Cassette tapes: Our Time of Gifts, week 44

Cassette tapes: Our Time of Gifts, week 44


Recognise any of these?

I count these cassette tapes among some of my oldest friends.

Between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, I scrupulously saved up, then bought each precious album in triumph. I would listen to them over and over as I drove around the Welsh countryside in my cream and maroon Citroen 2CV, until the tape wore thin and the singing voices crackled.

Or – realistic in the knowledge that I would never be able to save enough from my job at the local swimming pool to buy, say, the entire Pixies back catalogue – I borrowed tapes off friends, and captured the plaintive tones of Black Francis on my own C90.

I used these towers of tapes as mental armour against the rest of the (as I saw it back then) musically unenlightened, non-‘alternative’ people in my small teenage world. When I was listening to Kristen Hersch sing about ghostly voices sliding down telephone receivers, the fact that I felt different to everyone around me didn’t matter a jot. In fact, it seemed like something to be proud of. Who wants to be the straight act when your head’s in a musical world populated by stoners, misfits and tortured artists?

Then, as I moved away from home, into a big city and onto a life full of people with experiences varied and very different to my own, these stacks of cassettes turned into stepping stones. I developed a more eclectic set of musical tastes. As well as keeping up with old favourites, I allowed myself to listen to music that would never have gained entry to the list of ‘good’ bands drawn up by John Peel, Steve Lamacq, Mark & Lard, and Jo Whiley.

Heck, I even once bought a CD by Natasha Bedingfield.

I moved on. And, over twenty years since I bought them, these tapes have been sitting on a shelf, untouched, for far too long. We don’t own a cassette player any more; and anyway, I own several of these albums on CD.

It felt like it was time to say goodbye.

I took a memento snapshot, which I posted on facebook before I put the cassettes out on the street, for a passer-by to pick up and add to their own collection of relics. But, an hour or two later, a lump came to my throat while I was reading the comments people posted on my blog facebook page, and on my private account. Old friends (some of whom had owned the originals from which these C90s were nabbed) picked out their favourite albums. New pals pointed out that chucking away the cassettes was like throwing out my youth. Pretty much unanimously, people advised me to hang on to these old treasures.

So, I couldn’t do it. I rescued the piles (to be honest, I’m not sure how many of the people who walk down our street collect old cassettes anyway) and now they’re sitting in an upstairs cupboard in our loft conversion, bracing themselves for the next big clear-out.

I wonder what will come of them when that happens. I might be brave, and convince myself that saying goodbye to these plasticy, slightly grimy objects wouldn’t result in the deletion of pleasant memories from my adolescence. That if I threw them away, I wouldn’t be getting rid of an essential part of who I was, and where I’ve come from.

But then again, I probably won’t be able to go through with it then, either. I suspect they’ll have to prise them out of my gnarled 102-year-old hands when they come for a final visit to my geriatric care home.


Do you have any old possessions that you simply couldn’t part with?


This post is part of Our Time of Gifts, my year-long adventure in sharing. Each week, I’ll try to loan or giving something away, then see what the universe brings to my doorstep.

Click here to find out more about Our Time of Gifts.

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  1. May 22, 2014 / 6:54 am

    Wow. That’s like Toy Sory 3 but for tapes. I bet they’re having a great time with the Christmas decorations right now!

  2. May 22, 2014 / 6:58 am

    Oh I have a massive box of cassettes too, but then again I also have a cassette player! I too have replaced the best of them on CD over the years, but still can’t part with the cassettes! It is exactly this sort of attitude to life that means our house is the opposite of minimalist, some great, great albums in your pile! X

    • May 22, 2014 / 7:30 am

      Thank you – I thought you might like some of these! I have a similar non-minimalist approach….my other half despairs….

  3. May 22, 2014 / 8:36 am

    So glad you didn’t ditch the tapes. I have a huge box of crackly recording s circa Bruno Brookes :-). Ps
    Mudhoney!!!!!’ Totally forgotten about them.

    • May 22, 2014 / 4:04 pm

      I hadn’t listened to Mudhoney for years, either…they’re fab.

  4. May 22, 2014 / 8:57 am

    That is seriously too much to expect anyone to give away their tapes, there is some superb stuff there. I have three huge boxes of vinyl (& no functional record player) which I have hidden after many pointless discussions about need & hoarding. I used to have a friend who every month while I was at university used to send me a compilation tape of new indie sounds (followed in weekly gaps by a listings, so that I wasn’t influenced in my listening). I couldn’t ever throw that kind of stuff out. CDs are just not the same.

    I thought you might appreciate the geek value in my husband once having being complimented by Chris Packham on his Dinosaur Junior t-shirt. So proud, I was …

    • May 22, 2014 / 4:03 pm

      Proud….I’d have been BEAMING! That’s some serious endorsement there. Vinyl’s another good one to hang onto – we have stacks in our living room.

  5. headinbook
    May 22, 2014 / 11:28 am

    Love this post, and love the tapes too. Some great music there – we must be very much of an age! I met my husband at twenty, and he had both a job and a passion for music, so we ended up with a gazillion CDs. They fill a wardrobe upstairs and I keep meaning to prune them as about 45% is generic noisy-boy guitar bands…

    • May 22, 2014 / 3:58 pm

      Thanks for stopping by. I suspect I might like some of those noisy-boy guitar bands!

  6. Actually Mummy...
    May 24, 2014 / 3:38 pm

    You had way different music taste to me – I was a New Romantic I’m afraid.
    And I have a huge box of tapes in the loft. Someone should invent a way to transfer them to digital, but then they wouldn’t feel the same 🙂

  7. May 24, 2014 / 7:19 pm

    Oh, I have a massive box of tapes, and of vinyl too, can’t bring myself to get rid of them; in fact they will shortly be put in a container and shipped to the US… 🙂 Not that I have a tape or record player..!

  8. May 24, 2014 / 8:29 pm

    I loved the fact lots of people advised you not to part with them, and that your post initiated contact from people of the era:) Have to admit all my tapes have gone, but I still remember my first ever music album, on tape:)

  9. May 25, 2014 / 11:37 am

    Most of my tapes have gone, but I still have my portable mini disc player and I still love it even though I have no use for it. 🙂

  10. May 25, 2014 / 10:40 pm

    I only recently got rid of all my tapes, and my old music centre, so without converting them to mp3 or CD there was no way of listening to them (oh and the 3-400 CDs somewhere in the attic – I really miss having those rather than my ipod, easily accessible for the car!). It was hard to let go as there were so many memories – I wish I’d done a photo, but actually once they were gone that was it.

    Just have loads of other stuff (more recent) that I don’t use that I must declutter now. We just don’t have the storage and the house looks a tip.

  11. May 28, 2014 / 9:18 pm

    I’m a hoarder and terrible at getting rid of anything, but when we moved house I did part with my cassette tapes. I did keep my vinyls though (Mostly Kate Bush) I was very tempted by the offer of turning them into cake stands recently but couldn’t go ahead with it. I do however, still have a turntable! I think vinyl is much longer lasting than cassette tape.

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