Sunday, 7 August 2011

Singles I bought on cassette, and other nostalgia

A few 'remember that?' conversations on Twitter recently, with specific reference to various articles about 80s childhoods and 90s culture on Thought Catalog, have got me thinking about everything from my favourite childhood TV to my first attempts at 'rebellion' (smuggling teenage magazines into the house by stuffing them down my school skirt) and early feminist awakening (denouncing the same magazines as part of some conformist conspiracy). When Kirsteen tweeted a link to this article, I started trying to remember all the early singles I bought, when I didn't even have a CD player. I even turned out the drawers in the cellar to see if I still had them, but I could only find my mouldy old Spice Girls cassettes, so I must have thrown the rest away. So here's what I've been able to dredge up from my memory...

Dodgy - Good Enough This was the first single I ever bought with my own money. No idea why, as I don't remember being particularly into Dodgy, nor was I ever a huge fan of happy, jangly indie-pop. But I do remember loving the B-side; it was called Nutters and basically consisted of someone repeating 'fucking nutters' over some kind of ambient beat, which at the time I thought was ~so edgy~.
Also reminds me of: Space, my huge crush on Tommy from Space, my mum's Best of the Lightning Seeds album, the time my best friend and I were obsessed with Performance & Cocktails by the Stereophonics for a term or so, that awful New Radicals song that for some reason I absolutely hated.

Republica - Drop Dead Gorgeous Second single I ever bought, and the only one among the cassette singles by a band I really loved. I adored Republica's music, and can still remember the euphoria of getting their second album Speed Ballads as a Christmas present (1998), but the main crux of my obsession was their singer, Saffron. Oh, Saffron; I wanted to be her so much, I thought - and still do think - she was both stunning and incredibly cool. At the time, I would have killed for a black bob with bright red streaks. (Good job I never had the balls to go for it, because it would've looked bloody AWFUL on teenage-me.)
Also reminds me of: anything and everything else by Republica. I could probably still sing you every one of their songs, even the terrible album-filler ones.

North and South - Tarantino's New Star North and South were a boyband - but one of those supposedly cool boybands who played instruments and sang live. This was their second single, and I don't think they lasted much longer afterwards. My purchase of this was mainly down to the fact that I had a crush on both Lee Otter (the lead singer) and James Hurst (the guitarist with the multicoloured hair, who later had it cut into an extremely ill-advised triple mohawk). It's a rubbish song - where did they get those lyrics from, a radio recording star?! - but I can remember listening to it over and over and getting excited about the, er, 'guitar' bits. Oh dear.
Also reminds me of: Five. Remember them? Shamefully, their debut album was one of the first albums I bought on CD, but in my defence this was only because I fancied Abs (lol forever). In conclusion, I only ever liked boybands if I had a crush on one of them.

Meredith Brooks - I Need This was the follow-up to Brooks' first (and pretty much only) hit, the better-known Bitch. I can only imagine me and my friends' love for Bitch was the reason I bought this single, as it's not particularly notable. However, as with the Dodgy single, I was more preoccupied with the B-side, Every Time She Walks Away - probably because I liked to fantasise that it was about me, when in reality 99.5% of the boys at my school would rather have stabbed themselves in the face with a pencil than gone out with me in 1997.
Also reminds me of: the usual suspects... Alanis Morissette, Natalie Imbruglia's first album, Lisa Loeb's Stay (LOVE), Where Have All the Cowboys Gone.

No Doubt - Just a Girl Unlike many, I wasn't a No Doubt fan in the late 90s, and had little awareness of them beyond the huge popularity of Don't Speak. It was Just a Girl in particular that got to me. I suppose the lyrics are supposed to be about the restrictions automatically imposed on girls because of their gender, but they spoke to me in a different way. As a teenager frustrated by anxiety and what others saw as shyness, with so much more going on in my head than anyone else thought, it seemed like a description of the way I was incorrectly perceived by the rest of the world. I still really like this song.
Also reminds me of: Independent Love Song by Scarlet (not quite sure why - I think it's because I have their TOTP performance of this song mixed up with No Doubt doing Don't Speak. I think that frilly shirt/red satin blazer combo may have had some influences on my fashion choices at the time...)

I definitely think if you've been around on the internet as long as I have (I started my first website in April 2000) you do start to feel part of some sort of 'old guard'; my generation (probably my specific age range, give or take a few years, rather than a whole actual generation) seems like a strange kind of bridge since we're young enough to be all over social media in all its forms, but old enough to remember things like taping songs off the radio (having to pause with finger hovering over the record button), waiting for new music videos to be shown at the end of Top of the Pops, and, later, the soul-sapping slowness of dial-up internet and the days when it took 45 minutes to download one song. I didn't even have a mobile phone until I was 18, and it's impossible to imagine having everything at my fingertips like the 'kids of today' do. I don't exactly think technology has killed excitement but I can't help wondering how much anticipation there can be about anything when it's all available in seconds at the click of a button. While I'm now a fully paid-up member of the iPhone/Kindle/Twitter generation, I look back on those days of playing cassette singles until they crackled, making Spice Girls scrapbooks, and buying both versions of a CD single for the different B-sides with the sense that I wouldn't have had it any other way.


  1. The first single I ever bought with my own money was Los Del Rio's "Macarena" on cassette. I rarely bought cassettes and only would if I couldn't afford the CD or if they were by favourite-band-at-the-time and I wanted to collect everything they released. I'm sure I had "Bitch" on cassette come to think of it. And a few Sash! singles. I LOVED Sash!

    I can't remember/imagine the internet before YouTube. Ah, the days of watching MTV for hours until the video you want to see is shown (I used to tape my favourite music videos).

  2. I remember buying Don't Let Me Get Me by Pink on tape, I've just found out it came out in 2001 which seems pretty late to be buying things on casette but ah well.
    It's always nice to remember childhood times and music is a great way to do that, love this post :)