Email This Post Email This Post

Cassette Tapes from the 80s

When I was young, I bought a LOT of cassette tapes.  What I didn’t buy, I copied; duping friend’s tapes, or taping songs directly from the radio. Sirius/XM has nothing over the homespun quality of a mix tape created directly from classic radio, especially when the recording apparatus isn’t even built into the radio.  That’s when you get to become “Cassette Tape MacGyver.”

1. Place a radio NEAR a tape recorder.

2. Hold antennae in place with string, scotch tape or gum.

3. Hit PLAY/RECORD when a good song comes on and tape over the air.

I have a approximately 200 tapes periodically interrupted by static, my little brother talking or DJ chatter. You don’t KNOW frustration until you wait six hours to catch Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax,” only to have Casey Kasem talk over the first 10 seconds about what “Jenny from Arkansas” has to say to her boyfriend. If I have any anxiety issues now, hypnosis could tie it directly to to the sound of my mother calling me for dinner during the last 20 seconds of the Cure’s “Pictures of You.”

See? It really is always your mother’s fault in therapy.

I bumped into these tapes while cleaning the basement and discovered that I had a real knack for titling mix tapes. Apparently, when it came to music, I was also a separationist. Mix tapes are largely labeled “Black” or “White” – usually with a subtitle like “Black – Hardcore Rap” which included such angry ghetto tunes as “Basketball” by Curtis Blow and “Apache” by the Sugarhill Gang. (They weren’t playing a lot of NWA or on the radio in my little town.) Nearby, I found a tape labeled “White – Hard Rockin’ Kid.” The embarrassment of that incredibly dorky title haunts me even now, days later.

I went through a period in high school where I taped songs I didn’t even like, because I thought it was important to have everything recorded for posterity. This explains the all-Madonna mix tape I have labeled “South Philly Trash,” even though Madonna was born in Michigan and moved to NYC. Being from South Jersey, I just assumed Madonna and all her whore-lace was from the only city I knew (Philadelphia) that sent girls that looked like her to my beach town. To my defense, there was no Google in 1986. I couldn’t just Wiki Madonna, and strangely, she was not featured in our 5-year old copy of the World Book Encyclopedia.  Oh, and I was a huge dork.

I had three wooden tape racks to display my impressive collection. I labeled these racks “used,” “semi-used” and “rarely used,” in case I suffered a brain injury and forgot what sort of music I favored. One rack is labeled “Rap/Dance,” which is where I discovered Midnight Star‘s “No Parking on the Dance Floor” filed next to the soundtrack to Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I know. This disturbing. Though not as disturbing as finding an album by America in the “Used” rack.

My musical  interests were diverse. My collection varies from Adam Ant to Barry Manilow to a duped Jane Fonda exercise tape I entitled “Make it Burn.”  I can only assume that tape contains 90 minutes of Jane screaming “And take it up! And stretch! Make it burn!”  I don’t remember.   I found a mix tape I recalled as one of my favorites entitled “Amy’s RAGE Tape.” The first song is “Day-O,” by Harry Belafonte. HARRY BELAFONTE. Clearly, I was RAGING. I’m surprised the FBI didn’t arrest me just in case.

While I am not a hoarder, I’m finding it difficult to dispose of this massive collection. I remember how much time I spent collecting, taping, categorizing and organizing. It’s not my fault no one told me technology would change.

I boxed them up this weekend and found a closet in which to store them until the day I finally have enough time to digitize the whole collection.  After all, that Duran Duran bootleg concert tape forever effected the way I sing every song from Seven and the Ragged Tiger (Simon LeBon adds unique words and grunts in this live concert version and,  knowing where to inject them still makes me feel a little superior). Does anyone else have an INXS Shabooh Shabah tape with the nekkid picture ripped out of the inside cover so their parents wouldn’t find it? And can you still buy a Kaja tape (when Kajagoogoo renamed themselves to try and sound like more serious musicians?)

I doubt it.

 

Amy Vansant

Amy Vansant

Author Amy Vansant enjoys long walks on the beach, anything to do with her Labradoodle Gordon and frantically getting nothing useful done.
Amy Vansant

31 Responses

  1. Aimee Charbeneau

    ROTFLMAO! I just did the same thing a few months ago. My parent’s were hardcore Christians and refused to let me listen to secular ROCK music, apparently country was ok since that’s what THEY listened to. It was banned by their gestapo church (which coincidentally, also banned women from wearing pants. They put the “mental” in fundamentalists) I had to fight HARD for that music, so I will never throw it away. I even have the very first album (sans cover) that I ever bought. David Lee Roth’s Yankee Rose. It still has a crack on the face from where my father tried to break it. It was torn from its casing and tossed in the trash. I snuck in after the went to bed and rescued it, carefully cleaning off coffee grounds and winding it back up. My best friend’s big brother cleverly taped it back together. You can barely hear the little click as the spliced section moves past. Unfortunately the case and cover didn’t survive.

