Saturday, September 07, 2013

Cassette Store Day

Today is Cassette Store Day, an event designed to mark the 50th anniversary of their introduction and to resurrect the popularity of a form of recorded music which, only a few years ago, was ubiquitous. CDs, mini discs and downloads have virtually killed off the humble cassette tape, but in the wake of Record Store Day, enthusiasts are determined to bring the cassette back from the dead. There are a number of new releases being issued by the likes of the Flaming Lips, Deerhunter, At the Drive-In and the Pastels. But it was not pre-recorded albums that were the cassette's main attraction - LPs and, later, CDs, offered much better sound quality and a more accessible way of listening.
The main attraction was the ability that cassettes offered to make up your own compilation tapes. I can remember spending many happy hours recording tracks from Stuart Colman's radio shows and from Capitol Gold, as well as recording 45s and LP tracks to make up casssettes with a particular theme, be it soul, or blues or rock and roll. My last but one car would only play cassettes, rather than CDs, so they got plenty of usage until four years ago. But now they languish in a drawer and I have no cassette player on which to listen to them. In fact, I've been looking for one recently so that I can access these relics. My photo below shows just a few of what must be well over 100 that I have. I still love home made compilations, but nowadays I use mini discs to record the 45s that I pick up at car boot sales. The mini disc is another near extinct format which, in my opinion, has been unfairly neglected as quality-wise it is excellent. Maybe there will be a Mini Disc Store Day one of these days!
Like CDs and, even more so, video cassettes, most cassette tapes today are virtually worthless, unlike many classic vinyl records. But there are a few that are of interest. One such, is a cassette-only album I featured a while back by Barbara George called Bad Luck and Trouble which apparently was virtually unknown, even to aficionados of New Orleans music. I bought a copy, signed by Barbara, at a gig at Maxwell's Toulouse Cabaret in New Orleans in the early 1990s and it's a true collector's item, produced by Milton Batiste and also featuring Sunpie, released in 1990.


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