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50th Anniversary of the Cassette Tape

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the beloved cassette tape. I think the last time I saw anybody handle a cassette, I was watching Napoleon Dynamite.

The last time I personally handled a cassette tape was, surprisingly, just last year. My buddy Tina was driving her husband’s truck that day, I hopped in the passenger seat only to realize that the stereo was a cassette deck. Naturally the first thing I did was push eject to find out what was inside, it was an untitled mix tape. Point being, this guy still voluntarily has a cassette deck in his truck, because he LIKES it. Which is rad.

I was trying to remember the first cassette tape I ever owned, but it was so long ago I can’t remember. I can tell you the final cassette I purchased before the transition to compact disc was 2 Live Crew’s “As Nasty As They Wanna’ Be”. No, no wait, maybe it was “Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em”…hell I can’t remember.

A couple of key cassette moments in my life, I mean outside of receiving mix tapes from boys I had crushes on, are as follows.

My cousin insisted she had a song that I just HAD to hear. So there we sat on her bedroom floor as she cued up the cassette on her crappy boom box, anticipation at an all time high like I was waiting for her to light off a firecracker in her pants. And there it was in my ear holes, AC/DC‘s “Big Balls”. That was the moment that I became an AC/DC fan.

Another time is actually the same story as the first time I ever won anything off the radio. It was New Year week 1988. Alice Cooper was scheduled to come to Missoula with Motörhead (who were actually replaced by The Screaming Trees due to visa issues.) Alice Cooper

was being interviewed live on Z100 and being the scary movie buff that he is, was challenging listeners to stomp him on scary music trivia to win tickets to the show. This was for real LIVE radio. I called in and stumped him on a question about Evil Dead and won tickets. Knowing he was actually at the Z100 studio, which was in the old location where KPAX is now, mom and I decided to drive down there to see if we could catch him exiting the building. And sure enough, there he was, in his 10 inch boots and still not as tall as the chick he was with, exiting the building. My mom busted her Alice Cooper cassette out of the glove box and he autographed the cover for us.

Lesson: always, always have something in your ride from your favorite bands to autograph…just in case.

You want to relive being a kid and using two boom boxes facing each other to multi track? Dave Grohl re-creates exactly how, with props, in his SXSW Keynote speech from earlier this year. (Not to mention a very inspiring speech all together.)

Sure when CDs came out the sound was truly epic and you didn’t have to flip the damn thing over, but cassettes were sturdy. You could drop them and man handle them and easily fit one in your back pocket and record your friends being stupid on them. What’s not to love? Cheers to 50 years of cassettes.

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