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A Cassette in Hand is Worth Two on the Stand

27th November, 2011

CassetteJust the other day, I found a cassette.

Shoved in one corner it was just collecting dust, but it was a fresh blank (an awesome 120-minute one). I tore off the plastic wrapper and immediately clicked the case open.

It’s been years since I heard that click.

You remember the sound made by those two round blobs at each end of the case, right?

In my yesteryears, I used to spend a lot of time on music. Collecting, listening, archiving, cleaning and even putting the right cassettes back into the right cases. Hours, even complete weekends would go by just doing all these things.

Discovering Music

If friends or cousins came over to your house, they came with cassettes. That’s how I was introduced to most of the latest songs or bands. I still remember hearing ‘Korn’ for the first time when a cousin came over with a cassette tucked into his cargos. We closed the door, quietly put the cassette in and played it on very a very low volume. I barely heard it, but I badly wanted it.

You see, Korn had extremely abusive lyrics. And this stuff is still a rage in school. At that time, if a cassette had a “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” sticker on it, it was guaranteed to sell.

Radio wasn’t a big source of new music. AIR FM Rainbow – remember the jingle? – used to only play pop songs. But TV, oh yes, that was awesome. How can I ever forget MTV ‘Most Wanted’ by Shenaz Treasurywala? (Primarily because it’s title sponsor was Durex, which was particularly embarrassing if you’re watching TV with your parents). Making a transition from Cartoon Network to MTV and Channel [V] was difficult and frought with risks. But good ol’ peer pressure drove me on.

Searching for Music

Finally, you heard it.

That one song that was stuck in your head. Or that one guitar riff that blew you away. You just had to get it, no matter what.

You search your local market, the small music store that plays bhajans loudly but sells other genres discreetly. But he was always useless as all his stuff was four weeks old already. Somehow, somewhere, someone was going to South Ex, which had the Mecca-Medina of music: Planet M. Three bloody floors of just awesome music. Rarest of the rare, finest of the finest and trashiest of the trashiest – it was all there. You just had to ask. (Ask the right sales guy, though.)

Your heart beat stopped. Hands were sweating. Lips sealed. There it was, such a beauty. Colourful graphics, front cover, back cover (with holes). The cassette you always wanted. And there – without any pretense – was Track 3. The tune you were humming all day. Right there.

Rs. 125/- only.

Shit. Why were international bands always thrice as expensive as Indian ones?

Saving Up for Music

I actually never got pocket money, but neither did I get Rs. 125 at one go. I earned money by collecting change after buying eggs, bread, butter and milk. (On a separate note, I was quite pissed when milk started getting delivered at our house at 6 AM). The entire process meant that I didn’t buy any chocolates. Or chips. And I had to wait. Days, even weeks. God that was torture.

But that wait ends. Especially when you tell your mom that bread was not available and you keep the change. Then you rush to the music store.

Buying that Music

The thing is, it’s easy to see cassettes of the explicit-lyrics kind in a music store. No problem. You can pick them up, pretend you’re seeing it for the first time – eye pop, jaw drop, full-on acting – and put them right back.

Just buying them is bloody tough.

All cashiers have weird eyes. They’re not aligned, I tell you. They’re red at the center and even redder at the corners. Plus, they always squint. Especially at me. Shit. I make mental notes to never visit that music store again!

With eight 10-rupee notes, three 5-rupee coins, eleven 2-rupee coins and eight 1-rupee coins, I had finished everything in my wallet. Zero. Zilch. Nothingness.

Actually, not. I had traded a zero for something priceless.

Just Push Play

I quickly rushed back home, ripping off the Parental Advisory sticker en-route and dumped my bag. I slowly took off the plastic wrapper (didn’t want to ruin the case, did I?) and then I heard it:

The first click!

A fresh new cassette. YES! Anyways, I pressed eject (Gosh! Do you still remember that word?) and waited for the cassette bay to open. (This was the worst; why did it take so long for it to tilt 45 degrees open?). I shoved the cassette in and pushed … play!

(At low volume, of course).

Finish Side-A. Rewind. Play. Ugh – too soon. Rewind again. Play. Too far. Fast Forward. Play.

For the next few weeks, I was married to my Walkman. The moment I came back home, I had headphones on. When I took the dog for a walk, I had a Walkman slinging from one side. Even while I pretended to study, that song stood by me always.

And Then ..

.. I went to my friend’s house. With my cassette hidden in my cargo pocket.

His music was always four weeks old.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 27th November, 2011 11:26 PM

    Taking a trip down memory lane, eh.
    I still have my old Walkman and a bag full of cassettes. Even remember them LP Records…..those were something else. ABBA, Boney M, Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Rolling Stones, Hendrix……………………….the LP sound was different.

    • 27th November, 2011 11:59 PM

      You know LPs are making a come-back? You’ll find them in most of the big stores now.

      Also, +1 to your music taste(s). Awesomeness.

  2. 27th November, 2011 11:59 PM

    wow.. I remember that era too. 🙂

    For me, it was dad bringing cassettes on his own. My dad loved those cassettes, he had a couple of HARD Rock top 100’s too.

    Lovely walk down the memory lane! Killer post!

    • 28th November, 2011 2:19 PM

      It feels like a distant world now, doesn’t it? The most we see about an album nowadays is a square cover that gets downloaded with a song. Ugh.

      Your dad bought your cassettes? Haha – how cool is that! And I’m sure you begged and pleaded (and got your way) when required 😛

      Thanks for the blog-love, aawwwww!

  3. 29th November, 2011 9:03 PM

    Ah, the days of the good old cassette. I still nurture my collection with a lot of fondness (and dusting) and the player is in super shape. Well, that one is a lie. 😀

    • 30th November, 2011 12:40 AM

      Whaaaaatt? Really? My mom hired a crane that just scooped all our cassettes and threw them away (except for all the ones that she used to listen to!).

      I really miss those days – this modern world is just not good enough! 🙂

  4. 2nd December, 2011 1:02 PM

    yeah-i remember this image i saw sometime back A cassette and a yellow steadler pencil with a simple tagline: ‘This generation will never know the link between them.’
    What a powerful message.

    • 2nd December, 2011 1:37 PM

      *sniff* ..

      You know, I’m sure our parents said the same to us – for a lot of things. I guess it’s a fact of life!

  5. 8th December, 2011 7:16 PM

    Times have changed so much. About 15 years back, whenever there was a new movie getting released, I remember running off to music shop to buy the songs cassette of the movie. Also, we used to have bigger movie cassettes that were inserted in a VCR/VCP.

    Now, I feel that was a totally different era. I think my generation has witnessed the maximum technological change.

    • 8th December, 2011 8:00 PM

      True, very true!

      But don’t you think the generation after us will witness even more technological change? Mind-boggling, if you think of it!

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