REMEMBERING THE CASSETTE TIMES

Even though I am not one of these vinyl purists obsessed about the black circle and the amazing sound a needle can reproduce, the truth is that little by little, my small collection of great treasures is growing shyly,  and I admit to be one of its supporters.

Truth is I’m devoted to CD and this time my collection deserves more credit, considering I started purchasing music regularly quite late, mainly because I couldn’t afford buying, because if you remember, it took long time CDs to settle at reasonable prices.

It’s also a fact and I swear by Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt I’m not a music downloader. Digital format is too cold for me and I only accept it for portable and practical reasons. MP3 players are one of the most remarkable  inventions in my era, but I only consume when travelling, moving on the street or similar cases, otherwise I got plenty of CDs and vinyls for my personal amusement.

I tell you all this because I’ve been mentioned the cassette format quite often lately. On one hand, earlier this year, I was told it was its 50th anniversary; when I attended Fu Manchu show in London, the supporting band, The Shrine, were selling their album in CD, vinyl and cassette, and I’m noticing many cases of some trending bands, releasing stuff in this format.  In my opinion, this fact is as funny as absurd.

tapes

Because let’s grab a tape and analyze it:

– Cover and artwork are too small and lyrics are barely readable in many cases.
 
– No hi-fi or any other remarkable sound quality has been available. You might mention those chrome virgin cassettes but, at the end of the day, did you notice any improvement in sound quality? I don’t think so!
 
– Creating a compilation mixtape for a friend was a hand-crafting task. It was laborious in its creation, yet at an artistic level had lots of possibilities depending on your skills.

 – Looking for a certain song was a nightmare, and it took its time to set the player at the precise moment about to start.
 
– Rewinding or fast forwarding was a slow process and if it had to be done with the walkman it consumed lots of batteries, therefore we ended up using the pen technique, strengthening our wrists.

– We have to give it some credit. This was the first format which allowed an acceptable comfortable portability, and the walkman meant a revolutionary invention, with better results than with portable CD players, too sensitive to movement (not even anti-shock device worked properly in most of units). 
 
– You had the risk of the tape to get stuck in the player and “die”.
 
– Often listening to the tapes would affect in sound, and these would eventually have quality issues.
 
 
– Cassette player rollers used to wear out, causing this screeching monotone sound at every turn.

– It was expensive. Cassette albums sometimes cost even more than vinyls, and purchasing batteries for walkman   was a ruin.

These would be 10 facts about cassette tapes which confirm that, even though I grew up with it, this format was poor in quality, opened the gates to piracy and was uncomfortable and expensive.

walkman

All this been said and proved, the fact is that when thinking of tapes, one of the coolest memories I have related to them came to mind. I consider myself a lucky person for having both received and (hand)written love letters. Not once, nor twice but many times. Since I was 12 or 13 and the cute local guy at the village by the sea in Galicia, where I used to spend summer holidays with my family, to letters from my last ex when he was living abroad and we had just started dating, correspondence with a lover and so on… it might sound stupid, but nowadays love letters are not very fashionable, and people just exchange instant messages and as something more special, e-mails. Partly thanks to this kind of correspondence and on the other hand to letters I used to write to my friends when I was living in London, I developed this crush on writing and the story telling, which finally led into this blog and other stuff I write.

But I was talking about cassette tapes, right? No, I’m not talking so much nonsense as you might think right now, at least not yet. First Summer I was dating my former boyfriend, when I was still 17, and it was the first time we were forced to spend a month separated due to family vacation, Joe sent me a love letter in the format of a tape. It wasn’t an explicit message saying “I love you”, but the very act itself meant it. How cool is that? For me it was one of the most amazing gestures ever, and the concept of a message combined with songs of bands we liked, and his very own stuff played and recorded with an acoustic guitar in the shittiest conditions, and some drawings in the cover of that TDK tape, was pure romanticism. We were getting to knowing each other, for we had been dating just for a month and a half, and I clearly remember as if I had the tape right here, Joe wondering “What’s gonna happen in September?” truly in uncertainty. If he had known by then was was to come, he’d probably have vanished right away. Ha!

k7 and pencil

Thus I guess that, no matter how many pros and cons you can list for balancing something in the most objective way, when dealing with memories such things do not apply, and in the end feelings and experiences always win. So as long as cassette lasts, we’ll keep on smiling at the thought of ourselves rewinding the tapes with the pen to save some batteries, right?

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