Saturday Deluxe / 27 July 2019

The damned dirty tape

Media coverage this week informed us that ‘UK Cassette Sales Up 94% In First Half Of 2019‘. Yep, amazingly, 35,000 tapes were sold in the first six months of this year, which apparently accounts for 0.2 percent of total album sales in the UK.

What do we think about this? It’s a bit of a weird one. Reviving the cassette tape seems much more contrived than the current vinyl ‘boom’. Labels are creating special ‘coloured’ cassettes, putting them in special bundles in artist stores with vinyl and CDs, inserting them into super deluxe edition box sets and hoping that curiosity, nostalgia and perhaps some kind of kitsch appeal will tempt buyers. You could say that tapes are like the Polaroid camera of the audio world… vaguely cool, but slightly pointless when you can take now 12 megapixel photos on your mobile (and of course play hi-res audio on the same device).

I must confess I used to LOVE tapes. In the 1980s, it was my format of choice. I would buy pre-recorded tapes (not vinyl), spend pocket money on TDK AD and SA90s and tape albums lent by friends at school (that Art of Noise cassette in the main image is one of my old tapes) and make my own compilations (or ‘mixtapes’ as no one in the UK called them). I would be a nerd and fill in the ‘technical details’ on the back of the card insert when I created compilations, pretending I was Geoff Emerick in Abbey Road (or something).

Far from ‘killing’ music, the cassette tape nurtured my love for it and set up me as a ‘consumer’ who has since spent a ludicrous amount of money over the years on CDs, vinyl and the hi-fi kit to play it on. Indeed, my dad once warned me (via the medium of shouting very loudly) that I’d ‘end up in jail’ if I kept up my level of music spending in the early 1990s, because I’d never be able to pay off my credit cards. Reader, I didn’t (end up in jail, that is).

As well as ill-advised spending that often prioritised music above, er, food, I’d do other stupid things. For example, I went travelling in America in the summer of 1989 and I had one suitcase full of clothes and another suitcase full of tapes. I’m not joking. I had an entire suitcase to accommodate my love for music and make the journeys on the Greyhound bus bearable. Travelling light wasn’t my thing. I actually had a Yamaha portable keyboard with me too, for ‘songwriting’ (but that’s another story).

That’s the thing, the cassette tape gave us so much, when you think about it. It made music portable (in conjunction with the Sony Walkman), helped you woo that girl or boy you had your eye on by way of an oh-so-cool compilation and enabled you to grow your collection exponentially thanks to those tape-to-tape machines and their ‘high-speed dubbing’! You could even start your own band and use standard tapes in £250 portastudios and record four-track demos!

Basically, cassettes rocked! So if anyone was going to speak up for tapes it would be me. But this relationship didn’t have a Hollywood ending. In the early 2000s I chucked out all my compilations and gave most of my pre-recorded cassettes to charity. I hung on to my collection of cassette singles for rarity/sentimental reasons but it was basically ‘adieu’. Tapes were dumped and I was in a new relationship with mini-discs (a bit of a one-night stand, that one). I’d been ‘seeing’ CDs for ages too.

The Sharp QT90 (there was a white QT89 too). Click image to enlarge

A few years ago I had to actually buy a cassette player because Sam Brown had given me a shoebox full of her old demo tapes which I had to listen to as part of the research for what became The A&M Years box set. And what I discovered is that no one seems to make any decent ones anymore. There are no ‘high end’ players. The only brand new model I could find was made by TEAC. I bought it and was unimpressed. It was around £250 and didn’t even have Dolby. Apparently Dolby no longer license their noise reduction system for cassette tape manufacturers, so there you have it. The TEAC machine felt average and plasticky. I kept my Sharp QT90 tape player from the 1980s and everything about my old machine seems much better, especially in terms of build quality (see image above).

So what are people playing tapes on in 2019? Are they even playing them at all? Some of them don’t even come with download codes, so if you haven’t got the kit, they are about as useful as those marbles in the Pink Floyd box sets.

In summary, with no quality hardware to play them on in the marketplace, a record industry basically chasing a fad (with no guarantee of future product) and ultimately the general shortcomings of the tape as a ‘music delivery device’ in 2019, I’m not really tempted to embrace cassette buying. I have wonderful memories of buying and listening to music on that format 30 odd years ago, but as the saying goes, you can’t reheat a soufflé.

Instead of pissing around with tapes, maybe the industry could do things like… I don’t know… release more music on CD. Why revive a format that sells sod all, when you could spend those marketing dollars and pounds on ensuring the best selling format at this moment in time – the CD – doesn’t decline. That’s seems like a much better idea to me.

182 responses to Saturday Deluxe / 27 July 2019

    • David says:

      Paul – thank you for posting my comment… it (now) occurs to me that because it is a Telegraph “premium” article that some people might encounter problems trying to open the link… if anyone out there wants to read it but can’t, please say so and when my quota of free access articles is reset in the next few days I will copy / paste the article and post it… it’s a good column and is a nice complement to Paul’s column on cassettes. And if anyone else can post it sooner than I can please do so. David

      • David says:

        Success! Here is the “premium” story from the August 1, 2019 edition of The Telegraph, copied and pasted…

        Cassette tapes are a dire way to listen to music – who on earth is still buying them?

        Stuart Heritate, The Telegraph
        1 AUGUST 2019

        I once stayed in the presidential suite of an old Estonian hotel. My favourite thing about the place was the way that it seemed to have been frozen in time at the precise moment that Estonia gained its independence from Russia. The windows were old and creaky. The meticulously updated editions of Who’s Who abruptly cut off at 1991. And best of all, the entertainment system contained a tape deck.

        We laughed about it at the time – “What else will we find? A kerosene lamp?” – but now I’m starting to think that it might have been the hippest hotel I ever stayed in. Because apparently the hot new music format of the decade is, you guessed it, the cassette.

        The Official Charts Company just breathlessly announced that more cassettes have been sold in 2019 than in any year since 2004. Which, let’s be perfectly clear, is still not that many cassettes. Even during this much-hyped renaissance, tape sales only actually account for 0.2% of all album sales in the country. And the biggest seller so far – Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep – has only shifted a measly 4,000 copies.
        Still, there is only one correct response to this news; what the hell do you people think you’re playing at? Tapes? Tapes, for crying out loud? Listen, cassettes were the defining format of my youth. I’m 38; a bit too young for vinyl, slightly too old for CDs.
        When I first got into music, it was tapes or nothing. And let me tell you this: I have absolutely no nostalgia for cassettes whatsoever.

        How could I? Tapes were terrible. They took up too much room. They sounded useless. They were prone to vomiting spools of their own guts up all over the insides of your tape player without warning. They’d get chewed up and break. Arguably worst of all, they didn’t let you skip songs. God, the man-hours I must have wasted suffering silently through endless half-baked filler tracks.

        Hand on heart, if I’d bundled up all the time I wasted sitting through Parklife’s Far Out and used it constructively, I’m fairly certain that cancer would no longer be a thing.

        I have a horrible feeling that the cassette resurgence has something to do with the vinyl revival. But the thing is that vinyl is actually quite good. Buy an album on vinyl and you’re presented with the best possible version of its cover art, and you have to treat it with enormous care to even listen to it. There’s a ritual to vinyl that will never stop being endearing; a hushed respect dictated by the fragility of the format.

        But what’s the ritual with a tape? There isn’t one. You get a tape, you try and open its poxy jammed-up case, you throw it in a tape deck and force it shut, you have to spend two minutes rewinding it to the beginning because last time you listened to it you got bored halfway through track six. The whole thing was a colossal pain in the nuts.

        Listen, we live in an age where every song that’s ever been recorded is permanently available to everybody in an instant. Want to listen to an old classic? A long-forgotten favourite? Vanishingly obscure Bolivian political folk-funk from the mid 1970s? It’s all there for you, all the time. To achieve even a fraction of a tenth of a percentage of that with tapes, you’d need to effectively mummify yourself with dozens of tape bandoliers and strut about the place like a crap plastic Rambo. What’s the point?

        Besides, who even has a tape deck? Where do you buy them? I bought a CD three years ago that I still haven’t listened to because I haven’t got a CD drive in my house, so God knows how long it’s been since I last saw a tape deck. A decade? More? I don’t even know what I’d do if I saw one any more. Try and toast a sandwich in it, probably.

        That said, and I really do hate to admit this, I can sort of see the appeal of cassettes.
        The sheer old-fashioned stupidity of them meant that you were forced to consume albums in the way they were intended to be heard. Since you couldn’t skip through tracks, it meant that you really had to work on an album; you had to chew over the songs you didn’t like again and again until you were finally able to appreciate them for what they were.

        It might have taken me 200 listens to Sgt Pepper before I stopped hating Within You Without You, but now it might be my favourite song on the album. Without the Stockholm Syndrome forced upon me by the cassette, I might still hate it now.

        And, really, what was more romantic that a mixtape? The sheer effort that went into making one – even if you were rich enough to afford high-speed dubbing – was monumental. You had to get 20 different albums lined up in the right place, before manually starting and stopping the deck over and over again and writing the name of the song as legibly as you could in a genuinely minuscule space.

        You can throw a Spotify playlist together in a matter of seconds, but a mixtape? That was a full day’s work. I maintain that there is no greater act of love that a homemade C90 mixtape.

        So I get it. I do. In an era of permanent availability, a cassette feels like a small act of rebellion, a tiny anchor against the unstoppable tide of progress. If you’re one of the people who’ve caused the resurgence of the tape, you have my respect. Just know that I will never join because tapes are rubbish and I’m not an idiot.

  1. Jules(Rules) says:

    I’m still using tapes for recording stuff off the radio, but I really don’t like them anymore… they take up too much space, and when something goes wrong, often the entire machine gets damaged.

    Selling tapes is a bit of a strange idea, making music available exclusively on tape is a horrible idea!

  2. Griffin says:

    Thank you Paul S. sharing your story. Hahaha…me too, making mixtapes back in those days. Cassette was much smaller (than LP and single). You can carry around playing on walkman (they were getting smaller and smaller, not much bigger than the cassette case itself). Also there were many nice cassette packagings. I especially like the (maxi) cassette singles. Before the CD album/single came along. I think people like the idea: finally they can compile their own collection of music on 1 place/cassette. I also went on with the mini disc after cassette. Are there really so many cassettes sold these days. I also think record companies should really put out the “music” that we want (unreleased from the vault or previously released but not on CD nor widely available) instead of keep re-releasing the standard album (remastered or not) in the different formats again, again and again. Do better job with the super deluxe edition, expanded, remastered projects? Make no mistakes, don’t butcher tracks by fading them early, offering replacement discs would be much appreciated. I haven’t read all others’ posts yet.

  3. Eric says:

    Like everyone else, I had a huge collection of cassettes that were mainly copied bootlegs of concerts folks had recorded and records i wanted copies of without having to buy more than a blank. In addition to killing off my vinyl collection, CDs finally did in my cassettes … flash forward 2 decades and I find a box hiding out in my parents basement filled with tapes that I’d somehow forgotten about… I transferred their contents digitally to my music server. Good times.

  4. SimonP says:

    After some Smashing Pumpkins came on in the car I remembered that I’d (sort of) recently purchased a cassette, as one of their reissues from a few years ago had a tape in the box. Think it was Pisces Iscariot. I’ve never listened to it and can’t recall what it has on it.

    Amusing cassette story: many years ago I used to frequent a pub and a chap used to go in there as well and nearly always had Walkman headphones on. My mates and I always used to ask him what he was listening to because it was usually hilarious to us half cut yoofs. He once spent a few weeks listening to a big box of blank tapes he’d bought at a car boot sale to make sure they were indeed blank and on another occasion he was listening to some cassettes containing recordings of his narrowboat’s engine because he suspected it had an occasional misfire!

