10 Ways We Remember When Music Was a “Thing”

 Remember when music was a physical object — before it was just an ethereal file floating from one digital device to another? There were technical snafus, social mores and some heavy lifting that went along with the era of vinyl and magnetic tape.

Herein, a few:

1. Using a pencil to fix an unraveling cassette tape.

(Image: TheDailyDrawing.com)

2. Moving boxes and boxes of LPs from dorm room to apartment to apartment

(Sorry, Dad.)

(Photo: SpinClean.com)

3. Merging record and CD collections with your partner.

My rule: Do not merge until married. (And even then, Dave Matthews is never allowed to mingle)


4. Taping over someone else’s mixtape.

The ultimate diss.

(Photo: Says_It.com)

 5. Using Scotch tape as a cassette-tape wonder tool.

By taping over the little notches on top to record a mixtape over an unwanted cassette.

(Photo: TheNestingGame.com )

6. 8-Track Tapes

And that satisfying sound of the 8-track tape clicking and connecting into its gears in your parents’ Buick Regal car radio.

(Photo: SeventysKid.Tumbler.com)
(Photo: SeventysKid.Tumbler.com)

7. When people actually cared about speakers.


8. Losing the 45 spider

Aka that little plastic insert. You’d fashion one out of tape, paper, whatever you had.


9. Being flat broke in 1992 and selling CDs for cash.

Walking into the Philadelphia Record Exchange in South Philly and sheepishly handing over a stack of CDs while the sales clerk would wave me off and mutter, “I’ll get to them,” and I pretend to hang around and look at other CDs, and then I’d actually see three or four I wanted, so I end up trading and never getting the money.


10. Holding beautiful, luxurious album covers.

And actually reading the liner notes.


Share your own “music-as-item” memories below…


Tell Us in the Comments

What do you think?

11 Responses

  1. Dori

    I’m so old (well-aged?) that it was to merge or not to merge record albums. We really never did (I’m the GenX, he the Boomer. Big diff!) and the relationship didn’t stay merged either. A sign?

  2. Kristy Krivitsky

    How about the SMELL of vinyl???? I can still remember how my mother’s 45 of Phil Phillips “The Sea of Love” used to smell as I would put it on my portable player in my playroom as a kid. Hearing that song takes me right back to that room and reminds me of how linked our senses are…

  3. Nancy Davis Kho
    Nancy Davis Kho

    TAPING OVER SOMEONE’S MIXTAPE?! Margit, you need to put a warning label on a post like this, I’d never imagined someone could be so cruel.

    I got one for ya: making sure your DJ ex-boyfriend’s tapes are visible in your tape rack when your new boyfriend comes over, so he can see what standard of mix tape magic you’re used to. Doesn’t work if your ex had bad taste, obviously.

  4. Jane Detwiler

    How about when the record player needle started to wear out. Since we couldn’t afford a new one right away, how did we fix it? Tape a penny on the record player arm.

  5. Susan Linney
    Susan Linney

    I was the queen of the Scotch tape trick. I’d “borrow” my dad’s classical music tapes (which he had millions of, so he never missed), put the Scotch tape over those holes on the top and voila—the cassette could be recorded over! I didn’t have to go out and buy a blank one! Plus, it also made for some fun on-tape art — Sharpie doodles over “The Best of Bach” could be pretty amusing.

  6. Adrianna Dufay

    When the clear cassette case to your favorite tape gets stepped on and breaks (perhaps because it’s lying under a pile of clothes in your bedroom?), and you have to find a tape you like less — so you can sacrifice its case to the better tape. And NOW you have to find a home for the paper insert to the newly naked tape. It’s a mess!

  7. Jenna Briand
    Jenna Briand

    Propping up my tri-fold Saturday Night Fever album so that it essentially surrounded my head, and staring at all three BeeGees and John Travolta.

  8. My Edited Life: Moving Day Identifies Real Treasures | Tue Night

    […] and tapes arrived, driven through the mountain passes by a brave friend. (The ultimate nod to “When Music Was a Thing”). I was happy to spend money on new hangers and spatulas, so long as I had my special trinkets […]

  9. Jeana Blaylock

    Hello, i feel that i saw you visited my weblog so i came to return the want?.I’m attempting to in finding things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!|


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