Screw lossless digital compression. I have lived through the future of personal audio and it was magnetic…
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…not to mention “tempermental” and “prone to catastophic failure.”
Though audio cassettes have long-since joined their 8-track cousins in the Graveyard of Dead Formats, I remember the era when they reigned supreme, a time when portability trumped fidelity. Cassettes may have sounded muddy compared to vinyl, but the advent of the Walkman and a host of other personal/automotive tape players gave it a distinct advantage in the consumer arena even before the possibility of recording custom playlists was factored into the the equation.
Cassettes were the format of choice during my teenage years, mainly because I was too cheap to spring the extra $20 for a turntable to go with the remaindered stereo system my mother brought me home from the speaker plant where she worked. (I wouldn’t get my first faux Walkman until the end of 1988, when I was given one as a “sorry your Mom died” gift from a social worker.) The extremely breakable plastic cases, the weird manurey smell of a freshly opened tape, the polyphonic bliptones that preceded the first track of an Enigma/Restless release — these were how I experienced music for the better part of a decade before the variety of used vinyl and the stepped up pace of CD reissues put an end to my cassette buying days.
In honor of those heady times, here’s a (very simplified) timeline which chronicles both the stylistic and bought-on-cassette musical changes I underwent during the period:
1985: Sweatjacket with a Transformers patch, black Chuck Taylors, ripped jeans, and a killer rat tail. There are worse skeletons to have in one’s closet.
1986: Hawaiian shirts, jeans, hi-top kicks, and an ocassionally braided rat tail. My retro kick begins in style.
1987: Army jacket, combat boots, jeans, and a mop of greasy blonde hair. The beginning of a long and enduring love.
1988: Army jacket, jungle boots, jeans, and a shaggy mop of dyed black hair. I regret nothing.
1989: Army jacket with band patches, tanker boots, flannels, and a crew cut with power sideburns. About goddamn time.
1990: Painted leather jacket, flannels, tanker boots, and a constantly mutating mohawk/devil lock. That nagging sensation of dread never goes out of style.
1991: Painted leather jacket with chains and spikes, lineman boots, suspenders, flannels, and a purple devil lock. I’m still not crazy about his voice.
1992: Painted leather jacket with chains and spikes, lineman boots, suspenders, caridgans, and an orange devil lock. A man cannot live on Oi alone.
1993: Black long coat, tanker boots, white collarless button-down shirts, round purple sunglasses, and a spiked orange flattop. Honestly, I have no idea why I didn’t pick up the CD version instead.