Lamenting The Death Of…The Cassette

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Everyone I know who is an audiophile will tell you…there’s no better way to listen to music than on vinyl. Placing the record onto the player, dropping the stylus onto the record, kicking back and listening to the music as it pours from your stereophonic speakers, pops and scratches and all. I get it. Everything about records is cool. With their black, circular grooves, sweet cover art and their stackability. EVERYONE loves records! But what about the evil stepchild? In the 80’s, prior to the vinyl record spawning into a much smaller and shinier CD, there was a boom of a different form. It wasn’t round, it wasn’t flashy and it wasn’t cool. It came in a small box, was made primarily of plastic and tape and had a history of the oxide tape getting caught in it’s player. It would occasionally pop and hiss and make odd squeaky noises. It was the cassette…and I owned HUNDREDS of them.

Listening to music today, most people my age cannot argue that, in most cases, everything IS clearer and cleaner these days. MP3’s and WAVS, the digital age has cleaned up all the pops & hisses. There are no more fantastically beautiful large, square covers to have to stack. There are no more small square boxes, be they cassette or CD, to have to store. Everything is ON your computer! Despite the fact that nostalgia is normally reserved for the vinyl LP, I have to tell you…sometimes I miss the cassette. I miss how small it was. I miss how it smelled when I unwrapped it. I miss sitting in front of my radio for hours on end, waiting to press “record” when the local radio station FINALLY played that one song that I HAD to hear and I finally caught it on tape so I could play it over & over again. I don’t miss the cassette for the audio quality because truthfully? It was kind of dreadful. But for my generation that grew up ordering 10 cassettes for a penny (and I’m pretty sure I STILL owe Columbia House thousands of dollars!), making mix tapes and running out of recording room on that VERY LAST SONG and hearing the squeak, squeak, squeak of the wheel turning on a tape that was just about to crap out, I can say…I miss that old plastic box. It was a good friend for 12 years or so.

I remember have drawers full of tapes and this morning, when I fired up the Facebook, an 80’s music and memories site that I enjoy called EMF (Eighties Music Forever) had posted the photo above and I HAD to count how many of the featured cassettes hanging on the wall I used to have. Surprisingly, it was a lot lower than I would have thought. Now…MOST of them I have now on CD or on my hard drive for whenever the mood strikes me to fire up some The The or Clash, but I was never cool enough to know who The Specials were and I never listened to Jane’s Addiction until I reached college in the early 90’s. My cassette collection consisted of mostly pop and R&B. So looking at the photo above, I remember owning maybe 23 of them on cassette.

In the 90’s, the CD had started to wipe out my cassette collection by TKO. The fall of the cassette was not painful. It was a swift and merciless changing of the guard as the compact disc blew away the little plastic box and, despite the fact that cassette decks were still being implemented into cars and trucks up until the late 1990’s, most of MY collection had found itself in the trash by 1995. Oh sure…I kept a couple and I imagine I have a few stored away in a box somewhere (gotta keep that first copy of U2’s “The Joshua Tree”…right?) but for the most part, my love affair with the cassette format has died and now I am a straight audio file kind of guy. They’re just easier and it takes a LOT less time to download a song on the internet than it does to get in my car, drive to the store, sift through racks of albums, buy the few I want (at FULL price?) and then drive home. Being a father of 2 and having to pay the bills, I don’t have the time to enjoy that process anymore. But I have to tell you…I DO miss those lazy days, sitting in front of my cassette player and sorting through my old cassette tape boxes, looking for the one song that was gonna make my day and then having to rewind the tape to the beginning because I FORGOT TO REWIND IT the night before. Those were the days, my friends. Those were the days…

My buddy, Newman, posted the following on his Facebook site the other day. I think it is an extremely well written and it has gotten me to reflect on the “good old days.” I’m going to re-post it here because I think it should be seen by whoever might appreciate it like I did. The cassette will always be dear to me, more so than vinyl or CD, because it reminds me of MY youth. Would I ever want to throw in an old cassette and pine away for the days gone by? Probably not. But for memories sake, I love the cassette and all of it’s weaknesses and I remember those days before its demise with great affection.

