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Hey friend... It’s great to meet you. Glad to hear that you also share my interest in audiocassettes. Whilst you’re visiting these pages I hope you find some significance in the words I write, the things I say and the opinions I have. Whether you are here to simply flick through, or indulge in some light reading, I’d love to hear your thoughts. You’re encouraged to get involved, learn something new (hopefully) and generally enjoy yourself. Thanks for picking up a copy of Plastic Magnet. I’ll return the favor one day. Much love, Rob See: Follow:

Contents Manifesto...............................................................................................4 TapeCast................................................................................................5 The Tape Modern...................................................................................7 Is This Really ‘Appening?..................................................................16 The Death Of The Album....................................................................18 Black Art Number One......................................................................24 Mixtape Memories.............................................................................28 The History Of Rap...............................................................................31 Interview With Jen Long......................................................................32 Charity Shop Reviews.......................................................................34 Final Thoughts: Just Push Play........................................................38

Thanks to: Beniot Jammes, Distorted Tapes, Tapeline, Absolute Punk, Fish Bulb Tapes, Art Is Hard, Tape Club Records, Jen Long, Kisability, Tye Die Tapes, The Dessert Sessions, the FAMINES, Crap Hound, Tapeworm, PORNOGRAPHY, High Fidelity, Jack Clothier, Alcopop Records!, Philip Mawer, 3 Fish In A Tree, Craig Parkinson, Tom Mac & You.

Issue No. 1 2013 All contents © 2013 by Plastic Magnet and contributors. Plastic Magnet is published twice a year by an independent publisher. Plastic Magnet welcomes contributions, letters and comments by email at The magazine is not responsible for the return of unsolicited materials. Contents of this magazine may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.

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Manifesto We exist behind the scenes. We challenge the conventional. Our numbers are limited, but our voices are mighty. We are pioneers. We were an infection. Our impact has lasted; we are a part of history. Obsolete? Obscene. We carry a message. We are a true form. This will not end. Press play. Stop. Rewind. Play.


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TapeCast By purchasing this copy of Plastic Magnet you have shown a recognised commitment to the world of audiocassettes. So now would be a good time to sit back, relax and enjoy the attached tape. Or as I like to call it, the TapeCast (a podcast on tape). Within the reels of audio you will ďŹ nd ramblings about Record Store Day, punk, mixtapes and Aerosmith. Plus there is also the opportunity to indulge in some truly wonderful music. Get yourself a brandy and give it a whirl. Go on. Just push play and see what happens‌

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burn me

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FACT: The humble audiocassette was considered to be obsolete in 1996. So why is it that their nostalgic presence can be seen and felt throughout many different scenes in our modern society? And why are they supported by an army of people happy to bathe in tapes’ former glory with a hope of looking ‘retro’, or perhaps even ‘cool’? They’ve inspired the design for iPhone covers, (not so) fashionable jewellery, notebooks, handbags, pillows, and can even be found stitched into the shape of a doormat. Let’s just hope that in 15 years time we’re not using circular phones and hanging CDs around our necks… But let’s face it, there is something strangely comforting about surrounding ourselves with the things we used to love. It has been going on for years, and it’s never going to change. Our obsession will carry on forever. So when the Paris born graphic designer Benoit Jammes stumbled across a shoe box full of old cassettes, he chose not to dangle them between his nipples, or sellotape them to a phone. Instead he turned them into art. Only his unique style propels our obsession with nostalgia to a completely different level. A kind of nostalgia stacked on top of nostalgia if you like. His passion with visual perception touches on the geeky side of music, film and television. So we decided to ask him a few questions about his influences and where his ideas came from... >> 8

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The Tape Modern An interview with: Beniot Jammes Who are you, what do you do and where are you from? My name is Benoit Jammes, I’m a 33-year-old French graphic designer and I live in Paris. How long have you been a graphic designer/photographer/artist? I’ve liked all graphic stuff for a long time, but I’ve only worked on it professionally for around 10 years. I’m an artist only during my free time. What inspires you? Everything inspires me, from friends to cartoons, and even the things I find on the internet. There is such a huge inspiration source all around us! How did it come about you using cassette tapes within your work, and what was it that interested you about the format? It so happened that I found a bunch of old cassettes at home; seeing them brought me back, in thought, to an earlier time, the 80s, and to me as a kid. In any case, I could not play them any more, so resurrecting them sounded like a good idea. It was sound that became visual! So I am pretty sure they are happier now rather than living in a shoebox.