    Chug chug chug chug chug…

  5. Patrick says:

    Cassettes are often utilised by underground artists and labels to get music out there cheaply. We seem to have returned to the days of the late seventies/eighties cassette underground. Previously these kind of artists were favouring CDR which now does not seem so attractive.
    Another plus of the format is that because it has a more limited appeal artists releasing music in this way can guarantee that people who do buy it are probably hardcore music fans who intend to properly engage with the music. Another aspect that supports this side of the listening experience is that tapes are not so good for skipping tracks so it discourages that.
    But yes for Kylie and so forth its appeal is mainly novelty/collectable.

    Slightly different subject. About 12 years ago an Oxfam near me had a large selection of tapes that I got into buying. I randomly picked up a signed copy of ‘Pipes of Peace’ by Paul McCartney which no-one had spotted. I was low on cash at the time so sold it. I got £175 if memory serves me correct. I suspect I might have got a bit more had I dug a bit deeper but as I explained I was strapped for cash at the time.

  6. Joe T. says:

    I still have that Hue & Cry cassette pictured in the photo packed up somewhere. Wasn’t it an extra that came with a 7″ or 12″ single and entitled “Shake & Shoogie”, with a version of “Shipbuilding” on it?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      That was the single before ‘I Refuse’. The cassette of that was called ‘The Shuggie and Shout’ cassette and was indeed given away with the seven-inch single. The one pictured is Labour of Love which you could buy as a format on its own. I do have both. Incidentally, fact fans, Sam Brown sings backing vocals on the original version of I Refuse (I say original because she isn’t on the remake which was reissued).


  7. Daveyman 1968 (Daveyman19) says:

    Great article and I must say for me cassettes hold very special memories for me and still do.

    As for the here and now, cassette albums are one of my biggest sellers on Ebay at the moment – sold a rare Aphex Twin to a collector in Japan who paid £65 for it I kid you not – i’m posting out parcels every other day and most are cassettes and cassette singles!

    But as for a being a viable format again… why not, everyone said vinyl was definately dead in the mid to late 90’s and look where we are with that format now!

  8. Pablo says:

    Related to Paul’s last thought on this post regarding CD decline… just learnt today that the archive label Numero Group has decided to discontinue the CD format for their future projects. They have a great sale going on (in case anybody is interested) but, from my point of view, this is really sad news and another sign of what we might expect going forward (hopefully I am wrong). Cheers from Spain

  9. Joe says:

    I got back into cassettes about 2 years ago when I purchased a used Lexus that had, low and behold, a working cassette deck. Found a bag of my old cassettes in the garage and started playing some of my favorite ones. I then went on a full OOP Ryko Bowie kick and after 3-4 months secured the whole catalog. These sound absolutely amazing on tape. Dave Live is a scorcher on tape. I don’t care what anybody says I love the sound of these. I have all of them on CD but prefer to listen to them in my car on cassette.

  10. Phil Abbott says:

    Well timed article from my point of view as I bought a stack of Technics separates from a charity shop for 20 quid last week, including a really nice tape deck with dolby b, c and dbx. Got it hooked up over the weekend, bought a pack of Maxell blanks and am spending this evening recording a bunch of Howard Jones 7 & 12 inches which I hardly ever play due to constant changing of the records. Got a stack of Level 42 to do next. Feels like 1985 again!

  11. John says:

    I sometimes used to get fished in to buying an album on cassette (as well as vinyl occasionally) due to the extra tracks which I guess was the marketing team’s intent.

    Big Country ‘The Crossing’ probably my favourite example with the 12″ mixes and a couple of B sides thrown in. Good times.

  12. Andrew Lindsay says:

    Beautifully written piece Paul
    Staggering amount of comments too
    Think you should submit it to the one of the Sunday papers… deserves a wide audience
    My twopennyworth….
    Two years ago I managed to sell over 900 cassette – mostly SA and AD for the princely sum of £35 on eBay. I was just happy that someone wanted them and that they avoided landfill. Most were tape trades of live shows… the space now occupied by Dime and Traders Den
    The ones I kept were recordings of radio shows from 1970 and 1971… Alan Black and Bob Harris mostly
    A treasured moment when Please Call Home (ABB), 409 (Beach Boys) and Living in the USA (Steve Miller) were played back to back. A formative moment.

  13. Tim says:

    Strangely enough, I spent a happy couple of hours on Sunday morning recording the recent Public Service Broadcasting appearance from the BBC Proms onto an old TDK SA90 on my Denon cassette recorder – No Dolby applied (that’s the only way to fly…). It sounds absolutely astonishing.

    I can’t see myself rushing out to buy a new release on tape anytime soon but you underestimate the sonic qualities of a good cassette recorder at your peril…

  14. Dennis Cattell says:

    I have a TEAC twin cassette deck recorder/player as part of my hi-fi separates, and I’m more than satisfied with it! It’s above my CD player/recorder deck, and below the digital radio tuner and the amplifier. I bought it a while ago from Richer Sounds and they still sell such units, here’s a link:
    Oh, and go to eBay, search for ‘blank cassette tapes’, there’s lots of market sellers still selling blank cassette packs, unused, shrink wrapped, brands such as Maxell, Sony, Fuji, etc. I buy them to record off the radio; comedy shows, concerts etc. And maybe the occasional mix tape!

  15. Shane says:

    Tom, Björk has already reissued her albums on cassette. They look great actually. But i resisted. I had to draw the line.

  16. torchomatic says:

    I wasn’t a fan in the 80s. It has always been vinyl for me although I did go through a CD phase, I was never stupid enough to sell my vinyl. The only time I bought tapes was for the car and then I only tended to buy those from my favourite artists, particularly as many of them tended to have lots of extras on. I have kept a few with Pete Shelley’s XL-1 being my favourite, with its Spectrum program and a whole side of remixes.

    Tapes. Seems all a little pointless nowadays, easily damaged.

  17. Paul Brettell says:

    As others have mentioned there have been some interesting cassette only releases.

    Wonder if any remembers Chimp Eats Banana? They put ou out a wonderful alternative to PILs metal box, calling it Cardboard Box, basically a shoebox with a tape and various bits and pieces inside. I found the tape the other day but alas the rest of the packaging long lost. They became Chumbawumba apparently.

    Biggest problem with tape was always hiss (whatever noise reduction was used it always seemed to take something away but otherwise could sound great, assuming it was an ‘oxygen’ cassette as John Shuttleworth would say).

    Still got heaps of old stuff off the radio on tapes, John Peel of course, and got a nice BBC radiophonic workshop ‘must be a weapon’ broadcast?

    Not sure I’d be keen to buy any new ones though.

  18. SimonP says:

    I took all my cassettes, video and audio to the dump ages ago and a couple of fellas were aghast at my throwing boxes and boxes of pre and self recorded tapes in the big skip. I then had to tell these poor sods I still had another load to collect back home!

    Weirdly, though, I kept the audio recorders (the VHS ones went to the tip as well) along with a few cassingles, probably for reasons listed previously i.e they had exclusive mixes on. I don’t actually know where they are now…

  19. Paul Mac says:

    If I had a quid for every time I hand unwind my cassette copy of The Wall by hand in order to get it to play…..

    On a side note, work donated a Walkman Pro to me a couple of years ago rather than throw it out. First time I saw a Walkman with a built-in speaker.

  20. Paul M says:

    I became aware of music and grew up in the late 70s and 80s so I suppose there is some nostalgia attached to cassettes and vinyl. My parents had a fair few of both and my Dad made his own compilations of things. Then there’s the handful of tapes we had in the car which accompanied almost every journey.

    The first music I owned myself was on 7″ vinyl and cassette (including bootleg tapes bought on holiday in Malta). Even when I switched to CD in 1990 I continued to buy singles on vinyl since I thought a CD single was a silly idea.

    But I haven’t bought anything on cassette or vinyl in at least 20 years and I don’t plan to start again now. Too many unspooling tapes getting mashed in the tape player and too much warped and wobbly thin vinyl for me to buy on anything other than CD now.

    I do vaguely understand the vinyl revival even though I think it’s pretty odd. The cassette revival is just bizarre.

    I guess ultimately we are all being pushed towards Spotify etc so we can have our data scraped and become the target of marketing of music as a commodity. And that way someone is making money, although not the artists (as far as I know).

    My kids don’t seem to have the attention span to listen to even a whole song never mind a whole album. I guess when I’m gone my 1000s of CDs will be landfill.

  21. adam shaw says:

    I’ve still got my Denon tape machine wired up to my amp and a mini disc player .
    Last year I started going through my old tapes and found a few surprises like Genesis live from Earls Court 76 recorded from a live Capitol Radio broadcast hosted by Nicky Horne , brilliant quality so was transferred to my iTunes immediately! Also the Denon has Dolby C , which I think was standard on 1980s decks . But don’t agree with cassettes in new box sets ie Jarre best of last year . Cd was made for his music so why degrade it .

  22. Michel Bendichou says:

    Pointless spending serious sums on a cassette playback device when the medium is badly flawed. If you really want a serious machine, Dragons are still available on ebay for North of £2k.

    Reel to reel? Well, that’s another story..

  23. Graham says:

    The problem with these “sales figures” is it is never clear how many were people going “I’d like to buy a tape, please”, and how many are “I’d like to buy some CDs/DVDs/BluRays… oh, and I guess that comes with a tape”. The same issue applies to vinyl – certainly I have near zero interest, but have bought a number of albums over the years because they came with silver discs I wanted. I suspect the number of “accidental” purchases for tapes is far higher than for vinyl.

    Clearly vinyl has a following, as the stand alone vinyl does sell. Is the same true of tape? How would we know?

  24. Eric says:

    What kind of hipster nonsense is this? Did one of them have too many deconstructed smashed avocardo lattes and decide it’s now a thing? I’m still to understand the resurgence of vinyl, but this? This is the hipster equivalent of the crusties (the punks that took it one step further when once that movement became popular). “So you collect vinyl, do you? I collect cassettes…”

  25. martin farnworth says:

    The notion of buying cassette’s being vaguely cool should only be applied (if at all) to those under 25. If it were me buying I’d be a sad old git for doing so. I say though give the record buying public what they want! All 0.2% of them or whatever it is.

  26. Wayne Olsen says:

    What a fantastic article! I got my first cassette player for Christmas 1970 and all things must pass and tommy were my first tapes. I taped stuff off tv and radio of course but I loved like everyone else making my own mix tapes. Blank tape is hard to find now but I hope that changes soon.
    I drove to California from NJ with my best friend and 30 cassettes in 1977. So now of course I always think of Wyoming when I hear Station to Station.
    I’m up for a cassette return. Anything but downloads!

  27. Schu says:

    I loved cassettes. Convenience, portability, mixtapes, no clicks/pops, I bought cassettes instead of records (usually) in the 70’s/80’s to play in the car and on the walkman. I still have all of my hundreds of albums, singles, mixtapes as they have great sentimental value.

    However, I started buying CD’s in the late 80’s. Once cars started coming with CD players and portable players worked like cassette walkmans there was no reason for casettes anymore. Every plus of cassettes was bettered by CD’s.

    Now that I can digitize CD’s and play on phone or music players, I see zero reason to go back to cassettes. At least with vinyl you can claim a preference for the audio quality. I think this is a limited stretch for the music industry to try and make some additional money.

    The quantities of releases are limited as it is, and this movement will probably die sooner than later.

  28. Tony O says:

    coming late to the thread but cassettes are the fast growing music section on ebay for the last 18 months

  29. Simcox says:

    Dolby B incoming……

  30. Toby says:

    Wonderful read Paul. Tapes seem pointless now, but were fundamental for me in their day. The endurance and resulting portability was key for music on the move. Digging into the glove compartment and jamming the next one into the car as you rocked down the motorway. CDs would never have survived. Those compilations live to this day! I particularly love your anecdote about the suitcase of tapes. I went backpacking through the 90s with a disproportionate amount of my weight in tapes. A pitiful amount of music that was deeply treasured and framed life.

  31. Alan B says:

    Sorry but I don’t get the love-in for cassettes. I will say that back in the 80s and 90s I used to play my vinyl once (the only way to keep vinyl in true mint condition is not to play it) and record it on to tape and would play the tape each time I wanted to hear the music. It was good at the time because there was no other alternative to record your music. As soon as mini disc came out I switched to that and then to CDR. It was so annoying when tapes jammed in the players.

