I’ve been listening to a lot of cassette tapes lately.
You remember those things; they appeared between vinyl records (making a comeback) and CDs (fading away as the world goes digital).
Our collection of taped music isn’t as obvious as our shelves of vinyl, which got admiring glances from adults accompanying their kids trick-or-treating.
“ That’s quite a collection you have there,” said one dad, prompting me to pop open the four drawers in the bureau (this week’s accompanying photo) and say, “The vinyl isn’t even the half of it.”
Outside of the photo there are another eight of those small drawers at the right, and several three-shelf storage units on a bookcase in the hall.
My cassettes haven’t been much listened to lately because it’s hard to find a good tape player. We have a couple of those multi-playback units in the house — the combination radio, turntable, dual cassette, and CD player machines. There’s one in the living room and one in my study. The turntables work fairly well and the CD units are fine, but the tape decks are fair-to-bad — apparently driven by elastic bands: half of the living room set stopped working at the same time I found a broken elastic band on the floor underneath it. The other half is unreliable; it speeds up, slows down, and gains and loses volume.
The unit in my study is pretty good, though it works better with factory-recorded tapes than my own creations. They’re shorter and there’s less weight of tape to pull back and forth.
They just don’t make tape decks like they used to.
Recently though, I realized that we actually had a really good 15 year-old CD/two-deck combo player sitting down in our music room — a holdover from my wife’s time coaching school choir soloists down, which involved recording them. It’s sat idle since she ceased involement in the choir two years after retirement.
The tape decks on that machine are actually better than the CD player. Both sides have auto-reverse, so you can play the entire tape without flipping it. It recognizes the blank spaces between tunes and will actually allow you to cue-up a particular track, which was always one of the advantages that records had over cassettes.
I set it up in the living room a couple of weeks ago, detaching the speakers to spread the sound around, and have been taking quite a few trips down a variety of memory lanes: rock, jazz, folk, and classical.
Jack Bruce died recently and I spent part of an afternoon running through my taped collection of Cream.
Oh, I have the CD boxed set, but it was nice to hear the songs again in the order I first remember hearing them.