Do you think that people crave an element of nostalgia in the things they enjoy? I think many people from my generation relate to this work. Some people enjoy the funny side of it, the references. I reckon they are just happy to see that these old cassette tapes managed to start a new life. Did you ever make a mixtape cassette for a friend or girlfriend? If so, can you remember what songs were on it? I just remember doing this for myself when I was a kid, alone in my bedroom, in front of the recorder like a DJ I imagined. It was the great ‘dance music’ era and the beginning of French hiphop too. So good memories! What are your plans for the near future? I have some other artworks out soon, still so fun. You’ll have to wait and see! Check out some of Beniot Jammes’ excellent cassettebased artwork over the next few pages. For more info head to:

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Š Beniot Jammes

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Š Beniot Jammes

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Š Beniot Jammes

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Is This Really ‘Appening? The photo-based mobile phone app Instagram has shown us that we have a craving for “vintage” imagery, even when we have all of that incredible technology at our fingertips. The global social networking provider has over 100 million users to date, with an extensive database containing around 4 billion pictures. There are snapshots of meals and drinks, friends and families, landscapes and portraits, and most ironically of all, new technology. But when will it stop? Or will we just end up desiring an old-fashioned, modern world? But surely one of the most absurd smart-phone applications has got to be AirCassette. “RETROFY YOUR HI-FI SYSTEM”, the $1 app enthusiastically states. “The tape spins realistically while the music plays. Rewind and fast forward are also animated to really take you back to the 80s.” It’s fascinating stuff really... This software essentially allows you to listen to your MP3’s via the interface of a cassette. You’re able to choose from several different designs, all with fake logos on them like ‘Fony’, instead of ‘Sony’, and the title of the track is even written on the label in one of those awful handwriting fonts. It’s a great way of slowing down your phone, and perfect if you’re going for that ultimate, ‘I’m a douchebag’ look. 16

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Another equally pointless application is AutoValve. Now this kind of thing isn’t exactly new. Those of us who have used Cubase before may remember DaTube, a plugin that allows you to add “crackle” and “warmth” to any instrument you apply it to. It used to work great on bass guitars. Well, AutoValve works in a very similar way. You simply upload your favourite MP3’s and then smother them in digitally emulated hiss in an attempt to create the illusion you are listening to a cassette. You can even, “bring back the glory days” and make it sound like vinyl player, which was once described as, “Perfect if you’ve got an analogue fetish.” Really? The thought that someone would actually pay for either of these apps is enough to leave you with a feeling of concern for their mental stability. At least Instagram is free and has an interesting social aspect to its usage. Because what truly distresses me is the person that has just walked past listening to Fall Out Boy through AirCassette, with AutoValve running in the background. I wonder if when they get home they’ll cook some of that vegetarian ‘fake-on’ and put on the new SizzlingBacon app, whilst cuddling up next to one of those screen saver fires and a blow-up doll..?

“Because you can’t hug a download.”


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We take a look at the inevitable demise of the album, and how physical formats are helping to preserve them... Imagine holding a download. Like properly holding it. Feeling its texture, smelling the odor that permeates from it after the production process. And just think about what it would be like to fully interact with the playing of such an object. Sliding it out of a case, holding the audio between your fingers, slipping it into an MP3 shaped slot, clicking shut the lid to temporarily entomb it, and then pushing a chunky ‘play’ button to begin the motion of music. People have fetishised about musical products for years. Whether it’s an instrument, vinyl, CD booklet, or cassette. We as a consumer simply love to hold a tangible object, admire its design, and feel like we really own something. At least that is the case for a particular generation of people. Don’t you find it a little upsetting that some children, teenagers, and even adults don’t have to interact with recorded music in the physical sense ever again? There is no need for them to leave the house to go and buy an album anymore. The shops have been replaced with an online database stocked full with millions of tracks that are all available