    But from a collecting point of view I hated them and still do. I never bought an album on tape but I did buy cassette singles which often contained other unavailable versions of songs (the completest in me). There was a point when every single release had to come in cassette form in order to be chart eligible. I wonder how many would have been released if they weren’t forced into issuing them?

    As has been mentioned a lot of new releases today come in tape versions, but usually bundled with a signed CD or LP. You can’t get the signed version without the cassette. The current 1975 album is a case in point. I eventually sold my cassette version of that on Ebay for less than I paid for it. It struggled to sell. Again I ask how many would be sold if offered for sale as a stand alone release?

    In terms of sound quality the cassette is bottom of the pile and from a personal point of view so is its collectability. But each to their own.

  32. Doug says:

    A few thoughts on cassettes:
    1) I was surprised one day to find a difference between the cassette and CD versions of Joni Mitchell’s Turbulent Indigo. There was way more bass on the cassette version which I assumed had been re-EQ’d to compensate for possibly/sometimes being played on less-than-hi-fi equipment and smaller tinnier-sounding speakers. Of course this meant that when played on a decent enough hi-fi, or even a ‘boom box’, the bass would be exaggerated. Not sure how widespread a practice this was.
    2) Although some players had a facility to fast forward to the next track (by detecting the next gap between songs), listening to cassettes usually meant listening to the album (or at least one side) as a whole which, I confess, I often don’t do with CDs as I can easily skip tracks I don’t like.
    3) I was often annoyed by the record company swapping tracks around on the cassette version of an album so that both sides of the tape were roughly the same length (even on Beatles albums – sacrilege!). Presumably this was done to save you having to avoid hurting your finger from pressing the fast forward button! Worse still was some tracks being FADED OUT at the end of side 1 and then FADED IN at the start of side 2 to facilitate the same ease of turn over, e.g. ABBA (self-titled 1975 album) and Duncan Mackay’ Score album.

  33. Tom says:

    Great article. I don’t necessarily agree with everything you said but it’s a discussion worth having. I’m not sure how much of the cassette revival will catch on, but I have to say I have delved back into cassettes more than I have into vinyl. Most of the new vinyl I own is because it comes as part of the super deluxe box set (ie. Fleetwood Mac, Adam Ant).

    I found a Panasonic portable cassette player in a thrift shop and the sound is fantastic. Great bass. I like the interactive part of listening, flipping the tape over (although this particular model has auto-reverse).

    In thrift shops, I’ve also been able to find a lot of rare ’80s soundtracks either not released on CD or very rare on CD (The Golden Child, Two of a Kind, Something Wild, Secret of My Success).

    I saw Madame X being sold separately as a cassette. But I still don’t see a lot of brand new albums being sold in stores in cassette format. Urban Outfitters releases some limited edition cassettes like the 20th anniversary of Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Billie Eilish’s album. I’m looking forward to the reissue of Bjork’s albums on cassettes.

    It’s still thrift shops for me.

  34. Nick says:

    A New Pre Recorded Tape costs £6.00 – £10.00 or so…..

    A New LP Can cost £20.00, £30.00, £40.00 or even More – as Money is getting tighter and tighter everywhere i think people may well opt to buy Cassettes for a fiver or so as opposed to Vinyl….

    I collect and always have since 1981 – Both Vinyl and Cassette Tapes (Never CDs)
    Most of My Collection is on Vinyl – Maybe 5% of my collection is Tape but strangely I have only 1 Turntable set up and 3 Cassette Decks set up – a Nakamichi CR-2E, a Pioneer CT-F950 and a Pioneer CT-F600 – Cassettes are just so handy and cheap now as compared to LPs ….. I Hope it’s not a temporary fad but a full on revival….

  35. Michael says:

    Some nostalgia for cassettes, but more bad memories. Almost without fail, my tapes would get chewed up inside the gears of the tape deck, or the the sprocket-wheels inside the cassette would get jammed, requiring use of a pencil or screwdriver to force the sprocket-wheels loose, only to jam up again on the second or third play. These problems occurred even with my regular use of tape head cleaners, demagnetizers and the like. Cassettes seemed to require more maintenance than vinyl records, and had a shorter life span!!

    One by one, my tapes became unplayable, and I got tired of throwing them into the dustbin, so I gave up on this format and started my collection all over again with the new, virtually indestructible, compact disc. History has taught me, and I have no interest in collecting cassette tapes ever today!

  36. CraigH says:

    I still buy tapes, but only old ones to fill gaps in the collection. I use a Sony Walkman Quartz DD22 hooked up to the cd player, fully refurbed and tapes sound as good as any CD or record.
    All bar a couple of tapes bought it my youth all still play fine. However I haven’t bought a new release on tape since I switched to CDs long ago and issuing new albums in this format doesn’t make much sense to me, particularly as most companies seem to hardly be arsed even with CDs these days which are still by far the dominant physical format despite what hipsters claim.
    About 90% of my new purchases are CD with the rest being records, I don’t anticipate new tapes ever being added to that mix for me.

  37. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Star says:

    A lot of love for cassettes !

  38. Mick says:

    Paul – Your comments on the MiniDisc (and the Pink Floyd marbles) gave me a laugh.

    I was a huge supporter of both MiniDisc and SACD. Both superior to standard CD IMHO. But their failure would best be a discourse saved for a later date.

    I grew up on records and tapes. As flawed as 8-tracks and cassettes are, I still loved them.
    Sadly – when I got my first CD player I figured everything else was now obsolete, and so sold many of my records and tapes. Thankfully I kept everything with the name “Beatles” on it – as well as select other LP’s and tapes. Also kept all of my coloured vinyl & picture discs. Today – I will only buy vinyl if it’s coloured or a pic disc. Been there, done that, and done with black vinyl. As for cassettes – yes – an odd resurgence…but it would have been even odder if 8-tracks made a comeback. Let’s just hope the marbles are gone for good.

  39. Sean says:

    Great article, Paul — I have to admit, my heart jumped when I opened the SDE email and saw that black TDK AD90 staring at me. (I was an SA90 guy myself, but honestly I don’t even know the difference between the two.) I never bought pre-recorded tapes if I could avoid it — it always felt like I wasn’t “really” buying the album if I didn’t get the LP — but I bought blank tapes by the truckload. There was a several year stretch where I’d buy a ten-pack almost every week — insane to think about it now.

    I still have my mid-90s Scott double tape deck — with Dolby B and C, dbx, hi-speed dubbing and auto-reverse thankyouverymuch. It still works like the day I got it, and I’ve actually gone through the trouble to digitize a bunch of favorite mix tapes (we DID call them that in the U.S.) to listen on my iPod, rather than the (much easier) process of just compiling playlists of the same songs from CDs. The 90-minute limit is still burned in my brain, and I refuse to let a playlist go over 90 minutes because that way you’re still forcing some kind of discipline and heart-breaking decision-making on yourself.

    I abandoned cassettes as soon as I was able to get a CD-RW drive and go to town editing, fading, segue-ing, and compiling my own CDs — but I have years of fond memories of my cassette listening days. And just as I sometimes digitize my vinyl and leave in all the surface noise for “atmosphere,” I’ve also on occasion added little tape-clicking sound effects to tracks in my playlists, just to tickle that little memory from my youth.

    • Anthony says:

      I believe TDK AD cassettes were Ferric (Iron oxide), SA was chrome and MA metal. I think AD was a better version of the D cassette and there were SA-X which was a better chrome cassette and other versions of the metal cassette. Later on they brought out CDing cassettes which I believe were chrome too.

      I recorded the vast majority of my record collection onto SA-X cassettes which I played to preserve the records. As a result, all of my records from the eighties sound great still!

  40. Kevin Galliford says:

    A lot of the late 80’s stuff like “Kick” & “Momentary lapse of reason” off the top of my head that I bought on cassette , also “Big thing” while I’m at it I then bought on CD later and then AGAIN when the reissue / repackage often no tacky badge came out so I won’t be thanking the cassette one bit. I’ll dig the 6 foot hole & bury them myself if you want . This cassette renaissance is bollocks & no one, collectively speaking has a tape player anymore & I’m damned if I’m buying these fkg albums a 4th time…

  41. Daniel Phillips says:

    My brother kindly gave me his rather nice Yamaha cassette player a number of years ago after my Technics became a bit unreliable and well, wobbly (flutter eh? Not pleasant), and coincidentally only just recently tapes have enjoyed a renaissance with me, but these are old tapes, 15 years+. Nothing but nothing on Earth would induce me to buy a new cassette when the amazing audio of vinyl or a 24 bit download is available….. Some things are perhaps best left somewhere down nostalgia lane…. But each to their own.

  42. Rodolfo Martin says:

    It is interesting to see that almost everyone in these post is talking about the memories that the cassettes are triggering. I bought some in the 70 because It was easy to understand that it was the most comfortable format to travel. I also recorded a lot off
    Stuff from radio station. Nobody here is saying that they sounded great. I understand the comeback of vinyl, even I do not buy, but cassettes were always a disadvantage for quality and the fear to know that the tape would cut or entangle sooner or later. Cassettes were great to record songs for the girl we were wishing to date, to help us look cool by the kind of music we liked. I don’t think that today’s best cassette sounds better than the average Spotify quality. I am still very attached to all the iPods I have (my nephew can’t believe that I use iPods) but when I am driving and playing my music I am the happiest man on earth. I think cassettes are attached to nostalgia, which I have nothing against but they have nothing to to do with sound quality. The hissing of tapes is still something I ever tolerate no matter the extra quality of the cassette tape with special materials and chemical treatments.

  43. Jeff says:

    Cassettes still rock! I enjoy playing cassettes and support the comeback. Now we need great decks. I own three decks — an AIWA, a JVC and a 480 Nakamichi.

    I love all forms of media except 8 track. The 8 tracks sounded amazing but there was a serious design flaw which causes most of them to fail.

    30 year old cassettes still sound great — if they were treated well.

    • Seikotsi says:

      I find only 50% of them play well. So I threw out half my collection and still enjoy the other half.

    • Nigel L Bevan says:

      My real addiction began with tapes, but vinyl was primary choice until I discovered it warped or scratched and had to change the stylus. Then CDs came and in the beginning they were a breath of fresh air. Until I realised they were jsjt duplicate copies of vinyl recordings.. Then CDs changed and remastering brought freshness to the music. It’s still my preffered audio choice and one we should keep going. It kept the industry afloat for 20 plus years.

      So tapes. Great gimmick and I would actually by them if someone would repair my Sony Walkman sports. Until that happens I’ll stick with CDs

  44. Calum McGregor says:

    cassettes … TDK to record Friday Rock Show (“TV on the radio” … Theme One by Van der Graaf for the Friday night connection, Dixie Dreggs at the top of the show, Bluesbreakers to finish) … great for recording the live sessions, bands at Reading, in concerts, etc UFO, Nazareth, Def Leppard’s first appearance, Judie Tzuke, etc … always a challenge to record 2 hours of for Yes from Wembley though ….

    Pre-recorded quality cassettes sucked … especially once my beloved Stranger in Town by Bob Seger got chewed up … that killed them dead for me …. CDs over vinyl anyday …

    • Brian Newby says:

      Those were the days
      Even you dixie dregs as my ringtone and as I now do heavy (Classic) rock disco’s use DD as the theme song too.
      When we do competitions guess what Theme One is used
      Heady days indeed.
      Moved all my cassettes of The Friday Rock Show and Fluff to minidisc and then to digital
      with hardly any degradation, although at 58 I probably can’t hear the nuances any more

  45. Gary C says:

    i have that Hue and Cry cassette somewhere I am sure. It has the SuperBaad Mix which is pretty good and a session version of Goodbye To Me. Windscreen is a pretty good B-side too

    Last cassette I bought was the last Teenage Fanclub album, which is excellent.

