Living Life In High Fidelity

Day 11 - Cassette Tape Watercolor Music - Doodlewash

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.

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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!
Day 11 - Cassette Tape Watercolor Music Detail - Doodlewash

Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
  1. Sandra Strait 4 years ago

    It’s kind of scary to think that personal info and footage of us might still be around to blackmail us with in 20 years, but kind of awesome to think that that it might be around for our descendants in 200 years. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have videos from the past? Speaking of music, I just got back from a weekend Celtic music festival at the Oregon Coast and I discovered the Nyckelharpa! What an awesome instrument!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      hehe… I think it be both perfectly awesome and totally terrifying at the same time to have that footage in digital! Lol So yeah, I kind of want it! 😃💕And whoa… totally had to google that instrument… wow… it’s looks awesome, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had the chance to hear it! Fun!

  2. Lisa 4 years ago

    I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but I used to work as a DJ at a station in Sturgeon Bay, WI. We ran all of our music from giant tape decks and commercials from prerecorded cassettes. When I was in Rhinelander, WI I volunteered at a public radio station and there I played albums of all things. If I had the magic powers to take someone back in time to those stations, the young hitchhiker would think I was a dinosaur. And they wouldn’t recognise much at all.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      That’s so awesome!! I love that you worked as a DJ! 😃💕 You always astound me with your stories, Lisa… they’re fabulous! I’m quite sure that those experiences have made you the bright light that you are! And it’s a gift for all of us!

  3. Sharon Nolfi 4 years ago

    Great realism on the cassette tape! I’m from the vinyl generation. I had a collection of 45s which I played on a record player as a young teen. In college I moved up to a stereo system with record albums (33and1/3s). The greatest music of all time was first issued in these formats during the 50s, 60s, and early seventies. No need for digital at all. Miss those days – feel privileged to have lived them.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks, Sharon! 😃💕I was on the tail end of the vinyl generation… and then hit with CDs before I was ready. I still remember 8 tracks! lol And I agree… my parents had all of those records and I think I wore them out playing them. It was a beautiful time indeed. I often wonder if we advanced or simply forgotten.

  4. LoriCtoo 4 years ago

    Yep, looks just like it. Except you forgot one part. You forgot to have the actual tape pulled out of the cassette in a tangled mess. That’s my memory of them. My husbands truck still has a cassette player in it. Lol

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks! 😃💕 hehe! I totally thought about sketching the tape all out of whack on this one. It happened to me all the time too! lol

  5. Frances Turano 4 years ago

    Happy Monday, Charlie! Another fine post and on one of my favorite topics: music. You’ll have a puzzled look on your face when I say I also grew up with tapes: 8 track. Now there’s a bit of nostalgia! In my defense, I was quite young, but rocked to The Supremes. Have a terrific day, and thank you for the kindness you show all DW’s each and every day with you thoughtful and inspiriting messages and happy paintings.

  6. Frances Turano 4 years ago


  7. Jacob 4 years ago

    Oh hey, I remember those! 😉 I mostly remember them being chewed up and playing with the tape. As it happens, I was only recently reading an article saying the cassette is making a comeback. What’s old is new again!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Yeah, I think the “hipsters” are making the cassette return having bored themselves with records already. lol 😉

      • Jacob 4 years ago

        Haha, yeah, pretty much! I can quite understand the record’s comeback, as good vinyl does have its own warm sound… I’m not sure the same can be said for cassette?? I think the article said it’s more about ownership of physical media, which many youngsters might never have experienced (quite a thought!) I’m sure they’ll enjoy it, until they realise what physical entails, or their tapes are chewed up. Wouldn’t happen with an iPod, just sayin’ 😛

        • Author
          Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

          SO true! I adore those memories, but I rather like the fact that my music can’t get eaten. Sometimes things change for the better. I can’t imagine never having experience the physical media though.

  8. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 4 years ago

    This one made me laugh – cassette tapes! My first personal music box was a music box, actually a tiny plastic ballerina tucked inside a jewelry box. When I opened the lid, she danced to a tinkly music cylinder hidden in the box. My next music box was a transistor radio, a turquoise cigarette box-sized plastic container that let me hear all the current teen music favorites, sometimes 3 or 4 times in a row, if DJ was so inclined. You’ll probably have to look up “transistor radio” on the Internet to find out what it is – and now I’ve really dated myself, if you haven’t figured it out yet. I still own hundreds of CDs that I play all the time, and have yet to buy a newer music delivery contraption. Of course, we can always sing.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      hehe! I love it, Sharon! 😃💕 That’s the most beautiful music of all. The kind that defies technology and simply plays on! I’ve always been an “early adopter,” moving to whatever new thing came out. But I’m now entering a new phase where I sort of question the improvement. And I love it! Technology be damned, it was all only about the music in the first place! 😉

  9. smzang 4 years ago

    Charlie says, “I’m not sure I’d like to have been part of (any) generation that has no secrets left to hold dear…”

    A public service message if ever I’ve heard one. What seems like great fun to splash across
    social media today could end up causing a lot of pain in the future. There are so many horror stories
    (true ones) of not getting a job, or a scholarship because of an imprudent post on social media. I could
    go on and on, but you’ve said all so well in a few words..

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks, Sarah! 😃💕Yeah, it’s a very different world that we live in today. I share everything I feel, but not every single little thing I DO… hehe… the difference is everything.

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