CHRIS NEWMAN FACEBOOK POST (May 22, 2013):

The first album I ever purchased was “Sports” by Huey Lewis and the News. I can remember buying it on cassette at Sam Goody’s in Columbus for $5.99 and thinking how grown-up I felt when I took it to the counter. I was 15, I think, circa 1985. Now there’s a 30 year-anniversary edition out which I have no interest in other than nostalgia but it is as good a time as any to reflect on an obsession that has only grown since that day. In fact behind my family it ranks surprisingly high as something I value even though the ubiquitous nature of music and media has made owning music less of a treasure than it used to be. It has always been about discovery for me, I can hear a song a million times but its meaning or sound can change depending on anything from the weather that day or my level of maturity (also on that day, but that’s another issue). Music I didn’t like in the 80’s (if it didn’t have guitar riffs count me out) has new found prominence in my collection like Depeche Mode or an album with mature themes like Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits makes much more impact now as a 40ish father of three than it did as a teen. I still get giddy (yes giddy) over finding newer artists I like such as !!! or rediscovering Queen and how amazingly rich their albums are and wonder how they never were quite the sensation in the U.S. they should have been. I also get obsessed over their biographies (God help me if “Behind The Music” ends up on Netflix) especially over The Beach Boys or The Who or some other equally volatile yet creative force that continues to fascinate me. I own safe to say a thousand, two thousand, three I don’t know really, albums and surprisingly I can actually pick a favorite. (Dennis Wilson, Pacific Ocean Blue, for the record).

One last memory I have to share while I’m thinking about it, I also have to blame the day I heard Led Zeppelin II on launching me into the obsessive world of rock and roll. I borrowed a homemade tape from a friend of mine back in high school, Jeff Ignatius. He loaned it to me to listen to Rush but I put on the wrong side and out came Whole Lotta Love and that was the difference between thinking music was nice background noise for a date at the local roller skating rink and realizing there was an entire world out there of things I had no idea about. That’s where “discovery” began and it’s not even close to being over with any luck. But thank you to Sports and all other touchstones on the way (Journey, I admit it). I feel like a better person because of my appreciation of rock music which is ironic since I was brought up in a time where Kiss, AC/DC and others were labeled devil music among other things so I was afraid to even be around that kind of thing as a kid. I hope thirty years from now people still buy physical albums because downloads are like getting sherbet when you really wanted ice cream. As long as artists keep putting them out, I’ll keep buying them and continue to learn odd little details about their music and about my own life.

For the record…MY first cassette that I ever bought with my own cash was Supertramp’s “Paris” double album. I can’t say it’s anywhere near close to my favorite album now but at the time it seemed like a bargain because it had all of their songs on one cassette! Well…it made sense in 1980 anyway…
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My Top 10 Favorite Album Covers

Album covers are a dying art form…right? No longer are the days of buying an album because the cover looks cool. But many years ago, I used to buy albums solely on their cover and many times I was greatly disappointed. However…the cover DID look pretty damn cool! Here are my Top 10 Favorite Album Covers. Oh…and for fun…a few extras that you can weigh in on…

10. The Darkness – One Way Ticket To Hell & Back (2005)


9. Asia – Alpha (1983)

8. Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness (1995)

7. Counting Crows – Recovering The Satellites (1996)

6. Drivin N Cryin – Fly Me Courageous (1991)

5. Dave Matthews Band – Under The Table & Dreaming (1994)

4. The Eagles – Hotel California (1976)

3. The Cribs – Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever (2007)

2. The Gutter Twins – Saturnalia (2008)

1. The Clash – London Calling (1979)

Is there a more iconic cover than this? I think not (well…maybe “Abbey Road.” But THIS cover speaks to me!)…

And now a few extras that I thought would add to the appeal of this particular subject…

Creepiest Cover

Most Inappropriate Cover That Made Me Laugh

Least Hottest Cover By A Band With Songs You’ve Heard On The Radio: Orleans

Hottest Cover By A Band With Songs No One Has Ever Heard:
The Sounds

The Album Cover Guaranteed To Ruin Whatever Sexual Thought You Might Have Had When Looking At The Previous Album Cover…

“The 80’s Were Totally Awesome Dude” Soundtrack Mix

Are you in your late 30’s or early 40’s? If you are…that means you grew up in the 80’s. And if you grew up in the 80’s, that means you grew up in a cultural explosion that meshed pop culture with just about everything. From music, movies and television, the 80’s was as colorful a decade as you’ll find (literally…go check out the clothes!). Technology was booming, music & television merged with MTV and movies became a must-see event in the summertime. Living in a small town, there was nothing better to do on a Friday night than to cruise the main strip with the windows down, listening to the radio and then heading out to the local theater to catch the latest blockbuster. And it’s with those memories that I give you this mix of great tunes! Straight from the soundtracks of my favorite 80’s flicks…here’s a mix of the best songs that you may or may not of heard of that are featured in my favorite movies from my youth. First 3 people who know which scene that 3 of them are featured in I will mail you a copy of the playlist! And I predict no one will even try…lol

Shark Island – “Father Time”
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Keanu Reeves got his start playing the goofy Ted and the soundtrack is kinda kickass! Check out this hair band from Los Angeles! Reminds me a little of Billy Idol…

Flesh For Lulu – “I Go Crazy”
Some Kind Of Wonderful
I remember listening to Flesh For Lulu when I was in college in 1988. Dig this progressive alt-band!

