RadiolabSimon Adler grew up at the end of the tape reign, and the only tape he remembers receiving growing up was from the Backstreet Boys for Easter one year.
Adler, a University of Oregon alumnus, dug deep into the history of the tape. Its five parts Radiolab series titled MIXED looks at events where bands have gone beyond stereo, fueling a revolution to revitalize Bing Crosby’s career.
âThese are the first on-demand media you can use,â Adler says of tapes. “It was the first thing you could take, put in your ears, and listen to yourself whenever you fucking wanted.”
His research began with self-help cassette sets or, as Adler puts it, “podcast pioneers.” He says he was fascinated by the way cassettes were used around the world, a technology seen by most people today as a transition from vinyl to CD. âIt turned out that this little piece of plastic was bigger than I could imagine,â he adds.
One instance where the tape literally became revolutionary was its role in the Iranian revolution.
In 1978, Iranian Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeni was living in exile outside of Paris. Adler says Ayatollah wanted to continue sending information to Iran, so he recorded his sermons on tape. Someone from the telephone company would then set up a conference call in Iran. Then the sermon was broadcast over the phone line, and the Iranians would put it on an answering machine and capture it.
âOne figure I saw was that there were 20,000 different mosques and centers that recorded and relayed this information,â Adler says. “So this guy who is thousands of miles away from revolutionary action in Tehran is suddenly present in everyone’s life because of these tapes.”
The tapes are easily duplicated, he adds, so that Khomeni’s sermons were broadcast, which allowed him to become the de facto leader of the revolution, despite being physically in France.
“What he was able to capitalize there, as Donald Trump did, is to forge intimate bonds with people who were interested in him,” he said. âAnd talk to them not in the polite way of politicians, but in a rural vernacular that people have connected with. Suddenly, this man fundamentally forgotten in 1977 was considered a leader and a hero of this revolution. “
Adler Radiolab The series also includes episodes of how the tape brought rock ‘n’ roll to Communist China, how it saved Bing Crosby’s career, told the story of a village for boys fleeing violence in South Sudan and its role in the Vietnam War.
Even though audio is in the age of streaming, where listeners rely on services like Spotify and Apple Music, the tape is still there. While many music collectors have returned to vinyl, some are also buying cassettes and independent music labels are distributing albums on cassette, like the Seattle-based label Den Tapes.
He probably doesn’t have that Easter giveaway from the Backstreet Boys tape anymore, but he has a collection of tapes that started out with sets on amateur driving and a computer guide for Windows 95 – around 400 to 500 tapes.
Adler uses the collection to write music in the vaporwave electronic musical genre. In addition to producing and reporting, he also composed the music for MIXED.
Speaking of music, while attending UO, Adler says he played alto saxophone in a ska band whose name he doesn’t remember and the guitar he sang and sang in the band. indie rock band Winter Time Carousel, and he and his comrades were still trying to get in Eugene Weekly. âI’m honored to have finally done it,â says Adler.
MIXED offers new episodes every week, from Friday October 22 to Friday November 19. Radiolab airs at 10 a.m. Sundays on 89.7 KLCC and is available wherever you listen to podcasts.