Many readers in their 50s will remember the many cassette tape titles lined up in record stores around the mid-1980s. The "Walkman" portable cassette player released by Sony was a big hit, and I often saw a wagon of cassettes at the entrance of a consumer electronics retail store. Also, I remember that many people listened to cassettes recorded from records because it was a waste to play expensive records.
However, since the 90's when CDs first appeared, cassettes had become a medium that was almost as unpopular as records. Now with the rekindling of the record boom that started about 10 years ago, the cassette boom is gradually rising. There are many popular titles in the second-hand market that allow you to enjoy a compact sense of ownership, which is a bit different from enjoying the luxury of a record with a jacket like and the roaring sound of the bass range.
I have decided to start a blog series that introduces the charms of such the small, dreamy medium, the cassette tape, along with the real-time atmosphere of the domestic Western music scene.
The first time, I listened to Van Halen's 1986 album "5150", which was released in the mid-1980s when the Walkman boom was still going strong, when cassettes were as popular as records.
Van Halen, a hard rock band led by Edward Van Halen (Eddie), an eternal guitar hero who unfortunately recently passed away. The main vocalist David Lee Roth withdrew from the band while the previous work, 1984, recorded the biggest hit for the band so far and reached the peak of popularity with the momentum of breaking bamboo. With the addition of new vocalist Sammy Hagar, this new work by Van Halen gained the same popularity as before, and was ranked number one in the United States. It was an overwhelming work packed with Eddie-only one-of-a-kind playing and melodic tunes, and it felt like he could afford to change the vocalist.
I bought this cassette as a high school student in 1986, and I found it the other day when organizing my house. Why did I bother to buy such a masterpiece on cassette? I think some people may think that. Actually, I took only the Walkman on my school trip and forgot the cassette tape, so I bought it at the record store where I was traveling. I bought many of the "5150" cassettes in the Van Halen album corner. I still remember the fascinating display. I never took this cassette out of the package because I listened to it on vinyl after the school trip. It remained in a cleaner state than I had expected, and when I played it, I could listen to it without any problems.
When I looked at the package after not having seen it in a long time ...
Whether it's a jacket on a record or a booklet on a CD, the front part of the index card has the band name Van Halen in katakana and the title number 5150 under the design of the original jacket. The LP had only the letters VH, but for small cassettes, this design is especially important for Western music products. Thanks to that, I was able to discover it immediately even from a remote location.
When I opened the index card, the front and back covers were written in English, and the back was written in Japanese.
The back side notes the selling phrase and the Japanese-English title. "The strongest rock'n'roll party in history", which really expresses the powerful rock feeling that you can enjoy with this album.
On the back is a mini discography of cassettes.
Even now, I feel the overwhelming presence of "1984".
And inside is a piece of paper with Japanese liner notes and lyrics printed on it.
The LP was white, but the cassette is gray. The liner was a biography, and I was grateful to read it because there was no Wikipedia at the time.
That’s about it for the package... Well, what about the sound of "5150" coming out of the cassette? What kind of sound will it emit?
You can hear a little soothing noise from the speakers.
At that time, I think that many people reduced this noise with a function called Dolby noise reduction, which was installed in most cassette players.
Although the noise is reduced, using this may cause the sound to be a little muffled depending on the cassette, so at that time, I was listening with this turned off.
Now, just listening to this hissing noise will make you feel like you're a teenager once again, and your tension will rise.
"Good Enough" begins with a shout of "Hello Baby!" I've just listened to sharp guitar sounds and overwhelming drumming and bass on loud records lately. The sound quality you hear on this cassette tape sounds more round than a record. The fill-in sound of the drums is not stimulated by the bass, but is suppressed to the comfortable sound of pop music. Eddie's guitar is of course loud, but it feels more like glam rock than sharp hard rock. Rather, I feel it has a pop friendliness.
Even with these hard rock numbers, I was even more surprised that Eddie's pop sense was so clear. This tendency is also apparent in the single hit song that followed, "Why Can't This Be Love", and it sounds like the entanglement of vocals and synths is further emphasized as the drums are lighter.
Recently, I have heard the voice of records described as "round, realistic and powerful sound" on TV programs. When I listened to this album on a cassette tape, I felt that the cassette tape was round, gentle, and friendly.
Is it because I was aware that my ears would not get tired even if I listened to it on my Walkman or car stereo for a long time? The pop feeling created by the magic of that sound was strongly felt in other songs such as "Dream's" and "Summer Nights", but for those who want to listen to cassettes from now, I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I will end this here.
Cassette tapes were a minimal package media with a different charm from records and CDs. Why don't you look for a cassette version of your favorite album?
You have no device to play the cassette?! Please be reassured.
Sound House sells great cassette decks.
A double cassette deck that can record and play back. It is recommended for those who used Dolby in the cassette era because it has a noise reduction function. Furthermore, it is equipped with a USB digital output. It is also recommended for those who want to digitally archive air check tapes of FM programs recorded in the past, songs recorded only on cassettes, and titles containing different versions.
Next time, in commemoration of the release of Paul McCartney's new album "McCARTNEY III", which he created by recording all the instruments himself (Paul himself was also in charge of all the instruments in 1980), I would like to thoroughly (?) check out the sound quality of the "McCARTNEY II" cassette version. See you again! I will report in the normal position again next time.