The good thing about being a pack rat is that fashion never goes out of style.
Take my cassettes. Please.
Well, no one did.
And now Sept. 7 is “Cassette Store Day,” the obvious spin off of “Record Store Day.” The Flaming Lips, Animal Collective and JJ Doom are among those offering limited edition cassette releases. Magnetic Fields missed the bus on this one.
I still have many cassettes from the 1980s and 90s, which are mostly home made tapes and “High Fidelity” mixes from ex-girl friends. I saved great ROIR cassettes like “The Long Hot Summer” (Jamaican Ska) by the Original Skatalites and Lauren Aitken. I think there’s great liner notes on the tiny cassette sleeve, but I can no longer see them. A few years ago I bought a wonderful cassette compilation “Beautiful Dynamite (The Bubblegum Years)” at a record store in Portland, Ore. The leadoff track is the peppy “My Girlfriend is a Witch” by October Country.
Cassette Store Day is off to the same organic start of Record Store Day, before Record Store Day got all tangled up in rules and regulations.
“The Record Store Day people sent us something months ago that said they had nothing to do with Cassette Store Day,” said Rick Wojcik, owner of Dusty Groove, 1120 N. Ashland, my neighborhood record store. “We had never heard of Cassette Store Day. We thought it was a tounge-in cheek thing a few weeks ago (Cassette Store Day does not have much information) but now we’re looking at some products we’re putting out Saturday. We also have piles of vintage cassettes we’ve tried to sell over the years and don’t have much of a market for. We’re going to give everybody a vintage cassette while supplies last.”
Dusty Groove is open from 10 a.m-8 p.m. Sept. 7.
Dusty Groove will have some new limited edition cassette releases like the David Hess “Last House on the Left” soundtrack from 1972. “The first Suicidal Tendencies ( thrashy self-titled 1983 debut) album makes a lot of sense on cassette,” Wojcik said. “We have the “Think Pink” record (by Twink) is more of a prog-rock that you’d want on LP. Kill Rock Stars put out a three cassette package.”
In a recent issue of New York magazine Gareth Paisey of Los Campensinos! said of the cassette, “You’re never going to have that sort of romance in a media-file upload.”
Of course. I play my cassettes on the boom box I never got rid of.
And bands are using cassettes as DIY tools to release their music. But the sound doesn’t come close to vinyl. And cassette tapes break.
“People much younger than you and I have this fantasy the 80s were the coolest time in the world,” Wojcik explained. “So younger people think ‘80s music on cassette is a great idea. There’s been some electro and ‘80s funk soul things on cassette. That’s where I’ve seen it the most.”
One of the most compelling markets for cassette came after the death of the 12-inch rhythm and blues single.
“No one knows how to pitch it,” Wojcik said. “Towards the end of the 1980s a lot of distributors were not selling as much vinyl to Mom and Pops. They were not allowing returns on vinyl, but they would allow returns on cassettes. The cassette single was huge in the 1990s, specifically in R&B. I know one Chicago hip-hop producer, pre-Common, who had a great act who didn’t have the money to press it on 12 inch and cassette single. So he decided to put it on cassette single. And it’s a great lost hip-hop track. DJs couldn’t play it.”
Cassette Store Day hasn’t landed on Laurie’s Planet of Sound, another great record store at 4639 N. Lincoln Ave. “We’re not part of that indy cassette scene,” said manager Melissa Geils. “There’s so few releases, it’s not worth the work. Maybe one day. Our focus is still definitely vinyl records.”
Laurie’s does stock indy and used cassettes that sell for anywhere between $1 and $5.
According to the Recording Industry Assn. of America, 442 million music cassettes were sold in 1990. The figure had dropped to 700,000 as recent as 2007.
Now with “Cassette Store Day” on the charts I can hardly wait for “8 Track Store Day.” I have an 8-track player in my apartment. Right above my cassette dubbing machine.