Cassettes, we’ve had a few... but which was the first one you ever bought?
PUBLISHED: 08:00 19 January 2019
Slade, Abba or even Timmy Mallett? Which was the first cassette you ever bought? Following reports that cassettes are making a comeback, people have been recalling the first tape they owned.
Back in the 1970s, 80s and through to 90s, most homes were packed with music tapes.
The first one I personally remember owning is The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie, released in 1972. I suspect I received it as either a birthday or Christmas present, though, rather than actually forking out the purchase price, which would have been astronomic for a 12-year-old.
The album is still a favourite and I still know every line off by heart, more than 45 years on.
Somewhere along the line, though, all the untidy piles of tapes around my house have disappeared to charity shops or been binned as they finally broke and couldn’t be resurrected even with a handy biro.
The only cassettes I could find in my home in 2019, though were a three-tape box set by Bruce Springsteen, Live 1975-85, released in 1986 - and until searching around this week, I didn’t realise I still had them, as I forked out for the CD version decades ago!
From Psychedelic Furs to The Carpenters
With news of the growing cassette comeback, people around the area have been reminiscing about the first tapes they ever bought, first time around.
Kath Sansom from March said: “I think the first one I actually parted with hard cash for was Psychedelic Furs, with an album called Talk Talk Talk.
“Cassettes were revolutionary after a life of vinyl. (I’m 51). It meant we could listen to music, for instance on the train on my Sony Walkman – state of the art. There were trains full of tinny background noises of folk listening to music on their Walkmans.
Paul Geater from Ipswich said: “The first cassette I bought was, I think, The Carpenters – but that died a death when I wrote off my car with the cassette inside it. Luckily I walked out the wreckage pretty much unscathed!”
David Vincent of Ipswich wrote: “I, like a lot of people, used to record favourite songs from the radio, scratchy and poor quality.
“But, when I went away to college, I bought a few cassettes and took a small tape player with me for my room. My favourite tape was Stevie Wonder’s Songs In the Key of Life double cassette, loads of beautiful songs. I am sure I annoyed my neighbours in the next rooms in the hostel with it. Songs such as Isn’t She Lovely, Love’s In Need of Love Today, Sir Duke and I Wish.”
Old musical favourites we still love
Colin Carter, who grew up in the Woodbridge area, said via Twitter: “The first cassettes I bought were some Elvis Presley ones - Please Don’t Stop Loving Me was the first, and was my favourite.”
Jane Spencer-Rolfe has a passion for music and runs Let’s Bop women’s dance nights in Suffolk. She said: “I can remember I had a ‘double’ Whitney Houston cassette, which I used to play to death in the car, and also a lot by Prince - oh, and Faith by George Michael.”
Edward Couzens-Lake of Norwich said: “The first one was either Arrival by Abba (which is a bit embarrassing) or Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, which has a little more rock credibility. Nothing against Abba, but I was 14 and *should* have been listening to Floyd and King Crimson!” Tubular Bells was also the first cassette bought by Phil Hatfield from Ipswich.
Duncan Brodie from West Suffolk said: “My first cassette was Elton John’s Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player. Still think my 13-year-old self had pretty good taste.”
Natalie Sadler wrote: “My first cassette purchase was Whigfield’s Saturday Night, bought as a gift for my sister’s birthday. We loved that song – and the dance. I had broken my arm and was plastered up to my armpit for 12 weeks (I have always been extra) but still managed to master the dance routine.”
Twitter user Alfie Leuw, from Norfolk, remembered buying Holland by The Beach Boys. He said: “In 1973, I just got my first company car, a Hillman Avenger with an actual cassette player in it! Such luxury. Sail On Sailor, Lady Linda, etc.”
Paul Hopfensperger from Bury St Edmunds said: “I bought Mud’s Greatest Hits Volume 1 - great tape, played it to death. Great songs on it including Living Doll, The Secrets That You Keep, Tiger Feet, etc!”
Welcome to my Nightmare by Alice Cooper was the mid-70s choice of Colin McNeilly from Wymondham, who said: “It was the first time I’d ever had a cassette player. All vinyl up until then!”
Boxes of tapes up in the loft
In the Ipswich Remembers group on Facebook, Robert Bradbeer said: “My first wages from my first job, went to Woolies in Ipswich and bought Tammy Wynette, queen of country music on cassette, it was in one of their bargain bins. And yes, I have strange taste in music - I’ve been into country since I was eight.”
Joanna Louise Billings from Ipswich remembered: “I think the first ones I owned personally were for my fifth birthday - I got Bros, Kylie and Bananarama. My dad’s a musician, so to be honest I got into music in the womb!”
