Sunday, 8 September 2013

From John Curry to Lou Reed - happy International Cassette Store Day.

The very first International Cassette Store Day has just been celebrated in Europe and the USA.  Some might see it as a cunning way to sell more music. And they'd probably be right.  But, for me, it's been a chance to reflect on how cassettes made a significant impact on my life and my happiness.  

My 10 year old self was in love with John Curry.  Curry was a figure skater. Not just any figure skater but arguably the finest that the United Kingdom has ever produced.  He was desperate to be a dancer but this was frowned upon by his father.  He took up figure skating instead.  Using choreography from his beloved dancing, he turned the ice skating world on its head with a new grace and beauty that, added to the usual athleticism, was quite breathtaking to behold. He won gold at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics, with a routine that was as popular and memorable, at the time, as Torville and Dean's Bolero.  I remember being allowed to stay up late to watch his gold medal winning performance and being mesmerised.  

Of course, now we would record the performance on our digital TV service and be able to rewind, watch in slow motion or see the performance when and how we chose.  Back then, the technology for recording moving pictures didn't even exist.  Well, not commercially anyway.  So I had to make do with just the music, recorded off the telly onto cassette, with my family sitting in complete silence in case they spoiled the one chance I had. 
It's great that technology probably means we don't have to work so hard to experience things over and over.  But I think we may have lost something very special in the process.  Without pictures to accompany my music, I had to commit John Curry's faultless, graceful routine to memory.  I used to listen in bed, every night, the music conjuring up every last medal winning twist and turn.  Our children are unlikely to have that experience but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.  It still makes me smile and makes me feel 10 again.

Here he is, in all his majestic glory.           

Fast forward 9 years and the boy I'm dating presents me with a mix tape.  As you do when you're trying to connect with someone.  And to impress them, I guess.  It was a compilation of his favourite songs from his musical hero, Lou Reed.  He'd titled the A side - "the rough getting smooth" and the B side - "the smooth getting smoother" with the track listing, squeezed, in his best handwriting, on the inner sleeve.  

It worked. I married him.  

Here's the exceptionally smooth Lou Reed, from side B of my mixtape.  

Happy International Cassette Store Day.  If, like me, you're old enough to remember the part they played in your life, I hope you too smile at the memories.