Remembering the days when we recorded music from the Top 40 on to cassette tape

Archant picture of WHSmith in the late 1970's/early 1980's vinyl record and cassette department.

Archant picture of WHSmith in the late 1970's/early 1980's vinyl record and cassette department. - Credit: Archant

They are superseded relics of the past that we remember in rose-tinted hues. Recording music from the Top 40, buying singles on Vinyl, watching Top Of The Pops having having penpals - these are the things parents most miss from their childhood, according to new research. STACIA BRIGGS remembers the days of C90.

The days of the cassette tape are numberedPhoto: Adrian JuddCopy: For: EDP pics © 2007(01603) 77

The days of the cassette tape are numberedPhoto: Adrian JuddCopy: For: EDP pics © 2007(01603) 772435 - Credit: Archant © 2004

The Sunday night ritual of recording the Top 40 countdown on a cassette is the simple childhood pleasure which modern parents most miss for their own youngsters, according to a new survey.

Other nostalgic memories which parents realise their children are unlikely to ever enjoy include writing letters to penpals, gathering round the TV to watch Top of the Pops, writing thank-you letters, waiting for photographs to be developed or renting videotapes from the local shop.

More than half of the 2,000 parents who took part in the survey – commissioned for the start of a new series, Girl Meets World, on the Disney Channel – said they pined for the much simpler childhoods experienced by those growing up in the 1990s.

My own teenage years were mainly confined to the 1980s, but recording music from the Top 40 is an enduring memory, along with the happy day I persuaded my parents to buy me a 'ghetto blaster' of my own, which released me from the fearful tyranny of my father's stereo 'separates' collection.


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Before the advent of the ghetto blaster, I was the only person I knew who had to master a tuner and graphic equalisers before being able to put Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf on the turntable.

Everyone else's Mum and Dad had a nice, simple Hinari or a Binatone stereo that could have been operated by an earthworm: mine required tutorials from What Stereo? magazine before you felt confident enough to even switch it on.

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On the plus side, my father's technical fascism did mean that I made the most professional mix-tapes this side of the Western hemisphere.

He even taught me how to record 'quality silence', a lost art these days, especially in cinema or theatre audiences when I'm in the auditorium.

In the good old days, making someone a mix-tape represented a fair chunk of your Sunday given over to faffing around the record player and hovering over the pause button on the tape deck (I think this is a contender for the most biddified sentence I have ever written).

I would spend hour-upon-hour carefully working out an intricate play list that would fit on each side of a Memorex C90 without cutting Morrissey off midway through What Difference Does it Make?.

It could easily take eight hours to make one 90-minute tape, an hour of which would be spent making 'quality silence' (also known as 'sulking' if my Dad was still lurking around trying to be 'helpful').

Hours would evaporate as you tried to cut out the recording 'click' between songs, struggled not to put two tracks by the same artist in a row, resisted the urge to kill any parent unwittingly walking into the front room and jogging the needle on the record player and then struggled to fit all the song names on the tape insert in felt-tip pen.

It was even more fraught if you recorded straight from the radio.

There was the nervous wait to find out where the track of your choice was placed in the chart and the hope that it wouldn't be during the time when your mum would shout that dinner was ready.

Then, poised like a spider over a trembling fly, you would wait to press record, cursing the DJ who talked over the beginning of a track and the family member who caused you to miss the intro of Last Christmas by Wham! because they were asking whether you wanted mash or roast potatoes.

These days, I can burn an entire CD in a matter of seconds (is it illegal? If it is, when I say that I can burn a CD, I refer to music made by my family on, er spoons) – frankly, it's taken the majority of the magic away entirely.

Equally, I now have countless thousands of tracks on my iPod and, if I shake it, it randomly chooses a new track for me to listen to – try that with a Sony Walkman and I'd have been listening to a decidedly old record.

The one which began with my parents telling me that I never looked after anything properly and ended with me being grounded.

The boring penpals, ridiculously boring thank-you letter writing, renting videotapes and making solid plans that couldn't change due to a lack of mobile technology I can live without. The thrill of recording music from the radio, though, I do miss.

What do you miss from your childhood? Email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk, including your name, address and contact details.

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