Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Why I'm glad cassettes are still in the mix

In these days of major technological advancements – where it seems yesterday’s new invention can be obsolete by tomorrow – it was very refreshing to hear that the recordings of Friday’s Royal Wedding service will be available in a number of formats. Including, to my delight, the humble cassette.

Aah, the cassette. What lovely memories many of us, of a certain age, have of that small plastic box in its C30, C60 or C90 formats which opened up a world of possibilities for those who loved their music.

The truth is the cassette was never able to compete with its much stronger rival for purchased music – the lovely big vinyl record – but it really came into its own as a way of allowing people to create their own music and their own “albums”.

Of course, now we live in a digital arena where people can create all kinds of playlists on and off line and where the i-Pod can provide unlimited opportunities for opening up your musical collection, but just a few short years ago the cassette was the only game in town. And oh how we loved it as a result.

My earliest memory of the joy of taping was when my older sister received one of those small cassette recorders as a present. Initially the excitement was being able to use the portable microphone to hear your own voice played back (as an aside, has anybody ever thought their recorded voice sounds like the one that comes out of your mouth?). But once that novelty had passed, you saw that the real strength of the cassette recorder was to be able to tape music.

I’m sure there are whole generations of people, like me, who sat and listened to the radio – particularly the run down of the Top 20 on a Sunday evening – with their finger poised over the pause button ready to just record the songs that you particularly liked. It was never an exact science – the cunning radio DJs at the time knew exactly what we were doing and would talk over the intros to stop us pinching their precious wares – but it was a real thrill to record music from the radio and capture the tunes for free.

This then developed into creating (and I suspect I’m talking more to the male reader of a certain age) what we all lovingly called “the mix tape”. This is when you plundered your album collection and picked out tracks that fitted a certain mood and put them on to a tape that could be called upon for a particular circumstance.

You could have your “I’m angry with the world and need something loud” tape, your “I’m feeling reflective and need some nice songs” collection and, of course, (and this is what the cassette was really invented for) your “love tape”. This would be for songs when you were falling in (or out) of love during that bizarre teenage period and of course it could be the tape you even gave to your partner to show the depth of your feelings.

So, I’m delighted that the cassette lives on still – and I hope this Royal Wedding “love tape” will be one that will be cherished almost as much as the ones we did ourselves.

No comments: