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Saturday Deluxe / 27 July 2019

The damned dirty tape

Media coverage this week informed us that ‘UK Cassette Sales Up 94% In First Half Of 2019‘. Yep, amazingly, 35,000 tapes were sold in the first six months of this year, which apparently accounts for 0.2 percent of total album sales in the UK.

What do we think about this? It’s a bit of a weird one. Reviving the cassette tape seems much more contrived than the current vinyl ‘boom’. Labels are creating special ‘coloured’ cassettes, putting them in special bundles in artist stores with vinyl and CDs, inserting them into super deluxe edition box sets and hoping that curiosity, nostalgia and perhaps some kind of kitsch appeal will tempt buyers. You could say that tapes are like the Polaroid camera of the audio world… vaguely cool, but slightly pointless when you can take now 12 megapixel photos on your mobile (and of course play hi-res audio on the same device).

I must confess I used to LOVE tapes. In the 1980s, it was my format of choice. I would buy pre-recorded tapes (not vinyl), spend pocket money on TDK AD and SA90s and tape albums lent by friends at school (that Art of Noise cassette in the main image is one of my old tapes) and make my own compilations (or ‘mixtapes’ as no one in the UK called them). I would be a nerd and fill in the ‘technical details’ on the back of the card insert when I created compilations, pretending I was Geoff Emerick in Abbey Road (or something).

Far from ‘killing’ music, the cassette tape nurtured my love for it and set up me as a ‘consumer’ who has since spent a ludicrous amount of money over the years on CDs, vinyl and the hi-fi kit to play it on. Indeed, my dad once warned me (via the medium of shouting very loudly) that I’d ‘end up in jail’ if I kept up my level of music spending in the early 1990s, because I’d never be able to pay off my credit cards. Reader, I didn’t (end up in jail, that is).

As well as ill-advised spending that often prioritised music above, er, food, I’d do other stupid things. For example, I went travelling in America in the summer of 1989 and I had one suitcase full of clothes and another suitcase full of tapes. I’m not joking. I had an entire suitcase to accommodate my love for music and make the journeys on the Greyhound bus bearable. Travelling light wasn’t my thing. I actually had a Yamaha portable keyboard with me too, for ‘songwriting’ (but that’s another story).

That’s the thing, the cassette tape gave us so much, when you think about it. It made music portable (in conjunction with the Sony Walkman), helped you woo that girl or boy you had your eye on by way of an oh-so-cool compilation and enabled you to grow your collection exponentially thanks to those tape-to-tape machines and their ‘high-speed dubbing’! You could even start your own band and use standard tapes in £250 portastudios and record four-track demos!

Basically, cassettes rocked! So if anyone was going to speak up for tapes it would be me. But this relationship didn’t have a Hollywood ending. In the early 2000s I chucked out all my compilations and gave most of my pre-recorded cassettes to charity. I hung on to my collection of cassette singles for rarity/sentimental reasons but it was basically ‘adieu’. Tapes were dumped and I was in a new relationship with mini-discs (a bit of a one-night stand, that one). I’d been ‘seeing’ CDs for ages too.


The Sharp QT90 (there was a white QT89 too). Click image to enlarge

A few years ago I had to actually buy a cassette player because Sam Brown had given me a shoebox full of her old demo tapes which I had to listen to as part of the research for what became The A&M Years box set. And what I discovered is that no one seems to make any decent ones anymore. There are no ‘high end’ players. The only brand new model I could find was made by TEAC. I bought it and was unimpressed. It was around £250 and didn’t even have Dolby. Apparently Dolby no longer license their noise reduction system for cassette tape manufacturers, so there you have it. The TEAC machine felt average and plasticky. I kept my Sharp QT90 tape player from the 1980s and everything about my old machine seems much better, especially in terms of build quality (see image above).

So what are people playing tapes on in 2019? Are they even playing them at all? Some of them don’t even come with download codes, so if you haven’t got the kit, they are about as useful as those marbles in the Pink Floyd box sets.

In summary, with no quality hardware to play them on in the marketplace, a record industry basically chasing a fad (with no guarantee of future product) and ultimately the general shortcomings of the tape as a ‘music delivery device’ in 2019, I’m not really tempted to embrace cassette buying. I have wonderful memories of buying and listening to music on that format 30 odd years ago, but as the saying goes, you can’t reheat a soufflé.

Instead of pissing around with tapes, maybe the industry could do things like… I don’t know… release more music on CD. Why revive a format that sells sod all, when you could spend those marketing dollars and pounds on ensuring the best selling format at this moment in time – the CD – doesn’t decline. That’s seems like a much better idea to me.

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David

Paul – thank you for posting my comment… it (now) occurs to me that because it is a Telegraph “premium” article that some people might encounter problems trying to open the link… if anyone out there wants to read it but can’t, please say so and when my quota of free access articles is reset in the next few days I will copy / paste the article and post it… it’s a good column and is a nice complement to Paul’s column on cassettes. And if anyone else can post it sooner than I can please do so. David

David

Success! Here is the “premium” story from the August 1, 2019 edition of The Telegraph, copied and pasted…

Cassette tapes are a dire way to listen to music – who on earth is still buying them?

Stuart Heritate, The Telegraph
1 AUGUST 2019

I once stayed in the presidential suite of an old Estonian hotel. My favourite thing about the place was the way that it seemed to have been frozen in time at the precise moment that Estonia gained its independence from Russia. The windows were old and creaky. The meticulously updated editions of Who’s Who abruptly cut off at 1991. And best of all, the entertainment system contained a tape deck.

We laughed about it at the time – “What else will we find? A kerosene lamp?” – but now I’m starting to think that it might have been the hippest hotel I ever stayed in. Because apparently the hot new music format of the decade is, you guessed it, the cassette.

The Official Charts Company just breathlessly announced that more cassettes have been sold in 2019 than in any year since 2004. Which, let’s be perfectly clear, is still not that many cassettes. Even during this much-hyped renaissance, tape sales only actually account for 0.2% of all album sales in the country. And the biggest seller so far – Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep – has only shifted a measly 4,000 copies.
Still, there is only one correct response to this news; what the hell do you people think you’re playing at? Tapes? Tapes, for crying out loud? Listen, cassettes were the defining format of my youth. I’m 38; a bit too young for vinyl, slightly too old for CDs.
When I first got into music, it was tapes or nothing. And let me tell you this: I have absolutely no nostalgia for cassettes whatsoever.

How could I? Tapes were terrible. They took up too much room. They sounded useless. They were prone to vomiting spools of their own guts up all over the insides of your tape player without warning. They’d get chewed up and break. Arguably worst of all, they didn’t let you skip songs. God, the man-hours I must have wasted suffering silently through endless half-baked filler tracks.

Hand on heart, if I’d bundled up all the time I wasted sitting through Parklife’s Far Out and used it constructively, I’m fairly certain that cancer would no longer be a thing.

I have a horrible feeling that the cassette resurgence has something to do with the vinyl revival. But the thing is that vinyl is actually quite good. Buy an album on vinyl and you’re presented with the best possible version of its cover art, and you have to treat it with enormous care to even listen to it. There’s a ritual to vinyl that will never stop being endearing; a hushed respect dictated by the fragility of the format.

But what’s the ritual with a tape? There isn’t one. You get a tape, you try and open its poxy jammed-up case, you throw it in a tape deck and force it shut, you have to spend two minutes rewinding it to the beginning because last time you listened to it you got bored halfway through track six. The whole thing was a colossal pain in the nuts.

Listen, we live in an age where every song that’s ever been recorded is permanently available to everybody in an instant. Want to listen to an old classic? A long-forgotten favourite? Vanishingly obscure Bolivian political folk-funk from the mid 1970s? It’s all there for you, all the time. To achieve even a fraction of a tenth of a percentage of that with tapes, you’d need to effectively mummify yourself with dozens of tape bandoliers and strut about the place like a crap plastic Rambo. What’s the point?

Besides, who even has a tape deck? Where do you buy them? I bought a CD three years ago that I still haven’t listened to because I haven’t got a CD drive in my house, so God knows how long it’s been since I last saw a tape deck. A decade? More? I don’t even know what I’d do if I saw one any more. Try and toast a sandwich in it, probably.

That said, and I really do hate to admit this, I can sort of see the appeal of cassettes.
The sheer old-fashioned stupidity of them meant that you were forced to consume albums in the way they were intended to be heard. Since you couldn’t skip through tracks, it meant that you really had to work on an album; you had to chew over the songs you didn’t like again and again until you were finally able to appreciate them for what they were.

It might have taken me 200 listens to Sgt Pepper before I stopped hating Within You Without You, but now it might be my favourite song on the album. Without the Stockholm Syndrome forced upon me by the cassette, I might still hate it now.

And, really, what was more romantic that a mixtape? The sheer effort that went into making one – even if you were rich enough to afford high-speed dubbing – was monumental. You had to get 20 different albums lined up in the right place, before manually starting and stopping the deck over and over again and writing the name of the song as legibly as you could in a genuinely minuscule space.

You can throw a Spotify playlist together in a matter of seconds, but a mixtape? That was a full day’s work. I maintain that there is no greater act of love that a homemade C90 mixtape.

So I get it. I do. In an era of permanent availability, a cassette feels like a small act of rebellion, a tiny anchor against the unstoppable tide of progress. If you’re one of the people who’ve caused the resurgence of the tape, you have my respect. Just know that I will never join because tapes are rubbish and I’m not an idiot.

Jules(Rules)

I’m still using tapes for recording stuff off the radio, but I really don’t like them anymore… they take up too much space, and when something goes wrong, often the entire machine gets damaged.

Selling tapes is a bit of a strange idea, making music available exclusively on tape is a horrible idea!

Griffin

Thank you Paul S. sharing your story. Hahaha…me too, making mixtapes back in those days. Cassette was much smaller (than LP and single). You can carry around playing on walkman (they were getting smaller and smaller, not much bigger than the cassette case itself). Also there were many nice cassette packagings. I especially like the (maxi) cassette singles. Before the CD album/single came along. I think people like the idea: finally they can compile their own collection of music on 1 place/cassette. I also went on with the mini disc after cassette. Are there really so many cassettes sold these days. I also think record companies should really put out the “music” that we want (unreleased from the vault or previously released but not on CD nor widely available) instead of keep re-releasing the standard album (remastered or not) in the different formats again, again and again. Do better job with the super deluxe edition, expanded, remastered projects? Make no mistakes, don’t butcher tracks by fading them early, offering replacement discs would be much appreciated. I haven’t read all others’ posts yet.

Eric

Like everyone else, I had a huge collection of cassettes that were mainly copied bootlegs of concerts folks had recorded and records i wanted copies of without having to buy more than a blank. In addition to killing off my vinyl collection, CDs finally did in my cassettes … flash forward 2 decades and I find a box hiding out in my parents basement filled with tapes that I’d somehow forgotten about… I transferred their contents digitally to my music server. Good times.

SimonP

After some Smashing Pumpkins came on in the car I remembered that I’d (sort of) recently purchased a cassette, as one of their reissues from a few years ago had a tape in the box. Think it was Pisces Iscariot. I’ve never listened to it and can’t recall what it has on it.

Amusing cassette story: many years ago I used to frequent a pub and a chap used to go in there as well and nearly always had Walkman headphones on. My mates and I always used to ask him what he was listening to because it was usually hilarious to us half cut yoofs. He once spent a few weeks listening to a big box of blank tapes he’d bought at a car boot sale to make sure they were indeed blank and on another occasion he was listening to some cassettes containing recordings of his narrowboat’s engine because he suspected it had an occasional misfire!

Chug chug chug chug chug…

Patrick

Cassettes are often utilised by underground artists and labels to get music out there cheaply. We seem to have returned to the days of the late seventies/eighties cassette underground. Previously these kind of artists were favouring CDR which now does not seem so attractive.
Another plus of the format is that because it has a more limited appeal artists releasing music in this way can guarantee that people who do buy it are probably hardcore music fans who intend to properly engage with the music. Another aspect that supports this side of the listening experience is that tapes are not so good for skipping tracks so it discourages that.
But yes for Kylie and so forth its appeal is mainly novelty/collectable.

Slightly different subject. About 12 years ago an Oxfam near me had a large selection of tapes that I got into buying. I randomly picked up a signed copy of ‘Pipes of Peace’ by Paul McCartney which no-one had spotted. I was low on cash at the time so sold it. I got £175 if memory serves me correct. I suspect I might have got a bit more had I dug a bit deeper but as I explained I was strapped for cash at the time.

Joe T.

I still have that Hue & Cry cassette pictured in the photo packed up somewhere. Wasn’t it an extra that came with a 7″ or 12″ single and entitled “Shake & Shoogie”, with a version of “Shipbuilding” on it?

Daveyman 1968 (Daveyman19)

Great article and I must say for me cassettes hold very special memories for me and still do.

As for the here and now, cassette albums are one of my biggest sellers on Ebay at the moment – sold a rare Aphex Twin to a collector in Japan who paid £65 for it I kid you not – i’m posting out parcels every other day and most are cassettes and cassette singles!

But as for a being a viable format again… why not, everyone said vinyl was definately dead in the mid to late 90’s and look where we are with that format now!

Pablo

Related to Paul’s last thought on this post regarding CD decline… just learnt today that the archive label Numero Group has decided to discontinue the CD format for their future projects. They have a great sale going on (in case anybody is interested) but, from my point of view, this is really sad news and another sign of what we might expect going forward (hopefully I am wrong). Cheers from Spain

Joe

I got back into cassettes about 2 years ago when I purchased a used Lexus that had, low and behold, a working cassette deck. Found a bag of my old cassettes in the garage and started playing some of my favorite ones. I then went on a full OOP Ryko Bowie kick and after 3-4 months secured the whole catalog. These sound absolutely amazing on tape. Dave Live is a scorcher on tape. I don’t care what anybody says I love the sound of these. I have all of them on CD but prefer to listen to them in my car on cassette.