  46. Dan says:

    “Tapes were dumped and I was in a new relationship with mini-discs (a bit of a one-night stand, that one)”

    MiniDiscs are FANTASTIC – I still use them with a portable player/recorder and a full size deck.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      It didn’t help that my flat got broken into and some barsteward stole my mini-disc hi-fi separate. I had a pretty good mini-disc Walkman too – I’m not sure what happened to that…

    • Peter Bloy says:

      I love MiniDiscs. CDs I fell out of love with very quickly – mainly due to the fact that they tried but failed to replicate the vinyl cover art in a tiny format. But MiniDiscs were the future! Sadly it’s just you and me on this

  47. Stevie B says:

    I too bought most of my music on tape, as soon as an an affordable Walkman came out that was me. The great thing was you would get bonus tracks on the cassette versions of albums (King, Madonna, Bucks Fizz, Scritti Politti all spring to mind), I think I bought every Pet Shop Boys single on cassette to, again, you’d get basically the 12” single mixes only for half the price.

    I’m from Glasgow and worked in a bar so the ‘mixtape’ (someone in the U.K. did call them that) was a weekly ritual for me. I remember ‘You can dance’ cassette by Madonna being played a lot there when I bought it as a US import before it’s U.K. release.

    The cassette/Walkman kept the music industry alive, while free-ing music (illegally I grant) for those who’d been had by the music industry with its over inflated CD pricing and couldn’t buy into that format, and its legacy lives on in that iPhone you carry around to make unbearable tube journeys more bearable. ‍☠️

  48. DW says:

    You’ll never find a good new cassette deck because the ONE and ONLY remaining manufacturer of cassette deck mechanisms is “Tanashin”, known for being the cheapest and in every single cassette player still made today (and probably since at least the mid 2000’s). Listen to Techmoan’s rundown on this situation in his recent YouTube video where he reviews Aldi’s recent cassette boombox that’s entirely MONO!


  49. Julian J Hancock says:

    If, as is sometimes said, 50% of new vinyl never gets played, then it’s perhaps not surprising that some people buy cassettes.

  50. Florentino Stabile says:

    Hi Paul,
    What a nice piece. The cassette. It had its moments with me. I didn’t purchase many. However, I did have a double cassette deck in my sound system growing up and the station I listened and still do.. used to do classic concert series… so I would press record…. also when they would have their best 500 songs of all time weekends. I would be quick on the ready. I had a cassette deck in my old vehicle.. but more than one cassette would get tangled and it would be the end of it. For me vinyl is special… but since I have discovered CD’s.. I cannot let that format go. I am with you Paul… yes, they should release more music on CD.
    God bless you and thank you

  51. Lee says:

    Another shot at the Pink Floyd marbles. They are the gift that never stops giving.

  52. Theo says:

    I could go on for days about cassettes, both good and bad, but since i’ve kept all mine, and have bought a few here and there in recent years for a laugh, i spent some time trying to find a modern day player worth buying – the Tascam CD-A580 CD Player / Cassette Deck / USB Recorder.
    They’re a little overpriced I’d say, but, they play all three formats. Check the specs – I feel like a lot of readers here would be interested in a player like this that is still in production.


  53. DonnieBiscuits says:

    My older brother had the money and the records so anything I didn’t have got recorded onto a C90 and played back, sometimes on an oversized Sanyo ‘Walkman’.
    It was great when your favourite bands were on the 2 album level; one on each side was perfect. Third album was a bit of a pain but by then CDs were creeping in anyway.
    I still have a stack of cassette singles somewhere, I need to get them down and add them to discogs, I know some will be worth something, especially Madonna and DD.
    Not many albums but I do remember those strange 1+1 cassettes where you could record on the other side of a pre-recorded album. Great for B sides and extra tracks, maybe where the idea for SDE came from?

  54. Carl says:

    If you watch Techmoan on YouTube you will find that there is now only one maker of tape transport mechanism in the world, and they are the real bottom of the range and mono!,so even if you play through a stereo you get 2 mono.
    So it would seem that finding an old player on Ebay is the way ahead,personally I always hated them ,too much his.

  55. Justin Maguire says:

    I actually owned a white (more like cream coloured) QT89 tape deck. Bought it in mid 1980s to take to college. It only packed in a couple of years ago. Great quality and the speakers were detachable- very cool at the time. Managed to hook up a record player to it as well.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Apart from the colour, the only other difference – I think – was that the QT89 didn’t have a graphic equaliser.

  56. Adam says:

    A few bands I collect, Blossoms, Slow Readers Club, and Cats in Space, have all issued recent albums on cassette, and they’re always the ones that you can still pick up, months after release.

    • Seikotsi says:

      About 4 years ago I got a tape on Bandcamp from Satoshi Tomie. It was limited to 30
      Copies. It’s great music and good quality cassette. And it’s still available now in 2019.

  57. Joe says:

    there was a lot to be said for cassettes in the 80s. extended time meant albums like “songs from the big chair” had extra b-sides on cassette as some sort of buying incentive. there are even albums where cassettes are to this day, the ONLY format on which some tracks have been officially released. The The’s Soul Mining had five extra tracks on cassette which havent seen the light on CD. i have a player and there’s some joy in listening to old compilations i made. i religiously taped tracks off John Peel from about 1987. sure, i could find almost all obscure indie releases on YouTube now because someone somewhere has uploaded them. but maybe its more fun to listen to the old tapes as i would have heard them in my teenage years. listening to new music on cassette would just be weird. just the other day Louise was on the One Show promoting her album, and for curio value, they showed the formats including cassette on screen. seriously, who would actually buy that? in the 90s i worked in HMV and bought for the vinyl and cassette areas. vinyl was at a low point sales wise, but cassettes were still fairly marketable. basically if you were a student they were CHEAPER and a bit cooler than CDS. kids used to get caught nicking Prodigy cassettes because they were pocket size steals. that said i think they died by 2000. object fetishists only. CD was/is the logical digital solution for deluxe reissues. i know vinyl diehards will disagree, but i only buy old vinyl second hand for the artwork.

  58. David Parker says:

    Great article. I have no interest in cassettes now, but bought quite a lot of albums on cassette back in the ’80’s. In fact I’ve just started filling a few gaps in my collection, picking up CD’s that I only previously owned on old cassette tapes.
    I also used to enjoy making what are now reffered to as mixtapes, and would also collect cassette copies of any gigs I attended from record fairs – despite the quality of the recordings being poor in most cases.

  59. Malc says:

    Back in the day I used to have an Amstrad tower HiFi. If you gently moved the source knob halfway between vinyl and cassette you could record vinyl & cassette onto the 2nd cassette deck. I was very creative with that; making cassettes with dialogue from taped TV and records. My best one was a wonderful mashup of EastEnders dialogue and the Thompson Twins b-side ‘Rollover’! Nowadays, I publish chill out mixes on Mixcloud (with 10,000 followers) and I can credit the joy of this hobby directly back to those early days…

  60. AndyHaines says:

    There is only one manufacturer of cassette mechanisms left in the world in China and they make a very small selection of mechanisms so any company from high end to basic rubbish will have the same mechanism if it’s made today. No company will go to the effort of making their own for what is basically a fad!

  61. O(+> Peter B says:

    Remember how the cassette version of the singles compilation Standing On A Beach by The Cure filled side 2 with b-sides? That version should be reissued on CD: https://www.discogs.com/The-Cure-Standing-On-A-Beach-The-Singles-And-Unavailable-B-Sides-/release/11082728
    When the most recent Years & Years album, Palo Santo, came out my wife and I bought the deluxe CD and cassette. We bought a cassette boom box in Target (Australia). We haven’t played the cassette to this day. The plastic on the window bit is flimsy and not hard plastic.
    But I hope to convert my old tapes to mp3. After I’ve finally done my vinyl…

  62. Jurg says:

    I never bought pre-recorded cassettes. I started with vinyl but switched to CD’s. I sold most of my small vinyl collection because I thought everything would become available on the new format. But it seems that is not going to be so … . So a few years ago I started to buy vinyl again. Not the new, no, the old ones that never got a CD release (soundtracks, 12” singles, …) or a remastered CD release (the first CD releases sounded rather thin or the original mastertapes weren’t used etc…). But with a good remastering the CD is my favourite. I wish the format was a bit bigger. Why not release them in a 7” gatefold sleeve with the CD in the middle. So you can admire the artwork, text is readable, … .

  63. Robert says:

    Thanks, Paul! I remember how popular 8-Tracks and vinyl records were and then cassettes in the 1980’s before CD’s which are now all but done only to be resurrected likely only for nostalgia. I am and will always be a big fan of physical media – we are a dying breed and the thought of my estate giving away or throwing out my cherished rarities, such as Beck’s Sea Change on pink vinyl, Sigur Ros’s box set, or Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Session on four one-sided 45 rpm discs drives me nuts, but is a real possibility. None of my friends care about music anymore.

    I refuse to give streaming a chance for fear of realizing that my LP and CD collection are a complete waste of space and money. I recently re-discovered the glory of reel to reel tapes and have actually spent hours and hours in the past year making compilations of my favourite songs and artists. Unlike cassettes, the sound is often better and punchier than the original source, but it may just be my brain playing tricks on me.

    I adore collecting music but as I get older, I wonder whether it has just become a bad habit rather than anything worthwhile. After all, there is very little “new music” that I enjoy and that eleven different copies of OK Computer and Sgt. Pepper albums are on the verge of insane. Your article reminds me that these things seem to be cyclical but perhaps I have devoted a bit too much of my life on something pointless. Thanks a heap, Paul! :)

  64. Daniel says:

    My favorite was the cassette only Concert and Curiosity by The Cure. The Concert part was later released on CD but the Curiosity side has not surfaced in other forms to my knowledge. I listened to that tape SO much!!

  65. Lee Rosevere says:

    Nice article Paul.. back in the 80s, I hardly bought any pre-recorded cassettes..I thought the quality was inferior to vinyl, so I bought records and made my own tapes on my dad’s cassette deck.

    After surviving quite well on few Sony walkmans (these really were made well!) throughout the 80s. I bought my own Technics double-deck at Costco in the early 90s (still have it) and my fave brand was TDK SA90 and then moved to Sony UX, with Denon HD6 and HD8 for REALLY important jobs.

    I made even more mixtapes when CDs became more affordable, but I didn’t want to truck precious CDs around with me. I also made my own music on cassettes with my Tascam PortaStudio 424 mkii 4-track cassette recorder, and still works fantastically.

    However, I do have about 5-6 boxes full of pre-recorded tapes that I picked up super cheap over the years, and only recently gave away a bunch because I had the same albums on CD (and I still have all my mixtapes from the 80s and 90s even though I’m sure the oxide is gone)

    Couple of years ago I found a used store that had boxes and boxes of cassingles – all still sealed, all $1 each from 1988-1994. I bought most of them, because I had seen these titles in stores when they were released and wanted some, but thought it was ridiculous to pay $4 for a cassette with 2 songs.

    And currently I’m going through my ‘reliving early 90s pop radio’ phase & collecting those songs (The Triplet’s “You don’t have to go home tonight” for example) and owning it on *the* format of the day just has a nice nostalgic feeling.

    In fact, one of the cassingles I found was a song I had been searching over a decade for.. Longfellow’s “Powerdrive” (1991 version) so I was extremely happy.

    • ARidd says:

      I still have my 80’s cassette home recordings, and my Denon and Panasonic hibiscus cassette players, but daren’t even try to play any of them! Last time I tried was a few years ago and the Panasonic player started to chew up the tape (goodbye to Then Jericho’s Big Area) before I could stop it. A treasured unique Bowie recording on TDK metal cassette just started to break up last time I dared to play it – horror!!
      Home recordings on cassette often nurtured a lifetime love for music that the digital generations will never know – I still remember taking the single version of Bowie’s Loving The Alien and bolting the fabulous guitar ending from the album version onto the end of it – didn’t match at all well, but who cares! It’s what they should have done in the first place!

