10 Things I Never Knew About Cassettes

The cassette turns 50 this year and in case you haven’t noticed, there’s an attempt to resurrect it in the same way vinyl is enjoying new life (cf. Cassette Store Day, which is coming up next Saturday.  Good luck with that.)

It was 1963 when the people from Philips unveiled a new tape format at a radio exhibition in Berlin. As a music nerd obsessed with history (including the history of how we consume music), I found this article in The Guardian fascination.  Examples:

1.  The first pre-recorded cassettes appeared in North America in 1966. Among the first artists to release albums this way was Johnny Mathis, Nina Simone and Eartha Kitt.

2.  The first portable cassette player also came out in 1966, some 13 years before the Walkman.

3.  Island Records once issued a tape edition of Boy with the full album on side one and nothing on side two.  The insert read “One side what you like. One side whatever you like.”

4.  SFX Cassette was a magazine that was issued on cassette for a brief time in 1981. Think of it as an ancient forerunner of the podcast.

5. Sony discontinued the cassette Walkman in 2010 (well, in most parts of the world).  The last-ever production vehicle to offer a cassette in the dash was the 2013 Lexus SC430 convertible.

6.  Cassettes were vital in spreading banned rock music throughout the Soviet bloc.  Plenty of music was smuggled in by taping over officially approved government music.

7.  The fact that we can rip CDs and trade legal MP3s began with a guy named Alan Sugar who took on the British Phonographic Institute and won.

8.  One of the biggest cassette bootleggers of live shows was known as Big Al, who offered tapes for sale along Portobello Road and in Camden Market in the 80s.  If he went to a show, you could buy tapes of that gig from Big Al the day after.

9.  Cassingles (cassette singles) can be very collectible.

10.  Chillwave was inspired by the sound of cassettes.

There’s more, too.  Read the whole article here.

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