Best Songs for Cassette
This is Part 1 of the Hot Hot Music “Formats Series.” In this midsummer series, we will examine previous platforms of recorded music, from vinyls to .mp3’s, recommending artists and songs that we feel pair best with them.
Without further ado, let’s look at our first format, the compact cassette. Historically succeeding the 8-track tape in popular music playback, the compact cassette first appeared in American markets around in the early 1970s. By the late 1980s, it was the most popular format for recorded music. Nowadays, you can hardly find modern releases on special compact cassette editions; at least not in the way you find Radiohead or White Stripes albums on vinyl, for example.
Notwithstanding, the format’s popularity, ingrained in its more flattened, vintage sound, has withstood the test of time to the beat of collectors and aficionados everywhere.
Want to have an audible taste testing experience for yourself? Try these numbers on for size…
Start Me Up — The Rolling Stones
Tattoo You (1981)
This arena rock anthem from one of Britain’s most legendary bands is an ideal example of cassette’s special delivery. From the onset, Keith Richard’s contagious guitar riff drives you straight into the bumping bass drum accompaniment; sure to get your cassette’s speakers nearing combustion. Got an old car? This is the kind of track that you should blast through your vehicle’s cassette player, windows down, on a nice fall/spring day. A true example of the intriguing difference you can hear only on cassette.
Night Moves — Bob Seger
Night Moves (1976)
Like the Stones, Bob Seger enjoyed the pinnacle of his career during the heart of the cassette era. Fortunately for us, albums like Seger’s 1976 Night Moves were released via cassette; the perfect deliverer of the Seger sound. The acoustic guitar ushers you into this reflective song, in which Seger reminisces on his boyhood summer days. Naturally, there is perhaps no better way to enjoy this song than in a car while necking with your significant other. (On a warm summer night of course.) Seger’s haunting voice comes through clean on this format; it’s just not comparable.
Run Through the Jungle — Creedence Clearwater Revival
Cosmo’s Factory (1970)
This ghastly guitar picking almost seems haunted on cassette. Like Seger, John Fogerty’s voice is one that feels right at home on cassette. The reverberating effects give Fogerty an almost surreal choir, while the harmonica solo provides the effervescent topping on this classic storybook song. Here’s a fun fact: the song is not a ballad about Vietnam; rather, Fogerty was writing about America’s lenient gun possession laws, which he believed, turned the countryside into a potentially life-threatening zone.
Let’s Dance — David Bowie
Let’s Dance (1983)
Perhaps Bowie’s funkiest number ever, this synthesizer driven 80’s staple is a cassette loyalist. The thumping bass line will have your speakers shaking through what is arguably one of the most brilliant synthesizer riffs of all time. (Think Van Halen or Prince.) Either way, Bowie’s dramatic vocals bring the whole piece together in a tribute to fun; easily one of the most danceable tunes of the 1980s. Try throwing this one on a boombox a.k.a. Ghettoblaster at your next party and see what happens.
It’s The End of the World (And I Feel Fine) — R.E.M.
As soon as drummer Bill Berry unleashes his rapid snare drum start-up, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills join in on this fast paced anthem of apocalyptic beginnings. While Stipe vomits verses at a hardly digestible rate, guitarist Buck layers on his signature, twangy clean R.E.M. guitar. Like a more optimistic, American version of the Smiths, R.E.M. deliver an unforgettable middle finger to the end of days. On cassette, this one comes out so clean, you almost can catch every word Stipe preaches. Try playing this one at a karaoke party. Matter of fact, any format will allow for hilarious results.