Phil Abbott

Well timed article from my point of view as I bought a stack of Technics separates from a charity shop for 20 quid last week, including a really nice tape deck with dolby b, c and dbx. Got it hooked up over the weekend, bought a pack of Maxell blanks and am spending this evening recording a bunch of Howard Jones 7 & 12 inches which I hardly ever play due to constant changing of the records. Got a stack of Level 42 to do next. Feels like 1985 again!

John

I sometimes used to get fished in to buying an album on cassette (as well as vinyl occasionally) due to the extra tracks which I guess was the marketing team’s intent.

Big Country ‘The Crossing’ probably my favourite example with the 12″ mixes and a couple of B sides thrown in. Good times.

Andrew Lindsay

Beautifully written piece Paul
Staggering amount of comments too
Think you should submit it to the one of the Sunday papers… deserves a wide audience
My twopennyworth….
Two years ago I managed to sell over 900 cassette – mostly SA and AD for the princely sum of £35 on eBay. I was just happy that someone wanted them and that they avoided landfill. Most were tape trades of live shows… the space now occupied by Dime and Traders Den
The ones I kept were recordings of radio shows from 1970 and 1971… Alan Black and Bob Harris mostly
A treasured moment when Please Call Home (ABB), 409 (Beach Boys) and Living in the USA (Steve Miller) were played back to back. A formative moment.

Tim

Strangely enough, I spent a happy couple of hours on Sunday morning recording the recent Public Service Broadcasting appearance from the BBC Proms onto an old TDK SA90 on my Denon cassette recorder – No Dolby applied (that’s the only way to fly…). It sounds absolutely astonishing.

I can’t see myself rushing out to buy a new release on tape anytime soon but you underestimate the sonic qualities of a good cassette recorder at your peril…

Dennis Cattell

I have a TEAC twin cassette deck recorder/player as part of my hi-fi separates, and I’m more than satisfied with it! It’s above my CD player/recorder deck, and below the digital radio tuner and the amplifier. I bought it a while ago from Richer Sounds and they still sell such units, here’s a link:
https://www.richersounds.com/hi-fi/separates/audio-recorders.html
Oh, and go to eBay, search for ‘blank cassette tapes’, there’s lots of market sellers still selling blank cassette packs, unused, shrink wrapped, brands such as Maxell, Sony, Fuji, etc. I buy them to record off the radio; comedy shows, concerts etc. And maybe the occasional mix tape!

Shane

Tom, Björk has already reissued her albums on cassette. They look great actually. But i resisted. I had to draw the line.

torchomatic

I wasn’t a fan in the 80s. It has always been vinyl for me although I did go through a CD phase, I was never stupid enough to sell my vinyl. The only time I bought tapes was for the car and then I only tended to buy those from my favourite artists, particularly as many of them tended to have lots of extras on. I have kept a few with Pete Shelley’s XL-1 being my favourite, with its Spectrum program and a whole side of remixes.

Tapes. Seems all a little pointless nowadays, easily damaged.

Paul Brettell

As others have mentioned there have been some interesting cassette only releases.

Wonder if any remembers Chimp Eats Banana? They put ou out a wonderful alternative to PILs metal box, calling it Cardboard Box, basically a shoebox with a tape and various bits and pieces inside. I found the tape the other day but alas the rest of the packaging long lost. They became Chumbawumba apparently.

Biggest problem with tape was always hiss (whatever noise reduction was used it always seemed to take something away but otherwise could sound great, assuming it was an ‘oxygen’ cassette as John Shuttleworth would say).

Still got heaps of old stuff off the radio on tapes, John Peel of course, and got a nice BBC radiophonic workshop ‘must be a weapon’ broadcast?

Not sure I’d be keen to buy any new ones though.

SimonP

I took all my cassettes, video and audio to the dump ages ago and a couple of fellas were aghast at my throwing boxes and boxes of pre and self recorded tapes in the big skip. I then had to tell these poor sods I still had another load to collect back home!

Weirdly, though, I kept the audio recorders (the VHS ones went to the tip as well) along with a few cassingles, probably for reasons listed previously i.e they had exclusive mixes on. I don’t actually know where they are now…

Paul Mac

If I had a quid for every time I hand unwind my cassette copy of The Wall by hand in order to get it to play…..

On a side note, work donated a Walkman Pro to me a couple of years ago rather than throw it out. First time I saw a Walkman with a built-in speaker.

