A humble apology to that magnetic strip

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October 11, 2012

An Editorial By Matthew “Gus” Gusul

Now hear this: To the audio cassette, I hereby say a heartfelt, “SORRY!” And I regret it has taken me 16 years to realize my error.

At 14 I became a dedicated vinyl collector when I discovered how beautiful it is to put the needle down on some hot wax. I am talking 33s and 45s. (I did not venture into the sub-genre of weirdo – The 78 Collector.) Simultaneously, I started an all-out war on any other audio format: digital, compact disc, 8-track, or cassettes – all were trash!

But in May I bought a 1982 Toyota Tercel, mint condition if I overlooked a scratch or two. Nestled inside its dashboard I found a fully functioning cassette deck. Bonus. So my wife Liz and I hit the Salvation Army and the downtown Victoria record stores.

Here’s the collection we found:

I am not saying that cassettes are the best audio format; Vinyl still holds that position for me. But some music is meant to be listened to on cassette because it simply sounds better. Musicians and producers used all their skills to make their songs sound good on that tiny magnetic strip encased in a plastic shell. Thanks to my little blue car, I am discovering that music all over again.

Take Journey’s Departure: you have not listened to Any way you want it until you hear it loud and proud banging out of my 1982 speakers . With Journey at full volume, my car is not simply a way to get from A to B; it is a time machine. I can relive the 80s while travelling from Mayfair Mall to Elk Lake on Pat Bay Highway at 75km/h.

Next, The Clash. Wow – just wow. There are so many classic songs on this tape: I fought the law, Career opportunities, Garageland, White Riot. Liz and I yell the Garageland lyrics as loud as we can — “I don’t want to hear about what the rich are doing” — while driving our 30-year-old car through the streets of Cordova Bay or Oak Bay.

A couple of weeks ago I reluctantly turned 30: I felt like I was having a funeral for my twenties. But then I got this brand-new, plastic-wrapped (still with Zeller’s $4.95 pricetag) version of REM’s 1987 release Document. Yup, I gave it to myself. I’d bought it in May and had yet to open it. So, it became a birthday present from 29-year-old Gus to 30-year-old Gus. Listening to such a great cassette turned out to be a fantastic treat. When REM recorded It’s the end of the world as we know it, The one I love, Odd Fellows Local 151, they were envisioning people — perhaps even me! — listening to it on cassette.

Needless to say Guns ‘n’ Roses, Dire Straits, and Bon Jovi all sound great on tape — something I’d never have known without my Tercel. (Note: The Madonna cassette belongs to Liz.)

Maybe this article should be called something like “Ode to the Cassette” or “Kids, throw Away your iPod and Grab your Walkman.”

Matthew “Gus” Gusul is The Coastal Spectator’s Online Editor.

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