LOOK BACK: “Unravelling the Mysteries of Audio Cassettes”

How to buy cassette tapes (click to enlarge)

The art of buying cassette tapes explained in detail in a book called “The Sony Tape Rock Review” from 1984. Unsurprisingly, in this Sony-branded periodical, Sony tapes are recommended! Click on the image and you should be able to read the text from this 30-year old advertorial…


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Scott Truelove

Still play my 80s 12 inch mix tapes in my Royal Mail van and can even hear myself singing at the start of some tracks that must have been picked up by the stylus,creepy!!


I remember making compilations and then if I wanted to change a song in the middle of one side I would have to find another song to replace of the exact same length or hit stop at the right time.

I guess Mini-disc made thing easier for that but I missed that one.


I had 100s of tapes. The pre-recorded ones sound terrible now days. The quality was woeful


After hearing Metal Guru a couple of times (when I was 12) I became obsessed with T.Rex. At the time I couldn’t afford to buy the singles, they were 6 German Marks each, and they came so fast – Children of the Revolution, Solid Gold Easy Action, 20th Century Boy, The Groover (and I still had to discover the ones before Guru …) However, a friend of mine did have enough pocket money and bought each new T.Rex release which he subsequently lent me at school. During the break, I would run home (5 minutes), record side one (2:3o) and side two (3 mins, only one b-side track for Germany!) onto a Kodak (!) C-60 cassette that I hat prepared just for each new T.Rex 7″, then run back to school (another 5 minutes) just in time for the next lesson. Exciting times – wish I still had that cassette!

Stan Butler

Fitting an album of just over 45 minutes onto a 60 minute tape, with the resulting unnatural break two or three songs before the end. On the plus side, filling the remaining space with b-sides.


…and if cassettes hadn’t been invented then we wouldn’t have had the iconic Peter Murphy TV advert for Maxell “break the sound barrier” … indeed!

Mike Bushell

I recently bought my wife a “Home Taping Is Killing Music” t-shirt for going to gigs. Everyone under 40 looks blank!

Cassettes were problematical but very good for recording anything live, like conversations and research interviews. I don’t know what people do now.


I remember having a range brochure from Sony with what seemed like dozens of different walkman models, and dreaming of owning (any of) them as a kid – especially the auto-reverse metal playback one! The days of nice Aiwa twin cassette decks too, when doing yourself a copy of a mates new romantic album seemed to be something that did not brand you a criminal like today (despite the skull and crossbones warning message that home taping was killing music).

I was always a TDK cassette buyer, until a brand called ‘That’s’ came along which everyone was raving about for price v performance.


Base six?! Not sure gcse taught me that!

Paul Kent

Before I recorded any mix tape I used to add the track times up to ensure it all came to 45 minutes. I actually calculated the seconds in base six so I carried over to the minutes accurately! Was it just me….?


Ummm yes I think it was just you :-)

But then again I probably wasn’t clever enough (or I was just too lazy :-)


No not just you Paul… I did that too. I wouldn’t begin recording either until I was sure it would all fit to a premium. Gotta use every last bit of tape!!

When I first became a Genesis fan in 1981, a mate of mine recorded all the previous albums for me. Of course, he just recorded Side 1 and whatever would fit of Side 2 on each side of a TDK 90 minute cassette, and Genesis was never a band that would fit an album on each side.
It was years before I heard the end of ‘The Lady Lies’ (from ‘…and then there were three…’) and the end of ‘”Dukes Travels”. I can still remember where most of those tracks cut out and a part of me still expects it to do that over 30 years later!! Those formative years sure do stick with you….


Ah cassettes! Wonderful and frustrating in equal parts.
The pleasure of being able to record things at will (recording songs from radio and TV using a mono tape deck) versus the pain of stretched cassettes and dropouts…

Things I particularly remember:
– the wonder of seeing my first Sony Stowaway (the original name of the Walkman)
– BEF’s Music for Stowaways (such a perfect album to listen to on headphones)
– recording an album on one side of a C90 cassette and then deliberating for ages what album would make the perfect accompaniment on the flip side
– getting into songwriting and the concept of overdubbing by carefully disconnecting the erase head on my tape deck
– my cassette copy of Magazine’s Secondhand Daylight album had a stretch during the track ‘The Thin Air’ – even now when I hear it on CD as it should sound I still imagine the sound of the stretched portion :-)
– how about the (failed) experiment (pioneered by Island I believe) of the 1+1’s where you got an album on one side and blank side for you to record something of your own (I guess this was before all the ‘Home Taping is Killing Music’ furore started…)

Halcyon days :-)


and don’t forget the most frustrating thing of all – the tape running out before you had recorded all of the album and having to go back and work out which song you were going to sacrifice.


I had this book! I think I bought it (or did it come free when bought with some cassettes?) from my local Woolworths in Glossop, Xmas ’84 as I recall :)

Got through some HF-S 90’s in my time making mix tapes!