Paul M

I became aware of music and grew up in the late 70s and 80s so I suppose there is some nostalgia attached to cassettes and vinyl. My parents had a fair few of both and my Dad made his own compilations of things. Then there’s the handful of tapes we had in the car which accompanied almost every journey.

The first music I owned myself was on 7″ vinyl and cassette (including bootleg tapes bought on holiday in Malta). Even when I switched to CD in 1990 I continued to buy singles on vinyl since I thought a CD single was a silly idea.

But I haven’t bought anything on cassette or vinyl in at least 20 years and I don’t plan to start again now. Too many unspooling tapes getting mashed in the tape player and too much warped and wobbly thin vinyl for me to buy on anything other than CD now.

I do vaguely understand the vinyl revival even though I think it’s pretty odd. The cassette revival is just bizarre.

I guess ultimately we are all being pushed towards Spotify etc so we can have our data scraped and become the target of marketing of music as a commodity. And that way someone is making money, although not the artists (as far as I know).

My kids don’t seem to have the attention span to listen to even a whole song never mind a whole album. I guess when I’m gone my 1000s of CDs will be landfill.

adam shaw

I’ve still got my Denon tape machine wired up to my amp and a mini disc player .
Last year I started going through my old tapes and found a few surprises like Genesis live from Earls Court 76 recorded from a live Capitol Radio broadcast hosted by Nicky Horne , brilliant quality so was transferred to my iTunes immediately! Also the Denon has Dolby C , which I think was standard on 1980s decks . But don’t agree with cassettes in new box sets ie Jarre best of last year . Cd was made for his music so why degrade it .

Michel Bendichou

Pointless spending serious sums on a cassette playback device when the medium is badly flawed. If you really want a serious machine, Dragons are still available on ebay for North of £2k.

Reel to reel? Well, that’s another story..

Graham

The problem with these “sales figures” is it is never clear how many were people going “I’d like to buy a tape, please”, and how many are “I’d like to buy some CDs/DVDs/BluRays… oh, and I guess that comes with a tape”. The same issue applies to vinyl – certainly I have near zero interest, but have bought a number of albums over the years because they came with silver discs I wanted. I suspect the number of “accidental” purchases for tapes is far higher than for vinyl.

Clearly vinyl has a following, as the stand alone vinyl does sell. Is the same true of tape? How would we know?

Eric

What kind of hipster nonsense is this? Did one of them have too many deconstructed smashed avocardo lattes and decide it’s now a thing? I’m still to understand the resurgence of vinyl, but this? This is the hipster equivalent of the crusties (the punks that took it one step further when once that movement became popular). “So you collect vinyl, do you? I collect cassettes…”

martin farnworth

The notion of buying cassette’s being vaguely cool should only be applied (if at all) to those under 25. If it were me buying I’d be a sad old git for doing so. I say though give the record buying public what they want! All 0.2% of them or whatever it is.

Wayne Olsen

What a fantastic article! I got my first cassette player for Christmas 1970 and all things must pass and tommy were my first tapes. I taped stuff off tv and radio of course but I loved like everyone else making my own mix tapes. Blank tape is hard to find now but I hope that changes soon.
I drove to California from NJ with my best friend and 30 cassettes in 1977. So now of course I always think of Wyoming when I hear Station to Station.
I’m up for a cassette return. Anything but downloads!

Schu

I loved cassettes. Convenience, portability, mixtapes, no clicks/pops, I bought cassettes instead of records (usually) in the 70’s/80’s to play in the car and on the walkman. I still have all of my hundreds of albums, singles, mixtapes as they have great sentimental value.

However, I started buying CD’s in the late 80’s. Once cars started coming with CD players and portable players worked like cassette walkmans there was no reason for casettes anymore. Every plus of cassettes was bettered by CD’s.

Now that I can digitize CD’s and play on phone or music players, I see zero reason to go back to cassettes. At least with vinyl you can claim a preference for the audio quality. I think this is a limited stretch for the music industry to try and make some additional money.

The quantities of releases are limited as it is, and this movement will probably die sooner than later.

Tony O

coming late to the thread but cassettes are the fast growing music section on ebay for the last 18 months

Simcox

Dolby B incoming……

Toby

Wonderful read Paul. Tapes seem pointless now, but were fundamental for me in their day. The endurance and resulting portability was key for music on the move. Digging into the glove compartment and jamming the next one into the car as you rocked down the motorway. CDs would never have survived. Those compilations live to this day! I particularly love your anecdote about the suitcase of tapes. I went backpacking through the 90s with a disproportionate amount of my weight in tapes. A pitiful amount of music that was deeply treasured and framed life.

