I have been a tape fanatic for over 40 years. Ever since my brother and dad showed me how to record stuff off of the radio, I’ve been hooked. First it was a portable reel-to-reel, with 3” reels, that only ran for 5-10 minutes. Towards the end of the 60’s, it was a Philips Compact Cassette (i.e. a cassette). I also dabbled in the 8-track world; my first car, the orange Datsun B-210 had an 8-track installed in it!
I remember someone in the 1970’s record store being assigned to ‘stocking the tape wall’ – the 8-tracks go here, the cassettes over there. No, that one doesn’t come on 8-track, sorry. I remember how popular the darned Boston debut album was – at first, it didn’t come on tape at all – but eventually, it made it in both 8-track and cassette. I also remember special ordering cassettes from England – and I still have a box full of Split Enz cassettes. All of this is yonks before “cassette only” releases, folks.
There have been somewhat successful books publish extolling the virtues of “Mix Tapes”; I am proud to say that I chased my present girlfriend utilizing the cassette format – I wasn’t yet hip to MiniDisc! And I think the last “Mix Tape” she ever made – she gave to me (Low, Belle & Sebastian etc.) – after I gave her a cassette (and my business card), she didn’t call. I ran into her in a bar a short time later – her car had been broken into, and her box of tapes stolen…I don’t guess they were ever replaced.
I went to Phoenix earlier this year, and found a bunch of cool cassettes for 10 cents each (pictured). They had been sitting in that Circles store since they were new, and they were still trying to get something out of them!
But you have to keep up a nice cassette deck – either have someone do it for you or learn how to adjust the head azimuth etc. Keep the heads clean. Did you ever rack your tapes before playing? You’re supposed to, I was told.
I had many glorious trips through Europe with the cassette (and my Sony Walkman). I bought Jim Pembroke cassettes in Helsinki; Roland Bocquet dubbed me his unreleased album onto a cassette (“Atlantide”). The Nits gave me rough mixes of stuff on cassette. It was the currency of the day – even the idea of a recordable compact disc was in the distant future.
I’ve seen cassettes in Japan, but never any 8-tracks. They must’ve had ‘em. But they’re all gone now. I’ve seen more blank Betas than pre-recorded Betas in Japan. I guess the formats move swiftly through the marketplace. When I started going to Japan, the bees’ knees was the laser disc. ‘Spensive, too!
But, yes – the humble cassette. Did I ever make and send you cassettes? If you’re reading this, I probably at least made you a Beta or VHS tape. Maybe we’re keeping up, with CD-R’s and DVD-R’s…but we all started with cassettes. I recently read that Sony will now no longer manufacture the Walkman cassette – who were they manufacturing it for in 2010, anyway? The 99 Cent stores?