Today, the 7th of September 2013, is Cassette Store Day, an International celebration of the magnetic tape cassette, a musical format long ago consigned by many to the bin, but one that has recently undergone a popularity swerve with musical artists, stores, and industry labels embracing once more the humble cassette tape.
Despite considering myself more a vinyl junkie, I’ve been looking forward to celebrating Cassette Store Day. I remember upgrading most of my cassettes to their CD versions a long while ago, but I still kept hold of many of the cassettes with the quiet belief that one day they’d receive the cool-factor recogntion they deserved. That, or I was just too sentimental to give them to the charity shop.
Vinyl had always been my favourite choice back in the days before CD and downloads. But for portability the cassette format was the easy winner; school holidays, days spent down the park, camping trips with mates, end of term when the teacher allowed us to bring in our favourite music to play – it was always the fag packet-size cassette and its portable player that provided the soundtrack.
There were always plenty of shops selling label releases on cassette. Even non-musical shops could afford to stock them due to their compact size. I remember the busy Saturday morning markets of Birmingham in the ’80s; the indoor markets and outside of Oasis, these places were great to go and pick up music, especially bootlegs and other cassette oddities.
Bands and gigs and demos
The cassette definitely served me well as a listener and buyer of music. But as a musician playing in numerous bands since the age of fifteen, one of the things I’m most grateful to for the cassette was the ability to record our own music. Most of the bands I played with back in the 80s and 90s would record our own demos live in rehearsal studios. We’d choose the best four songs and post them off to labels and music magazines. We’d also take along a cassette player to gigs and record the whole set live. Even during the middle of the noughties we still found ourselves sharing song ideas on tape.
Home Taping is Killing Music
I don’t think I taped so many albums from my mates’ collections. I was always happy saving up and buying the proper label releases because I loved the artwork and lyric sheets that were so much part of the appeal of a new album for me. However, a few copies would sometimes ‘find their way’ into my collection… I like to think I wasn’t so much killing music by home taping, just inflicting a few flesh wounds.
Happy Cassette Store Day!!
Right, enjoy your day, I’m off to set up my old tape deck and blast out some tapes!
You can read more about Cassette Store Day here cassettestoreday.com
and please read this superb article by Jude Rogers Total rewind: 10 key moments in the life of the cassette