It's a mystery to me how I'm able to hear anything these days, given that I spent approximately 70% of my waking hours between 1985 and 1992 with headphones strapped on.
This thought was brought back to me the other day when I learnt that Sony was to stop production of the original cassette Walkman. To be honest, I was surprised at the news, surprised that they were still making them. I thought that cassettes had already gone the way of all flesh at some point in the last decade.
I've been merrily listening to a series of ones and zeroes emanating from a small box with a picture of some fruit on it for any number of years. I almost couldn't remember what it was like to use cassettes. So I had a good try.
In my early teens I started going to a school that was a good hour or so away. Later on I ended up going out with a girl who lived on the other side of the city. Obviously, this was some time before I passed my driving test and inflicted myself on the Queen's Highway, so it was public transport all the way. And I don't know, but you can only sit staring at an advert for Travel West Midlands Travelcards for a few months before it starts to get a little old.
So I got a Walkman. Actually, that's not quite true. I suspect the first one, which I probably inherited from an older brother, was not a Sony. It had the all the weight of a night storage heater - more Limpman than Walkman, to be frank. But it meant I could at last have music with me at all times. I no longer had to listen to the listless tutting of my fellow passengers on the number 50 bus as it limped along Kings Heath High Street.
I was at the cutting edge of technology. I could press a button for chrome cassettes. I had a beltclip.
Apparently home taping was killing music. I hoped the authorities were looking the other way as I transferred every LP that came into my possession onto a seemingly never-ending succession of TDK 90-minute tapes, with the track details carefully transcribed to the inlay cards.
Leaving the house would be a major event requiring D-Day levels of planning. Where am I going? What mood am I in? What tapes do I take with me? And how are my batteries for charge?
Batteries were a permanent issue. I don't think I ever heard the final tracks on many of these albums at anything like their correct speed. Given that I was listening to a lot of Frank Zappa at the time, I don't think I actually noticed until many years later.
But I look back on those days fondly. I can remember what was going on in my life from the music that was being piped into my ears. Walking home along the Outer Circle having missed the last bus? Rush - Moving Pictures. Looking through racks of dodgy trousers at Oasis on Corporation Street? Squeeze - 45s and Under. Waiting in line at McDonalds on the ramp? Genesis - Selling England by the Pound. Freaking out everyone within a ten metre radius? Brand X - Product.
Kids these days. Don't know they're born. Repeat to fade.