Obsolecence and adolescence
October 30, 2002 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Obsolecence and adolescence I came of musical age during the beginning of the tectonic shift between cassette/vinyl/CD (vinyl on the way out, cassette taking precedence and CD waiting in the wings). Crushes, science and lots of bad music I still love (yeah, too much Anglophilian pop) was spooled on those tapes. This story about the demise of the cassette has it all! And it's a great bit of writing, too...
posted by chandy72 (26 comments total)
And it's a great bit of writing, too

Hmmfph, I guess beauty is in the eyes of the beholder...
posted by squidman at 11:25 AM on October 30, 2002

Me, I wanna be an anglepoise lamp, yeah.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:25 AM on October 30, 2002

chandy, two of your links were the same, missing one?

So-called Generation X, the people born between 1964 and 1981, who don't get credited for much in history, can at least take solace in the fact that they saw the entire lifespan of the cassette. It was born, lived and died in their era. They made it happen, one cassette at a time.

That's our legacy.......artists whose chart-topping cassettes have since ossified under the passenger seat of a 1989 Ford Probe somewhere
posted by thomcatspike at 11:37 AM on October 30, 2002

It's interesting that cassettes as recorded music format were the peoples' choice--not the recording industry's, or so I understand. And with cassettes was created the folk art of the Mix Tape--which has been surpassed now by the CDR. Nice post, chandy72, thanks.
posted by y2karl at 11:38 AM on October 30, 2002

In the grand scheme of what human beings are capable of, nostalgia is the only thing lower than posting to MetaFilter.
posted by fuzz at 11:40 AM on October 30, 2002

Great article, chandy. It kind of made me miss all that analog.
posted by agregoli at 11:41 AM on October 30, 2002

Wow... as it so happens, we have a short comedic film on this very issue called "Mixtape Genius". It concerns the tribulations of one Grad Wombish, mixtape artist. He fears and loathes the so-called digital music revolution represented by nemesis his mix cd artist Blaine Stevenson. Please don't mind the low production value - it's got spunk!

Find it on my blog or jump right to the RealVideo.
posted by Dok Millennium at 11:43 AM on October 30, 2002

"In the grand scheme of what human beings are capable of, nostalgia is the only thing lower than posting to MetaFilter."
Wow fuzz, that comment reminds me of this one time in Junior High when....
posted by chandy72 at 11:54 AM on October 30, 2002

Y2karl since your in the industry or even chandy, what about Reel to Reel have they also been completely phased out.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:06 PM on October 30, 2002

I still have tapes a guy sent me in 1986. Cassettes will be around until cars with cassette only players get too old for road trips. I played Lone Justice in the car as recently as last year...oh the joy and shame.
posted by rainbaby at 12:12 PM on October 30, 2002

I've spent a surprising portion of my adult life driving around with the cassette of David Bowie's Low (original German release from 1977, snagged for a buck from a cutout bin in junior high in 1982!) never far from reach. And let me tell you, there are few things as cool as driving across the Mojave Desert at sunset whilst blasting those crazy Eno-Bowie alien soundscapes....
posted by scody at 12:36 PM on October 30, 2002

Hey, I still make mixed tapes, at least one a month. I still buy the same bricks of blank tape (Maxell XL-II 90 minute jobbies) I've used since the early 80's. As far as quality goes, they've always been made on a very good stereo, so they sound just fine. I listened to my 1984 New Year's Eve party tape the other day and it sounded pretty fantastic.

These mixed tapes have served me better than a diary could have and the large stacks of them are the possesions I would grab right along with photos if my house was on fire. The music I have grown up to is more evocative than anything else I've encountered in my life.

Ick. I sound like a goofball, but I feel very passionate about this and can't help it.
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 1:30 PM on October 30, 2002

As someone who just a couple months ago bought a second-hand dual cassette deck basically exclusively for making and playing mix tapes (and who sometimes questions the logic of doing so, given that the thing wasn't much cheaper than buying a CD R/W drive), I must say this piece really hit home.

Even though the burned CD is fast becoming a staple of my collection, I just don't find the process of making them as satisfying. I think it's primarily because you don't listen to each song as it gets committed to disc the way you do with a mix tape. It's an organic process, rediscovering old songs, each one suggesting follow-ups you hadn't thought of beforehand. Making a mix CD feels awfully terse and mechanical by comparison.

Anyone else find this to be the case? Or am I just a victim of having grown up in the cassette age?

(Oh and chandy, I'm with you: I thought it was a great bit of writing, far more stylish than you expect from a newspaper.)
posted by gompa at 1:39 PM on October 30, 2002

I definitely find that to be true. The act alone of listening to the mix song by song is a pleasure in and of itself.

