Brutus Magazine 2021/11/1

Cassette Tape Memories

October 15, 2021 By mk

Born in 1949, Murakami spent his youth listening to analogue records and his later years in the 1980s listening to cassette tapes in the car or with Walkman.

If you were doing the same thing in the 1980s, you’ll remember that cassette tapes had a fixed recording time of 46, 60 or 90 minutes (120 minutes wasn’t common because the tape was thin and would get stuck), so deciding what music to put on them and in what order was a big task.

We got in the Subaru. Yuki picked up one of my cassettes and put it on to play. Driving music. The streets were empty, so we made it to Akasaka in no time. (Dance Dance Dance, Ch.16)

This scene vividly records a typical moment in the life of that time. It was for this very moment that an enormous amount of time was spent putting music on cassette tapes (and elaborating on labels).

Surprisingly, Murakami still keeps those cassette tapes. In the interview on Brutus Magazine, released today, he mentioned what triggered him to write Dance Dance Dance.

Interviewer: I’d love to listen to the cassette mixes you made in the 80s.

Murakami: It’s quite amazing, isn’t it? The cassette tapes were made with a lot of hard work and calculation. …… When I was living in Greece, we only had a portable radio cassette player and a walkman, so I brought a lot of edited cassette tapes from Japan to listen to. Do you think they’re worth anything?

Interviewer: Yes absolutely!

Murakami: There was a song called ‘Dance Dance Dance’, not by the Beach Boys, but by an African-American group, the Dells. I was listening to it and I thought, ‘I’m going to write a novel called Dance Dance Dance’. That brings back memories.

This episode shows how diligently he made cassette tapes so that he could say things like “It’s called Dance Dance Dance, but it’s not a Beach Boys song”. It was very much Tokyo 80’s behaviour (although he was in Greece at the time).