within seconds. And that’s for the people who actually pay for them. Illegal activity regarding downloads is realistically immeasurable, but it has been estimated that some $12.5 billion is lost each year due to file sharing. Which is a shit load of free music. And yes, you are right. There has been an increase in physical format sales over the last five years. The fact you are reading this proves that. However, you’ve got to feel sorry for the individuals who wont ever experience that feeling of actually going out and buying an album. “It seems to be no coincidence that whilst digital downloads have grown, and sales of CDs has decreased, there is a steady flow of analogue releases” explains Graham from Distorted Tapes. The indie record label based in the Midlands has released tapes and vinyl for bands such as God Damn, Lady Fortune and Godard, and he believes that the reasons for the continued sale of audiocassettes is, “Almost reactionary – people are moving back to a more engaging format, one that makes you truly value the music contained on it.” During the 80s the music industry

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Rewind rewind

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felt there was a very real threat that could potentially ‘Kill’ music. Home recording devices allowed people to rerecord tapes, and copy music straight from vinyl and the radio. New laws were created and there was genuine fear that music wouldn’t be able to survive through all of the copyright. But, there is now a distinct irony in the ‘Home Taping Is Killing Music’ slogan that was designed to warn people off from the activity, because whilst cassettes have seemingly disappeared into the background, new forms of piracy have triumphed. And what’s more, the apparent disappearance of tape hasn’t resulted in its complete demise. Instead they’ve subtly existed behind the scenes of their modern counterparts and provided a lasting vessel for which albums can be listened to, and appreciated in their entirety. Engaging with a download is literally the clicking of a button, or the tapping of a screen. You can select any point within a track to the very millisecond, and what’s more is that you can own the odd song here-andthere from any album. It’s all a very disposable interaction that feels fake, and almost none existent. Compact disc’s had provided a suitable listening platform for well over a decade, but the idea of buying one today is baffling. Most people will just copy it on to their MP3 player and then never use it again. “They [CDs] aren’t very appealing”, states Christian from the “DIY label” Fish Bulb Tapes. But in particular, it is their engagement that isn’t appealing. There’s too much opportunity to disrupt the playing order. One push of a button and the song has changed, been repeated, or even deleted if you’ve slapped it onto your laptop. It seems like we just don’t have the attention span anymore to thoroughly enjoy and

album for what it is. However, with tape you’ve got the option to fast forward and rewind, but there’s no real ability to interfere with the order of service. They were the last format that truly encompassed the idea of an album being played from start to finish. Looking at an album on cassette now seems a million miles away from what we have grown used to. The fact that you couldn’t listen to one of the unreleased tracks on repeat was probably their biggest falling point for most listeners. That is unless the song was made available as a single. That way you’d be able to purchase roughly four minutes worth of audiotape, the A-side featuring the original song, and then either an instrumental version, or a remix of the track on the B-side. It wasn’t exactly practical, but surely you’d enjoy the song more when it finally

“People are moving back to a more engaging format, one that makes you truly value the music.”

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would come around? As the UK Singles Chart confirmed that it had received its 1 billionth download in April 2013, you couldn’t help but wonder whether-or-not there will ever be a suitable rival to the digital music industry. Cassettes will never be the driving force behind music, not like they once were, and while the demand for vinyl is continually growing, I doubt it will ever reach the capacity to overtake the instant appeal of downloading. However I’d like to think that there are more people amongst us, like Alex DiVincenzo from Absolute Punk, who would “have a hard time paying money for something without receiving a physical product.” Because there aren’t many other things in life that you pay for, without being able to actually grasp it in your hands.

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t Sessions

© The Desser

Black Art Number One For some bands, their artwork can be more iconic than the music it’s supposed to represent. That doesn’t mean to say that it is bad, it just means that more people probably know that the Sgt. Pepper sleeve is The Beatles, rather than if they were to listen to ‘When I’m SixtyFour’. The same way that the general population will recognise Pink Floyd’s iconic artwork for Dark Side Of The Moon, rather than the clanging of clocks at the beginning of ‘Time’. The ideas behind album artwork had long been established by the time cassettes began to hit the mainstream. Their smaller, 24 Plastic Magnet

rectangular form was far different compared to the grand work space vinyl had offered, but that hasn’t ever stopped the creative world from taking hold of the format and churning out some truly creative packaging ideas. Whilst digital downloads offer handy little pixelated images to be attached to the file, it’s the physical format that reigns supreme when it comes to interesting visuals. There really is nothing more enjoyable than admiring a beautiful piece of design work whilst listening to the music. So here’s some of our favourite cassette packaging designs.

