What a world that was.
Warbling, fuzzy music, flimsy cases.
Joao Kartoshka has lost count of the number of ‘tapes’ that he has had over the years- all lost now, of course, gradually consigned to the garbage as they turned up in drawers or in the backs of cupboards. A record- now you’d never throw a record in the trash, would you? Regardless of how damaged it was it always seemed to retain some inherent worth as an object- but a cassette. Even the pre recorded ones seemed destined for a short life- the ghastly miniscule sleeve art, unreadable text, the discouraging loose shuck of the spools in the casing and the very fragility of the ribbon of magnetic tape itself. When I form a mental picture of a cassette it is unlabelled, lying discarded on the floor of a dirty car.
And of course the cassette players, from these early surreal toothy pianos to the silver ghetto blasters of the nineties, always with their promises of superior sound. It is tempting to condemn the cassette as ultimately being music packaged for people who did not have much space in their lives for music, whose tastes were fleetingly transient, and who just didn’t care about quality…
On the other hand cassettes might be viewed as the great populist format, giving us our first entree into music piracy- home taping, large collections created at low cost, mass production and distribution of material, easily portable. For sharing. And of course, a means of recording demos without access to a studio. In other words, despite their failings when it came to quality and durability, indispensible.