Buried In A Good Mix Tape & The Origins of "TAPEHEAD"... 5.10.08

Children of the 80s could easily have been dubbed "The Cassette Generation."

I don't really remember when the "tape" bug sunk its fangs into my consciousness, but I do remember being ridiculously excited when I got my first tape deck. It was a small cassette recorder with a mic port and an FM/AM radio. I'll say I was maybe 10 years old, and heavily into The Monkees at this point. I was also listening to a ton of oldies' radio, inspired by a deep love for Stand By Me and the surge of 50s nostalgia going on at the time. My first tapes were recorded from my Dad's extensive collection of vinyl and from FM radio. Already showing signs of perfectionism regarding these tapes I was slaving over, radio DJs became my enemy. They would constantly break into banter during the last 10 seconds of every track I was recording, leaving me no choice but to abruptly stop the recording. It was around this time where I was learning how to make cuts and I would hawk over my little tape recorder, eagerly anticipating how the songs came out, playing them back, hitting pause and then starting the next song. I was even recording songs from MTV, propping my little tape deck against the television's speaker and hoping no one spoke to me. I was a kid that had no money, so I had to get new music somehow.

The reason I refer to myself as a "TAPEHEAD" is that my earliest musical epiphanies emerged from cassettes. I taped my first Beatles albums from vinyl and spent hours listening to them. Zeppelin, Hendrix, Zappa...so much of this music I learned about while taping albums, imperfections, static, scratches and all. And then my first musical purchases were cassettes, though I did buy some vinyl as a child. I remember stepping into Wee Three Records or Wall-To-Wall Sound & Video and flipping through rows of albums, having no money and wondering how I was ever going to own everything I wanted. Up until I was about 16, it was mostly cassettes for me. And the mix tapes never stopped.

I'm not sure how many of you have checked out Thurston Moore's book, Mix Tape: The Art Of Cassette Culture, but it's the type of thing that I have to look at every now and then, especially when I get hit with the want to spend an hour or so in front of the stereo making a mix tape. I got hit with the need recently, so I started combing the book's pages, looking for inspiration and just reminiscing. It's difficult to make mix tapes these days, as most people don't even own tape decks anymore. Mix tapes aren't really fun unless you're sharing them so, knowing that my brother still plays cassettes, I decided to make one for him.

Saturday night, my sleeping daughter strapped to my chest in a baby carrier, I was keeping tradition alive. Here's the playlist:

Side A -

Beauty Pill - The Cigarette Girl From The Future (The Cigarette Girl From The Future EP, 2001, out of print)
Bauhaus - Double Dare (In The Flat Field, 1980)
Liars - There's Always Room On The Broom (There's Always Room On The Broom EP, 2004)
Ween - The Mollusk (The Mollusk, 1997)
Miles Davis - On The Corner (Take 4) (The Complete On The Corner Sessions, recorded 1972, released 2007)
Public Enemy - Eve Of Destruction (How You Sell Soul To A Souless People Who Sold Their Soul???, 2007)
Black Sabbath - Junior's Eyes (Never Say Die!, 1978)
Sic Alps - Gruxxe Bathe Ballade (Live at WFMU ~ Bootleg, 2007)
John Coltrane - Jupiter (Interstellar Space, 1967)
Marnie Stern - Plato's Fucked Up Cave (In Advance of the Broken Arm, 2007)
The Grails - More Extinction (Burning Off Impurities, 2007)
The Pop Group - Words Disobey Me (Y, 1979, reissued 2007)
Joy Division - Wilderness (Unknown Pleasures, 1979, reissued 2007)
Magazine - Parade (Real Life, 1978)

Side B -

Wire - Two People In A Room (154, 1979)
Dub Trio w/ Mike Patton - No Flag (Another Sound Is Dying, 2008)
Mark Lanegen Band - Come To Me (Bubblegum, 2004)
Eleven - Kneeling On One Knee (Thunk, 1995)
Meat Puppets - I'm A Mindless Idiot (Meat Puppets II, 1983)
Deerhoof - Spiral Golden Town (Green Cosmos EP, 2005)
Menomena - Air Aid (Friend And Foe, 2007)
PJ Harvey - Pocket Knife (Uh Huh Her, 2004)
Sonic Youth - Within You Without You (Daydream Nation - 2CD Deluxe Edition, recorded 1988, released 2007)
James Chance & The Contortions - Dish It Out (No New York Compilation, 1978)
Grinderman - No Pussy Blues (s/t, 2007)
Tom Waits - Book Of Moses (Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards, 2006)
Nina Simone - Sinnerman (Pastel Blues, 1965)

Is it possible that the "mix tape" could make a comeback? Probably not, as technological advancements (CDs, MP3s) have made the drawbacks of cassettes (there's work involved) significantly obvious. I think it's destined to fade into nostalgia-land, but thankfully some of us still exist to keep taping alive. I know for me, if not for tapes, I probably wouldn't have this love of music.

Letters From A Tapehead

Current listening:
Black Sabbath - Killing Yourself To Live (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, 1974)


Unknown said…
I'm not sure if you've seen these (though you're plugged in, so probably): USB Mixtapes that look like old cassettes, but they house a 64mb USB thumbdrive to put your mp3s on. They retail for $19, which is a bit high, but i think the idea holds: soon, those 64mb drives will be $2.99 and they'll be effectively disposable, making them the next item to use...
Sean Caldwell said…
Actually, I didn't know anything about these so I'm sorry to say that you give me much more credit than I deserve. I really like them, but that sucks that they're so expensive. I do hope that they come down in price because I think it's an awesome concept. Hopefully, it'll take off.

Thanks for the link.

Letters From A Tapehead
Anonymous said…
I always pick up new artists to love from this site. Plus, added points for putting deerhoof and Nina Simone on the same tape.

Sean Caldwell said…

Good music belongs with good music, no matter how different they might be in terms of genre. Thanks for the kind words and I'm happy that you enjoy the site.

Thanks for reading,
Letters From A Tapehead

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