The very first cassette I bought was Rick Astley's Whenever You Need Somebody, and the first cassette player I had was a portable tape recorder with one speaker. I had to save up my allowance to buy that tape, because I wanted the genuine BASF stuff, not the inferior variety.
My favorite tape of all time was my copy of Circus by the Eraserheads. I played that tape until you couldn't read the label on the sides anymore because of how often it was inserted into players. I even brought that tape to the U.S., and I made my cousins listen to it while we were driving on the California Interstate. They said the Eraserheads sounded like The Beatles.
I've always loved listening to music in the car. I'm not that picky with the sound; A decent Alpine head unit and stock speakers will do it for me. Of course I wouldn't mind having a setup with Focal speakers and McIntosh amps and hear Don Felder's fingers brush across the guitar strings in the Eagles's flamenco-inspired, live version of 'Hotel California' while driving home one night, but that's still a dream for now. At the end of the day it's still the choice of music for me. And tapes have been an integral part of the experience.
When I was old enough to drive I asked for a tape deck on my birthday for our cassette-less family Corolla. I used to create mixtapes from my CDs and CDs I borrowed from friends, so that I would have a right tape for the right driving mood. That's why it's sad to see the end of an era. According to a story from The Guardian, in 2011 there will be no more car models in the United States that will have a cassette deck, either as standard or as an option.
The last car to have a factory-equipped cassette player was the Lexus SC430 convertible. Here in our market, Lexus Manila's 2010 GS460 sedan was possibly the last brand-new car on the local market to have a cassette player as standard.
If you order one now, you will get a USB port instead. It's not surprising that a Japanese brand was the last holdout. For all their engineering genius, they can be very out of touch with consumers at times. This is the reason the iPod caught up to, and eventually decimated, the Walkman.
In automobiles, carmakers have long shifted to CD players, and now aftermarket audio companies are coming out with CD-less head units. With these next-generation head units, music comes from either a direct iPod connection, an auxiliary jack, or a USB port. The Guardian story also says that in the future even those technologies might become obsolete as the so-called cloud storage (Spotify, Pandora) grows in popularity.
Good music will always be good music, no matter the format. I'd listen to 'Alapaap' or 'Gusto Ko Lamang sa Buhay' regardless of the source, as long as it sounds clean and clear. But I can't help feel a little wistful as the format that provided a soundtrack to many cherished times in my life fades into the sunset.
As an epitaph, I leave you with a quote from the book High Fidelity about the art of cassettes and mixtapes. Goodbye cassette tape, thank you for the memories. "To me, making a tape is like writing a letter. There's a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You've got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with 'Got to Get You Off My Mind,' but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you've got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can't have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can't have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you've done the whole thing in pairs and...oh, there are loads of rules."