Alan B

Sorry but I don’t get the love-in for cassettes. I will say that back in the 80s and 90s I used to play my vinyl once (the only way to keep vinyl in true mint condition is not to play it) and record it on to tape and would play the tape each time I wanted to hear the music. It was good at the time because there was no other alternative to record your music. As soon as mini disc came out I switched to that and then to CDR. It was so annoying when tapes jammed in the players.

But from a collecting point of view I hated them and still do. I never bought an album on tape but I did buy cassette singles which often contained other unavailable versions of songs (the completest in me). There was a point when every single release had to come in cassette form in order to be chart eligible. I wonder how many would have been released if they weren’t forced into issuing them?

As has been mentioned a lot of new releases today come in tape versions, but usually bundled with a signed CD or LP. You can’t get the signed version without the cassette. The current 1975 album is a case in point. I eventually sold my cassette version of that on Ebay for less than I paid for it. It struggled to sell. Again I ask how many would be sold if offered for sale as a stand alone release?

In terms of sound quality the cassette is bottom of the pile and from a personal point of view so is its collectability. But each to their own.

Doug

A few thoughts on cassettes:
1) I was surprised one day to find a difference between the cassette and CD versions of Joni Mitchell’s Turbulent Indigo. There was way more bass on the cassette version which I assumed had been re-EQ’d to compensate for possibly/sometimes being played on less-than-hi-fi equipment and smaller tinnier-sounding speakers. Of course this meant that when played on a decent enough hi-fi, or even a ‘boom box’, the bass would be exaggerated. Not sure how widespread a practice this was.
2) Although some players had a facility to fast forward to the next track (by detecting the next gap between songs), listening to cassettes usually meant listening to the album (or at least one side) as a whole which, I confess, I often don’t do with CDs as I can easily skip tracks I don’t like.
3) I was often annoyed by the record company swapping tracks around on the cassette version of an album so that both sides of the tape were roughly the same length (even on Beatles albums – sacrilege!). Presumably this was done to save you having to avoid hurting your finger from pressing the fast forward button! Worse still was some tracks being FADED OUT at the end of side 1 and then FADED IN at the start of side 2 to facilitate the same ease of turn over, e.g. ABBA (self-titled 1975 album) and Duncan Mackay’ Score album.

Tom

Great article. I don’t necessarily agree with everything you said but it’s a discussion worth having. I’m not sure how much of the cassette revival will catch on, but I have to say I have delved back into cassettes more than I have into vinyl. Most of the new vinyl I own is because it comes as part of the super deluxe box set (ie. Fleetwood Mac, Adam Ant).

I found a Panasonic portable cassette player in a thrift shop and the sound is fantastic. Great bass. I like the interactive part of listening, flipping the tape over (although this particular model has auto-reverse).

In thrift shops, I’ve also been able to find a lot of rare ’80s soundtracks either not released on CD or very rare on CD (The Golden Child, Two of a Kind, Something Wild, Secret of My Success).

I saw Madame X being sold separately as a cassette. But I still don’t see a lot of brand new albums being sold in stores in cassette format. Urban Outfitters releases some limited edition cassettes like the 20th anniversary of Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Billie Eilish’s album. I’m looking forward to the reissue of Bjork’s albums on cassettes.

It’s still thrift shops for me.

Nick

A New Pre Recorded Tape costs £6.00 – £10.00 or so…..

A New LP Can cost £20.00, £30.00, £40.00 or even More – as Money is getting tighter and tighter everywhere i think people may well opt to buy Cassettes for a fiver or so as opposed to Vinyl….

I collect and always have since 1981 – Both Vinyl and Cassette Tapes (Never CDs)
Most of My Collection is on Vinyl – Maybe 5% of my collection is Tape but strangely I have only 1 Turntable set up and 3 Cassette Decks set up – a Nakamichi CR-2E, a Pioneer CT-F950 and a Pioneer CT-F600 – Cassettes are just so handy and cheap now as compared to LPs ….. I Hope it’s not a temporary fad but a full on revival….

Michael

Some nostalgia for cassettes, but more bad memories. Almost without fail, my tapes would get chewed up inside the gears of the tape deck, or the the sprocket-wheels inside the cassette would get jammed, requiring use of a pencil or screwdriver to force the sprocket-wheels loose, only to jam up again on the second or third play. These problems occurred even with my regular use of tape head cleaners, demagnetizers and the like. Cassettes seemed to require more maintenance than vinyl records, and had a shorter life span!!

One by one, my tapes became unplayable, and I got tired of throwing them into the dustbin, so I gave up on this format and started my collection all over again with the new, virtually indestructible, compact disc. History has taught me, and I have no interest in collecting cassette tapes ever today!

