Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Scent Of Music

Recently I pulled out a Rolling Stones mix tape that I made over twenty years ago. I wanted to listen to the ingeniously titled, “Rolling Stones Mix” as part of my Every Album Challenge. The mix was recorded on the Maxell Brand that was popular at the time. I remember buying those blank tapes in packs of ten for all of the mixes that I made. And all of them had outstandingly creative titles like “Kiss Mix,” “Aerosmith Mix,” and “Rolling Stones Mix.”

When I pulled the “Rolling Stones Mix” cassette open and prepared to pop it into the cassette player, something hit me right away---the smell of the cassette. It still smelled new. It still smelled like it had twenty years ago. It was a sweet, plastic scent that was undeniably Maxell. I don’t know if this was caused from the process of manufacturing the tapes, or if the factory coated them with a special scent, but I immediately knew the smell. It brought back many memories of my youth.

As a kid, I was big on sense of smell when it came to new music. Whenever I would buy a new cassette, one of my biggest thrills came from ripping off the plastic sheet the cassette was packaged in, popping it open, and sticking my nose on the cassette to get a good whiff. The clear tapes always smelled the best, but the Maxell blanks were a close second.

The joy of smelling my music followed me around as I got older and technologically advanced. I would smell new CDs as they were purchased, and while the covers still had a pleasant scent, the CDs themselves did not smell like much of anything. I believe it was the plastic jewel boxes the CDs came in that secured any scent. The smell was not as invigorating as the cassette tapes, but it was still there.

Now, with modern technology, paper packaging, and electronically stored music dominating collections, we’ve lost a lot of that nostalgic scent. It is the one thing I miss most about collecting music. No new music smells the way the tapes of old did (and amazingly still do). I can’t believe that the scent of the Maxell held up for more than twenty years. I experimented with other cassettes, and while the scent was still somewhat apparent on a few of them, it was non-existent on most. However, every Maxell UR brand blank tape that I sniffed still had a strong smell of “cassette.” They all held up over time.

Has anyone else tried this? Did any of you ever spend time smelling your collection growing up and noticing how great/unique/invigorating the cassette tapes smelled? Was it only the tapes of the late 80s/early 90s? I noticed that the white tapes of the 70s/early 80s somehow did not carry the same scent. It must be the type of plastic that was used.

If you remember “smelling” your collection, drop a line in the comments section. Don’t be shy. We all have quirky habits as music collectors. I know that I cannot be the only music fanatic to have done this on a regular basis. That’s not only highly improbable, it is borderline impossible.

Maxell brand cassette tapes…you rock!


not_on_display said...

I googled "Maxell Cassette Tape Smell" because I had smelled something recently that reminded me of THAT SMELL. Thanks for posting this; the few Maxell's I have left (all late 80's/early 90's) have that unique smell to them. It always brings me back to my bedroom, 1987. More reliable than the smell of crayons.

Anonymous said...

I would never have thought that there would be anyone else with the same strong link between the smell of a cassette and a place/time/situation! Indeed, Maxell produced the cassettes with the finest smell :-) Especially the type I like LN and UL types, the XL-II's don't have it that strong (at least not anymore). On my first Maxell I had taped a mix called Big Fun '85, and I played it many times that summer before going to high school. Smelling that tape now brings me right back...

Ryo Vie said...

It's amazing how strong our sense of smell is and how quickly it can take us back. I will never forget the joy of smelling cassette tapes.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite albums that I had on cassette as a kid was Slayer ` Seasons in the Abyss. I remember that this cassette and also Metallica's Black Album which I also had on cassette both had a distinctive smell every time I opened the case. These two albums both smelled different from other cassettes I had so I began to associate this smell with Heavy Metal. Fittingly the smell was stronger and deeper from the Slayer album. I still listen to those albums to this day but I would give anything to smell my old Slayer cassette again.

Unknown said...

I remember the Journey Escape LP had a very distinct and pleasant smell the first time I took it out of the sleeve. It seems like I may have had other a couple of others over the years with a similar fragrance. It was something intentional, not just the normal smell of an album. To this day I occasionally get a whiff of something very similar and it takes me back to 1981 like it was yesterday.