Friday, July 1, 2011

An Ode to Casettes

On this day in 1979, Sony shared the marvellous idea of Walkman casette players with the rest of the world. This marked the invention of the first personal carry-along music device, leading teenagers everywhere to plug in, tune out, and generally annoy adults more than anyone had thought possible.

The Germans are responsible for mass production of casettes, starting in 1964, but true popularization thereof didn't happen until the Walkman was introduced. But I didn't come here to give you a history of casettes.

I came here to tell you about my favorite tapes.

Now that I've looked at that word for too long, it looks incredibly fake to me, and I don't know if I'll be able to use it again in this post. Looks like an extremely naughty word now, or something related to ant eaters. Don't ask me why; I have no clue.

One of the earliest casettes I remember owning was a book and tape set of Disney's Peter Pan. Or Cinderella. Or something like that. In any case, it was Disney, complete with the little Tinkerbell chime when it was time to turn the page. We also had 45s of some Disney tales - my mom probably still has them somewhere, unless she doesn't.

On a similar note, I also had a casette of Mickey Mouse songs that helped me become the writer and grammar fiend I am today. Songs like "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More." I remember loving that tape, even though I'm pretty sure that one was purchased for my little sister, and I was already five and a half when she was born - way too old for that kind of thing. Still, I figured she was too young to appreciate it, so someone ought to.

Another one I loved was a tape (see, it still looks wrong to me) of somewhat generic on-the-go songs and general kid silliness, from Discovery Toys. I still like a lot of those songs, with lyrics like, "I'm too full for broccoli / But I've still got room for some pie."

And who didn't say, while being pushed out the door to school, "Oh by the way, I need an orange juice can / Four cotton balls, and six rubber bands / And by the way, they're serving meatloaf today / If you don't mind a bunch, I'm gonna need a lunch." We are single-handedly responsible for every one of our parents' grey hairs, whether from saying things like that or listening to them over and over and over until the casette broke.

That's pretty much all I remember of my early casettes - I listened to the radio most of the time, but in high school I started a series called "Happy Music," which were songs from the radio or various CDs which I thought were the happiest sounds in the world. A few of them are songs that make me say, "Hey, I remember this one! ...I hope I don't hear it again for another ten years." But I still love some of them - songs like Cantaloop by US3 and I am in Love by Les McCann made both my original list and my remakes after college.

Of course, those remakes were on new-fangled compact discs, not casettes. Something about making a mix tape (okay, that looks a little better) is much more personal than a CD, but it sounds about ten times better. I'll take casettes for nostalgia, but when actually listening to the music, give me CD or vinyl any day.


  1. Do you remember, "Hey Little Buddy"? And what about the Wisconsin Polka? They were on cassette. And while moving, I discovered I have a cassette tape with my grandma and grandpas voices on it. They've been gone for 30 and 22 years respectively. I still have a lot of cassette tapes I just couldn't part with and I also have 8 track tapes!! Loved Oh By the Way.........wonderful memories.

  2. Hey, my kids had those Disney books. . . oh ya,
    you're the same age.


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