CraigH

I still buy tapes, but only old ones to fill gaps in the collection. I use a Sony Walkman Quartz DD22 hooked up to the cd player, fully refurbed and tapes sound as good as any CD or record.
All bar a couple of tapes bought it my youth all still play fine. However I haven’t bought a new release on tape since I switched to CDs long ago and issuing new albums in this format doesn’t make much sense to me, particularly as most companies seem to hardly be arsed even with CDs these days which are still by far the dominant physical format despite what hipsters claim.
About 90% of my new purchases are CD with the rest being records, I don’t anticipate new tapes ever being added to that mix for me.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Star

A lot of love for cassettes !

Mick

Paul – Your comments on the MiniDisc (and the Pink Floyd marbles) gave me a laugh.

I was a huge supporter of both MiniDisc and SACD. Both superior to standard CD IMHO. But their failure would best be a discourse saved for a later date.

I grew up on records and tapes. As flawed as 8-tracks and cassettes are, I still loved them.
Sadly – when I got my first CD player I figured everything else was now obsolete, and so sold many of my records and tapes. Thankfully I kept everything with the name “Beatles” on it – as well as select other LP’s and tapes. Also kept all of my coloured vinyl & picture discs. Today – I will only buy vinyl if it’s coloured or a pic disc. Been there, done that, and done with black vinyl. As for cassettes – yes – an odd resurgence…but it would have been even odder if 8-tracks made a comeback. Let’s just hope the marbles are gone for good.

Sean

Great article, Paul — I have to admit, my heart jumped when I opened the SDE email and saw that black TDK AD90 staring at me. (I was an SA90 guy myself, but honestly I don’t even know the difference between the two.) I never bought pre-recorded tapes if I could avoid it — it always felt like I wasn’t “really” buying the album if I didn’t get the LP — but I bought blank tapes by the truckload. There was a several year stretch where I’d buy a ten-pack almost every week — insane to think about it now.

I still have my mid-90s Scott double tape deck — with Dolby B and C, dbx, hi-speed dubbing and auto-reverse thankyouverymuch. It still works like the day I got it, and I’ve actually gone through the trouble to digitize a bunch of favorite mix tapes (we DID call them that in the U.S.) to listen on my iPod, rather than the (much easier) process of just compiling playlists of the same songs from CDs. The 90-minute limit is still burned in my brain, and I refuse to let a playlist go over 90 minutes because that way you’re still forcing some kind of discipline and heart-breaking decision-making on yourself.

I abandoned cassettes as soon as I was able to get a CD-RW drive and go to town editing, fading, segue-ing, and compiling my own CDs — but I have years of fond memories of my cassette listening days. And just as I sometimes digitize my vinyl and leave in all the surface noise for “atmosphere,” I’ve also on occasion added little tape-clicking sound effects to tracks in my playlists, just to tickle that little memory from my youth.

Anthony

I believe TDK AD cassettes were Ferric (Iron oxide), SA was chrome and MA metal. I think AD was a better version of the D cassette and there were SA-X which was a better chrome cassette and other versions of the metal cassette. Later on they brought out CDing cassettes which I believe were chrome too.

I recorded the vast majority of my record collection onto SA-X cassettes which I played to preserve the records. As a result, all of my records from the eighties sound great still!

Kevin Galliford

A lot of the late 80’s stuff like “Kick” & “Momentary lapse of reason” off the top of my head that I bought on cassette , also “Big thing” while I’m at it I then bought on CD later and then AGAIN when the reissue / repackage often no tacky badge came out so I won’t be thanking the cassette one bit. I’ll dig the 6 foot hole & bury them myself if you want . This cassette renaissance is bollocks & no one, collectively speaking has a tape player anymore & I’m damned if I’m buying these fkg albums a 4th time…

Daniel Phillips

My brother kindly gave me his rather nice Yamaha cassette player a number of years ago after my Technics became a bit unreliable and well, wobbly (flutter eh? Not pleasant), and coincidentally only just recently tapes have enjoyed a renaissance with me, but these are old tapes, 15 years+. Nothing but nothing on Earth would induce me to buy a new cassette when the amazing audio of vinyl or a 24 bit download is available….. Some things are perhaps best left somewhere down nostalgia lane…. But each to their own.

