Wherefore Art Thou [ *-* ]

In what year will cassette tapes become retro and cool? I’m asking for my friend, who just happens to be a cassette.

Every weekend morning, I awake and put on a pot of coffee as I listen to old albums on vinyl. My parents and grandparents gave me much of their old vinyl collection. And I like to stop at record shops from time to time and buy $1 albums to add to it. Now that we have the option of jumping to any song on an album digitally, it’s nice to force myself to listen to an album in the exact order the band wanted me to do so. And hearing a sometimes tinny sound, with hisses and pops takes me back to a time when I used to listen to albums as a little kid on my record player. After all, isn’t the experience one of the big things that makes us like music? I was a child in the 80s, yet I listened to my parents’ 45s on my record player. Elvis. The Beatles. Electric Prunes. Bee Gees. Charley Pride. They also bought me 45s of (then) current artists, too. Michael Jackson. Foreigner. Prince. New Edition. Suddenly, my current musical proclivities make total sense. The fact that I was raised on a wide array of musical genres and time periods has directly impacted me as I still listen to every genre from every decade.

It isn’t just records, though. People still listen to CDs. Stores still have CD racks to buy the latest CD from any artist. People burn mix CDs for road trips. While everything’s moving digital, there’s still a need for albums.

But it seems like people have completely leapfrogged and forgotten about the cassette tape. I don’t even know if they sell blank cassette tapes anywhere. Boomboxes and stereos rarely have them built-in. Yet records, which were the musical medium well-before the cassette, are still a commodity. People actively collect vinyl. People like me. Yet, you rarely hear of people actively looking for a cassette of something to add to their collection.

Nostalgia fuels many of our retro trips down fad resurgence lane. So it’s only a matter of time before people want to revisit those old cassette mixes we made from the radio where you hear the DJs talking over the beginning of New Edition’s Cool It Now. I recently found a stack of mix tapes from the early 90s and plan to spend the first rainy Spring weekend playing them from start to finish. Forcing myself to go on the musical journey that 14-year-old Bruce established. Because let’s be honest, fast-forwarding and playing and fast-forwarding some more and then playing and then rewinding … that’s too much like work.

Cassettes will make a temporary retro comeback sometime over the next decade. They have to. Some band will get the idea to release some of their material on cassette-only format as a headline-grabbing gimmick and to fuel interest in something that fans will have to work at in order to be able to listen to it.


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