Middle-aged Man: Keeping it reel with the humble cassette

The cassette tape: 90 minutes of durable, highly portable low-fi goodness.

The cassette tape: 90 minutes of durable, highly portable low-fi goodness.

OPINION: Vinyl is cool again, or is that vinyl is finally cool, I'm not sure.

But sadly I haven't heard the same conversations being had about the humble cassette tape.

Back in the day, and don't we all love conversations that start with those four words, we had a choice between cassettes and LPs.

But, until CDs crashed the party, tapes were the go to. Highly portable, durable and best of all recordable. I was about 15 when CDs first emerged but I held the course with my trusty walkman until it gave up the ghost well into my 20s.

I'm still a little bit sad about the demise of the cassette tape. It lives on still in some cars but I've not heard of anyone having cassette swap meets.

To my mind a playlist on Spotify will never have the same emotional investment and test your commitment like a mixtape.

Playlists evolve and you could assemble a pretty sturdy one in 10 minutes, give or take, but mixtapes took days to lovingly assemble. 

Give someone a mixtape with your own original artwork on the cover and you were giving away a 60 or a 90-minute window into your soul.

There were even cassingles, although admittedly I was never very big on them. For a time I tended to run out and buy the 45 or later on patiently sit through the top 10 at 10 on the radio and hit record.

Even if the top 10 at 10 still exists I can't really commit to it anymore since I'm well and truly unconscious by then. Even if I wasn't, the radio has been banished from the bedroom largely to discourage my habit of falling asleep to the reassuring tones of talkback.

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But I still have a shoebox full of cassettes and a beer crate full of LPs. The cassettes are all warped and the LPS are a bit like me, scratchy.

Oh and I don't have a cassette deck or a turntable anymore. So they're roughly as much use to me as a catflap in an elephant house.

I tell myself that one day I'll re-enter the world of the LP and really explore the richness of the sound on decent equipment.

And once again experience all of the tactile joy of handling records without smearing my fingerprints all over them and wiping them down so the big wedge of dust doesn't collect on the stylus like a logjam. 

And, after carefully lowering the arm on to the groove of Roger Whitaker Brings his Best, marvel at his rusty baritone. And light a pipe. In front of the fire. With a glass of stout. Stroking my beard. 

The reality is now when the mood takes I bluetooth whatever I feel like listening to from my cellphone but go through rising panic over the overwhelming choice. Then I put up a brief fight when the the kids sail into view and start firing off requests until I retreat into any room where I can't hear Katy/Taylor/Britney/Selena.

So all that's left is those brief moments when I'm in the car alone and have 15 minutes to play it loud and sing my lungs out. Again choice is not freedom so I fall back on some firm crowd pleasers here, Chisel/Bruce/Freddy/Neil anything from the 80s that I know all the words to.

I did try and declare the car a Katy/Taylor/Britney/Selena-free zone and even tried to impart a bit of a musical education on my offspring, nothing too profound, just something like, "This is a song by a band called Foreigner and its called Urgent and its got a kick-ass sax solo in it. Repeat after me 'sax solo'."

But they're a tough crowd and I'm barely halfway in before their eyes glaze over and I have to swap it out for Katy/Taylor/Britney/Selena.

And if it has to be a specific track at least there's no hit and miss rewind, fast forward. 

If cassettes gave us nothing else they taught us patience.


 - Stuff


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