"But there was nothing about the little, low-rambling, more or less identical homes of Northumberland Estates to interest or to haunt, no chance of loot that would be any more than the ordinary, waking-world kind the cops hauled you in for taking; no
small immunities, no possibilities for hidden life or otherworldly presence; no trees, secret routes, shortcuts, culverts, thickets that could be made hollow in the middle – everything in the place was right out in the open, everything could be seen at a glance; and behind it, under it, around the corners of its houses and down the safe, gentle curves of its streets, you came back, you kept coming back, to nothing; nothing but the cheerless earth."
Thomas Pynchon, "The Secret Integration"
This is Ian Mathers' Tumblr. I live in Canada. I've written about music and other things for Stylus, PopMatters, Resident Advisor, the Village Voice, and a few other places. Hi.
I hated cassette tapes as a kid. Haaaaaaaaated them. (VHS tapes too, for many of the same reasons.) Living where and when I was, I had no awareness that people might be making music and releasing it only on cassette, so the contents were just the same bands I was hearing on the radio, tv, etc. I just knew that tapes were my only option to listen to the music I liked on car trips and the like. And my shitty little Walkman fucked things up all the time, sometimes destroyed tapes, ate batteries like crazy, etc. To say nothing of how annoying I found fast forwarding and rewinding. Making tapes too, that was a pain in the ass if you were a perfectionist; trying to no leave gaps between songs but also desperate to avoid cutting off even a second of the track, feeling like I had to start over again if I messed something small up 9/10s of the way through.
We already had CDs at home, and while I did grow up on vinyl as a kid I didn’t particularly notice or care about any differences in sound between mediums. Being able to skip tracks, or start from a particular track; that was huge to me. I kind of suspect that plenty of people roughly my age who still kind-of feel in the back of their heads like the ‘right’ way to listen to an album is all the way through were influenced on some level by how annoying doing anything else on a Walkman was.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t feel at all the same way about tapes in 2014. All of the things that bothered me at the time—inconvenience, sound quality, analog imprecision, fragility, etc etc etc—seem like virtues to me now. Probably partially for reasons outlined in the most popular post I’ve ever made (by some orders of magnitude), and it’s true that I started liking them a lot more pretty much the second I no longer felt like I had to rely on them, but I think mostly because, well, I was a dumb little kid. Lots of us, when we were dumb little kids, had aesthetic prejudices that seem laughable to us now; thankfully, I think little fussy ol’ me was kind of adorable in his cranky naïveté rather than, I don’t know, embarrassing.