“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” – Marcel Proust
I was born in 1974. I grew up listening to Elton John on the radio and the Saturday Night Fever album on the lp. Socks came up to my knees and feathered hair crowned my head. I get so nostalgic for the culture of my childhood, but maybe it wasn’t so great after all. I saw a plastic flat-edged spatula the other day and it reminded me of the threat of being spanked. I have distinct memories of hearing about the Soviet War in Afghanistan on 60 Minutes. The Cold War hit closer to home as I attempted to build a bomb shelter on my neighbor’s summer property, digging out a hole large enough to stash some canned food in; I thought I’d eventually have a full-on bunker back there.
I suppose the greater notion is this divide between generations. I wonder what my daughter and son will remember of the world around them in their childhood, and how the culture will evolve and change as they do. I had been thinking about how grateful I am to be out of the dating arena now that computers play such a big part of our socializing with one another at large. I cringe at the thought of how a partner might retaliate these days upon hearing of an infidelity, or how different it could be having an ill-matched relationship with someone cruel in this virtual world. I took my introverted notions of romance and insecurities to evening radio talk shows, or posted song lyrics on a boyfriend’s locker. If that stuff got tweeted about the day after it happened, I would have been devastated. My kids will be baffled at the concept of a mix tape by time they start to date, and won’t likely understand how the gift of a cassette could say more than words.
I’m currently reading Rob Sheffield’s memoir “Love is a Mixtape” about how music affected his life from a young age and lead him to meeting his wife – a relationship immortalized in mix tapes. I enjoy a good biography, and Sheffield’s story packs so much nostalgic punch because of his focus on the 90’s music scene and how it guided him during that era of his life. He writes, “The rhythm of the mix tape is the rhythm of romance, the analog hum of a physical connection between two sloppy human bodies.”
I have a box somewhere of cassette relics. They’ve probably warped with the extreme temperature ranged of my attic, but I hope to one day take that box over to the one friend who still has a cassette player somewhere in his or her home and play some of these mixes. Burp tapes with my best friend and a couple of cans of root beer. Rave mixes from the late 90s. Radio mixes of my favorite tunes. Favorite releases with stretched ribbons from overplay. Hopefully, I will play this sonic history and translate some of the finer moments of this lost generation for my kids. Or they will ever-so-politely roll their eyes.
What lost technology do you find yourself missing?
- “The Magnetist” documentary, a Swedish cassette DJ
- “Cassette” the documentary, trailer
- A Short Film About Cassettes