Rodolfo Martin

It is interesting to see that almost everyone in these post is talking about the memories that the cassettes are triggering. I bought some in the 70 because It was easy to understand that it was the most comfortable format to travel. I also recorded a lot off
Stuff from radio station. Nobody here is saying that they sounded great. I understand the comeback of vinyl, even I do not buy, but cassettes were always a disadvantage for quality and the fear to know that the tape would cut or entangle sooner or later. Cassettes were great to record songs for the girl we were wishing to date, to help us look cool by the kind of music we liked. I don’t think that today’s best cassette sounds better than the average Spotify quality. I am still very attached to all the iPods I have (my nephew can’t believe that I use iPods) but when I am driving and playing my music I am the happiest man on earth. I think cassettes are attached to nostalgia, which I have nothing against but they have nothing to to do with sound quality. The hissing of tapes is still something I ever tolerate no matter the extra quality of the cassette tape with special materials and chemical treatments.

Jeff

Cassettes still rock! I enjoy playing cassettes and support the comeback. Now we need great decks. I own three decks — an AIWA, a JVC and a 480 Nakamichi.

I love all forms of media except 8 track. The 8 tracks sounded amazing but there was a serious design flaw which causes most of them to fail.

30 year old cassettes still sound great — if they were treated well.

Seikotsi

I find only 50% of them play well. So I threw out half my collection and still enjoy the other half.

Nigel L Bevan

My real addiction began with tapes, but vinyl was primary choice until I discovered it warped or scratched and had to change the stylus. Then CDs came and in the beginning they were a breath of fresh air. Until I realised they were jsjt duplicate copies of vinyl recordings.. Then CDs changed and remastering brought freshness to the music. It’s still my preffered audio choice and one we should keep going. It kept the industry afloat for 20 plus years.

So tapes. Great gimmick and I would actually by them if someone would repair my Sony Walkman sports. Until that happens I’ll stick with CDs

Calum McGregor

cassettes … TDK to record Friday Rock Show (“TV on the radio” … Theme One by Van der Graaf for the Friday night connection, Dixie Dreggs at the top of the show, Bluesbreakers to finish) … great for recording the live sessions, bands at Reading, in concerts, etc UFO, Nazareth, Def Leppard’s first appearance, Judie Tzuke, etc … always a challenge to record 2 hours of for Yes from Wembley though ….

Pre-recorded quality cassettes sucked … especially once my beloved Stranger in Town by Bob Seger got chewed up … that killed them dead for me …. CDs over vinyl anyday …

Brian Newby

Those were the days
Even you dixie dregs as my ringtone and as I now do heavy (Classic) rock disco’s use DD as the theme song too.
When we do competitions guess what Theme One is used
Heady days indeed.
Moved all my cassettes of The Friday Rock Show and Fluff to minidisc and then to digital
with hardly any degradation, although at 58 I probably can’t hear the nuances any more

Gary C

i have that Hue and Cry cassette somewhere I am sure. It has the SuperBaad Mix which is pretty good and a session version of Goodbye To Me. Windscreen is a pretty good B-side too

Last cassette I bought was the last Teenage Fanclub album, which is excellent.

Dan

“Tapes were dumped and I was in a new relationship with mini-discs (a bit of a one-night stand, that one)”

MiniDiscs are FANTASTIC – I still use them with a portable player/recorder and a full size deck.

Peter Bloy

I love MiniDiscs. CDs I fell out of love with very quickly – mainly due to the fact that they tried but failed to replicate the vinyl cover art in a tiny format. But MiniDiscs were the future! Sadly it’s just you and me on this

Stevie B

I too bought most of my music on tape, as soon as an an affordable Walkman came out that was me. The great thing was you would get bonus tracks on the cassette versions of albums (King, Madonna, Bucks Fizz, Scritti Politti all spring to mind), I think I bought every Pet Shop Boys single on cassette to, again, you’d get basically the 12” single mixes only for half the price.

I’m from Glasgow and worked in a bar so the ‘mixtape’ (someone in the U.K. did call them that) was a weekly ritual for me. I remember ‘You can dance’ cassette by Madonna being played a lot there when I bought it as a US import before it’s U.K. release.

The cassette/Walkman kept the music industry alive, while free-ing music (illegally I grant) for those who’d been had by the music industry with its over inflated CD pricing and couldn’t buy into that format, and its legacy lives on in that iPhone you carry around to make unbearable tube journeys more bearable. ‍☠️

DW

You’ll never find a good new cassette deck because the ONE and ONLY remaining manufacturer of cassette deck mechanisms is “Tanashin”, known for being the cheapest and in every single cassette player still made today (and probably since at least the mid 2000’s). Listen to Techmoan’s rundown on this situation in his recent YouTube video where he reviews Aldi’s recent cassette boombox that’s entirely MONO!

https://youtu.be/nezGOVOpHtc

Julian J Hancock

If, as is sometimes said, 50% of new vinyl never gets played, then it’s perhaps not surprising that some people buy cassettes.