V The Desert Sessions’ top-notch packaging is both quirky and cool. Even the blue cassette is part of this awesome cover/booklet/3D stand-alone poster.

© Gorgeou

s Bully


This stunning hand printed cigarette-style packaging is home to Gorgeous Bully’s brilliant album, The Young Obese. Plus the ‘secret’ B-side is packed full of unheard demos.

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It’s a cassette release of live material form the noise rock duo the FAMINES, that comes with a 268-page, perfect-bound liner notebook attached, both of which are wedged into a hand-made cardstock sleeve. The recording was made on 14 July 2008 in one take, so the notebook focuses entirely on contextualising that day and recording. “We’re talking a 25-page dossier on all seven people involved, financial statements, maps of the jam space, block, neighborhood, equipment lists, fingerprints, lyrics, etc.” It’s bloody brilliant!

© the



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worm Š Tape


Tapeworm have got their identity nailed. The super distinctive cassette artwork that represents each one of their tape’s feels fresh and enticing, and goes hand-in-hand with the incredible music that they represent.

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‘‘The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art, there’s many do’s and don’ts.”

- High Fidelity Compact cassettes changed everything. Their brittle bodies that neatly housed the Catherine wheels of magnetic tape, wound tightly around two fragile spools seemed a million miles away from vinyl, both in sound quality and product satisfaction. But with the invention of the Sony Walkman at the end of the 70s, it was their sudden ability to become mobile that radically altered the way in which we would interact with music forever. “I still remember getting a Walkman and a copy of Now 29 for Christmas one year”, announces Jack Clothier, founder of the award winning Oxford based indie-label Alcopop! Records. “The idea of walking around listening to tapes literally revolutionised my life at the 28 Plastic Magnet

time, and took music from being a passion into being an obsession.” As this new technology advanced, the 80s quickly became filled with a flurry of excited music lovers who could now take a song, or entire album with them wherever they went. And as the demand for tape players increased and the materials became cheaper, it was only a matter of time before recording capability would become affordable enough to be implemented into the everyday home. Grand stereo units with superb audio quality soon had the added option to record directly onto blank cassettes, meaning that the gaps between vinyl, radio and the Walkman had now been bridged. Suddenly, along with the affordability of blank tapes, the

idea of putting together your very own selection of songs, in any order you desired, created an industry sized craze of sharing personal compilations between friends and lovers that spread all around the world. The mixtape had arrived! “The good ones even had their own handmade artwork”, remembers Alex DiVinzenco, the owner of the global internet music forum Absolute Punk. “They could be a very special and personal way of telling someone how you feel, without using your own words. People put a lot of time and effort into making the perfect tracklisting.” These homemade cassettes were a treat for people to indulge themselves in. The idea of sharing a joyful melody, or a fitting lyric gave a much deeper sense of connection to the music, and pushed our own passion for sound into a devoted mode of thinking. It was the beginning of a fascination that still exists today through iPod playlists and websites such a Even with the arrival of the compact disc, and the subsequent introduction of the home computer, people could still burn their own unique playlist’s, but the evocative feelings of actually interacting with the recording process didn’t ever feel the same again. Sure you could place the songs in an order, make artwork and customise the disc, but having to sit down in front of your tape recorder, pushing its buttons and ensuring you’d got your timing spoton simply disappeared.

Plus you couldn’t wait around for hours listening to the radio for your favourite song, so you could hit the record button just in time to capture its sound. Only cassettes had allowed for the recording of live music to happen instantly, and this was an art form in itself. Making sure you didn’t get the presenter talking at the beginning and end of the track,

