I probably talk too much about the cassettes I’ve been amassing in my car over the last year or two. No one really gets it, but in terms of collecting, they’re now on a par with LPs for me: rare and random little treasures you can’t download on command, only stumble upon; a mild form of protest against the breaking-new-band race that left me behind years ago. And unlike LPs, the medium’s late-80s/early-90s heyday is also my own.

I’m not entirely alone in my obsession. Sarah has kept a respectable set of Dylan, Joni Mitchell, John Prine and Neil Young titles so thoroughly enjoyed that the names are buffed off. My friend Kev, who somehow bills time at his job while combing thrift stores for tapes and 45s, partly inspired my car-cassette fetish with his trunkful of stacking plastic racks loaded with amazing tunage. I get his overflow, rejects and the occasional loaner—recently an Alice Cooper Best Of, New Order’s 2nd full-length and a Minutemen cassette-only comp that packs more pleasure, minute for minute, than anything else in my zipcases.

Rewound sounds:

John Lennon – Gimme Some Truth: Where does this much weariness and seething come from, just a tape-flip away from “Imagine”?

The Clash – Career Opportunities: Too much work has me nostalgic for underemployment—and the righteous indignation that went with it.

Rolling Stones – Out Of Time: If you can hear past the viciousness, this is a real head-bobber.

Tha Alkaholiks – Likwit: You gotta hand it to a group that can squeeze three albums of strong jams out of a passion for malt liquor.

Rollins Band – What Have I Got: Circa 1990, this perfectly distilled my disaffected white boy angst. Now it sounds so ridiculous it’s hard to believe Rollins even took it seriously. But I still dig the slow grind and wanky guitar.

Minutemen – Shit You Hear At Parties: A kick in the idiot box.

UPDATE—11/1: Pop Matters explains why cassette nostalgia doesn’t exist. I beg to differ.

UPDATE—11/23: Designer/artist and super-old family friend I only finally got to meet this year Kate Bingaman-Burt drew my mixtape:

  1. Marc said:

    I can proudly claim that circa 1992 I spent a lot of my time driving around suburban Wa. state in a 1985 Honda Accord that had in it’s onboard cassette collection Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ solo album. Heady days.

  2. jmsytsma said:

    No actual comment, just liked the word verification: “Major Erratic”

  3. Jake said:

    MARC: There are some wishy-washy ballads on “Imagine” that aren’t great for driving IMHO, but the few barn-burners like “How Do You Sleep” keep it on board for me.

    JMSYTSMA: “Fend Perkins.”

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