  66. DaveM says:

    Fond memories of cassettes, and some albums, for example the acoustis side of Wings Over America, John Lennon’s Walls and Bridges (especially Steel and Glass) have never sounded better to me than hearing them on head phones plugged into a Sharp tape deck. Also a lot of the early Joan Armatrading albums sounded great. They have never been bettered with subsequent remasters on CD or by the then available vinyl.
    They were great as a way to spread music with your mates and the artists I got into via that route, like ELO stayed with since.
    My first dabble with music though was via Reel to reel (thats how old I am) and I stuck with the format even into the CD age when you couldn’t initially buy singles, I would buy for example New Order 12″ singles and tape them straight onto R2R at a fast speed and it was just like hearing the virgin vinyl every time. Sounded fantastic.. A second hand R2R with some reels led me to a lifelong obsession with Elton John, as one of the reels had his Greatest Hits on.

  67. thomas solimine says:

    Hated cassettes but love making them for people. 0.2% tells me they are still not worth making.
    that number is inconsequential. if this was a sales number for your record store you would not stock them. enough said.

  68. DRRD says:

    CD is flawed for two reasons. The first and obvious reason is that it can be reproduced perfectly. The second flaw isn’t the one that’s usually touted (that 44.1/16bit PCM is a wholly inadequate format that sounds bad and was a bad idea from it’s very inception). The second flaw follows from the first; Digital material that goes out on even a single CD is essentially handed over to the public domain and therefore the record companies have no incentive whatsoever to put anything approaching the quality of the original studio recording onto a CD because they will be simply giving it away (‘forever’).
    People think CD can’t hold a candle to analogue in terms of sound quality. Wrong. The 44.1K/16bit material presented to consumers on the CD format is shit on purpose. The labels are prepared to put master quality material onto analogue formats only because they cannot be easily copied. In fact British conversion specialists like dCS and Prism sorted out the distortion issues related to correlated quantization error years ago. You can A-D-A-D multiple times with this gear at 44.1/16bit format and struggle to hear any difference from an analogue source at all. I’ve recorded my Beatles Mono vinyl at the CD standard with a dCS 902 that’s over twenty years old and the recordings sound like the vinyl, and way better than the 24 bit stuff from the label. I might post an ‘educational purposes’ YT video sometime to demonstrate this, it might even stay up for more than 5 minutes…
    Why shouldn’t labels put out cassettes? They can sound good (for a time) because the label will not intentionally cripple the sound. Any copying just degrades the quality and they won’t last of course so the label get some more money when the music is re-purchased.
    I think CD has just back-fired over time. It’s made the labels overly protective of the source material and made the general public think that recorded music sounds crap. I think this is now why alternatives like MQA are being persued so the labels can once again give people ‘music’ but on their own terms.

  69. Sebastian says:

    OMG Paul, I even did my own remixes with tapes cutting and pasting parts of the tracks, and I loved it, it took me so much time, but those times are kept in my memory for ever.
    Love recording tapes from the radio or even from friends original cassettes, as they were really expensive in Argentina, don’t know here, or maybe it was because I was a teenager and didn’t earn my own money, but to be honest the quality of the materials was really poor for that price.
    But I gave away all of those hundreds of tapes I collected.
    Thanks for bringing to my memory this “tapes” era!!!

  70. Mike says:

    These niche formats that will largely go unplayed are just a waste of precious resources. I grew up with cassettes, and it’s not an accident that they got wiped out quickly when CD came along and was better in every way.

  71. LeeUK says:

    I’m buying cassettes again and why not, if you want physical formats, why not offer them all (thanks Mark Ronson). Music is about individuality and therefore the choice of format should be the same, there’s room for them all and if it’s igniting people’s imagination and fascination in music then I’m all for it. Vinyl, you get crackle and pop, tape you get hiss – characteristics of the formats. If you want digital, clean and clinical HD you have that option too. For me, in most scenarios, cassette is yet again the cheapest official/legal option for listening and more importantly owning a new album, the fact it’s a tangible/physical format is win win in my opinion

  72. Celkens says:

    I had a big box full of mostly selfrecorded tapes and in the early noughties in a very uncharacteristic moment of getting rid of clutter i threw it all away. Although i went through them and digitalised all content i didn’t have on cd. It is probably one of the biggest regrets of my life. So dumb! I had the music but no longer these cassettes that i listened to through all my youth. Having said that: i do not feel any yearning for a tape revival. Vinyl will do me fine.

    Nice Planet of the Apes pun in the title, Paul! That made me laugh

  73. The Golden Age Of The Phonograph says:

    “Home Taping Is Killing Music”, remember that hoary old complaint on the cover of LP inner sleeves in the ’80’s?

    It was the biggest load of record industry bollocks ever. I taped many LPs to cassette tape and 95% of those I did tape I went on to buy the LP, then the CD and then the LP again because I was one of the many idiots who fell for the CD sounds better than LP shite. Oh and I now have the SDE of many of those LPs (thanks Paul!).

    I to dumped my cassette tapes around the same time as you Paul, flirted with mini-disc went on to buy recordable CD players before using the PC. I never bought many pre-recorded cassette, if any, I was never sold on the playback quality. I did buy many Bootleg cassettes at record fairs in the ’80’s, Dylan, Neil Young, Beatles, Stones, Waterboys and many more. My friends and myself paying £5 for a crap 27th generation tape of the aforementioned acts! What’s £5 in today’s coinage?

    Those were the days!

    What happened to the songwriting Paul? You’ve got my imagination running wild on that little titbit?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Yeah, £5 was always the going rate for those cassette bootlegs! Haha yes the ‘songwriting’ is definitely another story for another day…

  74. -SG- says:

    I loved and hated the cassette, but loved those special cassettes that had bonus material, like The Cure’s “Standing on The Beach” or “Concert &Curiosities”. Great stuff, it seemed more hidden, more intimate, more secret.
    Ahh the cassette mixtape. Loved making them, it was a real challenge, and took some planning as the mix could not easily be re-shuffled. I know I made more mixtapes from vinyl, I think the act of playing records was actually more exciting than from CD, more dynamic, more bass on a well pressed 12″ also the records were just often harder to get, sometimes “rare”, but I also attribute that to the fact I was a teenager and discovering all of this great music and it was basically new and that was exciting, No remastered Depeche Mode will ever sound as good as it did when I was 17, no matter the format. But instant access now, I think in a lot of respects, makes it all less exciting. There is nothing exclusive about it, you or any jerk can play the same song…. before you really had to make some sacrifices and know where to get it. It was a search, even an adventure sometimes, making the discovery all the more sweet.

    • mark says:

      I wore out my copy of Black Celebration on cassette very quickly, bought it after seeing them in concert in 86 in Germany (13 yrs old) God I loved that cassette tape.

  75. Andy says:

    Well said Paul. Like you, I have also spent heavily on CD and have a high end system on which to enjoy them. However some of my most ‘wow’ musical moments have come from playing cassettes in my old Ford Cortinas. Often recordings of live concerts broadcast by Radio 1. Makes me want to dig out my old Pioneer cassette recorder to see if it still works. Not that i yearn for the format either. Funny you should mention the Pink Floyd marbles. I lost mine when i paid ninety quid for their box set!

  76. Marty Brooks says:

    I never bought a pre-recorded cassette tape. Although the fidelity got better over time with the improvements in recording/playback heads and tape formulations, there was no way any cassette was going to sound as good as vinyl. I did have some high-end cassette decks (3 heads, solenoid operated, various Dolby modes; at least one had an alignment mode where you could properly adjust bias) that I used for radio air checks and for making compilations for the car and for a Walkman, but that was the extent of it. I found a bargain once on a low-end 2-head Teac once, but it was so horrible I gave it away.

    When Alesis released their standalone CD-R deck, I bought that and copied my air checks to CD-R. However, CD-R’s do tend to deteriorate over time (although back-coated cassettes would have also). I dumped all my other cassettes and have never looked back. I sold the cassette decks years ago. I don’t miss them. (Although I still have one reel-to-reel deck).

    I’m not a big fan of digital files – I only listen when I’m bike riding and I suppose in my next car, but IMO, properly recorded digital files do sound better than cassettes. I agree that this cassette revival seems a bit silly and is probably a bit more “fashion” or hipsterism than anything serious. I was watching a TV show last night which seemed to be a low-rent version of those shows where the hosts travel around the country looking for antique collectibles. This version of the show was about looking for electronics – they found an old Apple II computer which they had repaired and got working as well as some old electronic toys. But they bought a wire recorder and I really couldn’t imagine why. They imagined selling it to a musician or recording studio that wanted “new sounds”. I have my doubts.

    In any case, anything that sells some physical music is fine with me. And different strokes for different folks. If cassettes make someone happy, so be it.

  77. tom heusinger says:

    Just for fun, check out Ebay and see for how many crazy currency units Sony DD and DDII Walkmen are selling.

  78. Galley says:

    I could count on one hand all the vinyl LPs I’ve ever heard owned. I began purchasing cassettes in 1980, and CDs in 1985.

  79. Dr Volume says:

    Argos (for overseas readers that’s a huge UK retailer with branches everywhere) still have several Bush Cassette players in their catalogue – you can get a Walkman style player with built in FM radio(!), a boombox type thing and an old-skool top-loader Mono tape player (they also stock a range of CD Walkman type players!). They all look pretty cheap and nasty though. The only way to get a decent player is eBay and you’ll likely need it serviced, belts replaced, heads cleaned etc. You can pay well over 100 quid for a decent Sony Walkman that’s been refurbished, even more for unopened stock- and there are certain models like the WM-D6C which go for way more. So actually whether you like Tapes or not, there is a trick being missed and someone needs to manufacture a decent quality tape player because the demand is going up and up.

    Me, I’m fine with tape. I treasure my Factory Records cassettes in those lovely colour-coded oversized boxes with just the catalogue number, title and artist in plain type. They’re nice objects to own. I’ve bought a few tapes recently from bands at their Merch stall, and also some of the more obscure artists I like have put out amazing stuff exclusively on tape, or made DJ mixes in limited runs some of which sell out in days and go for silly money on Discogs. They’re fun, and for those artists the hiss and flaws of tape is part of the listening. I agree it makes less sense for the mainstream music Paul is talking about, and putting these in SDE box sets or just as an extra sale for superfans who buy every format of a band they collect – that’s just cynical marketing – but don’t underestimate Tape.

  80. Dom VA says:

    I kept a bunch of things I have on cassette which are unavailable elsewhere (old XTC demos, Stephen Duffy demos, live bootlegs, masters of my own recordings etc). Stuipdly I’d taped them all with Dolby C (easily the best NR on my cassette player).
    A few years ago I started to digitize the cassettes. Only a few days into the project, my Sony cassette player promptly “threw a rod”, no doubt prompted by this sudden burst of activity after years of idleness. Repairs were cost prohibitive.
    What to do?
    I know… we’ll just pick one up off Gumtree (an Oz trading site). Do you know how hard it is to find a secondhand cassette player which has Dolby C and is affordable???
    Mercifully, a Sony double-deck unit showed up soon enough and not far from home. I made contact, and headed across to collect armed with a pair of headphones and a handful of tapes. A nice bloke answered the door and let me take it for a test-drive.
    Unfortunately the recording deck wasn’t working. The seller was chastened. Embarrassed even. He apologised profusely for having wasted my time, and then told me I could have it for free. I offered half-price (hey, I only needed it as a playback unit, right?) but he wouldn’t accept any money at all.
    Long story short… one deck worked perfectly (enough for me to complete my project) and only a replacement rubber belt was required to restore the 2nd deck to full working order.
    How lucky was I?

  81. Branny says:

    I have never really bothered with pre-recorded cassettes apart from a period when Virgin were selling cassingles for 99p (£3 cheaper than cd singles at the time). In the 80s ( mainly my teen years) I rarely bought LPs in any format. I used to get the odd one for birthdays or Xmas but I mainly bought 12″ singles because I loved a remix or extended version. I used to record compilations to play on my walkman but as soon as Minidiscs came out I ditched cassettes and then onto cds when I bought a cd recorder. In the mid 90s I bought a Pioneer separates system but the cassette deck was probably the least used component. I have upgraded over the years but have still kept the original system (in the loft). These days i will listen to something on a streaming service and buy the ones i like on cd. I still prefer the sound to that of vinyl and from a space point of view, cds are more convenient at the rate i buy. I don’t ever see that changing.