Max Carle – “The Circle”
Weird Science
Seriously…this is a TOTALLY AWESOME soundtrack that has never been released on CD, so it’s unbelievably difficult to find. However I finally found it and now I’m playing it out! This is my favorite track off the album. Just good pop…

Wild Men Of Wonga – “Why Don’t Pretty Girls (Look At Me)”
Weird Science
Who was this band? Where did they go? Who knows…but I love this song and it’s alt-rock-pop-punk sound is VERY 80’s…

Mick Smiley – “Magic”
Ghostbusters
It starts out slow, then it kicks in towards the middle and becomes kind of haunting. Considering the movie it was in, that makes sense, right?

Tim Cappello – “I Still Believe”
The Lost Boys
With a sax to die for (literally), this gem from one of my favorite 80’s vampire flicks.

Commuter – “Young Hearts”
The Karate Kid
Everyone remembers that Peter Cetera’s “Glory Of Love” was the featured song in TKK II, but who remembers THIS track from the original? Nice pop track…

Jermaine Jackson – “Closest Thing To Perfect”
Perfect
John Travolta’s worst movie ever? Considering it’s a film about aerobics and…uh….well, who knows what else, that’s up for discussion. But this little pop gem is from the OTHER non-female Jackson and it’s pop R&B at it’s finest!

Miami Sound Machine – “Hot Summer Nights”
Top Gun
This is just a great album that captures the essence of the decade in it’s entirety. And the movie ain’t half bad either. And this song was pretty much ignored and never released (as far as I know), but I love it anyways!

Wang Chung – “Fire In The Twilight”
The Breakfast Club
What would the 80’s have been without Wang Chung? Not only did they manage to release a song that made absolutely made no sense, it became a hit AND it was named after the band. THIS track is a MILLION times better than “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”, but who woulda known?

Starship – “Wild Again”
Cocktail
Not one of Tom Cruise’s best movies, you say? Well…that might be true, but this song features the kind of soaring vocals by Grace Slick that was all over pop radio in the 80’s. No matter what their name was, Starship (aka Jefferson Airplane AND Jefferson Starship) rocked my world!

Tangerine Dream – “Lana”
Risky Business
An instrumental track from this German band, the movie was littered with their distinctive sound. And this song is featured in possibly the most defining scene in the film. How hot was Lana? I’d say it was this scene that many teenage boys fantasized to in the 80’s. Well…except for THIS scene…

The Cars – “Moving In Stereo”
Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Oh come on…if you don’t know what scene I’m talking about here, you weren’t a teenage boy growing up in the 80’s…

Elizabeth Daily – “One Way Love”
Better Off Dead
Whether it’s Elizabeth or E.G., this pop songstress has that distinctive screechy vocal that could blow Cyndi Lauper away. Ok…maybe not…but this song is as fun and poppy as anything else on this list!

Sparks – “Angst In My Pants”
Valley Girl
I can only imagine what it was like growing up in southern California in the 80’s, but this song almost epitomizes what it was like being a teenager ANYWHERE in the United States!

Ollie & Jerry – “Electric Booglaoo”
Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo
Oh come on…if you were dancin’ in the 80’s, you were breakin’ and THIS track is fun R&B that makes ya wanna do the robot…

Chris Farren & Amy Holland – “Learn To Love Again”
Night Of The Comet
How much do I love this movie? Well…that can be argued. However the soundtrack is classic 80’s pop and it’s not available on CD ANYWHERE but I found it! Here is my favorite track and it has NOTHING to do with zombies or cheerleaders. Just so ya know…

Kim Wilde – “Say you Really Want Me”
Running Scared
What a great fun song! With keyboards galore and great riffs, this track is undeniably 80’s!!!

Jude Cole – “Back To School”
Back To School
Great pop song that is featured in the classic Rodney Dangerfield flick about a guy who goes back to school to be with his son and along the way finds love and happiness…or something like that. Either way…this song is awesome!!!

Dan Hartman – “I Can Dream About You”
Streets Of Fire
This song has gotten enough airplay through the years and was fairly popular, but it’s one of my favorite songs from that decade and it would be a shame to NOT include it here! Great

Lindsay Buckingham – “Holiday Road”
Vacation
John Hughes’ choice in music was impeccable when it came to his soundtracks and this song is taylor made for this film. A perfect choice by the 80’s filmmaking genius!

Once again…first 3 people who know which scenes these tracks were featured in gets a copy! Aaaaand go! I’ll be waiting by my computer…or not.