08 May 2007

The Compilation Tape c.1970s-2007

The Compilation Tape, that marvel of magnetic sound recording that allowed a generation of men to woo women with a collection of their favourite tracks – and a generation of women to listen for two minutes before recording Abba's Greatest Hits over the lovingly-crafted tribute – has passed away following electrical retailer Currys decision to stop selling audio cassettes.

Though the audio cassette was born in the early 60s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the male of the species hit upon the romantic potential of ham-fistedly hitting “Play” and “Record” just after Peter Powell stopped his intro and, psychically, hitting “Stop” before he started talking again – a technique which if completed successfully could result in a swoon-inducing 40-second version of 10cc’s “I’m Mandy (Fly Me)”.

For years men plugged on relentlessly at their task, despite the fact that thanks to Peter Powell and every other trans-Adlandically toned DJ, from Tony “Don’t leave me, Tessa” Blackburn, through Dave "The Hairy Arse" Lee Travis, Simon “You Won’t Feel A Thing” Bates and Bruno "Oh Dear God Please Make It Stop" Brookes – the chances of a lovestruck, hormonally-confused male recording anything other than a couple of bars of the latest smash from the Hit Parade were about as slim as the chances of the aforementioned male getting his leg over.

With the advent of separate cassette decks and turntables, the Compilation Tape found its popularity growing ever greater. Now men could spend hours, if not days, locked in the dank fug of their bedrooms, beavering away feverishly in order to demonstrate their encyclopaedic musical knowledge, cultural sophistication, emotional depth and desire to get their end away with prove their undying and noble love for the barmaid who had smiled at them… no really… whilst handing them a bag of pork scratchings with their pint of Double Diamond.

C-90s (sometimes, daringly, even C-120s) were painstakingly filled with lovingly sequenced music from Motown to Morrisey, from that criminally overlooked Bulgarian psychedelic B-side to obscure cover versions of unknown songs by even lesser known bands (only available on rare Japanese imported 45s… in pink vinyl) – and all punctuated by the seductive thump, hiss and crackle of the needle hitting the vinyl too hard.

With the advent of younger, more exciting recording technologies – such as the minidisc, the rewritable CD and mp3 – that could do it longer, more frequently (and oh-so-much-more quickly…) The Compilation Tape suddenly found itself out-performed and, soon thereafter, cruelly spurned. Crushed by the knowledge that the wow and flutter wasn’t the music of the inamorata’s quickening pulse but the mechanical failure of the cassette player as it chewed its way through the definitive live version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”, it slurred slowly to an end as The Tape became caught in the mechanism, crinkling its last.

The Compilation Tape will be consigned to the dusty cardboard box in the attic or, worse, cruelly dumped. The service will be conducted by the Right Reverend Nick Hornby and the congregation will sing along with Dave’s “I Love You, Cheryl - 1987” C-90, wiping away a tear of joyous reminiscence to Human League’s “Love Action”, sniggering into the hand-written liner notes at Englebert Humperdinck’s “Lesbian Seagull”, guffawing uncontrollably to Salt ‘n Pepa’s “Push It” and thinking “Ooh, that’s a bit creepy” to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take (I’ll Be Watching You).

It is survived by the CD Compilation, the iMix and the continuing failure of men to understand that if they spent some time with their significant others rather than locking themselves up with their mp3's they might stand half a chance of getting somewhere.

As A Dodo Note: The Compilation Tape was predeceased by the Computer Tape, which itself had given millions of socially-alienated 1980s teens one more reason to consider suicide as Manic Miner/Chuckie Egg/Way of the Exploding Fist - their only escape from a cruel and uncomprehending world - failed to load for the thirteenth time.