Ready, Cassette, Go!
I’ll never forget my first cassette player. It was a giant red thing, with a belt clip and cheap headphones. I took it with me almost everywhere. That and a stack of tapes.
My Grandmother used to make me mixed tapes from my Dad’s old records. I’m sure she put lots of songs on there, but the ones that I remember most that were always on her mixed tapes were “Sweet Caroline,” “Smoke on the Water,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” My Dad was a huge Beatles fan, so there was always lots of their songs on them.
Dad gave me some old tapes of albums he’d recorded from the radio. He never could remember which station, but every Sunday night they’d play an entire record with no breaks from start to finish. He’d sit with his stereo and record the whole thing on tape. The cassette albums I listened to most were Toto’s first album, Toto, The Eagles’ In The Long Run, and The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour.
I always got new tapes for Christmas. The Byrds, Toto, The Hollies and lots of other great records from other great bands, presumably that “Santa” new I’d like. I had a pretty good collection of tapes after a while. And with what little disposable income I had, I bought more tapes.
I could listen to music whenever, where ever I wanted. And it was awesome.
And Then There Were Three
The first real band I was in was called “A Few Good Men.” There were three of us, we all played acoustic guitar and sand and we were like 15, so no judging. I had started writing songs around that time along with the other guys and we decided we were going to make a record.
We went to a studio, recorded all the tracks, mixed, mastered and had a 6-song EP ready to go. The decision was made to release it on cassette. We did a photo shoot, wrote some liner notes, some “thank you’s” and had our brand new cassette manufactured.
I’m sure we sold some copies, and people still remind me occasionally that they still have their copy. But we ended up with a whole bunch left, and with CDs becoming the new format, there wasn’t much we could do with the leftovers. Actually, my family was moving in the 2001 or 2002 an we had a yardsale and I just randomly set up a table with the tapes on it, just in case. Some guy offered me $20 for the whole box! He said he was going to rig them so he could record on them…
The Times, They Are A’Changing
It’s probably been 20 years since I recorded that cassette (although I did some analogue recording in college to tape), and the industry standard for music delivery has changed vastly since. Mostly into digital, which along with new portable technology allows you to take a huge amount of music with you, although with some lack in quality.
I had been hearing over the past few years about record labels and artists beginning to release music on cassettes again. It seemed gimmicky at first and I didn’t give it much thought. But then my friend Mark Kramer, of Tender Mercy came and did my Live From Your Living Room show around the release of his new album, “Sacred Sphinx,” which was being released on cassette tape.
There’s been an awful lot of talk lately about cassettes making a comeback. What started as a trendy, gimmicky marketing ploy has now begun to catch on. I read this article about a tape manufacturer who has actually been growing in sales since about 2009. They say they were “stubborn enough to believe that digital sound is great — it’s clear and crisp and sharp — but it’s not natural.”
With the resurgence of vinyl, and now cassettes, I think we’re going to be having lots of discussions about quality of music versus quantity. Well, at least I hope.