Monday, May 7, 2012


I bought this proto boom box, a 1970s Panasonic cassette player, several summers ago at a garage sale around the corner from the house I grew up in, because my brother had the exact same one as a kid. (I've often wondered if I was possibly buying back our own tape player—it wouldn't be the first time.) Apart from my AM photo-block radio and our record players (mine: the denim-style Fisher Price; his: some vintage console barely a step up from a Victrola), this was our primary source for tunes. And this is what we listened to on it:

1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I think maybe my parents gave him this Beatles cassette along with the player for his birthday? I dunno but we played that thing till it broke. Favorite song then: "When I'm 64." Favorite song now: "When I'm 64."

2. A handmade tape that we found in someone's trash. One side had Hank Thompson's Greatest Hits; the other side was a Johnny Cash mix. At the time, I had heard of neither artist; we just thought every song was knee-slapping funny—"Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart"? "The Blackboard of Your Heart"? "Squaws Along the Yukon"? Are you freaking kidding me? We knew nothing from country music and assumed these were parody albums, like Weird Al Yankovic, but not Weird Al because this was in the time before Al. Not sure what the appropriate comparison would be—the Chipmunks? This tape was as funny as the Chipmunks. How hilarious my 7-year-old self would have found it that a great motivating factor in my relocation to Texas was my deep love and appreciation for the towering figures of country music, Mr. Cash and Mr. Thompson foremost among them.

3. Television's Greatest Hits. No, not the series of K-tel-like albums you may be old enough to remember, but a tape we made ourselves by placing this cassette player next to the TV whenever our favorite shows came on and pressing the "play" and "record" buttons simultaneously. There was a solid 90 minutes of music on that tape but I only remember the themes from: Captain Scarlett, Aqua Boy, Ultra Man, George of the Jungle, S*W*A*T and Hawaii 5-0, which was hands-down the best because we taped it at our grandma's house and you could hear her whisper-shouting for us to turn that music down because of the neighbors! the neighbors!

If we listened to any other tapes during those years, they've been washed down the sink of my conscience, as Johnny would put it. I have a ton of cassettes in my garage but unfortunately this player is barely functioning anymore, and to be honest, the sound was never that great. So I'm on the hunt for a good cassette player (not a tape deck, something portable). It's always good to be on the hunt for something.

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