What is Home Taping?
Actually the question should be what was home taping as I doubt that people use cassette tapes any more. Whilst the advantages of technology in the music field cannot be denied, for those of us who are 40 and above, the old formats of video tapes, cassette tapes and vinyl records still hold great appeal, perhaps due to the many fond memories that they produce. Home Taping just means the recording of an original music source onto (analogue magnetic) cassette tape, much like you convert a music CD to an MP3 digital file in this modern age.
The logo above will be quite familiar to the aforementioned age group, especially if you’re from the UK. It originally was a black & white image (I just changed it to green as that is one of my favourite colours!) and was part of a campaign by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) who were very concerned that with the increase in home music centres with recording abilities and easy access to cassette tapes, there would soon be no music industry left as nobody would buy the originals any more. Hmmm, that sounds familiar right? This campaign then led to many other parodies such as the one I drummed up last night whilst commenting with a friend about the great hairstyles in the Eighties, the best decade by far in my opinion. You can see the results below:
Home Taping’s Greatest Achievement
What will probably be most fondly remembered from the era of home taping are the famous “Mix Tapes“. Whereas with original tapes or records you just had to make do with the producer’s mix selection, with Mix Tapes you could create your own playlists. ‘Yes but that’s what I do with the songs now on my iPod’ you youths may be saying. However, back in the 80s we didn’t have that luxury so we would sit for hours by the radio waiting for our favourite songs to come on and frantically hit the record button. Some people would just leave it on pause but I was slave to the old wives tale that leaving it on record-pause for too long would strain the tape so I would have to start the record process from scratch which always took a little longer. There was a whole art form to it too; stopping the recording just before the DJ started talking again or before the advertising jingle.
We were fortunate to have a home music centre from when I was born and when I was about 9 or 10 my dad gave me a SANYO Home Entertainment System of my own. It belonged to what is now the Panasonic family so was very good quality. It consisted of a modern (back in the 80s at least) combined tape recording deck, radio and record player so I used to borrow as many records as I could to then tape them and listen to them on my ridiculously sized imitation Walkman (the iPod of its day). My system was something as is pictured here and is taken from Bill Wellham’s BLOG as is his spot on description of these amazing systems: “The music centre was a combination of all three points on the audio triangle; radio, vinyl records and cassette tape. It is difficult for young people today to imagine how great these machines were when they first appeared. The loud speakers were separated on long wires. The sound quality was great. There was even the ability to record directly from radio or vinyl records, which lead to the first great wave of music piracy, with everyone taping friends’ records.”
The great thing about them was that they made great gifts and had the personal touch. Nowadays you can give someone a digital music voucher but in my opinion it just doesn’t feel as heartfelt or personal as giving someone your own mix tape, especially prepared for them with hours of work gone into it (you had to listen through each song completely and each tape was at least 60 minutes long) and your own handwriting on the cassette label and cover. It was a good way to discover new music too when swapping them with mates at school. By the way Lloyd Belton, you still haven’t given me back my BASF C-90 Mix Tape back yet; it’s now 23 years overdue!
Which Tape To Use?
There I go again talking in the present as if people still used them! With LPs from the 70s and early 80s, you could get away with using a C-60 tape (30 minutes each side) but then from the middle 80s onwards, the LPs seemed to have a longer playing time so the C-90 tapes (45 minutes a side) had to be used. Actually both presented you with a problem if you have slight OCD as I just couldn’t stand to leave too much blank space on any side of the tape. More often than not, especially when recording from a whole album, I would end up missing out a song or two or changing the order of the tracks, requiring extra skills with the stylus and placing it in the space between the tracks on the LP. There was of course the incredibly 2 hour long C-120 tapes but these were usually notoriously bad quality (OK for taping speech) and tended to snap quickly with frequent use as the tape stretched due to its thinness (logical when you think about it as they had to cram all that tape into the same casing after all). The best quality tape I ever used? I swear by TDK SA range. I still have a few even now and they sound as good as when I first recorded on them.
Well that’s enough musings for today. Hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to share your memories by commenting below. Cheers!