Tagged: cassettes

Yacht Rock… Ten Years Later

Twenty or so years ago, it was impossible to watch cable TV and some broadcast stations during fringe-time without seeing an ad—or even a full-length infomercial—for the Time-Life compilation Guitar Rock.

If memory serves, there was also a version of the ad that included two dudes hanging out when one of them asks the other where he got all this great music. The second bro emphatically responds, “it’s Guitar Rock!”

Over the summer, I had a similar moment. I was working with a guy on printing some t-shirts, and he was playing a Spotify playlist consisting of Seals and Croft and the Doobie Brothers. After a few selections, I asked, “what are we listening to?” In a comparatively hushed voice, he responded, “oh, it’s Yacht Rock!”

Almost immediately, the term conjured up the kind of soft rock music enjoyed and created by wealthy members of the yachting class.

But it was also an online video series!

Premiering ten years ago, Yacht Rock was a web series that fictionalized the lives of soft rock stars, including Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, Toto, and Christopher Cross. And the series’s parody of Daryl Hall and John Oates explains why they were again popular in the late 2000s and why “I Can’t Go for That” was on heavy rotation on the jukeboxes around the East Village and around Williamsburg in 2007.1 But today, even more than the “guitar rock” appellation, “yacht rock” has survived as a signifier for soft rock of nearly forty years ago.

And like cassette tapes, I hope that the “kids today” realize how bad it really was and move on to something else.

A Long Way from Cassette Tapes and Twenty-Three Second Exposures

This is an oldie but goodie about the world’s first digital camera by Kodak and Steve Sasson:

Here are some specs: The 8 pound camera recorded 0.01 megapixel black and white photos to a cassette tape. The first photograph took 23 seconds to create. To play back images, data was read from the tape and then displayed on a television set. We’re sure come a long way since then, eh?

Sure, we have.

Twenty three seconds is a long time to make a photograph. I wonder how much of that is due to gathering enough light to make an acceptable exposure versus the amount of time it takes to process the light into 10,000 pixels (0.01 megapixels) then into digital bits.

Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

Today, I read the following phrase on a midterm exam:

You can download MP3s onto cassettes.

That is like getting Arby’s to go and then freezing it so you can microwave it and eat it later. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Home taping is killing music

I worry about the new fascination with cassette tapes. Of all the recording media I ever used, cassette tapes were by far the worst. The sound was horrible. They wore out fairly quickly, which made the horrible sound even worse. I remember some recordings that sounded like the band was drowning under water. Also, the cassette tape was susceptible to damage by a cheap tape player. I remember seeing a Bic pen in a friend’s car for when his cheap deck would eat the tape right out of the cassette. He would use the pen to wind the tape back into the cassette.

I know that for the “kids today,” the cassette is a novel way to hold your music, and it’s portable to boot. It’s also probably the only physical form they’ve had to carry music. My generation has the same fascination with records, but at least those disks have a richer and warmer sound than digital formats. And we got a square-foot canvas for the cover art, which itself is a forgotten art form.

Or maybe, I really am getting older faster than I thought.