Fun with Cassette Tapes

My husband found a container of cassette tapes that belong to me that I did not even know I still had. I have no way to play these cassette tapes as I have not gone full circle hipster and started listening to cassette tapes again as I gather the cool kids are doing these days for no reason that makes any sense to anyone who lived through the cassette tape era the first time. I had a good time looking through what I found. It was a fun trip down memory lane before these all go in the garbage.

I have no idea why I would have still been holding onto these cassettes when I really stopped listening to cassettes in the early 2000s. I do not remember seeing these any time past my childhood, but apparently I hung onto them for some reason. I mean “Barbie and the Rockers” is a real banger so really it only makes sense.

I also had a number of cassingles. Kids ask your parents. Cassingles were one of the awesome things about cassettes that did not carry over into the CD era. You used to be able to buy the hit single off an album on a cassette with just it and a B side song for way cheaper than you could buy the album. Then when CDs came along you were forced to buy the whole album if you just wanted a single song at least until Napster came along. Again kids ask your parents. I do not even know what some of these songs are.

Kids these days will never understand how we used to wait to hear a song that we wanted a copy of on the radio and then record it. All the better if you managed to get the song clean from start to finish without the DJ talking over the beginning of it or missing the first few seconds from when you hear it come on to when it starts recording. These two cassettes were recorded from a year end countdown of the best songs of 1987. My family used to listen the countdown and record the songs we liked. I have some of these from several different years. You can see that one of my parents started it, and I took over at some point in the process based on the little kid handwriting.

I’ve been a maker of mix tapes/CDs/playlists my entire life. Obviously it’s way easier to make playlists now, but cassettes again were definitely better in this regard than CDs. You could tape over things you didn’t want anymore like I obviously did on this one tape. There was also the mixed media era where cassettes were still a thing but CDs were starting to take over and most people had stereos that had both cassette recorders and CD players in them. That was the prime time of making mix tapes before the digital era where you could easily record songs from CDs onto a mix tape. It also made it easy to borrow your friends CDs and copy them onto a cassette like I obviously did with this They Might Be Giants album. And obviously you don’t want to waste the rest of the tape, so why not make a mix tape on the B side.

It was also fun to make mix tapes for or with friends. I found several mix tapes that friends made for me. One of my high school friends made the “Music for A Broad” tape for me and sent it to me while I was studying abroad in London during college. I still love the play on words in that title. I also found several tapes made by and with one of my oldest friends. Two of them would have been made in 8th/9th grade. The third was made the summer before I went to London when she came and lived with my family outside Chicago for the summer. I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom and making it together off of our CD collections. What strikes me looking at these now is how few contemporary to the time songs there are on them. We definitely got into the music of our parents in middle school. I blame/thank the awesome music teacher we had in 8th grade. We did a whole big thing on the history of rock and roll that I still think about probably more than any other thing I used in school. I mean I learned math and reading and stuff, but I put that to use without thinking about it. I still analyze songs in my head like she taught us. And she introduced us into some really good music.

I did also have a small selection of for real cassette albums that I didn’t copy off of someone else’s cassette or CD. This is not all of them, but just ones I had something to say about. I also think that the majority of my real purchased cassette albums were stored in a cassette carrying case that was covered in acid washed jean material because I bought it in the 80s and thought it was really cool. My sister sent me a photo of it at my parents house a few years ago. I think it’s probably in the garbage now.

That Madonna True Blue album is the first cassette I can remember owning that was my very own and not something that was my parents’ that I listened to. My grandparents gave it to me for Christmas and I remember being disappointed because the Madonna album I really wanted was the one that had “Material Girl” on it. I didn’t even know there was more than one and that I needed to specify in my Christmas list. The other Madonna tape is only notable because of the way it smells. It always had this odd smell to it and I didn’t know why until literally a few years ago when someone on a podcast I listen to mentioned that they had been scented with incense. It still has that smell even after all these years. The Baywatch soundtrack was given to me by a high school friend as a total joke because my friend group and I used to what we would have said was ironically watch Baywatch together every night one summer. I think we secretly enjoyed it.

That’s a pretty good representation of the kinds of stuff that was in this treasure trove of cassettes that is soon to be making its way to a landfill. I hope you’ve enjoyed taking this trip down memory lane with me.

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