With its frightening logo, the cassette dead-head suggested piracy, poison and ultimately death. The British Phonographic Industry 1980s campaign, “Home Taping Is Killing Music”, stemmed from the idea, that now the population had got its hands on cassette recorders, they would simply tape other people’s collections, and record sales would somehow fall off the edge of the money cliff. What they hadn’t taken into account was the home taped cassette’s role as a gateway, a sort of magnetic holding pen, for potential, future record purchases.
As a teenager, there was a limit to how far your carefully saved dinner money and pocket money would go, which made LP purchases were quite rare, and this is where home taping really came into its own. Armed with a blank cassette, it was possible to “try out” your friends LPs, to see if you liked them, before making an actual purchase yourself. Whole albums were copied, or singles, B-Sides, special compilation tapes, and John Peel sessions would all be taped and swapped between friends. This way, you could hear a band’s new, or even vintage offering, before committing to that ultimate vinyl purchase yourself, they were like a taster of what was out there. And what better way to introduce yourself to a new friend, than making them a compilation tape? A few new tracks, a few old ones, maybe a B-side, – a cassette could speak volumes about your tastes and personality – and swapping them was like a hearing trumpet into the soul.
When you’re too young to go to gigs, having a cassette on play ▶︎, record ◎, and pause (for which I can’t find a symbol) for the John Peel Show was the next best thing. Peel knew we were taping the sessions, which is why he wouldn’t speak over the beginnings or end of the songs. Sitting next to the radio, and gently letting off the pause button at the right moment…that was a skill.
Far from “Killing Music” taping music just made me want even more.