Thinking about lava lamps led me to the music of my childhood and teen years, which was primarily delivered on cassette tapes. Compact disks had only just come out and hadn’t gained mainstream popularity yet, mostly because they would often skip and didn’t get an anti-skip technology until the 90’s. Also, I didn’t have a CD player in my car, so that pretty much made certain the cassette tape won out. I love music, but when it comes to tech I couldn’t quite be labeled a true audiophile. Many cassette tapes were labeled high fidelity, or simply “HF,” a companion term to the visual equivalent of “HD.” But truly, I never worried much about all of that, as it was the songs themselves and the words and music that I adored, any way I could consume them. A key difference with cassette tapes, however, is that if the cassette player got a bit dirty or old it began to actually “eat” the tapes. This would mean destroying them outright or simply making it sound like your favorite singer had gotten incredibly drunk before wandering into a sound studio. But when everything worked as expected, it was just a wonderful way to experience a bit of music.
In high school, I went through a phase where I was writing and singing songs on the piano. Since you could actually record on cassette tapes, that made them extra special and I remember making a tape of my songs. I remember it was a clear plastic tape, and I had added a label where I painstakingly wrote out the titles of all of the songs. I only remember the title of one of them which was called Beyond Midnight and can’t recall a single song after that. Nor can I recall what happened to this particular tape. Perhaps it’s in a box somewhere at my mother’s house and I’ll stumble across it years from now. That’s something I’d like to believe as I’d rather like to hear it again. I’m sure I”ll be perfectly embarrassed by the outcome and that’s all part of the fun. But, more likely, it’s simply been lost to time as I focused on other pursuits. Though I definitely love those analog days, there’s something to be said for capturing everything in digital form. It floats up to a cloud and stays there, waiting for the moment when you’d like to revisit it again.
From my musical performances on now-lost VHS tapes, and no player to view them with anymore anyway to lost cassette tapes, there’s certainly a bit of improvement that comes with all of this new technology. Especially when it comes to preserving memories. While I’m not sure I’d like to have been part of the YouTube generation that has no secrets left to hold dear, I do wish more of my youth had been captured in a way that I could still easily view it today. Or perhaps, it’s wonderful just as it is. In my mind, I was a fabulous songwriter and brilliant on stage as I was belting out a ballad. With nothing to prove otherwise, I can simply wallow in a memory that is far too good to actually be true, but impossible to contradict. That said, a childhood friend did post a little clip of me singing in a show with her last year on my Facebook page and my initial thought was to hide it immediately! But I didn’t. I’ve always been shy about appearing on video, so I let it stand as a testament to bravery and the distinction of being the only video of me that currently exists on the internet. Today, you can hear me on my Sketching Stuff podcast (episode 10 launched this week!), or my new cassette tape as I like to think of it. I’ve simply found a new way to keep living live in high fidelity.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Vermilion, and Indigo (my “Vintage” Trio!). Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!