It’s time to dig out your Walkman. Move over vinyl: the cassette tape is back! Preservation-quality digitisation and transfer services of all audio formats, reel sizes and recording speeds to digital audio files, for archive, corporate or consumer clients. If we can support your archive, please do not hestiate to contact us on […]
It’s time to dig out your Walkman. Move over vinyl: the cassette tape is back!
Preservation-quality digitisation and transfer services of all audio formats, reel sizes and recording speeds to digital audio files, for archive, corporate or consumer clients.
If we can support your archive, please do not hestiate to contact us on 01865 457000 or email email@example.com.
According to the British Phonographic Industry, sales of this retro piece of technology last year came close to a two-decade peak. Having been the top-selling format for albums in the UK from 1985 to 1992 and then seemingly disappearing (selling only 4,000 units in 2012), last year saw more than 195,000 cassette tapes shifted. HMV, which recently announced that it will reopen its flagship store on Oxford Street after a four-year closure, plans to bring out cassettes for ‘specific new releases’ and has credited its return to profit with a growing interest in ‘collectable’ music from an analogue era.
As a child of the 1980s and teenager of the 1990s, I – and my generation – have fond memories of the cassette tape, and many of us will welcome it back. Sure, ours was a generation of format overlap. My first musical acquisition was Now That’s What I Call Music 3 on vinyl in 1984 and my first CD an outing by Metallica in 1990. But ours was a generation that had an intimate relationship with the cassette, that redoubtable, portable object that worked in symbiosis with another iconic object of those times, the Walkman.
Unlike the fallible, unwieldy LP, or the sterile, skipping and stalling CD (which Tomorrow’s World had so treacherously promised was almost indestructible), or the charmless, formless streaming service that was to come, the robust cassette tape was simultaneously a social, personal and intimate affair.
Unlike the fallible, unwieldy LP, or the sterile, skipping and stalling CD, or the charmless, formless streaming service that was to come, the robust cassette tape was simultaneously a social, personal and intimate affair
They were, and are, social in that they were the avenue through which we shared and evangelised our music tastes back in school. Not only were they the smallest medium of exchange, their offerings were permanently on hand during lunch breaks and free periods. For the same reason, cassette tapes were the medium of choice for boombox aficionados in the 1980s: tapes were rudely demotic objects for the street and the playground.
Cassette tapes were personal in that they allowed you to become your own author, thanks to twin-cassette hifi systems that still came routinely equipped with turntables. As creators of our own mixtapes, we could flaunt our own tastes and boast our eclectic musical sophistication (I thought I was very left-field in combining the Cure, some 1960s ska, Napalm Death and Tchaikovsky on the same tape). Creating mixtapes was an adolescent rite of passage, of announcing or internally processing your individuality outside the herd, a ritual of affirmation.
The mixtape also satisfied another quintessentially teenage impulse: the desire to woo others, or to signify one’s commitment to one’s sweetheart. I still squirm at the memory of the compilations I fashioned and bequeathed. Perhaps they’ve all been lost or destroyed. Good. It doesn’t matter now. It was the performance of creating the mixtape then that was important.
Still, I have many of the mixtapes I made for myself, listed in a manner lifted from the Now series, which surely hint at an impulse to be creative in some capacity, even though I displayed no inclination whatsoever to be a journalist and author as a youth. I no longer listen to them, although I have a friend from school who still remembers a particular skip on ‘Here Comes The Sun’ immortalised in one of my tapes which we listened to on a caravan jaunt to Henley in 1992.
Like most of my generation, I stopped listening to music cassette tapes towards the end of the millennium, as they became rarer, while clean, clinical CDs become more convenient and conventional. Like many, I have in the past ten years joined the ‘vinyl revival’, yet cassette tapes themselves have, for me, never gone away.
They have proved their resilience in my passion for learning for foreign languages, beginning with Italian in 2010. My language tapes have been a constant helper and companion over the years, in the shower, kitchen and bedroom, enjoining me to ask directions, count to ten and then 20, telling me not to worry about making mistakes among native speakers and when to use the familiar and formal form of ‘you’. Although the message that comes from these cassette tapes has changed, the charm of the medium hasn’t: these tapes befriend you, their repeated recitals bestow comfort and familiarity.
This revival of cassette tapes could be connected to a retrospective vogue for all things 1990s, which apparently is in fashion among the youth. Tapes are also cheaper to produce than vinyl, and thus the medium of preference for urban sophisticates and new bands. The revival in the cassette tape no doubt also owes something to the nostalgia of we fortysomethings, to those of my generation undergoing a benign mid-life crisis. This is entirely fitting. The cassette tape itself is intimately connected with memory and remembering.
One of the top-selling cassettes of recent years has been Iron Maiden’s 1982 album The Number of the Beast. This has long been in my collection of LPs. Perhaps I should do the truly contemporary thing – that is, the retrospective thing – and acquire a copy on tape.
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