March 6, 2010

Cassette Continuity

Back in 'the day,' it was common for albums to be released on cassette with the tracks in a different order than the LP. I presume the main reason was for continuity; in the minds of the people in charge of these things, it was better for side A to be longer than side B, so listeners wouldn't have to fast-forward to the end before flipping over to side B.

Usually this would result in the first track of side B being moved to the end of side A, but occasionally song order would be altered. The most dramatic example was the 80's cassette release of the Beatles catalog, with the order completely scrambled. Purists were justifiably appalled.

In some cases, Side A and Side B are swapped. Two examples I can think of are Led Zeppelin I and Jethro Tull's This Was. Led Zep opens with "Your Time Is Gonna Come" instead of "Good Times Bad Times", and This Was opens with "Dharma For One" instead of "My Sunday Feeling".

I bring up these particular examples because the cassette releases were my first introduction to these albums, and I've grown to prefer them to the original running order. The albums make more sense to me with the sides reversed. To these ears, "Dazed And Confused" makes a more epic album closer than "How Many More Times." "Dharma For One" makes for a dynamic opening track with Clive Bunker's hyperactive drum solo, and the comparatively uptempo side B now precedes the contemplative side A. I even changed track numbers on iTunes so that they play in the cassette release order, thus:

Led Zeppelin I
  1. Your Time Is Gonna Come
  2. Black Mountain Side
  3. Communication Breakdown
  4. I Can't Quit You Babe
  5. How Many More Times
  6. Good Times Bad Times
  7. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
  8. You Shook Me
  9. Dazed And Confused
Jethro Tull - This Was
  1. Dharma For One
  2. It's Breaking Me Up
  3. Cat's Squirrel
  4. Song For Jeffrey
  5. Round
  6. My Sunday Feeling
  7. Someday The Sun Won't Shine For You
  8. Beggars' Farm
  9. Move On Alone
  10. Serenade to a Cuckoo
I'm sure there are more albums that have their running order uprooted for cassette release, but these stick out.

1 comment:

Scoopernicus said...

Ellen once gave me a copy of the 'The Committments soundtrack with the sides reversed, so I always listened to the tape hearing side b first and then side a. I was used to hearing it start with 'Treat her right' and ending with 'Try a little tenderness', but the album actually begins with 'Mustang Sally' and ends on 'Slip Away'. I always felt Ellen's copy flowed better, starting energetic and ending on a more bluesey note.