I was a well behaved kid. It’s a good thing that I was well behaved because I was also a kid with an overdeveloped sense of guilt, so I remember every bad thing I ever did. When I’m on my deathbed I’m not going to remember most of my relatives’ names or the year that the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship, but I’ll be able to tell you the mean thing I said about my best friend when I was 12 (I referred to him as a “borderline dork.” I could be a real shithead).
You may have noticed that the title of this article is “Cassingles,” and you might be wondering what my being a straight-laced little boy has to do with singles released on cassette tapes. It’s a fair question. What if the answer was that the title has nothing to do with the actual article? What then? Luckily we don’t have to consider that possibility because I’m going to tie the concepts together right…wait for it…now. One of my greatest acts of pre-teen rebellion was when I purchased the cassingle of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby’s Got Back.” It was even more badass because I didn’t buy it with the intention of being controversial. I bought it because I liked the song. Nonetheless, controversial it was, at least in my friend’s parents’ car. My friend’s mom did not want me to own the tape because she didn’t consider it to be appropriate for somebody my age (I was 12). Even so, she expressed this is a pretty cool manner: she offered to buy it from me. I declined, of course. I had already exchanged money for the tape. Why would I want to exchange the tape for money? I could have just kept the original money.
“Baby Got Back” is the cassingle I best remember owning. As I mentioned, it was released in 1992. It obviously featured “Baby Got Back,” plus “Cake Boy” and “You Can’t Slip.” The b-side featured three remixes of “Baby Got Back,” none of which I ever once listened to. It was all about Side A for me. I can recall the sequencing so well because somebody is selling the tape on eBay right now for $24.99. If my friend’s mom offered me $25 for the tape today I’d probably take it. I especially liked “Baby Got Back” of course and “Cake Boy,” even though I understood maybe 10% of the references in the song. I didn’t even know what a cake boy was, and full disclosure I just looked it up to make sure I know what it is now. I was mostly correct. Apart from this song the only time I even heard the term used was when Donald Faison says it in Clueless, though he was using it to mean gay and that’s not entirely accurate. It’s more like metrosexual. I was a sheltered child. “You Can’t Slip” I didn’t remember as well, and after refreshing my recollection by listening to it my friend’s mom maybe had a point about this tape. It’s a song about pimping prostitutes.
Cassingles were a novel concept if you knew nothing at all about records and that singles had been released on them since records became a thing people bought. It became second nature to me in college when we bought punk 7″ every weekend, but at 12 I was clueless (not the movie). The first cassette single was Bow Wow Wow’s “C-30 C-60 C-90 Go,” released in 1980, and they remained a thing until at least the late 90s. They were big for me between the ages of 11 and 13 because they were cheap, and even though I didn’t have a source of income I could buy tapes of the songs I liked. Full lengths were for birthdays, Christmas, St. Nicholas Day, and Easter baskets.
I’m sure I owned dozens, but the one other cassingle that stands out in my memory was Hammer’s “Addams Groove,” released in 1991. The most interesting thing about this tape to me now is that he was already going by Hammer in 1991, one year after his big breakthrough album came out. I would have guessed he dropped the MC when he attempted to transition to gangster rap in 1994, not when he was releasing “2 Legit 2 Quit” and writing a song for the Addams Family movie, but the cover of the cassingle doesn’t lie. I still think it’s a fun novelty song. It also was his last top 10 single, which is a little less fun, and it won the 1991 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song, which is a lot less fun. More like Please Golden Raspberry Don’t Hurt Hammer.
I asked a few friends if they remembered any cassingles in particular that they had owned and stand up comedian and friend of the site Sarah Kennedy mentioned a good one. She owned All 4 One’s “I Swear.” She definitely wasn’t alone in that; “I Swear” was one of the biggest songs of 1994, spending 11 weeks at #1 on Billboard. It was also one of those songs that confused the hell out of children who don’t know how these things work, because it was somehow a hit R&B single and a hit country single for John Michael Montgomery at the same time. It felt like a rule was being broken somewhere. Now I know that All-4-One covered the song and John Michael Montgomery’s version was the original. Between two “I Swear”s and “Whoomp! (There it Is)” and “Whoot, There it Is” existing at the same time in the same universe, the early 90s was a confusing time.
Did you own any cassingles? What were some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.