  82. Gareth Jones says:

    There was always something more interesting and challenging for me about making a compilation tape, rather than a CD-R or nowadays a playlist. You had 90mins to fill, and you were taking the listener on a musical journey which they would hear all the way through (unless they hit fast forward!). Often starting slow and mellow, then building up to faster songs, then back to slow, then finally reaching an epic ending (plus also maybe inserting some film or TV dialogue clips between some of the songs). And you had to think about how you would kick off side A and side B, plus how you would end each side too.

    No such thought process occurs now for most people. The passion and musical journey is lost on a CD-R or Spotify playlist. Even if l put a lot of thought into track 1 and the final track, chances are whoever l make a mix CD or playlist for now would just put the whole thing on shuffle!

    As a way of truly appreciating an album or a compilation in the running order the artist or compiler intended it to be heard, l do miss the cassette!

  83. Kauwgompie says:

    Eventually everything cycles back in. My kids are now buying disposable cameras and go to the drugstore to develop the pics. Last month I was at a wedding in Brooklyn and the hosts asked the guests to take Polaroids of themselves and put them on a big board. Now tapes are coming back. Yeah, it’s some kind of vintage appeal but utterly useless. As a young kid, my untrained ears quickly determined that tapes sounded aweful compared to vinyl. So I bought vinyl and taped the occasional (free) album of a friend, or made myself mixed tapes to take on vacation so I could listen to all my favorite tunes, sucking up the annoying sound quality.

    I couldn’t agree more that record companies should put their money into promoting CD sales. I’ll never go back to vinyl. I already hated having to flip a record in the 80’s and today they are putting even fewer songs on one side of vinyl, often spreading what used to be a one vinyl album over two vinyl discs now. The only appeal of vinyl other than nostalgia and what a few argue a better sound quality (I have yet to hear that), is the nice big cover. I will continue to spend money on CD’s. It’s the easiest listening experience, outstanding sound quality and much cheaper than vinyl.

  84. Dan l says:

    Trying to get my hands on an old Nakamichi or Denon and will copy a few things I still have on tape that I haven’t seen otherwise. The quality of the decks plummeted in the 90s so even if you went looking for machines they were progressively worse, with a few exceptions like Sony and Denon. JVC had many great 3 head decks in the 80s. When you were seeing dual decks for under $199, the quality was just gone. Everything is getting throwaway. Even in the vinyl resurgence a lot of people buy Crosley tables or the super cheap AudioTechnica (think it’s the 102). {{shudder}}

  85. RJS says:

    Cassette was always my preferred format. Switched to CD in 1991. All my cassettes ended up in a charity shop, inlcuding dozens of mid to late eighties ‘cassingles’ – (lots of Prince, Pet Shop Boys, U2 and also The Smiths, Morrissey, David Bowie, Scritti Politti, etc.). I was always happy to see cassette singles – not everywhere stocked them but disliked the cheap cardboard cases that some came in.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      The early cassette singles – roughly 1984-1988 – were normally great, because they’d either repeat the 12-inch track listing or more often than not have something fairly interesting. e.g. Duran’s Notorious had the Latin Rascals Mix which was on the limited edition 12-inch, and Bowie’s Never Let Me Down included the ‘Groucho’ mix of Day In Day Out etc. In the early ’90s the rule changes meant cassette singles had to match the 7″ single track listing, which somewhat killed my interest.

      • RJS says:

        I lost interest around the same time although the cassingle was never really mainstream. I also had the NLMD cassette and I also had a couple FGTH ones which were good value with 20+ minutes of music. I’m surprised that most are available for only a few quid on Discogs, although someone is asking £28 for Alphabet St.

  86. mark says:

    The art of a mix tape! First track was always a top! Always had to start with something big that everyone knew….I loved making them. Making a compilation on a CD, just wasn’t the same but then growing up in the 80s in Germany it was a great way to hear new bands, listening to someone else’s mix tapes.

  87. The Geordie Expat says:

    Just because no-one’s making quality cassette decks anymore doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent deck in a thrift/charity store. In the US they’re easy to find for $10 – $20. I can’t imagine that in the UK the charity shops aren’t full of cassette decks.

  88. Alan Blevin says:

    A friend of mine wouldn’t trade in his old car for many years because he couldn’t get a new one that came with a cassette player!

  89. J says:

    Yes, there are actually quite a few OK decks that are new (Marantz, Pyle, TASCAM, etc.) but you are right in that they do not compare to decks of yore. I listen to my cassette deck every weekend especially chrome blue note jazz tapes on my vintage Luxman K10 Pro. They sound amazing. The king of the heap was Nakamichi 1000. There are a ton of great vintage decks on EBay & there is a pair of ladies in Cloudcroft New Mexico that specializes in bringing them back to life.

  90. Steve Benson says:

    I recently dug out my box of cassettes and am pleased I kept the last machine I bought to play them on – excellent Yamaha KX393. Almost all the ones that contained copies of LPs have been binned as I either have the CD now or can’t understand why I taped them in first place. Lots of poor quality ones had to go too. But the best are worth keeping and they are the compilations of John Peel and Andy Kershaw programmes from the late 70s and 80s which include the DJ intros and outros – lots of priceless Peel-isms. Not to mention a full set of Viv Stanshall’s Rawlinson End sagas. And all this achieved while living 12,000 miles from UK thanks to to the ease of posting a cassette or several. I know there are gadgets which would enable me to copy the tapes into iTunes but I’m not sure I can really be bothered. Perhaps I should copy the Peel shows as they are of great historical and musical value and it would be a shame if they become spaghettified or degraded. and then there are the bootlegs taped on a tiny Sony portable at open air Led Zep and Stones concerts in 72, 73 – dreadful ‘fidelity’ but great nostalgic value.

  91. David B says:

    Excellent article .. and yep I remember my early cassettes .. indeed I still have a few (er mainly pre-taped radio shows .. “The Goon show” and “Peter Cook- an anthology 1961-1989” ) and no I haven’t played them for years .. but I do have a player .. er a Grundig player that plays cds and cassettes but not vinyl ..

    I wouldn’t buy anymore cassettes but worryingly Louise’s new set (available on all formats incl cassette) the signed version is not the cassette but the cd .. so her signature is needed to boost the cd sales .. worrying ..

    I do wonder why the cd isn’t given the treatment here it gets in America or Japan where new formats are cropping up all the time (SACD, SHM, BLU-SPEC etc ..) and remasters are incredible (listen to any Eric Records compilation ..).. the Marcel’s “Blue moon” on Eric Records sounds so good it can’t be true .. and Clapton’s “Slowhand” sounds perfect in SACD (esp the surround mix ..) .. shame they’re not that easy to get in the UK especially when we made most of the music in the first place (ok not the Marcels .. ) ..

    What next for the UK .. er 78s ???? Hang on didn’t Cliff’s box set from a few years back include one ..

  92. Guy.S says:

    Paul, have a look for Nakamichi RX-505 demo (HD) TheWalkmanArchive on YouTube, this is a beauty. It’s not in English but the cassette gets popped in at 1min 40secs, just wait for the unique autoreverse, you can pick up a lot of refurbished ones and yes they will set you back about £500-£800 but just watching this video makes me want to pick up those cassette’s : )

  93. Robert Laversuch says:

    Awesome article. Still have tons of tapes – 500 plus as during late 80s didn’t have access to a record player. Then in 90s switched to CD. As to tapes – loads came with bonus tracks etc. The Style Council and The Cure with three special tape releases spring to mind. And my Walkman required regular “feeding” with new tapes. Happy times till a tape snarled and I got really annoyed.

  94. John Eric Nelson says:

    I just got a brand new model Tascam 202 Mk VII dual cassette deck for last Christmas from Crutchfield. $500. On sale right now for $450 on Crutchfield site. So there is in fact new quality equipment now being manufactured for the tape revival. Sounds great.

  95. Pieter van der Velde wzn says:

    I bought my first cassette recorder in 1975 and I never stopped playing cassettes, I’ve got some 2500 tapes, 400 of them concerts I taped from the radio. These days, thanks to the internet, I can finally find out which songs were played by looking at setlist.fm or listening carefully to the lyrics. I’m now trying to find out which songs Van Morrison was singing on April the 3rd 1982 in Essen. After that it’s Camel in Utrecht 1984.
    I’m still having lots of fun with my cassettes.

  96. fedge says:

    Paul is right – the CD revival can’t come soon enough. I love CDs! A properly mastered project, pressed on CD, is easily the best mass-market format.

    • MFG says:

      +1 to this. If CDs disappear forever, it would be a shame on the music industry (and the music-listening masses).

      And yes, proper mastering is important, especially for music released in the 20th century. Too many reissues have compressed the sound far beyond what the creators intended.

      Meanwhile, songs recorded in the 21st century may be beyond repair, since they are mixed for loudness as well as mastered. Unless a proper remix can be done, which is even more time-consuming and expensive.

  97. Carlos says:

    When I started buying music about 25 years ago, I used to buy cassettes because they were half the price of a CD. But then I decided to buy only CDs, even considering the price difference, because you could skip to the songs you liked, there was no need to rewind, and to avoid the occasional cassette jamming accident in the player.

  98. Dave says:

    Anyone remember the BASF tv ad jenne haan singing forgotten dreams think this won an award at the time
    By the way anyone know if it’s available on cd?

  99. Kevin Galliford says:

    I used to love making my own compilation tapes for the Walkman ( & also an Aiwa I had at one point too ) & car but never really felt any sentiment over the actual format. One cassette single I kept for years was the Morrissey “Everyday is like Sunday” which had a great cover & I kept it for ages despite not having anything to play it on. What I really mourn though is the death of the CD single, for the plethora of extra tracks & occasional great artwork. It’s death for me resulted in less visits to the High St music shop for sure.

  100. Paul Murphy says:

    ‘The damned dirty tape’ – I didn’t think you could top ‘The Great Sausage Roll Swindle’, but that classic leadline now drops to No. 2 in the chart [‘Blue Blue electric blue’ still holding firm at No. 3].

  101. MFG says:

    I bought plenty of tapes in the ’80s (cheaper than vinyl, and portable), but ditched them as soon as I received a used CD player as a gift from my dad. Never liked the sound quality or having to clean the heads on the tape players.

    My fondest memories of tapes are, of course, the mixtapes that I made for others, and that others made for me. I still have a few stashed away somewhere. One of them is a Phish mix. Don’t like the music, but the friend who made it for me is an excellent artist, and his cover art drawing is worth saving.

    However, once CD burners became affordable, I switched to making mix discs, and continued doing so until only a few years ago, well past the stage where most people I know had ditched their CDs. The CD medium is much better to work with than cassette tapes. Plus, it’s easier to print cover art, photos, and liner notes (yes, guilty as charged on the count of writing my own notes).

    My only experience recently with cassettes was finding a couple of tapes from local bands in the college town I studied in, back in the early ’90s. I had saved an old portable CD & cassette player, so I plugged in a cable from the headphone jack to my PC and recorded the music directly onto the hard drive. Shared the audio files with a few college friends, who were pleasantly surprised to be hearing the old tunes again, for the first time in ages.

    So I suppose my experience is quite the same as most regular readers of this blog. Cassettes had a purpose back in the day, but technological advances have rendered them irrelevant. That said, a musician friend of mine released an album on cassette last year, simply to have a physical product for sale at his shows. Apparently, CDs and vinyl are too expensive to produce. So yeah, cassettes have zero practical value, but apparently, a fair amount of sentimental value, even for some of the young’uns who weren’t alive in the ’80s. Go figure.

  102. Jason says:

    I can already see the arguments of “Don’t deny people what they really want to own” just as vinyl made it’s resurgence in the past decade, but honestly, I don’t see the value in these things either past the novelty of mix tapes.