    Remember the time when you could share music without the fear of being thrown in jail?? If it wasn’t for “pirated” music, I wouldn’t have even HAD albums. I have some real radio gems suck as a parody of the B52’s Love Shack (well part of it) that the local radio station made called Butt Crack. I also recorded tapes off of songs on MTV because they weren’t interrupted with DJ chatter.

    I have mix tapes a boyfriend gave me and here’s one weirder… I recorded a tape of myself talking to my boyfriend of 1991 while I was driving. I played it for him when I got to see him again. My parents took me to Florida and left me there with my grand parents to get me away from this guy. I lost touch with him as my grandmother would say no one by that name lived at that number when he called and I found out was throwing away his letters many years later. Fast forward 18 years. He finds me on myspace. We connect again after all that time and find we still really love each other. I’m going through one of my old tape boxes last year and I find that tape from 1991. We play it and laugh our asses off. It was cheesy and silly. One of our favorite phrases from that tape that we say to each other is “I wanna pull this car over right now and fuck your brains out!”

    So keep your old tapes and savor the memories. You never know what you’re gonna find in there.

       0 likes

    Reply
  2. Amy Vansant

    Hey wait… are you that girl in Footloose??

    Wow – what a touching/funny/romantic respond to a post THAT was! Love the bit about reconnecting with the boyfriend at the end in particular – you just can’t make stuff like that up. Well, I suppose Lifetime Channel does all the time, but you know what I mean.

    I have “talk tapes” too – which I cleverly labeled “Talk Tape.” One has a friend and me doing a little skit where we pretend we’re trapped in someone’s rib cage (like a jail) and in little tiny voices we’re saying “Let me ooouuuut!”
    Ah, to be 38 again…

       0 likes

    Reply
  3. Jessica

    What I would give to find my box of mixed tapes. I definitely did the two stereos against each other trick. And the best was when they’d do the talking intro to the song and you had to wait anxiously to hit “record” at just the right moment or you’d miss the first 3 lyrics to the song.
    Jessica recently posted..Souper, Thanks for Asking.

       0 likes

    Reply
  4. K.C.

    This just breaks my heart, because I lost most of my cassettes and childhood memetos in a flood last year. So many memories, hopes and dreams… Sigh.

       0 likes

    Reply
  5. marissa

    Dahling, I STILL HAVE two of those very same cassette racks hanging in my living room this very minute, filled to the brim with some barf-a-licious moldy oldies from the 80’s. I have not acknowledged their existence in years, and now have you to thank for reminding me they are there. Perhaps one night soon there will be a drunken meandering down memory lane…IF I CAN FIND A CASSETTE PLAYER.

       0 likes

    Reply
  6. Name (Required)

    After a while, I got the fancy double tape deck where I could transfer songs from one tape to the other. It was the coolest thing ever!

    And then, when I started mixing cds, I had soooo many songs I really didn’t care for. It was important to look diverse at the age of 16. The boys had to think I was cool…

       0 likes

    Reply
  7. Abby

    Good lord, you just took me WAY back with this one. Yes, I did the two (giant) boom boxes/stereos next to each other to record certain songs, the quality of which was comparable to a song being recorded in an underground wind tunnel. Nevertheless, I was diligent in my efforts.

    I also remember the frustration and the horror–the horror!–of having one of those tapes somehow destroyed by actually having the inside tape stuff twist up of be pulled out. It’s like toothpaste from the tube–there’s no putting that shit back in.

    Oddly enough, I only only about three CDs and have never taken to making my own collection or anything. If I want to hear a song, I’ll look it up or quickly forget about it and move on. At least ADD is good for something…
    Add your Twitter:

       0 likes

    Reply
  8. bschooled

    True story, I used to put a cassette recorder next to the television and tape movies. I went through two 60 minute BASF cassettes while recording “Grease”. I spent the next six months trying to connect the actors to the muffled voices.

    Looking back, it makes no sense, seeing as I already owned the movie, anyway.

    ps. INXS was my first true band love. I wanted to marry Gary Gary Beers. (All of my friends loved Michael Hutchence, so I thought I’d have a better chance if I went with the less-attractive underdog.)
    bschooled recently posted..The Eye-full Tower

       0 likes

    Reply
  9. Sue the Desperate Housemommy

    Oh. My. Word.

    Too many excellent things to comment on here. But I’ll give it a whirl.

