I hear you can still buy new cars with stereos that play cassettes. Tapes, as we called them as kids. They were cool as anything back then. Wow, we could fit two albums on a 90-minute tape, one on each side. All of Neil Young’s “Decade” on one tape, maybe, or a compilation of favorite punk songs from Bad Brains to Bad Religion and Suicidal Tendencies, or a bit of Janis Joplin for the long drive deep into Baja for a week of surfing.
My glove compartment sure does. It still looks right out of the 1980s and early 90s. It’s stuffed with tapes of bands from back then and before. Blur, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Morrissey, Oasis, Pulp, The Stone Roses, Van Morrison and more. A friend once opened it up and said, “Whoa, retro man!” It wasn’t the selection of music, I don’t think. It was the tapes.
I do have an iPod but it doesn’t live in the glove compartment. It does, however, do its thing by plugging into a cassette that slips into the stereo so we can hear the songs. The iPod is for long journeys. Connect and listen as the road passes by. My wife does the spinning and the kids clamor for their stuff – ABBA and High School Musical and maybe a bit of the “Curious George” soundtrack by Jack Johnson – until they nod off to sleep.
That’s the music for the car on long trips. Around the city, it’s my tapes (and my wife’s) that fill the car. It can be a pain to plug in the iPod and scroll around for an artist or an album or a playlist in the middle of traffic. So I push the tape in and listen. That’s it. In it stays playing one side and then the other side with a clank or two or three when it switches between sides. One tape does four or five clanks before turning over to the other side. Then the static comes on followed by The Waterboys’ “This is the Sea” on one side before clank, clank and “Fisherman’s Blues” on the other side. It’s good stuff for chilling out to and forgetting the day’s work and the mad taxi drivers and the manic bus drivers. It’s music to keep you sane in the traffic of Buenos Aires where the reigning motif is “Get out of my way, pelotudo.”
Well, my son’s not buying the relaxing bit right now, not to The Waterboys at least.
“Not this again,” he says from his booster seat. “Why don’t you put on the iPod?”
Yup, he’s five and in with the digital times and I’m 43 and still playing tapes. The consolation, of course, is that cars still come out of the assembly line with cassette players for oldies like me with a lingering love of all those antiquated, outmoded and so very analog cassettes. I don’t care because my tapes are kick-ass and they will live on in my glove compartment for years to come, retro as they may be, retro as I may be.