Friday, July 29, 2016

Cassette Collecting As An Alternative To Vinyl

Some days I wake up and I think to myself, "What is absolutely the dumbest thing I could do today?" And a few weeks ago I sunk to a new low with my answer: collect cassette tapes. 


I hated cassette tapes. Perhaps nothing in my lifetime was more lowly and uninspiring than cassette tapes.

The number one reason cassettes sucked is the number one reason vinyl records are still cultural artifacts: the artwork and liner notes. However, I never envisioned myself collecting vinyl records ever again, until a couple of years ago. When I considered all the albums and bands that had made a difference in my life, it occurred to me that I had no physical obejects that commemorated that. Just digital files. So I slowly started collecting some of the albums that had been my favorites. Devo's Freedom of Choice was the first, but Queen's The Game and The Cars and R.E.M and The Police soon followed. Even AC/Dc and Judas Priest. Soundtracks like The Monster Club and The Return of the Living Dead.

But soon my collecting habit was becoming expensive. So, I wondered if there was a more economical alternative. Like 8 Tracks or cassettes. The reality is we never owned an 8 Track player, so I have no sentimental attachment to 8 Tracks. I really don't get very sentimental over cassettes, either, but when I used to go into the record store they often would have the album I was looking for only on cassette, so I'd buy it in that format. 

The first thing we'd do back then when we bought an album is record it on cassette. If we'd been smarter that would have been the only time we ever played the album. We'd have put it in storage and just listened to the tape. But who thinks of that kind of thing at the time?

So, here are a few of my first acquisitions...


Of course it's Devo. I got these for like five dollars each, which is still about half of what I might have paid for them when they first came out. I'm still not entirely convinced cassettes are something I want to collect, but there are about 50-100 albums I'd like to get in this format.

The Twin Peaks soundtrack will run you about $50-$100 on vinyl, but I got the cassette for seven dollars. Of course it doesn't have the feel and impact of a full vinyl album, but who can afford vinyl at those prices? 

It's still possible to find cassettes on the cheap. I bought Paul Simon's Graceland for a quarter Wednesday night. Still a lot of people just looking to get rid of them. Will they ever be highly collectible? Probably not, but it really depends on the artist and album, The ones that are nearly impossible to get on vinyl are often available on cassette. It's not an entirely satisfying substitute, but it's something. 
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