    The mix tape was an item you would toil over in order to impress someone or indoctrinate them to an artist or artists that had value to you. I still have about 30 of them, mostly made for my spouse when we were still teenagers, some full albums but many just collections of things, all cases decorated with colored markers and clippings, littered with the songs of our youth. These things took time(!) to shape and make and build into statements of purpose and love and lust and joy, now consigned to the dustbins of history, and yet they carried a certain impression of care and time spent that burned CD collections never could in their cold and digital delivery.

    But wait! They’re back! And for what purpose? To become the fodder of highways once again? If people can’t find CD players in cars today, how are they going to find cassettes? This really does seem like one step too far, a fad of a supposed fad (yeah, vinyl…you are no longer a fad…), and while I suppose it brings a certain element of kitsch and fun to an otherwise drab listening experience by phone or by pill, it’s never going to live up to vinyl or even CD, and therefore, will always be option number three, better than an 8-track or a 78, but never on top. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. What’s the point?

  103. Yani P says:

    Never really into tapes once there were better options..but still own 3 reel to reel tape machines and my mini disc player..still got plenty of blank mini discs too..something about the old stuff lol

  104. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Star says:

    The figures need to be assessed with some caution. A lot of artists these days… Richard Ashcroft, Kylie, Rick Astley etc will sell a cassette version of their latest album as a *signed* version. For a fan getting, say Kylie’s autograph, for £5-10 will be a bonus irrespective of the format. This boosts the figures and potentially exaggerates the interest in the cassette as a format. The interest is actually in getting your favourite pop/rock star’s autograph for the cheapest outlay i.e. cassette. Kylie’s Golden was the highest ranking cassette sale last year (maybe) because she signed 1000 copies and sold them for <£10. They are now floating around on ebay selling for ~£100.

  105. Gisabun says:

    I still have my Yamaha KX-W421 double cassette deck. Use it maybe once a year for someone who askes me to transfer something from cassette over to CD or MP3s. Obviously music [or whatever] that is unavailable on CD or digital music.
    That said, I wouldn’t even attempt to get anything on cassette unless unavailable on CD or digital. You get these off ball box sets where they throw in a cassette as a gimmick [such as reproducing the original cassette released in whatever year while they were an indie artist]. Pleeeeeease.
    And I don’t miss having a tape jamming my cassette player or deck. Seems after 5-6 listens, the cassette degrades. Don’t miss that.

  106. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Star says:

    I have my original separates JVC double cassette player. This article has made me want to retrieve my cassette collection from the attic tomorrow. I also buy any decent separates from boot fairs, whether that be CD, minidisc or cassette players. Last week I bought a CD, minidisc and amp system (The SHARP MX10H) from a guy who, when I asked “how much for the minidisc system” replied… “I really wanted 2 quid mate, but I am open to offers….” He got his 2 quid, system was perfect. Most people carry all their music on their phones and hence do not see any value in the bulky separates leading to cheap prices. I find boot fairs exciting for this very reason. I wouldn’t mind a minidisc revival either…

  107. Stathis says:

    I still love my tapes but alas my Walkman broke. Will always remember sneaking into gigs and taping them. Miss not being able to listen to Dead Can Dance and the Residents. I still buy cassettes from artists I discover and like on Bandcamp.

  108. Simon says:

    Sade album cassettes had extra material on, most of which has never seen but deserves to the fabled light of day. I agree with you Paul, stop trying to reheat the souffle and give us a proper dessert.

  109. Ben Williams says:

    My girlfriend recently bought me blank tapes so I could make my own mix tapes on her still-very-awesome Panasonic stereo which has an amazing tape player on it.

    I agree with your comments Paul; there are no good tape players on the market and the record labels should market CD much better!

  110. Mark R says:

    Great article. I too was an avid cassette collector, making dozens of mix tapes for myself, friends and the odd girlfriend. When Minidisc has its second wind in 1998 (it was launched in ‘92 but flopped) I gave up on them (the last pre-recorded cassette I bought was REM’s Strange Currencies cassette single (‘96?). Minidisc was a massive improvement and I still have both my portable player as well as a separate.
    The cassette revival is nothing more than a marketing gimmick, to appeal to young hipsters and the like. Sound quality was not as good as vinyl or CD but I have to say, I still think the XDR cassette of Duran Duran’s Arena kicks the vinyl version’s arse. You could hear the Hi-Hat much better if you didn’t switch on Dolby NR!

  111. Denis Woods says:

    I remember buying Soul Mining by The The on cassette. It had 6 extra tracks. Cassettes were great for extra tracks and remixes. Bought cassettes up to the mid 1990s. It was just handy when I had a Walkman. CDs were very expensive then and Vinyl was rare. I think they are just for collecting now not playing.

  112. Jakob Rehlinger says:

    The cassette revival may seem weird, but keep in mind it born from tiny undergrounds labels and bands who choose tape as a matter of economics (vinyl is far too pricey to press and CDRs are an increasingly hard sell) much less than the nostalgia or aesthetics. Cassette is an affordable option for label and also consumers who don’t want to invest $30 on someone’s vinyl but $5-7 on tape is fine.

  113. Terry says:

    Great article Paul, and thanks for sharing your journey of the format.
    A few months ago, i watched a documentary called “Cassette – A documentary Mixtape”, it’s a great watch. It’s currently on youtube, but sadly no English subtitles for some of the interviews, the majority is in English though. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIuirfEIJr8

  114. William Kates says:

    Well said Paul, thank you.

  115. Mikey-D says:

    Our family bought 8 tracks and records from Columbia House growing up but by the time I had my own money it was all about cassettes. Between the car, the off brand Walkman and the boombox I listened to music all the time. As Paul mentioned I ended up with 3 suitcases of cassettes, one for my metal/hard rock, one for everything else and then one for the mixtapes.

    Lately I have been on a kick of remaking the mixtapes as online playlists and more importantly MP3 versions in my computer. I don’t record the songs of the tapes but just rip the CDs. Sometimes I did do remixes or as things to the songs and in those cases I try to digitally recreate them. It has helped me but CDs that I borrowed from friends or just haven’t bought yet. Most of my mixtapes have dates on them so it is really nostalgic going through them and remembering the timeframe when I made them.

    My romance with tapes ended when all 3 if the aforementioned players ate my tape. It was either a Whitesnake or a Night Ranger tape. After that I switched to CD and never looked back. I did however continue to make mixtapes until CD burners came out. Then I made mix CDs until MP3s came out.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane Paul. If anyone would like a sample of one of my digital mixtapes drop me a line :)

  116. Quante says:

    Just to add how great it was to record off the radio.

    One highlight was taping the Tommy Vance’s Friday Night Rock Show listeners once a year top ten chart. I don’t remember them all, but here’s some tracks that used to feature: Rush – 2112, Yes – Awaken, Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb, Deep Purple – Child In Time, AC/ DC – Whole Lot Of Rosie, Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven and (I think) Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell.

    • Dave says:

      Friday rock show ! Still got me deep purple 2cd machine head promo I won and letter signed by Tommy vance in one of the shows comps !!

  117. KevinK says:

    A figure of 350,000 tapes sold would be impressive … but the actual figure is about 35,000 compared with 18,000 in January-June 2018.

    Total UK cassette sales for 2018 were nearly 50,000 with the top 3 sellers being The 1975 (Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships) 7,500; Kylie Minogue (Golden) 6,262 and The Prodigy (No Tourists) 2,148.

  118. Trash says:

    Very nice piece Paul.

    A couple of things struck me –
    Firstly – I keep three cassettes which are precious to me:
    – Music for Stowaways by BEF (a limited edition cassette only release – mine has been signed by the band)
    – Sylvian’s Alchemy – an index of possibilities (which was a special cassette only release)
    – Bill Nelson Altar Pieces – the backing tapes to a set of improvisations that he did with his Brother Ian. Purchased at one of the improvisation evenings and signed by both Bill and Ian.

    Of course I can’t play any of them anymore but I can’t bring myself to part with them either.

    As for the Polaroid comparison – not sure I agree with that as I think there is something about the immediacy of Polaroid pictures that you don’t get with your megapixel digital image (most of which never get looked at ever again).

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      But you can’t buy the film for Polaroid anymore, can you? (or can you?) A bit like you can’t buy tape players anymore.
      One my of treasured possessions is the Art of Noise ‘Into Battle’ cassingle signed by all five members of the ‘band’.

      • BJ says:

        Yes, you can buy Polaroid film again now. It’s also going through a revival.

      • Trash says:

        As someone has already responded – you can indeed buy Polaroid film again. And I have to say it is a lovely experience – there’s something about seeing a picture develop before your eyes that remains magical!

    • CAB says:

      Kept my copy of Index as well, although the full version of it has been released on CD since (and very good it is too).
      I still have about 50 cassettes from a substantial 80’s collection. My faves are a copy of Queen Live Killers recorded with Dolby C that sounds great played back with no Dolby, and Japan’s Assemblage with a whole side of live stuff and remixes.
      I also kept anything recorded on the matt black Maxell tapes cos they were just sexy. Listen to that smooth rewind compared to a clattering Sony……

  119. Tufty says:

    There’s a nice video review of the recent Aldi Boombox and an explanation about why no good quality cassette players are on sale anymore from the fabulous Techmoan here –


    If you enjoyed Paul’s great article about cassettes you’ll like this video and possibly some of Techmoan’s others about the best and worst of new and old technology.

  120. Howie says:

    My introduction to The Beatles started with the cassette version of The Beatles Box and carried on with the cassettes with the gold covers and different song running order. So much so that it took a while to get used to the LP’s with the songs in the correct order.


      The same for me… but earlier editions – I don’t think I ever got used to With The Beatles not beginning with All My Loving… Although I had the rest on vinyl, I had WTB and Magical Mystery Tour on cassette (which only seemed to be available on cassette or 8-track in the very early 70s) – at least that had the same running order…

    • Alan Waldock says:

      Yes, I remember the different running order of tracks on the Beatles cassettes. Also I remember there was an ABBA cassette where half of a song was at the end of side one and the other half of the song was at the beginning of side two! Most annoying.

    • Simon Broch says:

      Great piece Paul. I vividly remember my reasonably fancy Sansui twin cassette player. I used to record the charts on Sunday, in full on one tape then edit it onto the second! I also used to record loads of the BBC in-concert recordings.. Some like the Dexys ones have been officially released since but many of the others must remain in the BBC vaults.. I especially remember the Eric Clapton Orchestra Night concert from 1980 I think??? Fortunately i still have the tapes but i’d love to get my hands on a lovingly produced CD of it!

      Like another commentator below my motivation for ditching tapes and embracing CD was magazine covermounts.. I think it was Q that offered them first.. Im sure someone will correct me if ive misremembered this..

  121. c_q says:

    Back in the 80s, I wanted both vinyl and cassette, but I settled on a pattern of buying LP and copying them to blank cassettes for use in car and walkman. As tapes get worn out or eaten by players, I could just make another one. I used to relish the experience of having an album fit perfectly on one entire side (I bought mostly 90 min and some 100 min tapes for longer albums by the 10-pack). I did the same thing as CDs came out, though eventually I shifted from making tapes to making CDRs – keeping the originals tucked away on a shelf. I eventually gave away most of my recorded tapes, but I still have a handful of them and even a few blanks I never used, plus I even have a walkman lying around somewhere. Maybe I should take them to work and make a museum exhibit at my desk or something for the younglings.

    But new cassette tapes? No thanks. I rarely got them even in the 80s, the quality of mass-produced tapes was generally poor, plus the sound was never as good as the LP anyway.

  122. Quante says:

    Lovely nostalgia Paul.

    The portability of the cassette was its strength, along with being able to develop a collection when money was scarce.

    I once decided to take my hifi and vinyl records on the train when I was a student. My father wasn’t impressed as we lugged boxes by hand across the foot bridge at the train station. I realised the futility of this idea with the realisation that there was only me to do all this at the other end of the journey; so much to my father’s deep displeasure I abandoned the plan and left him to traipse it all back home, whilst I went on my way with my bag full of cassettes and Walkman.

