The Discrete Charm of the Cassingle

imageI’ve always been a fan of cassettes as a collectible. Apart from anything else, there’s a lot less competition than for vinyl, you never find yourself jostling with hipsters in the cassette box, so as a rule you can pick them up for next to nothing. And they’re compact enough so that you can fit pretty much the entire executive collection of Prefab Sprout international cassette releases into 3 archival boxes, which is a boon when your shelves are otherwise groaning with albums and CDs.

They’re an interesting combination ranging from easy to impossible to find too. At one end of the scale they were so ubiquitous that they’re all over the place. As you drift off into the obscure end, it is literally impossible to locate, for example, the South African or Japanese releases. And a lot of variations. If I ever get an attack of collector’s angst – when you want to find something new and can’t rest until you have – I usually just have a scan for cassettes and invariably find something I don’t already have.

Anyway, this post is about cassingles, an idea that had its vogue mostly in the late 1980s and early 1990s and then disappeared. I was inspired by a hitherto rare promo cassette “Cars and Girls” turning up on Ebay, followed by a succession of the same thing being sold by an ex CBS exec who seems to have a crate of them in his garage and is flogging them off at £2.50 a shot. So to consume that flood I thought I’d try and plant a few seeds in the minds of people who might create a little sub-collection of the singles and associated promos using that as a sort of starting point. This is a nice and quite contained theme, there weren’t many singles on cassette and nothing at all I know of outside the UK.

Let’s start with that actually, and an earlier promo cassingle, for “When Love Breaks Down” – in fact this was more of a press kit as it included the interview with “Emma Welles” to promote “Steve McQueen”, but we’ll stretch a point on that. The “Cars and Girls” promo was on a Maxell C46 cassette, and presumably sent to journalists or used in record stores as a counter display. As mentioned, there’s a steady supply of these on Ebay just at the moment, but you’ll struggle to find “The Great Escape” promo, so keep your eyes peeled.

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The first flush of real cassingles was with “Jordan: the Comeback”. This little group includes another promo for “Looking For Atlantis” which does turn up quite regularly on Ebay (at time of posting there’s a copy here). And then the released versions of the other singles which shouldn’t be too difficult to find if you hunt around via Ebay, Discogs, Musicstack etc.

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We then enter the “A Life of Surprises” period with the singles from that, firstly a little group of the main singles, which includes a promo of “The Sound of Crying”…

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…and then the rather lovely “cigarette box” issue of “Life of Surprises” the song, complete with a couple of stickers. Quite tricky to find in non-scuffed condition this, but the others aren’t too bad with the possible exception of the promo which you may have to hunt for.

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And finally onto the the “Andromeda Heights” singles, which are packaged in card sleeves. “Prisoner of the Past” isn’t all that hard to find, but “Electric Guitars” is one of the rarest of all Sprout items in my experience, I’ve only ever come across one copy ever.

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And so there we are, that’s the canonical list.

As I say, not all that many to find, but getting the full set won’t be easy. Good luck to anyone who wants to have a go.

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