You know, I feel sorry for the children of today in some ways. Music is so accessible, you hear a song on the radio that you like, and if you don’t know what it is, you either log on to the radio station’s website and find out, or google the lyrics, find the song on YouTube, and listen to it as many times as you want. When I was little, finding a song I liked was much, much more difficult. It took serious radio devotion – I’d get a blank cassette tape, pop it into the front of the stereo (and if you had a dodgy one, wedge something up against the door so it wouldn’t open), and patiently wait with my fingers ready to press the two PLAY/REC buttons on the front. Sometimes you could be waiting hours, sometimes days. In fact, I’m willing to guess that many of my weekends as a young teen were devoted to sitting in front of the radio – right hand writing away at my homework, and left hand poised in case I’d hear that elusive song. And then… the first bars would play, my heart would start to race, I’d press the button, and…damn it!! wrong side!! turn the tape, press the buttons again, wait for the little white bit of tape to move out of the way, and then you knew you had it. You had to be quick to press STOP before the song ended and the RJ would cut in before the end and start yapping.
When I had a tape full of songs I wanted, I’d pop the tape into a case, decorate it with Smash Hits and Top of the Pops stickers, and add it to my collection. This tape would then be moved between the stereo in my room and my Sony Walkman, which was glued to the belt loop of my jeans for about years. Cassettes came with different amounts of tape (memory) – typically they were available in 60mins (30mins per side) or 90mins (45mins per side).
Few years back the music companies stopped selling their albums on cassettes and CDs dominated the market. I must admit, I haven’t seen a cassette in a major record store in a long, long time.
Those of you who have no experience with cassettes (if such a person exists) also don’t know about one of the most horrific things that can happen to a music lover. Picture the scene: Side A has finished, and unless you had a fancy swap-over button on your system, then you had to eject the tape and turn it over. So, you press eject, nothing happens. You prise open the door, to be met with… oh my goodness, a massacre!! The tape had completely unravelled itself and was now firmly caught around the entire inside of the system. If it was a really good tape that you didn’t want to lose, the removal process could take a lot of time. It was a delicate, fiddly process – gently winding the tape back in and fixing everything in place before securing the case with mounds of sellotape. If it was a crap tape, you’d just pull it, remove the masses of brown tape, pretend it was a wig (or maybe that was just me) and dump the whole thing. Sigh, you have it so easy now – mp3s, CD burners, YouTube, music sites, streaming, online radio – no instant gratification for us.
(Picture courtesy: pixmac.com)