Childhood Cassettes looks at the tapes we listened to as young rapscallions. Today, I reminisced about journeys with my dad (alongside Paul Young) to his hometown.
I’ve moved house nine times in my life (soon to be ten) and most of them involved a car journey with my dad at the wheel. He started out with a Golf Mk2, followed by the Mk3, a brief time with the Rover 25 before getting his current car, the Golf Mk6, in 2009. But enough about the makes and models, why am I even talking about cars? Because they laid down the foundations of my love for music.
Until his most recent car, my dad always had a tape deck and a stash of tapes. Most of them were mixtapes with the odd Massive reggae compilation thrown in. One such tape contained an album that stuck with me forever. Paul Young’s From Time to Time – The Singles Collection took the best of his career so far when it was released in 1991. This was my first exposure to the singer who was coincidentally born in Luton, the town I moved to when I was 6. His husky blue-eyed pop vocals were a staple of journeys back to Bradford, my hometown. Songs like the frenetic I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down and hit covers Everytime You Go Away and Love of the Common People were interchanged with ballads like Broken Man, Oh Girl, and Softly Whispering I Love You. Each song I enjoyed and felt different emotions rise as I heard them along the motorway. On occasion, I’d have my Gameboy with me when I wasn’t sleeping. I can’t enter Fuschia City on Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow without thinking about those songs; catching a Gyarados in bewilderment.
As the album was shorter than the duration of a blank tape, that allowed some space to be creative. I don’t think my dad owned any other Paul Young albums so he decided to throw in some female vocalists. Straight after Softly Whispering I Love You came Beverley Craven’s Promise Me. This was a lot more brooding than Young. I was pre-pubescent at the time but I could understand the lyricism. Images of 4am were conjured in my mind. Having never been up that late, it was always a fantasy to imagine a burgeoning sunrise when you weren’t supposed to be awake. The song’s cadence always felt like a sigh of relief in contrast to the sombre subtext. The Bangles’ Eternal Flame followed to restore some cheer to my mind before Judie Tzuke’s Stay with Me till Dawn ended the tape.
For all the black music I had been privy to on my dad’s mixtapes, this was arguably the whitest. I don’t know whether it was a purposeful decision but it wasn’t an issue or even noticeable. Music held associations with events a lot more than the artists singing them and their ethnic backgrounds. More experience in my older age adds that layer to the appreciation but my raw, relatively unformed conscious allowed for a healthy mix of sounds to work with.