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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > Sep-18 > Keeping it reel

Keeping it reel

IF YOU THOUGHT THAT CASSETTE TAPES WENT THE WAY OF YOUR VHS VIDEO RECORDER AND CAMCORDER, THEN THINK AGAIN. A WHOLE NEW GENERATION IS MAKING THE FORMAT COOL AGAIN. CLASSIC POP HITS REWIND…

THERE TURN OF CASSETTES

Got a pencil and paper handy? Good; here are your questions.

Which music format…

● Is the fastest growing in the UK right now?

● Has given Kylie Minogue ‘bestseller’ status in 2018?

● Has its own international festival? (Hint: it’s not vinyl)

● Is used as a signifier of youth and hipness in millennial movies, and TV dramas?

● Is – in the language of Smash Hits – back! Back! BACK!

Answer. It’s our old friend, the cassette.

If you came of age during the Eighties, chances are you’ll have fond memories of Memorex. More popular than vinyl, by 1989, UK cassette album sales had reached 83 million; in 1990, Maxell alone sold 350 million blank tapes. Noise reduced by Dolby; walk accompanied by Walkman; cassettes were pop music.

So why are they back now? In a world that is increasingly about stuffing media into the cloud so we don’t have to carry it around, cassettes should be completely forgotten. Sure, vinyl sales are steadily increasing, but the argument for records is about the beauty of the package and – for some, at least – the warmth of the sound. Cassettes’ big USP was their handy size and durability. Now that we can have everything on a phone, where’s the upside? Who wants two spools of tape in a plastic clamshell?

cassette store day will be celebrating its sixth anniversary on 13 october 2018

RE-E-WIND

Quite a lot of people, it turns out. Let’s rewind… After 1989, things started going rapidly downhill for the cassette in the UK. Thanks, Mr CD. 2012 was the format’s nadir: not only did cassettes only manage a pitiful 3,823 sales in the UK, but the Oxford English Dictionary dropped the term ‘cassette player’ from its Concise Edition.

By any standard, it looked like it was game over for this once-ubiquitous format. But indie cassette-label owner and DJ Jen Long didn’t think so. During the cassette’s annus horribilis, Long decided to do something to celebrate this “undying format” and, in 2013, Cassette Store Day was born. Along with Steve Rose of Sexbeat Records in London and Matt Flag of Suplex Cassettes in California, it was originally planned as a one-off event at London’s Rough Trade East, but CSD soon snowballed into an international festival with participating shops in the US, France, Japan and China, with both major labels and indies releasing limited editions on the format.

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About Classic Pop

Issue 44 of Classic Pop magazine is on sale now! In the latest issue we speak to Soft Cell's Marc Almond and Dave Ball as they prepare for their farewell gig at the O2 in London and release a career-spanning boxset, Keychains & Snowstorms. We also take a look at their Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret LP in our Classic Album feature. Elsewhere, we have an exclusive interview with the world's biggest record producer, Mark Ronson, catch up with The Proclaimers who return with their politicised new album Angry Cyclist and talk to Level 42's Mark King about his life in pop's funkiest band. This month, we look back on the glory days of house music and Toyah tells us how she brought the punk aesthetic to the pop world. For boombox fans, we take an in-depth look at why cassettes are making a return and we also serve up a buyer's guide to the wonderful Luther Vandross. Our packed reviews section features new albums from Prince, Paul Weller, Lenny Kravitz, Paul Simon and many more while the reissues section includes Pet Shop Boys, the latest David Bowie boxset and Curiosity Killed The Cat. On the gig front, we head to Hyde Park for The Cure's only European show of the year, delve into the latest Let's Rock festival in Shrewsbury and check out gigs by Nick Heyward, Del Amitri and others. Enjoy the issue!