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Farewell, Walkman

Sony just announced plans to halt production of the Walkman in Japan. The cassette players are still available in America, but I bet they won't be around for much longer. It's a basic rule of supply vs. demand. All in all, the end of the Walkman era is sad.

The Walkman was born in 1979 just like me. Much like every good invention, there were cheaper knock-offs and I'm pretty sure every kid in my elementary school owned one. I had a few myself. The Walkman wasn't the most durable gadget ever made - and we all know tapes had both their limiting and redeeming qualities. Still, the Walkman was a huge part of Glam. I mean, the Walkman epitomized the 80s!

I made so many mix tapes back in the day. All sorts of mixes. And then I copied the tapes for my friends. Believe me when I saw I was awesome at making mix tapes. Then I put them in my Walkman and listened while in bed or wherever.

Our Glam faves shipped most of their units via cassette. Of course, vinyl was still big in the early 80s but as time marched on, plastic cassettes won out. Then came CDs and I suppose that's when music really changed, but whatever. Even after CDs became popular and common, I had a cassette player. I eventually upgraded to a CD Walkman while in high school. Mainly this was to block out my classmates on Friday night away-game bus rides because I was in the band. I hated being in marching band - especially when it was snowing - but that's another post for another day.

So, the Walkman helped me escape reality, bond with the music I love and make stronger connections with my friends. I love my iPod but it just isn't the same.

Do you have a Walkman memory?

Reader Comments (12)

just as you said - making mix tapes and swapping them - learning new bands and songs i hadnt heard of before and then going to hunt down the vinyl copy so i could have it myself.
Kix i first heard from a friend - now still one of my fave bands.
October 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterskwint
Ahhhh... mix tapes.... what a thing of beauty. AND, the ability to record your favorite songs off of the radio... good times past. Yes Ally, I do believe they were a few years in the late 80's where I would not be seen without my Walkman, or some knock-off there of. Sometimes moving forward is not always progress...
October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDamnp78
I used to love making mix tapes. There was a real art to picking songs with the same theme, making sure that the timing worked out so that you didn't have wasted time at the end of a side, etc. As soon as the ability to shuffle songs became mainstream, the mix tape died.

I also loved my Walkman and I must have gone through 5 or 6 of them (including a genuine Sony Walkman I got for Christmas in around 1982) through the years. That's not to say that I miss them -- tapes stretched, generally sounded crappy and skipping songs was a pain.
October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
I remember being 19 in 1979 (Argh! Sorry, girls!) when my friend's Dad came back from a business trip in Japan with a couple of the first Walkmans which he gave to his sons for Christmas.

The Walkman wasn't even available in The States yet and these guys had 'em. I remember listening to "Message In A Bottle" by the Police (Argh! Sorry, boys) while on vacation at Vero Beach, Florida in January 1979 with bikini clad chicks comin' right up to me on the beach wanting to check out the Walkman.

That thing worked better than a dog!

Of course, soon they became common place. That first one, thanks to my buddy, I got to use quite a bit and it was very high end. All brushed aluminum with a beautiful brown leather case. It kinda reminded me of the refined design of the SX-70, Poloroid's high end instant camera. And the sound was incredible!

I only bought Sony Walkmans and always went for the most high end one I could get my hands on. Not that I could really afford 'em. I just went for it and starved on Hot Dogs, etc. to be able to get one.

I must have plowed through like 8 of them. I either lost 'em or broke 'em and I was always replacing them, but they were actually quite durable as many of you probably experienced.

The height of my Walkman days was out in L.A. in 1986, listening to "The Best of Metal Blade, Volume 1" in the back of one of those stretch Minivans while coming back from a TV commercial shoot when I was an advertising art director and getting yelled at by my boss to turn it down even though I had my headphones on, hahaha!!!

"Tonight the poseurs will die!" screamed the band, Thrust from the cassette only bonus track. I wonder what my boss thought of that?!

p.s. I used to slave over mix tapes, first taping stuff off LPs and then with the advent of the dual cassette deck, I used to make 'em from, not only LPs, but other cassettes and eventually CDs, too. Like Brian, I used to slavishly make sure that when the last song on each side was done, it was at the very end of the tape. That way the Walkman or someone's cassette deck at a party would kick over precisely at the end of the tape, creating a seamless loop as it kicked over to the next side. If you had a 90 or 120 minute tape. flawlessly executed, that means you had 90 or 120 minutes of non-stop Hair Metal to entertain a party with, that is, if the guests could handle it.

p.s.s. I remember this "Rock Purist" as*hole getting all bent out of shape when I was playin' a mix tape. The tape started out with "Tubesnake Boogie" by ZZ Top and then went to Hanoi Rock's cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Up On Around The Bend" and this joik simply couldn't "handle" it. He tried to turn off the tape, which was playin' on the host's boom box. I grabbed the boom box and held it at arm's length from him. Everyone was yelling, "Let it play!" or "Leave it on!", but this guy wouldn't let it go. Just when it looked like there was gonna be a scuffle, the host intervened, the guy acquiesced and the song played on! And everyone was diggin' it and most people hadn't heard of Hanoi Rocks but were all curious at that point. Another victory for Glam Metal! The year was 1984. I was 24 years old. Long Live Rock!