How many times have you jumped up mid-song and remembered the perfect next song and it was one that you hadn't heard in years? I love that! I should also point out that I still have my massive vinyl collection and listen to and tape parts of it regularly. You really have to turn the recording levels up when recording vinyl, otherwise mixing cd and vinyl on a tape is pretty jarring to your eardrums later...
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 1:44 PM on October 30, 2002

I think what made making a mix tape so much more satisfying than making a mix CDR was the immense level of effort that went into it. Especially when taping off of vinyl. Cueing up the record to the right place, getting the timing of the pause button perfect, playing with the recording levels (wanting the meter to go just so slightly into the red, but not too far), all made the result that much sweeter. When burning a CDR with auto-levelling it's just click and burn.
posted by trust_no_one at 2:45 PM on October 30, 2002

as someone who used to sit by the radio for hours waiting for that week's favorite song to come on so i could tape it...thanks chandy! (as i listen to a tape i made in '82)
posted by amberglow at 3:07 PM on October 30, 2002

Agreed, Woolcott et al. Viva la cinta mesclada!
posted by hippugeek at 3:33 PM on October 30, 2002

Er...I don't quite know how to put this, but we don't have a CD burner...How shocking! Both cars are fitted with cassette players, and the walls of this room are covered with music tapes-- including the ones sent to woo me long distance. In the spare bedroom, the walls are covered with audio books-on-tape. Sure, we have CDs (and vinyl, too) but what I'm saying is we are still living in the Age of the Cassette Tape in this house, think of it as a "wrinkle in time". Don't know how much longer we can hold out though; blank tapes are getting hard to find.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:39 PM on October 30, 2002

Cassettes will always be around because anything you leave in your car for too long turns into a Best of Queen cassette.
posted by dazed_one at 3:45 PM on October 30, 2002

Man, I loved A Wrinkle In Time when I was a kid - the image of all those children bouncing their balls in time, and the gigantic pulsing brain...

Oh, sorry, wrong kind of nostalgia.
posted by wilberforce at 3:56 PM on October 30, 2002

gompa, I completely agree. Making a mixed tape is a far more satisfying process than making a mixed cd. In fact, for that reason, as well as to make sure the cd flows the way a good mix should, I am planning on making a mixed tape of my selected songs before finalizing the song selections and song order for the latest MeFi CD Swap.
posted by crystalblue at 4:31 PM on October 30, 2002

don't forget the painstaking and wonderful cover art people created for mix tapes...i have some really beautiful fold outs made by friends who gave me mix tapes - collages, drawings, typewriter-type literally cut and pasted to a piece of cardboard...
posted by tristeza at 7:18 PM on October 30, 2002

Making a mixed tape a more satisfying process than making a mixed CD? Um, no. Doing it with a tape is such a pain that I did it only occasionally. Doing it with a CD is so easy I do it at least once a month. That's much more satisfying.

I don't understand why people like doing things the hard way. My magnum opus to date is a four-disc set based on the four elements. I never would have even attempted that if I had to do it on tape.
posted by kindall at 9:14 PM on October 30, 2002

Old mix tapes are my Petites Madeleines, an instant doorway back to people, times, and places I have loved, and to the person I was then. Thanks for the post, chandy72 -- and for the Bunnymen link. I always liked their sound.

And remember, "Home Taping is Killing Music." Reason enough to love it.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 12:44 AM on October 31, 2002

Kindall: I don't understand why people like doing things the hard way.

Because when you do it for love, then that effort is part of the joy. It becomes a meditation in itself, like a medieval monk working on a manuscript. (Um, except he didn't make tapes hoping to get laid.)

I just bought an ultra-powerful MP3 jukebox and began ripping CDs onto it. Obviously the jukebox is infinitely superior to tapes, but somehow the process is less fun.

You forget what's easy; you remember what's hard. The extra work helps anchor the tape to the time and place and people. I look at an Iggy Pop tape I made in 1985 and I instantly recall the friend I made it with, the place, the schoolwork I was shirking at the time, the excitement at discovering something new, the cool spring night as I walked home... everything. I'm a kid again and the world is full of possibilities. What a precious object.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 1:06 AM on October 31, 2002

kindall - What is to you a pain, is enjoyable for me. The time that it takes...that's the beauty of it. Making a mixed tape isn't about ease, it's about thinking about what you're doing, taking your time. Sometimes doing things the hard way is the best way. I certainly appreciate the cds that people have burned for me, but when I get a mixed tape? Then I know they really care!
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 10:03 AM on October 31, 2002

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