Remembering the cassette tape

Mare Nostrum Group colleagues share their stories

“Do you remember listening to music on cassette and making mixtapes for your friends?” Is a question that has been asked around the Mare Nostrum Group office lately – prompted by the publication of Unspooled: How the Cassette Made Music Shareable (Duke University Press), in in which Rob Drew traces the history of the cassette tape and how it changed the culture of music. 

For those of a certain age, the cassette tape is associated with many fond memories, whether that’s listening to favourite songs and bands, or discovering new ones from the mixtapes passed around our friendship groups. Here are some of the memories and stories we’ve been sharing.

“My first cassette tape memory was having a cassette of the Spice Girls, ‘Spice Up Your Life’ and endlessly practicing dance routines prancing around the living room as a five-year old”.

Katie, Marketing Manager

“I remember sitting in front of the stereo waiting for my favourite songs and quickly pressing the record button!! I was obsessed with Back Street Boys, and especially Nick Carter who was my first celebrity crush. Thank God my taste in music improved!”

Sara, Territory Sales Manager

“Sharing music was such an important part of life growing up in the 80’s. Thank you ‘blank tapes’! I can even remember the makes – TDK mostly and BASF. Someone would always have a double cassette player to lend around, and if you were lucky, it had the ‘high speed dubbing’ function, at least halving the time it took to record an album. Song-lists would be carefully written out on the card, and routinely smudged as you inserted it back into the cassette case. This wonderful, down to earth bit of tech, has made me a lifelong music lover of all kinds.

The first recording I remember being given was of my uncle’s band Speed of Clocks. I think they thought they were a cross between Joy Division and The Psychedelic Furs. They weren’t, but I loved it anyway.”

George, Client Account Director – Combined Academic Publishers

“My first ever cassette was Spice Girls’ ‘Spice’ – I got it for my sixth birthday together with a gold sparkly cardigan. I always think of that cardigan when I hear ‘Wannabe’! I also had ‘Oops!… I did it again’ by Britney Spears. I listened to the cassette so many times the catch that stopped it from being overwritten broke; one day I accidentally recorded over it for about 1.5 seconds. Now I can’t hear ‘Stronger’ without expecting to hear a snippet of Backstreet Boys’ ‘Everybody’ half way through!”

Francesca, Head of Client Management and Marketing

“My main cassette memory is listening to the Bee Gees on repeat in my mum’s car! It was her favourite band, and her favourite album. Even though I pretended I didn’t enjoy it, I secretly did!”

Georgia, Digital Content Manager

“I used to listen to a lot of 90’s Ibiza dance music on my Sony Walkman, I had a couple of compilation albums. Faithless, ATB, Alice Deejay, good times.

One of my best friends at primary school copied his dad’s album of Not The Nine O’Clock News for me, I can still remember most of the lyrics for ‘Bouncing Song’.

I was also obsessed with Oasis’ criminally underrated album ‘Be Here Now’. The Limp Bizkit single ‘Take A Look Around’ for the second Mission Impossible film was also a regular listen for a while, it was probably the last cassette I received as I switched over to collecting CDs around that time.”

Sam, Executive Project Manager, Mare Nostrum Group

“Sadly, I am very much from the era that created nd listened to mix tapes. And in the days when we only had cassette players in cars so there was no skipping tracks. I grew up with Eurythmics on repeat for years!”

Sally, Head of Operations

“As a 40-year-old, I feel like I had the tail-end of the cassette tape era – CDs became affordable (for us at least) in the mid-90s, so we mostly bought those after then (though cassettes lasted a bit longer obviously – I have a vivid memory of owning a 3-CD changer combined with a tape cassette deck!). I wasn’t particularly into music until my early teens, but I loved pretending to be a DJ – doing exactly as described in your email below, sitting by the radio and recording songs from a chart show, then engaging in some “presenter chat” between songs with one of my neighbours from across the road. We were so cool.”

Tristan, Senior Marketing Manager (Human Kinetics)

How the Cassette Made Music Shareable
By Rob Drew
Duke University Press
Published: March 2024