The Sony Walkman has now officially been scrapped, a victim of its own success. But when the Walkman first appeared in the 1980s, it was nothing short of revolutionary. Never before had it been possible to choose your own music and enjoy it in public. The boombox forced your music onto other people, and that invariably came with a pushback, since not everybody wants to hear your music. But a Walkman was different. It allowed you to put your headphones on, play your music, and the rest of the world wouldn’t bother you about it.
My first “Walkman” wasn’t even a Walkman at all, but a cheap imitation of one that I think came from Sears. I was self-conscious of that, since it wasn’t the real thing, but music is music and that’s what matters most. I remember playing the Rolling Stones’ “Tattoo You” over and over again, and I’m sure I owned some other tapes back then, but that was my favorite one. So I think this was way back in 1981. Thirty-plus years ago. So much has changed since then.
The Walkman paved the way for the iPod, no question about it. But the iPod had some definite advantages, which primarily came from its ability to play music that had been digitized and stored on the device. If you wanted to change what you were listening to on a Walkman, or later on a Discman, you had to remove the music and replace it with something else. And there was the issue of having to replace batteries on a regular basis too. The concept of a charge, which could be renewed by plugging into a computer, was another point in the iPod’s favor.
I was at a trash swap not far from my house a couple of weeks ago, where people were sorting through donated things and grabbing whatever they wanted and nobody else had yet claimed. I went there looking for books, mostly, but I also saw an old Walkman, sitting in a pile of misfit electronic gear. I picked it up and, for the first (and likely, the only) time in my life, I now own a real Sony Walkman. But these things aren’t any good without tapes to put in them, and I haven’t owned a cassette tape in a long time. So I picked up three tapes–John Couger’s American Fool (from the pre-Mellencamp days), Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., and Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell–and took them home with me.
The Cougar tape plays so slow that he sounds like he took a few too many quaaludes, the Springsteen tape churns unpredictably, but the Meatloat tape plays just fine. I won’t think too much about why that is, either. That might make for an interesting tale one day, but not right now, it won’t. I was never really into Meatloaf before, but I have to say that from start to finish, it’s a fantastic album. And “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” is a classic (the recent Glee version doesn’t come close, either).
So now I have a Meatloaf-dedicated Walkman. I never imagined I’d own such a thing but, then again, life can take some interesting directions.
So now I’m praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you….