Long live tape
Remember cassette tapes?
Remember tapes? My first album was on tape. Paul Abdul: â€œShut Up & Danceâ€. My second album was New Kids on the Block: â€œHangin' Toughâ€. I played them on my Sharp radio/cassette player. It was mains powered or could go portable if you had about thirty billion large batteries.
Once I put a BROS tape on the car dashboard in the South of France and it melted. Tapes would do that. They also had a nasty habit of being chewed by your tape player, especially if your tape player was getting on a bit.
Remember that tell-tale crunch sound which signalled â€œAbort! Abort!â€? One could salvage the tape if the thin film had not been taken too far into the machine. Teasing out the film was phase one.
Then with the application of a Bic biro pen, it was possible to wind the tape back in. To get proper purchase, the biro needed to be held at a slight angle because no pen in the planet had the correct diameter to fit in a tape. In fact, why didn't manufactures make a tape winding device? I expect they did.
Taping off the radio was the best bit. It was like internet piracy before the internet and much more effort was involved. There was a craft to editing out the DJ's voice. Everyone became skilled technicians. Holding down the pause button and tapping fast forward, rewind, fast forward, rewind â€“ then pause record and wait for the DJ to stop talking to get that perfect intro.
Some fancy tape players had two decks, so the more skilled practitioner could make really sophisticated mix-tapes by the dark art of Dubbing.
It wasn't uncommon to tread on a tape case, splitting it right down the middle. But it was easy enough to remove the sleeve and put it in another cassette case. After all, there were enough of them lying around (every Christmas I got 12 blank tapes from a relative).
Tapes were a superior listening experience. Not in quality but in the approach to the album. One listened to it the way it was intended. Beginning to end. Sure, you could fast forward through it, but it was so much work that one tended to listen to it the way the artist intended.
After tape, things were never the same. Artists didn't think so much about tracks sitting within albums. The â€˜single-driven' universe, as we know it began to form and now if you got bored with the difficult fifth or sixth track, you just skipped forward on CD. Or just don't download the offending song.
Though it may seem nostalgic and rose tinted to look back at tapes with such affection, I believe they were truly great. You can still pick up tonnes of genius tapes today (from around 50p). I recently got the whole of Roxy Music and Prince's back catalogue for about six quid â€“ which was incidentally the cost of Paula Abdul's â€œShut Up & Danceâ€ album I first bought all those years ago.
So although many may no longer use it, the memory and power of tape lives on.
Alas, Tape is dead.
Long live tape.
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