    -“Duping.” When was the last time I heard THAT thrown out in conversation?
    -Duping sessions interrupted by little brother. Check.
    -Jane Fonda. Yesss! Feel the burn!
    -Wooden organizational cassette tape racks. Had ’em.
    -Adam Ant, The Cure, Curtis Blow, and Barry Manilow. That kind of randomness is an art form.

    In conclusion, I would gladly rage along with you to Harry Belafonte ANYTIME.

    You officially have a new stalker. So glad Naked Girl introduced us on Twitter!
    Sue the Desperate Housemommy recently posted..Mom’s Peanut Butter Pie

       0 likes

    Reply
    • Amy Vansant

      Thanks so much for stopping by! Can’t wait to imagined the puzzled look on people’s faces when they read this and see: “So glad Naked Girl introduced us!” 🙂

         0 likes

      Reply
  10. Angela Scott

    Oh this brings back memories! I loved making mixed tapes. (My husband still has the one I made him when we were dating–we have no way to play it now, but he still owns it).

    I remember when CD’s came out and I just wasn’t ready to jump on board that change. I LOVED my cassettes. I too still have a box of cassettes in our storage. You just can’t get rid of memories like that.

    Thanks for sharing this post. So fun to read.

       0 likes

    Reply
    • Amy Vansant

      Yeah good question. How do kids “court” now? You can’t make mix ipod shuffles for each other legally…oh, but I guess legally never bothered us at that age.

         0 likes

      Reply
      • Name

        hack? linux?
        Why can’t you ‘upload’ to an ipod?

           0 likes

  11. jeane

    What an awesome journey down memory lane! Sadly, I no longer have any of my mixed tapes…how I wish I did. Honestly think that waiting for the song to play, the announcer to stop talking, and hitting the record button at the perfect time were the only lessons in patience I ever understood. The instant gratification of today has killed that and maybe also just a touch of the excitement. But thank you for bringing it all back!
    jeane recently posted..Why don’t men go to the restroom together? I’ve got the answer and it’s a bang!

       0 likes

    Reply
    • Name

      Bah, you kids have it so easy. When we were kids we had to harvest wax from the hives of the Giant Killer Bees that Ate Buenos Aires, then form the bloodstained wax into cylinders. Then… I forget the rest.
      But you kids have it too easy.

         0 likes

      Reply
  12. Carrie - Cannibalistic Nerd

    Wow. I loved reading this. I taped a lot off of radio the same way – holding the recorder up to the radio. I distinctly remember recording “Let the Music Play” for a slumber party.

    And I will now replace the word “listen” with “use” for all times. Simon and Garfunkel, yeah, I use them all the time.
    Add your Twitter:

       0 likes

    Reply
  13. maggie

    I think I’m in love with you now. Just saying.
    I have a few tapes still kicking around. I made a ridiculous number of mix tapes when I went to work in France. I was afraid there’d be only french music on the go and I’d go insane.
    I remember my brother and I trying to make our own soundtracks to our favourite video games… like, literally recording with the tape recorder while we were playing when ‘good’ ‘songs’ came on. Those were some shit tapes, I will now admit. . .
    maggie recently posted..If I had three dollars for every time someone asked. . . Do Your Ears Hang Low?

       0 likes

    Reply
  14. top

    Wow, incredible weblog format! How lengthy have you been running a blog for? you made blogging glance easy. The whole glance of your site is great, let alone the content material!

       0 likes

    Reply
  15. Ermelinda

    Hi blogger, i found this post on 15 spot in google’s search results.
    I’m sure that your low rankings are caused by hi bounce rate.
    This is very important ranking factor. One of the biggest reason for high bounce rate is due to visitors hitting
    the back button. The higher your bounce rate the further down the search results your posts and pages will
    end up, so having reasonably low bounce rate is important for improving your rankings naturally.
    There is very useful wp plugin which can help you.
    Just search in google for:
    Seyiny’s Bounce Plugin
    Ermelinda recently posted..Ermelinda

       0 likes

    Reply
  16. Name

    I have homemade mix tapes, but they ‘most valued’ are more like dj/producer tapes – screwed * samples.
    I liked some ’embarrassing’ recordings when about 12 and even when 16, but some still seem good. I still like good well-produced pop. Bacharach (walk on by, say a little prayer), Herman’s hermits (the stuff we hear via our parents, sibling, etc.) but even the rolling stones and tribe called quest made good pop in that they released good stuff.
    Luckily, my parents were/are not fundies, but some lyrics – when discernible – were potentially embarrassing.

    I sporadically have downloaded the audio of youtube vids. Recently, Google seems to have deliberately slightly broken the recordings. the time skips or something. (or maybe the audio is super weak on this laptop?)

       0 likes

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge