Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reflection #18/40

People talk about how CDs replaced vinyl, but I only dimly remember records still being a thing in my early childhood. By the time I was old enough to buy music, I was buying cassette tapes. I know I bought the Ghostbusters soundtrack on cassette, and that would have been in 1984.

When I was in grade school I felt overwhelmed by popular music, like it was something that other kids knew all about but I didn’t. We didn’t listen to a lot of music in my house, and besides, it seemed like there was a lot of research involved in learning all those band names, and song titles, and lyrics.

This changed in 1989, partly because my family got MTV. It turned out that it didn’t take long to learn the band names and, hey, it’s popular music, so you only needed to know what was current anyway.

The other important factor in my growing musical awareness is that, in 1989, there was a Wal-Mart in walking distance from my house, and this Wal-Mart sold cassette singles. I loved the cassette singles. If there was a song I loved on the radio, I would have to sit and wait and hope they would play it. But if I bought the single, I could play it anytime I wanted, over and over and over. I could even play the crappy B-side, if I felt like it. Best of all, they were only $3 each.

Three dollars may sound like a lot for one song (and a crappy B-side) but at least you knew what you were getting. When I really liked a song by an artist, and risked buying an album based on that song, the album almost always sucked.

The first single I bought was Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator,” a song I cherished so much that I had to seek it out. Other stand-outs included Prince’s “Batdance,” Warrant’s “Cherry Pie,” and the Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance.”

That golden age of the cassette single only lasted a few years, but I’ll always remember standing there in the Wal-Mart electronics department, three dollars in my pocket, looking at all my options, excited by the possibilities. 

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