p.s.s.t. Al, since you were a natch at makin' mix tapes, it's only natch you be DJ-ing when you start WBBG! Radio on your site! WBBG! Bring Back Glam! Radio. All Glam! All Metal! All The Time!
October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
I have a Walkman cd player floating around somewhere in my equipment coffers. I do have a dual tape deck and that is very fun to tinker with!
October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShadow
Walkman ? My parents weren't that rich :) I had the knockoffs, like a Tectronic or a Funai. But I know we all shared that moment you took your on a trip and were listening right along and all of a sudden Def Leppard starts toooooo sloowwwwwwww down...... FUCK!!! Dead batteries and no back ups !!! 2 choices: wait until the batteries get a little charge back in them (hahaha) or switch over to radio because that uses less juice

BUT, I think you are wrong on the iPod not being as good. I have many friends who I say give me your iPod and next day I put mixes/playlists/music on there for them. Easier, simpler, and the sound is amazing. Not to mention its adaptable with almost any car.
October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGNR
I too am saddened by the death of the Walkman. although I never owned a legit sony Walkman, I did have a cheap knock-off that I won for selling the most magazines to raise money for my eighth grade class trip back in 1982. I used to listen to it on the bus, and during free periods in high school.

I remember, somewhere around 1986 when I was a senior, my high school made a rule that you couldn't listen to Walkmen during the school day. Well, one afternoon I got caught by a teacher. I had my knock-off Walkman, and I was listening to a tape by the thrash metal band Whiplash. I can still remember her shock and disgust as she gasped, "whiplash - Power and Pain?!?!?!" Now, this was during the whole tipper Gore/PMRC nonsense and I vividly remember her saying, "You shouldn't be listening to this. This kind of music teaches you about the devil." i swear I'm not kidding. I, being the 17-year-old hothead I was, shot back, "Well, this school has a smoking lounge, and cigarettes can give you cancer, but you don't seem to have a problem with that." Aaaaah, to be a teenager again. :)

As for making mix tapes, I dare say I was the absolute champion. Not only did I plan out every second of the tape, but I even used a mixing board to crossfade one song into the next so it sounded like a radio station. When I'd unveil a new mix tape to my friends, it was practically an event. :)

with the advent of digital music players, although it can be fun to put together a playlist for someone, it just doesn't have the same mystique as a mix tape. It's too easy to put together a playlist. I'm not saying that thought doesn't go into the process, but you don't have to concern yourself with fitting everything into a strict amount of time. In other words, it takes a lot less planning. Back in the day, I would set aside an entire afternoon to put together a 90-minute mix tape. About a month ago, I put together a six-hour playlist for my wife and I to listen to on a long car trip. The whole process took maybe a half hour. It was enjoyable to listen to, but it didn't give me the sense of pride that I got when I made a flawlessly executed mix tape. Damnp78 said it best, "sometimes moving ahead is not always progress."
October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBob
I remember being pissed when my buddy got a genuine Sony (with auto-reverse and noise reduction!) and here I was with my version from Sears. Yay. I still have mixtapes from 25 years ago. Who hasn't caught grief for putting in that unknown song that you loved, but nobody else had ever heard?
October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHayseed
I must confess that I tried every brand of walkman, but I stole them all. Sad, but true. My main memory of mix tapes is that I'd do a mix tape, then copy the songs I still liked to a new one, and add the newer songs I liked. When I bought the CD of 'Ride the Lightning', I realised that 'For whom the bell tolls' had been sped up slightly every time, and had endured so long that it was a TON faster than the original, without me noticing.
October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
@ GNR... YES ! The dreaded dead batteries !!!

... Still a plight to me in the modern day of the iPOD.
October 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDamnp78
I just got rid of mine only a couple years ago once I discovered that thing called an mp3 player and then switching to the IPOD soon thereafter! Managers at the gym would make fun of me b/c I used to carry around the bright yellow walkman with my cassette tapes (hahaha). Ah, the memories...GOOD TIMES! I used to live for making mix tapes. For myself, for road trips, for friends, for presents, Me and Memorex have quite a history together!
October 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkari
True. technology has taken some fun out of the art of mixing the mix tape, however, technology has also opened up the huge horizon of finding music you never might have heard before the internet to now add to your mix!

Also, Christian, very funny about the dub combos like dumping segments from one mix tape to another. I also experienced the "sped up" issue with unintentionally hilarious results.

Bob... One of my iTunes Playlists is almost 2 days long (with music from '80 to '94 only and without repeats of original line-ups of bands), hahaha!!! Your six our Playlist may have only taken a half hour to put together, but these playlists have taken me nearly two years to put together and I'm still adding stuff!

Hayseed, I still have a ton of my mixtapes, too!
October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!

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