Three cassettes from the Maraca Collection: yes, cassettes!

I was never a fan of music cassettes.

They often got tangled in the deck mechanism and even if you could rescue and rewind the tapes, they often stretched. Many times they broke.

Cassettes sucked ass.

Their only selling point was portability. You could insert them into Walkmans, boom boxes and, the main reason I started buying cassettes, car stereos.

I had an Alpine installed in my Pontiac Phoenix.

IT’S NOT DEAD!

And now, it seems, the much-maligned cassette is like Monty Python’s parrot. It’s not dead, they claim. It was resting. Cassette tapes are back and I still don’t understand why.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/entertainment/retro-resurgence-the-unlikely-return-of-cassette-tapes-in-canadian-music-1.3290300

As mentioned in that link, the biggest challenge is finding a player. I haven’t had a working deck since the ’90s. But I do have a rack, hidden away in the guest bedroom closet. It contains nearly 100 tapes and here, chosen randomly with my eyes closed, are three from that dusty collection.

Elton John by Elton John (recorded 1970, cassette released 1985)

Sir Elton is on a lengthy farewell tour to cap off a fantastic career. His debut album had a track called 60 Years On and it’s hard to believe I’ve been listening to his tunes for over 40 years.

I was too young when this one was originally released, but in the mid-’70s you couldn’t escape the music of the former Reginald Dwight. He was all over the radio. Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin created hit after hit and were an incredibly prolific team.

So, after purchasing the vinyl versions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Honky Chateau and Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2, I went back to the beginning.

Your Song, Take Me to the Pilot, Border Song, The King Must Die.

A strong debut that hinted at the greatness to come…in contrast with our next album…

Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf (recorded 1977, cassette released 1990)

Just in time for Halloween!

The debut album by the former Marvin Lee Aday went on to sell 14 million copies and test the vocal skills of many a karaoke couple on a hot summer night. Or any night when the drinks were flowing and the inhibitions were overcome.

Meatloaf’s soaring voice never sounded as good as it did on Bat Out of Hell. In later years it went from weird and nasally to just plain sad. Today, he tours and doesn’t sing a note!

https://www.theguardian.com/music/shortcuts/2018/jul/02/meat-loaf-wont-sing-new-tour-caleb-johnson

That says it all.

Nevertheless, Bat Out of Hell was a specular achievement, with Mr. Loaf at the height of his powers, providing the perfect vehicle for songwriter Jim Steinman’s mini rock operas.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth and, my favourite, the epic title track.

Greatest Hits by Toronto (released 1984)

I grew up in Toronto and back in the ’60s and ’70s groups often named themselves after cities, states and even continents. Boston, Chicago, Kansas, Chilliwack* and…cue the intro for that opus hated so many, Europe. It’s The Final Countdown!

That’s stuck in your head, isn’t it? Sorry.

Back to the band Toronto, formed in that city but with a lead vocalist who hailed from Durham, North Carolina. Annie Elizabeth “Holly” Woods.

I’ve always loved powerful female vocals. In 1980, when I heard Holly belting out Even the Score, I was hooked. That track is on the greatest hits album along with Your Daddy Don’t Know, Lookin’ For Trouble, Girls Night Out and Start Telling the Truth.

Toronto broke up in ’85 after their record label went bankrupt. Woods cut a solo album that wouldn’t get released until 2007.

CONNECTING DECADES LATER

I’m Facebook friends with Annie/Holly and drummer Barry Connors (who joined Toronto in ’81 and went on to play with Coney Hatch) and, thanks to their many posts, I can tell you the band still tours as Holly Woods & Toronto.

How about a Wasaga date next summer, Annie and Barry? RibFest or the motorcycle rally would fit the bill.

When cassettes became popular in the early ’80s, companies like Memorex and Maxell started selling blank tapes that you could record on. Or, if you were cheap…and I was a college student so, guilty as charged…you could break the write-protection tab and make a duplicate album or mixtape using that pre-recorded cassette.

Home taping! It was supposed to kill the music business.

Okay, time to put the cassettes back in the rack. I’ll be back with another trio soon. Maybe cassettes, back to the CDs or even vinyl. Thanks for reading.

*-Back in my college days, I saw a concert ad on one of the Buffalo TV stations. It was  Journey or maybe Foreigner, with opening act “Chilly-wack!” Oh well, the TV announcers from fire city (Buffalo news reports always seems to lead off with 4-alarm blazes in Batavia or Tonawanda) couldn’t be faulted for not knowing how to pronounce a name from B.C.

 

About johnnymaraca

host of Johnny Maraca's Rock & Roll Riot, the rockingest show on the radio. 60 years of rockin' rhythm and blues, from the late '40s pioneers like Louis Jordan to Elvis, Chuck Berry, CCR, Stray Cats, Ramones and tons more. Friday and Saturday nights at 7 on 97.7 the Beach, listen live at http://977thebeach.ca, and WRSG in Middlebourne, West Virginia, Tuesdays 6-8 pm.
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