So, I found an old cassette tape buried in a box of CDs a few nights ago. I pulled it out with a mixture of curiosity and astonishment—how the hell had it survived over 20 years worth of wear and tear from long-term storage and countless moves?
But I was most concerned about what was on it. “Oh! What treasures could it possibly hold?” I tweeted moments after I found it.
I couldn’t wait to pop that sucker into a tape player.
And where might I have found such a retro appliance? Well in my 2002 Jetta of course. I’ve never really understood this, how a car made in the aughts could have a freaking CASSETTE player and no cigarette lighter, but I digress.
I was too excited to even rewind the thing, I just popped it in the next morning on my way to work.
Soon, I heard the warbled voice of Debbie Gibson, crooning her heart out about being “Lost in Your Eyes.”
Oh, there was much cringing.
And then I actually did something I haven’t done in decades - I fast forwarded a tape! I mean after years and years of hitting one button to skip CD tracks, fast forwarding a cassette felt so tedious and imprecise.
And yet despite the tedium, or maybe because of it, it was incredibly rewarding when I timed it perfectly (a sixth sense for these things develops over time) and hit play just before the next song. It made me feel like I was in my childhood bedroom again, flopped across my water bed with my little pink tape player.
(Yeah, you read that correctly. WATER BED.)
I’ve listened to the tape each time I’ve been in my car this week, and have enjoyed the surprise of each song, which I had recorded from various radio stations. It’s a mish-mash, and also a bit of a train wreck.
See, creating a good mixed tape is a lost art, one that requires practice, especially when recording songs from the radio. Back in those Limewire-less days, music had to be worked for, and a good mixed tape required a sophisticated skill set. It was ideal to stop the recording just as the song was ending, before the next song (or a commercial) began. But not too prematurely and chop the song . It was a delicate balance and it required focus.
Good songs that were well-recorded were the bread and butter of a first-rate mixed tape.
My tape lacks both of these things.
Case in point. Throughout the week I’ve listened to the quintessential 80s power ballad “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” (which is on there TWICE), an Amy Grant tune I had forgotten even existed called “I Will Remember You,” Prince’s “Seven,” the oh-so-aching “Take My Breath Away,” and a real gem from Boy Krazy called “That’s What Love Can Do.” Yeah, that video is something special.
I’ve also been amused by by Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” and “Rush, Rush,” a sweet love song that features KEANU FREAKING REEVES in the video, which I remember absolutely loving as a kid. (I laugh now though, because whoever directed the video apparently didn’t care that Keanu’s classic Bill & Ted mop-top didn’t quite jive with the 1950s theme.)
I mean honestly the whole tape is in Strugglesville. Aside from the super cheese-ball songs, the tracks are slapped together with no regard for genre (80s Suck Rock, maybe?) and transition awkwardly.
The tracks also begin several seconds late (couldn’t reach the record button in time!) and are accompanied by recording static and/or the “chipmunk” effect. They also end abruptly—a result of stabbing the stop button with my index finger when the DJ committed the heinous offense of talking over the last seconds of a song.
It’s like my past self left my future self a really shitty present.
Oh, but seriously, I do love it. The goofy songs, the awkward transitions and warped sound quality. The nostalgia of the cassette tape is a special thing, one I wish my 13-year-old niece could understand.
Huh. And suddenly I recognize the Baby Boomer generation’s obsession with records. I mean, I love record players. Been trying to get my hands on one for a minute. So, hey who knows, maybe the younger generations will think (or already do) that cassette tapes are vintage and therefore cool and then we’ll have something in common after all.
And it would be totally rad if they made mixed tapes as a nod to the Gen-Xers.