    The Thompson Twins Into The Gap had an extra side of remixes (happily replicated on the cd reissue not that long ago) and Level 42 World Machine with its extended remixes stick in the mind as excellent bonuses of the cassette format.

    Pirate tapes were a cheap way to get new albums, but I spent years listening to The Dreaming the wrong way round. The pirate tape had side 2 as side 1, which isn’t a problem when playing a record or cassette, but it screwed up the sequence of my listening experience when it came to CD later on.

    I still have some tapes and two tapes full of home recorded cd singles by Prince and The Pet Shop Boys which bring back memories of both acts in their heyday. A gas engineer gave me a good tape deck he no longer used after we got discussing music, so I have the means to play the tapes. The big negative is that some of those tapes now play slow or uneven, so sadly unlike a record, they do have a shelf life. Sound wise, some of the tapes sound excellent.

    My favourite tapes? Hall and Oates H2O and The Dreaming both listened to over and over at night at boarding school at night on headphones, and Malcolm McLaren’s Duck Rock – what an ace album that is.

  123. Richard Ludlow says:

    Remember taping the charts on a Sunday afternoon with an external microphone and mum would always come in and shout ‘dinner’s ready’.

  124. Ian Ellis says:

    Still got all my bootleg tapes, mostly Beatles, Velvets, New Order & Joy Division. 100s!! I don’t play them much, but I’m mega emotionally attached to them and I guess the kids will have to chuck them when that time comes. I still have two decks stashed away including the twin deck for trading tapes through the NME classifieds. So to paraphrase Bow Wow Wow’s Your Cassette Pet (which I still have in the cardboard flip pack that emulated a cigarette pack!), in my house it’s definitely NOT C30 C60 C90 Gone!

  125. Geoff Wint says:

    I was a vinyl buyer from the age of 10 (1969)
    but I was bought a cassette player for Christmas 1972 . Cue a few presents that year (Ziggy, Who’s Next and Never a Dull Moment) it was the petrol crisis and the advent of recycled vinyl that induced me to buy more tapes . When I left school I started buying loads mail order from Mail-A-Tape
    I continued to buy throughout the 80s largely because the likes of No Parlez and Fashion’s Fabrique came with practically a whole new album of remixes . Of course there was Sade’s
    Diamond Life that had the 12” version of smooth operator .
    I had all the NME tapes
    The only ones I have left are from when I recorded the Robbie Vincent soul show and mine and my ex wife’s names got a mention in competition wins
    I loved them at the time and despite finding some interesting titles in charity shops recently I have no desire to go back there

    • Dan says:

      “The only ones I have left are from when I recorded the Robbie Vincent soul show”

      – no chance you could upload them to YouTube, I suppose…?

  126. David Mcintyre says:

    When I was a kid I thought Dolby belonged or was owned by Thomas!

  127. Jan says:

    Aldi did an ok mini boom box cassette player for fathers day this year.

    I’ve actually released two cassettes over the past year. One with different art to the vinyl and CD, it had a DL code too. The other was an album that never had a physical release, only digital. Both did alright. Cheap to make and cheap to sell.

    I have an inkling that labels like to release things on breakable formats or card sleeves so that ultimately the purchaser may buy it on another format in later years, cynical me.

  128. Regan Judson says:

    I’m in agreement with you Paul! I sold off all of my tapes years ago and have no interest in them being revived. My only regret is dumping a cassette that has never seen a reissue (CD or vinyl) since! Mostly second and third tier 80’s bands. The original vinyl for these commands a high price and it is not always so easy to plunk down a bunch of cash for a mostly nostalgia chasing purchase.

  129. Aubrey says:

    Ha ha! The suitcase full of tapes… and the start of my lifetime habit of re-purchasing Big Thing. Someone said the past is a foreign country but 1989 seems like a different planet…

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Indeed! That trip was fun but has taken on an almost dreamlike quality. We both brought suitcases, which was the funny thing. I still find it weird that young people effectively don’t have to spend any money to listen to a new album…

  130. Ed says:

    I’m very much into cassettes and whilst I think the revival is very much just a tool for artists to use to get extra sales. It’s still great to be able to get new cassettes whilst this fad lasts . That’s all I think it is though a short lived fad , I don’t think many people buy them to play them which i do find quite sad

  131. Cosmo Castanza says:

    The free tapes on magazines were always a magnet for me.
    Think one from the defunct Select magazine was give a Factory number.

  132. AndyB says:

    Maxell ruled!

  133. Tim-Meh says:

    Its all in the hiss, man. Holding miles of physical tape in your hands spooling around a pencil… you don’t get that with a CD. Honestly, the world is mad as biscuits.

  134. AndyB says:

    What I have found is that the oxide on my tapes from the 1980s is breaking down, rendering most of them unplayable. Every so often, I will pull out my Harmon Kardan (purchased in 1987) tape deck and play some old stuff, but cleaning the heads isn’t my idea of a good time. (First recording for me was INXS “Kick.”) Not to mention wow and flutter. I knew back then that the cassette would have a limited lifetime in terms of the medium breaking down. I mean, how often do artists have to “bake” their tapes to save their work? This strange trend of manufacturing new cassettes is baffling to me.

  135. Jim says:

    I think you’ll find it’s called ‘Dobly’.

  136. Richard says:

    Tapes were my initial format of choice when I first started buying music. Used to have one of those little cassette players (with one speaker) to play them on. Also had a cheapy Bush walkman rip off with horrible spongy headphones. Most of my tapes are two-tone stuff. Then I moved on to vinyl. Then got into the whole cassette single fad. I had loads of comps that I’d made up from taping stuff off the chart rundowns on a Sunday to John Peel / evening session. All those got binned a while ago, but I kept the pre-recorded ones. Still have a decent cassette deck, which I recently dug out of the garage and which is currently sitting on my amp while I rip some of those cassettes, including lots of freebie ones from MM, NME, Vox, et al.

  137. Steven Roberts says:

    “Some of them [new cassettes] don’t even come with download codes, so if you haven’t got the kit, they are about as useful as those marbles in the Pink Floyd box sets”

    Yes!! VERY annoying.

    Bought an artist bundle from Jade Bird’s website (new singer-songwriter, bit Americana-ish, decent album) which included a cassette of demo recordings…and there was NO download code for the ‘damned dirty tape’ (I see what you did there!).

    Not even heavy enough to serve as a paperweight – completely flipping useless. In 2019.

  138. Martin Teller says:

    Cassettes are extremely popular in the vaporwave scene. Though that’s hardly surprising, since vaporwave is based on 80’s/90’s nostalgia and the music is often meant to sound distant and muddy.

  139. Cosmo Castanza says:

    I still have boxes of cassettes , my classic mix tapes with indie tunes from Peely , Piccadilly Radio interspersed with snippets of classic sporting events.
    I do play them along with vinyl …..and have converted many to mp3.

    But there are only so many hours in the day.

  140. Chris Squires says:

    TDK SA90s were my go to tape. The strangest thing I ever created was a 46 minute version of I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down from Secret of Association from my freshly bought CD player. I even played it several times until I got heartily sick of it, although it did give me even more of a “thing” about the fabulous wealthy tarts.

    Part of the romance, I am sure, is the thought of the things we used to play them on. Like my old Auto-Reverse JVC double deck boombox with FM, MW and LW radio. I’m pretty sure at 52 years old if I saw one on eBay it would only take a couple of pints to make my finger twitchy.

    If we are talking favourite cassettes owned obviously the first two Paul Young solo LPs were pretty great on cassette but the prize for me goes to the utterly wonderful super long extended play “Assemblage” by Japan. 17 tracks with remixes and live…..The 16 year old me just felt like I had arrived when I got that home from WHSmiths…..

    Modern cassettes and their uses is not an argument I want to get into as each to their own and all that, but it does seem silly to give any kind of priority to them over CD or vinyl

  141. Jason Washbourne says:

    I just cant see the point in tapes these days. They were always poor sound but were great for portability, but now we have digital files this fills the gap far better. Tapes are simply a fad/nostalgia/money making enterprise now. I could be more cynical. I think the vinyl revival is built on good foundations , but the tapes are a waste of time. Good article though

  142. H says:

    Excellent piece Paul – like you I had hundreds of the things in the 80s and played them to death – I then moved over to vinyl and gradually replaced them with CD’s – I’m sticking with CD’s although vinyl is arguably the superior format.
    I loved cassettes but would never go back to them – it all seems a bit of a gimmick but there’s no doubt about it gimmicks sell – the marbles being a case in question. Roll on the resurgence of 8 track.

  143. Alan Waldock says:

    Great memories Paul. My introduction to music collecting also started with cassettes in the mid 1970’s. My first was ‘ABBA – Greatest Hits’ quickly followed by ‘ABBA – Arrival’. My first Beatles and Wings purchases were cassettes. I bought 7” singles if the tracks weren’t available on cassette but it wasn’t until about 1982 and McCartney’s ‘Tug Of War’ LP that I moved completely to vinyl.

  144. Rare Glam says:

    There must be fewer cassette tape manufacturers than vinyl pressing plants by now! Do the police (the law that is, not the band!) still use them to record interviews with suspects? Like yourself Paul, I have very warm memories of compilaion tapes. I was always less enthused by pre-recorded tapes though which always seemed to have some uneccessary hiss on them or had a much lesser volume or audio quality than their vinyl versions. There has been a small cassette scene in the US on the college circuit for some years I think. Boutique labels like Burger and more recently Numero have issued cassette tape only titles, but as you have found, there’s nothing to play them on anyway unless you have a still functioning player from the 80s. There are videos on Youtube of young people (so you can tell I am not one) enthuising over Chrome Oxide C90s and the sound they have, so perhaps we are missing something, but I am happy to miss it! I transferred all the music I’d ever recorded myself in bands in former years onto CDR and digital as soon as that format was out soI can still hear it. My Panasonic tape to tape player siezed up years ago. Isn’t there a virtual museum of cassettes on line somewhere that celebtates the various logos and brands, biases and positions (1 and 2 I think?) that they came in? BASF C120 anyone?

    I guess there is some fascination with tapes from people too young to remember them. In the 1980s I wa sa Siouxie & The Banshees fanatic. Every time a new single came out I had to have the 12″, 7″, CD and cassette editions. I imagine cassette singles might be worth having as collectible objects but they’d probably just snag and unravel in their plastic shells if you tried playing them now. I have fond memories of cassette tapes but no interest at all in seeing them return.

    • CJ Feeney says:

      Police due still use cassettes for witness interviews, though they tend to use DVD recordings – I don’t know the full regs. Line of Duty TV show has cassette recorders.
      Basically they need immediately available hard copies that can be signed and sealed so that no subsequent edit an take place without the other party knowing about it- eg solicitor has a copy and takes it away, police seal a copy and a third is used as a working copy by the police.

  145. GentleRabbit says:

    What a lovely read. Thanks, Paul.

  146. CJ Feeney says:

    You don’t need specialist equipment for a game 9f marbles, so 1-0 to Pink Floyd

  147. Alan says:

    Yes, I have to agree. I loved cassettes in the 1980s, the fact that you could play them anywhere on a Walkman. And they got sophisticated in the 80s, no longer the poor relation of vinyl. Full lyrics and artwork, the clear plastic and “backing card” as I called it (Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love among others). A cassette was much nicer than vinyl at that point.

    I got rid of all my cassettes seven years (also to charity) apart from Kate Bush ones. Everything I had on cassette I now have on CD (and therefore also on my phone) so there wasn’t much point in keeping them. It is odd seeing them for sale now. Kylie’s album Golden was released in a golden-coloured cassette, and I also saw one for the Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack. Those two alone might make up a fair chunk of the 94% increase.

    I agree though, great in the 80s but pointless now.

  148. Auntie Sabrina says:

    I was a big fan of tapes too. Many 80s releases included bonus tracks, remixes or extended versions of the tracks, or were 1 + 1 with the akbum on one side and a blank side for you to record on. I don’t think I’d be tempted to buy one nowadays either…

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