The surprising comeback of the humble audio cassette got its highest-profile exposure yet a week ago with Guardians of the Galaxy, which earned a record $94.3 million in its opening weekend and centers around a mixtape of ’70s tunes.
As the Marvel space opera, which stars noted “Forgot About Dre” rapper Chris Pratt, gets set to face off at the box office against the new live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it’s worth noting the film’s creators plan to do even something more that would promote cassettes: They want to release one.
The announcement slipped by in a little-reported tweet from Guardians’ director and co-screenwriter, James Gunn, amid the film’s opening-day festivities. Asked if the movie would come out on VHS, Gunn said August 1 that he doubted there would “be a VHS, but I’m trying to work out the soundtrack on cassette! I hope that suffices!”
Marvel and Disney contacts haven’t replied to an email Thursday afternoon asking for comment, so stay tuned for details. Sean Borhman of Cassette Store Day 2014 ambassadors and beloved tape label Burger Records, said in an email response to questions that he hadn’t heard anything about it but “loved the movie.” A vinyl edition, at least, is scheduled on Amazon for a September 16 release.
There’s even a Reddit thread proposing a cassette version of the soundtrack; a poster on the Tapeheads.net forum tracked down a specific model of cassette that looks similar to the one Pratt’s character holds dear (it’s called Awesome Mix Vol. 1, by the way).
The Sony Walkman turned 35 years old on July 1, and cassettes have stubbornly clung to their tiny niche in pop culture. New cassette albums sold only 34,000 copies as recently as 2009, compared with 268 million in 1993, the first year SoundScan has on record. (I wrote about this in 2010 for Pitchfork.) And while, as Billboard reports, SoundScan counts just 1,000 cassette albums sold during the week of last year’s first annual Cassette Store Day, the second installment is coming up on September 27.
The Guardians soundtrack focuses on ’70s pop. Marvin Gaye, David Bowie, and the Jackson 5 all make appearances, along with kitschy pleasures like Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song”) and Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” (“Hooked” alone got a 700 percent daily sales boost from the movie trailer, below, according to Billboard). Scroll down for the CD tracklist.
The filmmakers tracked down 16 Sony Walkman portable cassette players for Guardians, all produced around 1979 to 1981. “It’s the kind of Walkman that hipsters in Silver Lake or Brooklyn would pay $4,000 for and pretend like they bought it at a thrift shop,” Pratt told USA Today. “It’s super vintage and really kick-ass.”
Between Guardians‘ boost for mixtapes and the twin factors of vinyl’s rising prices and limited manufacturing capacity, cassettes may be ready for their close-up. Again. Knowing the format, the results will probably stay modest and clunky but special to those involved.
Various Artists, Guardians of the Galaxy OST (Hollywood, out now)
1. Hooked On a Feeling (Blue Swede)
2. Go All the Way (Raspberries)
3. Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum)
4. Moonage Daydream (David Bowie)
5. Fooled Around and Fell in Love (Elvin Bishop)
6. I’m Not in Love (10cc)
7. I Want You Back (Jackson 5)
8. Come and Get Your Love (Redbone)
9. Cherry Bomb (The Runaways)
10. Escape (The Piña Colada Song) (Rupert Holmes)
11. O-O-H Child (The Five Stairsteps)
12. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell)
2. The Final Battle Begins
3. Plasma Ball
4. Quill’s Big Retreat
5. To the Stars
6. Ronan’s Theme
7. Everyone’s an Idiot
8. What a Bunch of A-Holes
10. The New Meat
11. The Destroyer
13. The Kyln Escape
14. Don’t Mess With My Walkman
15. The Great Companion
16. The Road to Knowhere
17. The Collector
18. Ronan’s Arrival
19. The Pod Chase
21. We All Got Dead People
22. The Ballad of the Nova Corps. (Instrumental)
23. Groot Spores
24. Guardians United
25. The Big Blast
26. Groot Cocoon
27. Black Tears
28. Citizens Unite
29. A Nova Upgrade