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checking that the levels were correct, and just the patience that was involved. You had to have skill to get the perfect sound, and it took up a lot of time and effort if you wanted to do things properly. “There were a group of us at school and 6th form who were forever making each other tapes”, explains Clothier. Because whilst these one-off, private compilations provided a means of expressing feelings from one person to another, the mixtape also presented us with a revolutionary way of hearing new music. During the late 80s and throughout the 90s, London may have been bustling with bands eager to make a mark, but the distribution of their music, without the help of a record label was something that they could only dream of. Modern media platforms such a MySpace, Bandcamp and Soundcloud allow bands to connect with fans all over the world instantly, and at anytime. However, pre-internet distribution of unsigned music was an entirely different story. For Jack-pop, and many others across the country, “I pretty much relied on mixtapes to be my tastemaker.” Of course picking up a copy of a band’s homemade demo at one of their gigs was, and still is, the best way to purchase their music. But the ability to copy their songs and distribute them amongst your friends meant that a band was getting free publicity at the expense of a handful of tape sales. This was a massive step forward for peer-topeer (P2P) sharing, and is something that is commonplace within today’s online community. Without the sharing of music via the mixtape, it’s likely that some genres wouldn’t have been sustained. The zine culture that went hand-inhand with punk created a means to discuss new bands, but where was 30 Plastic Magnet

the sound? It was only once the full potential of the mixtape had been embraced did the bands have a platform to project their songs. With some artist, the chance to record in a studio was mere fiction. Underground industrial music wasn’t exactly hot-topic on the radio airwaves during the mid-70s, but the creators of the scene were able to use home recording equipment, along with blank cassettes to capture their revolutionary music, and then distribute them amongst their fans at gigs. These could then be rerecorded and distributed by each person who owned one, and a chain reaction of sharing quickly appeared. You could argue that it’s a similar, basic form of today’s viral videos found on Youtube. Only these tapes resulted in the spreading of entirely new sounds, and the eventual recognition of a genre that peaked throughout the 80s, and carried on long into the 90s. What people remember the most about the mixtape though, and probably the main reason why they survived for so long is the sentimental value behind the ones that were given affectionately between boyfriends and girlfriends. Far from being a chance to pass on new music, these cassettes were made for a wholly different reason. Some were made out of love, others to tell the story of heartbreak. Most of them conjured up memories, whilst others hoped to make them. “I once made a girl I fancied an amazing tape with the front entirely covered in gummy bears. I’m not going to be lewd, but lets just say it worked VERY well!” Good luck doing that with an MP3.

The History Of Rap by Rob Bramhill, Age 13 I could just about hear the faint sound of thumping drums. It was tinny. It was harsh. But it sounded powerful. We huddled closer together. Crowding ever tighter around the plastic box that housed the reels of audio. Unlike today we couldn’t share an earpiece each, so the flexible headband kept getting in the way but we persisted. The cone shape I’d made with my hands and wrapped around the foam speakers was supposed to help amplify the sound, but I questioned its success. Regardless of the results we continued to strain our ears, hoping to capture a glimpse of noise. The midday heat was beating down. A few shallow puddles had still managed to grip onto existence

in a shaded corner. That was where we had chosen to huddle. Familiar faces surrounded me, but this was not a social event. No one said a word. We just kept listening. And listening. And listening Suddenly a bright alarm punctured the air. We did hear that. Loud and clear. It was a signal. A message. The time had come to return to the classroom. We’ll continue listening at lunch…

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Who are you and what do you do? I’m Jen from Kissability/the radio. How did the idea for Kissability come about? I was having a meeting with Tim from Transgressive about something totally different. I’d had an idea that I wanted to start a label to release a band I loved called Cut Ribbons. I mentioned that I might pester him for advice, and he said, ‘Jen, if you’re gonna start a label, do it with us’. And that was that.

We had a chat to the brilliant Jen Long about her collaborative project & cassette-only label Kissability to find out where her obsession with tape all began... 32 Plastic Magnet

Would you say that cassettes and the invention of the Walkman have helped shape the way in which we/ you interact with music today? I can’t speak for everyone, but definitely for me! I was attached to my Walkman growing up. My favourite thing to do was tape Mary Anne Hobbs doing the Rock Show on Radio 1 and listen to it throughout

in a physical format. I wonder if anyone’s started a mini-disc label... Do you still actively listen to cassettes? If so, do you have any personal favourites within your collection? Yes! All the Kissability releases, obvs. My copy of Rumours, and a mixtape that my ex-girlfriend made me. What release via Kissability are you most proud of? I love all our releases equally, like beautiful children. Although today is Record Store Day and I’m feeling particularly amazing about our First Kiss compilation.

