a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Garage Sale Cassette Tapes

My attitude as regards to technology is basically "If it works, why change it?"

My cellphone, which I have had for about 7 years now, is more of a brick than my laptop is. Literally. I'm pretty sure I have the biggest cellphone in active service today.

I have had waitresses at diners eye in it shock. One even asked me if I accidentally brought my cordless phone from home.

Musically, I'm swamped. Being that I'm in my early 40s, I have a slew of albums, 4 shoeboxes full of cassettes and shelves full of CDs. I refuse to get an iPod; I have plenty of music and formats already.

Anyhow, my car ("the rolling brick", I guess) doesn't have a CD player, but it has a tape deck. Which is cool, because when else am I going to actually listen to cassette tapes?

The wife and I are in the habit of cruising around on Sunday mornings, looking for estate sales, garage sales, and yard sales (which are actually all the same thing around here; the phrasing is really just an indication of the pretentiousness or desperation of the seller). We head east on Ventura Boulevard, and look for badly drawn signs with arrows that often seem to point into trees.

The great thing is that often people will have their old cassette tapes out for sale, because no one listens to cassette tapes any more. So I can pick up classic albums-on-tape for 25 or 50 cents, and pop them in my car to listen to while I'm going to pick up work somewhere.

So, the other day I bought a few cassettes of well-known old albums, that I inexplicably have never owned or listened to. It's sort of like time-traveling back to the past.

One was U2's "The Joshua Tree", which turned out to be amazing.

The other was John Lennon and Yoko Oko's "Double Fantasy", the one John released just before he was killed. It spawned at least 5 hit singles, plus the goofy "Dear Yoko", which somehow works. So I had high hopes for it.


I know it's poor form to speak ill of the dead, and I love John Lennon. And the hit songs on this album are great. But wow, is there some truly bad music on this album.

Because half the songs are Yoko's. They ALTERNATE SONGS.

And Yoko's songs are bad. Not just bad, dreadful. Nails on the blackboard, murdering cats, crazy-woman-ranting-on-the-block godawful.

She squeaks, she moans, she sings off-key. There's not a hook to be found.

At least when Linda McCartney sang, it was dumb fun, like "Cook of the House". Not here.

And because it's a cassette tape, there's no real way to get just John and not Yoko. I found myself desperately jabbing at the fast-forward button while doing 65 on the highway, but the endless caterwalling continued.

But at the same time, John's songs are mostly about how he loves Yoko, which is kind of cool, because he isn't afraid to put it out there. In a way, a lot of his songs are an explanation; one senses that he knew her songs were -- um -- an "acquired taste", but he loves her, and he's giving her half the album, like it or lump it.

In a way, it's a little snapshot of their years together, for better or for worse.

Worth the 50 cents. Easily.


At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Double Fantasy. Yeah. That's why you need a CD, so you can easily skip Yoko. Plastic Ono Band and Imagine are probably his best albums and don't have Yoko on them. I really like Mind Games and Walls & Bridges as well.

As for iPod, I never wanted one. Then someone got it for me as a gift. I put all my CDs on it and I love it because I can have my entire music collection with me all the time.

I know it sounds crazy, but it's one of those, "once you do it, you'll be hooked" kind of things.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Tom said...

I remember buying my cassette of The Joshua Tree on St. Patrick's Day...1987? 86? Nothing like it, amazing album.

Between this post and the laptop discussion the other day, you're like the anti-Jobs, Scott.

If you see any laserdiscs in your travels, I still have my player. After I convert the few rare titles I have to DVD, however, I'm ditching it. It looks gigantic and my wife declared it "that ugly box."

At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Peter said...

Hey, remember in "Blown Away", when Tommy Lee Jones' Irish terrorist buys a cassette of "The Joshua Tree" at a garage sale (even though he had never heard of U2) and plays it (and becomes such a fan that he sings along) during his bomb making?

...I'm just sayin'...

At 11:59 AM, Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

So, I'm a year or two or three older than you -- I have a high boy chest of drawers full of music.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Cathy Krasnianski said...

Aw hell, I still remember 8-tracks, and when cassettes came on the scene, they looked SO small!

God, I feel old today.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

I've got thousands of those damn tapes. Love them! Careful though, those CRAZY yardsalers will get you down to 10 cents a pop.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I too am cassette-bound in the car. And had to dig through my boxes of tapes for listening material on the drive out here. I don't mind it, although I will get an iPod as soon as funds permit. Without cable, it's a great way to stay current on the few network TV shows that I enjoy. And iTunes is really great for instant access to new and old music. Plus it's Windows-compatible, so it is available on your new PC.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Chesher Cat said...

I believe you just spoke ill of the living, Scott. And if you're not careful that "Nails on the blackboard, murdering cats, crazy-woman-ranting-on-the-block" woman will come after you and scratch your eyes out.

iPods are like Tivo. Once you have it, you don't know how you lived without it. But I really miss vinyl LPs. Unwrapping a new album, throwing it on the turntable and reading the liner notes and checking out the cover art as you listen. Especially the double albums. The art just doesn't look as good at CD size. And you don't get any art when you buy off iTunes.

At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Zach said...

"Kiss, Kiss, Kiss" is a wonderful song. One of the best of the 80's.

Yoko Ono, because of her proximity to the Beatles, tends to be the only experimental musician that pop fans ever hear. It's like tricking a James Dean fan into watching a movie by Kenneth Anger... they don't know what they're watching and they're bound to hate it.

I will defend Yoko Ono forever. Her Plastic Ono Band album is superior to Lennon's. BOOM!

At 8:43 PM, Blogger Dave said...

dude - I bought that record when it came out. There wasn't anything like that then - and holy cow, what a difference.

I laughed my ass off at your assessment because that was pretty much me when I heard those tracks.

Funny how some things stay the same, even after so many years.

I'd agree with those folks talking about the ipods. It's hard to beat having all your music wherever you go. Any artist, any album, any track - poof, there it is.

Not like you often think about those old tracks, but when they pop up on a random play, it's a nice stroll down memory lane.

Oh, and that Zack dude is just trying to start an argument. Nobody could actually like Yoko's "music" could they? :P

At 12:54 AM, Blogger A. M. said...

Sweet post, Scott. Appreciate your romantic take. It's quite an odd phenomenon: you meet your friend's new SO and your reaction boils down to... WTF??!!

Girls' Night Out is mandatory, otherwise many friendships wouldn't survive those incomprehensible and completely unfathomable SO-choices of otherwise sane people.

Not smart to bring your lovely SO to work. I would not recommend it.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Fun Joel said...

Yep, I too have tons of cassettes, as well as lots of vinyl, and I still listen to them as well. At home, even! You should at least upgrade to one of those cassette decks that fast forwards and automatically stops at the pause in between songs, though. ;-)

At 5:33 PM, Blogger wcdixon said...

With each move to a different city I whittled down my crates of cassettes to one lonely box... mostly mix tapes and 'Best Of's' from the 80's and early 90's...and loved popping them in and flashing back until starting to feel trapped in some kind of time warp like always listening to - and so got one of those lighter adaptors for a walkman and haven't played a cassette, home, or anywhere...hopefully my kids will put them on somewhere somehow someday and get some kicks...

At 10:19 AM, Blogger mernitman said...

This'll date me -- but I remember having to get off my butt and actually MOVE THE RECORD PLAYER STYLUS over to the next track whenever one of Yoko's tunes came up on "Fantasy"... Such releases should come with a "Not Recommended For Cassette Play" sticker on them...

But in fairness to Ms. Ono, though I'd always liked her visual/written work more than her music ("Grapefruit" is a pretty cool creation), I agree with Zach on the "unfairness" of the musical juxtaposition -- and I'll admit that her music has actually kind of grown on me, over the years...

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheap Trick was John's house band on that album... now there's a flashback, baby "Surrender"

At 7:12 PM, Blogger Kristi Carr said...

Dear Scott, Im looking for "Dance Mix","Endless Dance Mix","A Non-Stop Music Mix",and "Dance Mix" tapes all on 1985 EMI America cassette tapes by Bowie, Carnes, Easton,Jellybean,Kaja,Limahl and Talk Talk.Will you please contact me either way to let me know if you have any of them to sell?My email is and thanks a bunch, Kristi C.


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