Peter Healey said the first album he bought was Santana from Andy’s Records in Ipswich, while Andy Bennett said: “I bought Sheer Heart Attack by Queen in 1974. I think it was from Parrot Records in Ipswich.” Jason Langford bought One Step Beyond by Madness, also probably from Parrot Records.
Neil Smith bought Aladdin Sane by David Bowie from Woolworth’s, while Nick Race said: “The first new cassette I ever bought was Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.”
Emma in Norwich said via Twitter: “True Blue by Madonna. I still have it, plus Now That’s What I Call Music 8 and 9 and a few other tapes, as our van has a tape player. They still work and sound better than the radio. It’s as if the speakers and system are better attuned to how music sounded then.”
Another Twitter user, Carol Ann Fisher, said: “Arena by Duran Duran was my first cassette album at the age of 10/11, I do believe. Absolutely loved it.”
David Marshall of Heacham, who describes himself in his Twitter profile as a “superannuated rocker”, recalled: “Slade Alive. I bought it from a stall in Harrogate indoor market around 1973. I’ve still got it in a box of tapes somewhere up in the loft!”
ZK Layton, also from Suffolk, said: “I had the Ghostbusters soundtrack and I’d listen to it day after day on the bus, on my way to school in the 80s.”
And Sarah Mitchell-Hume from Essex said via Twitter: “The first tape I bought was Picture This by Wet Wet Wet. Exceptional album!”
Another Twitter user, Taidhgh O’Regan, said: “The first one I bought was Springsteen’s Born in the USA”. Terry Revell from Leiston’s first buy was the funky R&B cassette album Snafu, by the band of the same name.
Michelle Cousins from Suffolk said on Twitter that her first buy was: “Heal the World by Michael Jackson.” An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down’ by Rod Stewart was the first buy for Kevin Theobald from Wells-next-the-Sea, while another Twitter user, Tony Wells, remembered buying “Dynamite, a compilation of hits from 1973-4, I think. Followed by Slade in Flame.”
Mark Partridge from West Norfolk said: “I think it was All Mod Cons by The Jam,” while music lover Charlie Stephenson from Ipswich said her first tape was Slam Dunk (Da Funk) by Five, released in 1998.
Wendy French from Norfolk’s first cassette was The Magic of Boney M in 1980, and, for John Makar from Haverhill, the first cassette he bought was probably Band on the Run by Wings.
Even people who were too young for the heyday of music tapes still have fond memories of them. Taz Ali from Norwich recalled: “Britney Spears’ ...Baby One More Time music video officially turned 20 in November, and that was my first-ever cassette! I must have been seven or eight years old,
“I remember saving my pennies and buying the cassette at Woolworths, where I subsequently bought all of my tapes and CDs. Needless to say, I am still obsessed with that song. I think tapes were just about dying when I bought that, but I’m glad didn’t miss out!”
Marc Betts from Norwich also said: “I’m too young to have bought one, but I remember listening to Fast Car by Tracy Chapman in my room on cassette.”
Suzanne Day from Ipswich said: “My younger sister and I have great memories of listening to the Bon Jovi Crossroads cassette in my dad’s Vauxhall Cavalier.
“Even now, we still talk about how we used to sing along to it, and we still know all the words. Now I am trying to get my daughter into Bon Jovi by playing their Greatest Hits CD in my car. She’s not quite as keen, though!”
Dominic Moffitt from Ipswich said the first album he remembered hearing on cassette was the Human League’s Mirror Man, adding: “Dad was a huge fan of the ‘80s - loved it.”
Cool cassettes, novelty songs and audio books
There’s a suspicion that many of us might name the first vaguely cool album we bought, and forget about the novelty songs - but one Twitter user, Rodd, bravely recalled his first buy as an album by comedy TV presenter Timmy Mallett.
Also on Twitter, Robert Flute said: “The Wombles were the first, yes, I admit it.” Jake Foxford of Ipswich said: “The first cassette I remember hearing was in my parents’ car, stereo blaring out, “We wish you a Wombling Merry Christmas”.
However, he added: “I remember buying Shaggy’s Angel as a cassette single with two grungey remixes as B-sides for £1 in a charity shop, and thinking that it was the best music I’d ever heard.
Clare Butler from March wrote: “My first cassette was the pop-tastic Barbie Girl by Aqua. At six years old, I’m sure I nearly broke it in my portable cassette player, the amount of times I played it. But nothing that a pen in the reel couldn’t fix.
Cassettes were not just for music, though. JP Asher from Norwich writes: “My main memory of cassettes is not of music, but of listening to books and dramatisations on tape at bedtime as a kid. I had Biggles, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, most of the Harry Potter books read by Stephen Fry, and a lovely 13-cassette BBC box set of The Lord of The Rings which I still own. I may have to get hold of a cassette player from somewhere so my four-year-old can enjoy it at some point.”