the week on my way to school. I hate silence. Being able to listen to music wherever you go means you can really live with an album. Music takes on different meanings and moments feel more special when you give them a personal soundtrack. How important do think you the idea of the mixtape was in helping to spread new music? I discovered a lot of my favourite bands through mixtapes and movie soundtracks. My friend Matt always makes mix CDs and includes personal liner notes. I love that. I still make mixtapes for friends. I’m just putting one together at the moment. Does it surprise you to see so many tape-only record labels today when the format is considered to be obsolete by the general population? Not at all. Cassette labels have been going for yeeeears. Pressing a record is bloody expensive. Tapes are a cheap and brilliant way of making your music available

The ‘Home Taping Is Killing Music’ slogan from the 80s is somewhat ironic today, as physical formats are actually helping to preserve it. What do you think is the attraction to physical formats in this digital age? We all want what we can’t have. For a band, putting out an album is a dream. Obviously you’d want to hold it, see it in the shops. It’s a real life affirming moment. For a music fan, sometimes you just want something you can hold, keep, interact with. I want to read the liner notes, study the artwork. Anything that makes music that little bit more personal is hugely attractive to me. What’s the most embarrassing cassette you have ever owned? I’ve got The Little Mermaid Soundtrack... The first tape I ever bought was the theme tune to The X Files by Mark Snow. Is that embarrassing enough? I don’t care. I’ve been re-watching Season 1 lately. The X Files was bloody brilliant. Thanks Jen! More info at:

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VARIOUS ARTISTS Smooth Sounds (Wilkinson Sword)

Now this is the type of album any bearded man would enjoy. Not because it’s packed full of Motorhead, ZZ Top or Metallica, but because it was put together by the wonderful people down at Wilkinson Sword. There’s nothing like a bit of encouragement to get rid of that facial fluff from the likes of Sad Café’s ‘Every Day Hurts’, James Brown’s classic ‘It’s A Man’s World’ and the aptly named, ‘Let It Grow’ by Eric Clapton himself. I’m never going to shave without it again, and neither should you.

BING CROSBY / HAMMOND WORKS BAND White Christmas / Carols (N/A)

I know it’s not Christmas, but this C60 represents exactly what a mixtape is all about. I’d like to envision that the shaky words written on the tapes spine were by a kind, old man who had made this compilation for his wife, so that they could listen to it on their long car journeys whilst visiting relatives over the festive period. Neither of them are alive anymore, and unbeknownst to them, their cassette was eventually donated to charity when their house was cleared out. It will now live on forever through these pages.

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We’ll let the music do the talking on this one:

“Met a wench at the Onion fair, Courted ‘er down the cut. We went t’ Kings Heath dog track, five shillings there I put. Then took a tram t’ Snow Hill, crossed the ‘orse road. She got on a train t’ Bourneville, suppose I shoulda known. Oh a Brummie I’m proud to be, we’re jolly good company. ‘appy days in Gem St., Daily Mail boots f’ me. A train t’ New St. Station, me root I’d like to see. Although there’s lots of changes, a Brummie I’m proud to be.”

ANU MALIK Virasat OST (The Gramophone Co, India)

Virasat is an award winning film about a man who, after completing his studies in England returns to his native village in India to discover that the simple life is not for him. Soon he attempts to set up a restaurant, without the approval of his father and rivaled by his crippled brother, but when he girlfriend goes away his dad dies and the family home is destroyed in a natural disaster. He returns to realise that, “A man gets education not to become a selfish being, but to uplift his uneducated brothers and society.” I just wish I could understand the lyrics on this tape because the story sounds epic. Plastic Magnet 35

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Final Thoughts: Just Push Play

These tiny symbols had a huge impact on the way we live our music listening lives today. They have been forever imprinted in our society and adapted throughout the many different playing formats. We probably don’t notice them all that much, yet they are always present. Constantly engraved upon the music devices’ we chose to interact with. And it all came from the Walkman. A single lonely triangle, rotated 90 degrees clockwise indicates the forward motion of music, whilst a bold, blocked square signifies ‘stop’. A doubling of the triangle facing towards the right gives you the power to speed up time, and the opposite allows you to reverse it. Together they have endured and provided each of us with ultimate control over the sounds we interact with. Without them, our listening experiences would be a never-ending loop. A never-ending loop. A never-ending loop…

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stop stop

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