Sunday, 6 September 2009

Cassette tapes: an introduction

Cassette tapes can hardly be many people's favoured way of listening to music. They lack the beautiful artistic form of the vinyl 12" or even 7". Tapes stretch, break, tangle and generally prove themselves unreliable to play back any music as it deserves to be heard (I'm avoiding the vinyl versus CD debate at present though I recognise that the digital form does 'squash' the breadth of analogue sound).

Anyway, for all their faults the cassette holds many fond memories for people like me. And part of that is tied up with the concept of the compilation tape.

Peans to the compilation tape are many and varied. In 'Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture' Thurston Moore, of Sonic Youth fame, collated a variety of recollections from those who taped and/or created tapes -- whether compilations for love and friendship or from radio recordings or live gigs. Meanwhile, Rob Sheffield produced the utterly heartbreaking 'Love is a Mix Tape', a memoir about his wife Renee told through their various mixtapes.

Anyone who is between a certain age (currently [2009] between their early 30s and their 50s) is likely to have made or had cassettes of some form or another during their life. For their sake, I will be recording the cassette tapes I continue to own and love whatever their origins.

NOTE: when the urge to clear has hit us hard, cassette tapes have been amongst the objects I have felt least able to argue a case for keeping. So apologies to the original Cherry Red collections that the NME gave away. Cloud did own you but you had long since ceased to be playable and you hit the dust.

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