Cassette ! (and other obselete media nostalgia)
My second hand B & O cassette player player finally died and went off to the recycling tip, which made me revisit that big box of cassettes I’ve carted around from house to house for many years. I grew up (musically) in the era of cassette, when the new fangled Sony Walkman was the must have thing of the day. Like everyone else, I recorded onto ‘tape’ and this was my primary listening medium too.
In the eighties, I lived in houses with fellers who were into Hi-Fi, they had high-end cassette decks such as Nakamichi and Denon models, they who would only use premium metal / Chrome tapes and Dolby C, or more esoteric types of noise reduction. It was the best that people could do at the time without spending insane amounts of money on audio equipment. Even though the dynamic range and frequency response of the format was pretty unacceptable by today’s standards, it didn’t stop people recording music and enjoying it at the time.
After my stint of being in bands in the late eighties, I was very keen to record my own ideas, so I bought a very humble Vestax 4 track cassette recorder. This was the start of my ‘home-recording’ activities, I used that thing until it died and learnt an awful lot regarding making the most of 4 tracks. In hindsight, it was pretty dreadful quality wise, but saying that, even so-called ‘professional’ units of the time weren’t great either by modern standards of fidelity. I dare say tape hiss will not be remembered fondly by too many people !
I tried to get the most out of it by using the best quality tapes that I could. I also used a ‘ghetto-blaster’ to record guitar noodlings and jams I had with other musicians and that was even more awful in terms of sound quality, but very useful nonetheless. In the nineties a friend had a studio set-up based around an Alesis ADAT machine, which was a big step up in recording quality and extra had 8 tracks. We mastered onto a DAT machine, as that was considered to be the best format at the time. I recorded an awful lot of material at the time and was very diligent in documenting it and auditioning it, but I came to the realisation that it was just ‘work-in-progress’. None of these (home) recordings were ever released. However, some snippets of the better stuff have been recycled in my ambient work, ‘Colour my World’ from my ‘Hydra’ album being an example.
Yesterday, digging through my box of old tapes I came across some more interesting things.
Here’s some of my favourite cassette brands: (notice the tape decaying in the MG-X box)
Some cheap and cheerful types: (including the ubiquitous TDK D90)
Some of my best loved commercial albums on cassette:
Some assorted other media : (ADAT and DAT tapes)
Finally, my much used (but now deceased ) Sony Walk-person:
Sadly, I feel I might have to just dispose of the whole lot of them – cassettes were such a pain to access (endless rewinding and fast forward-ings) and the tape itself has aged very badly. When I was listening to some of these tapes on the B & O player, they were mostly stretched to hell and a few just completely unravelled in the mechanism, very little was actually ‘listenable’.
All the more reason to be thankful for the sonic wonders we have today !