyl.

And damned if I didn’t think, I’ve gotta have that…

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12 thoughts on “Ready, Cassette, Go

  1. Aw, see, cassette tapes are nostalgic for me. Of course, I don’t any now. And I’m not looking to. But I was that kid who got home from school and sat by the radio waiting for my jam to come on and hit record on the cassette player. I was big into mix tapes. (Still am, hence the phenomenal woman mix cd annual gift for family.)

    But, I have a totally cool idea for you. One of my local writer friends made a business card holder out of an old cassette tape case! She snipped the spokes parts out and then painted it and decopaged (?) – that collage-y glue stuff – with book pages. It looked so cool. You should do that! And if you start selling them on etsy, I want one.

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    1. I made the same recordings from the radio – in fact, I used to call the local DJ and request a song. If it happened to get played, I was pissed if he talked over the intro, too. I’ve always been a bit fanatical about my music.

      I do like the business card holder idea. Very clever!

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  2. Guess if I ever come to visit, I’ll have to bring a cassette player to introduce Tara to your favorite childhood band, then… since QD never released vinyl (or digital stuff). ;)

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    1. I know chicks dig it when you tell them you used to be in a band, but somehow I don’t think our stint in Quarter Dollar would impress anybody. Wooden ruler + hardcover book does not equal a drum kit!

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  3. Lol I find this funny because I recently read a buzzfeed article on why cassettes will make a comeback. I really never thought they would and this post hit the nail on the head. Why would I purchase a medium that I know will end up eaten by a tape player I no longer have?

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  4. There is a tangibility to cassette tapes similar to vinyl records and tapes, like vinyl, are attractive to individuals who have grown fatigued with our sterile download culture. There certainly is a nostalgia aspect to this, especially for Generation X, but I would say it is not predominant. I also would not give any credit to hipsters for any resurgence in cassette tapes. They are too preoccupied with their vinyl record collections and manicuring the perfect beard.

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    1. Tangibility is missing from so many aspects of modern society nowadays. I personally find it more difficult to “relate” to an artist when my only investment is a digital file that I will never be able to hold in my hands. In that regard, I think cassettes definitely have the upper hand.

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