My Collection Of Cassingles Is Second To NoneCommentary • Opinion • human interest • products • music • ISSUE 37•05 • Feb 14, 2001 By Larry Harroway Larry Harroway In the realm of the true musical aesthete, there are some who rise above the madding crowd. At the risk of seeming immodest, I must confess that I am a member of this elite upper strata. I have put my love of music before all else in my life, and I feel supremely confident in asserting that my collection of cassingles is second to none. I will stake no less than my reputation on this claim. No cassingle I have sought has ever eluded me. Ever. Sigue Sigue Sputnik's impossible-to-find cassingles from its critically reviled 1988 sophomore effort Dress For Excess? Some deny that any were released, but I've got them both. The complete run of every Howard Jones cassingle ever produced, including the ultra-rare "Life In One Day" promo cassingle–mint in shrink-wrap, no less–issued two months prior to the official release of the megaselling Dream Into Action? I am proud to say I own two such runs in their entirety. I treasure my comprehensive libraries of such Cassingle Era giants as Hall & Oates, Mr. Mister, and Laura Branigan in equal measure to my extensive archive of such one-cassingle wonders as T'Pau, Nu Shooz, and Boys Don't Cry. In all the world, is there a collection of cassingles equal to my own? No. No such collection exists, except in dreams. In the history of civilization, has there ever been a medium of musical expression to rival that pearl of elegant simplicity, the mass-market cassingle? I care for CDs and MP3s no more than I do 8-tracks and 45s. Keep your so-called "perfect" digital-sound reproduction of the post-cassingle age: Nothing can top the unpolished grit of omnipresent tape hiss for sheer, visceral impact on the listener. Until you've heard Ready For The World's "Oh Sheila" on cassingle, you haven't truly heard it. I hold the same disdain for full-length cassettes that I do for other non-cassingle formats. Why would anyone want to taint the emotional purity of a lyric like Steve Perry's immortal, "Oh, Sherrie / our love / holds on / holds on," by burying it within the sad tangle of lesser works that is Street Talk? To soil "Oh Sherrie" with such musical miscarriages as "Captured By The Moment" and "Running Alone" is tantamount to blasphemy. Nay, heresy. The cassingle separates the wheat from the chaff, zeroing in on the one song that truly deserves our undivided attention. And there is no awkward rewinding process, as identical programs are presented on both sides, so that the chosen song may be heard over and over again without stopping, until the very soul itself is illuminated in its glory. I am in possession of the complete Thompson Twins cassingle oeuvre. I own all four hit cassingles spawned by Huey Lewis & The News' Sports album. I have Thomas Dolby's entire cassingle canon meticulously catalogued and annotated. And I don't mean only those from The Golden Age Of Wireless sessions. I mean everything, including his promotional cassingle from the Howard The Duck soundtrack. Klymaxx? Shalamar? Atlantic Starr? The Deele? The solo careers of such former frontmen as Michael McDonald, Peter Cetera, and Colin Hay? I have always treasured them–they will always be a part of my collection. Now, I realize that my cassingles collection–lo, the cassingle format itself–is not without its detractors, particularly my brother Doug. He says they take up too much space for just one song. As if any price to enjoy the greatest musical format known to man could ever be too great! He resents the flimsy paper sleeves that protect the precious music within. But as I gently run my fingertips along the warm, softly textured cardboard spine housing Animotion's "Obsession" cassingle–so much more inviting than a cold, hard CD jewel case–I am acutely aware that Doug could not be more wrong if he had asserted that the Earth is flat. And, of course, some grouse that cassingles deteriorate rapidly after only a handful of listenings. They say they melt when you leave them on a dashboard in summer. They say they are easily chewed by an angry boom box. Fools! Do they not see that the poignant inevitability of such decay only serves to make each listen all the more bittersweet? I will never be able to erase the memory of that heartbreaking day when the clerk at Sam Goody told me that the commercial manufacture of cassingles had been discontinued forever. But I know my collection will live on. For as I comb thrift stores and church bazaars for cassingles, as I tirelessly search the Internet for them, as I rifle through boxes in my cousin Jeffrey's attic, I know that the breathtaking experience of hearing Dennis DeYoung belting out "Desert Moon" on spooled magnetic tape shall be preserved for future generations. My cassingles collection is the finest in the land. Believe that.