Lou Ottens died at the weekend. He was 94*. And although I never met him, Mr. Ottens changed my life; he probably changed yours too.
In 1963, Lou, working for Phillips, presented the first plastic encased cassette tape at an electronics fair. Carrying the strap line ‘smaller than a pack of cigarettes!’ his invention would go on to sell over 100 billion units. As well as countless portable cassette recorders which at a stroke consigned clunky reel-to-reel recorders to the glue factory.
And so the playlist was born. Compilation tapes (mix tapes, if you will) become the currency with which everyone in my school - and the world - shared their music. As I've mentioned many, many times here before, the songs I listened to then (and taped off the radio) essentially laid the foundations my life was built on. Seriously; cut me and I will bleed O Rhesus Glam. Rest easy, Lou.
* Some wag on Twitter said they were pleased he got to see 90.
I got a portable battery operated cassette player for my 9th or 10th birthday. On that day Mum & I walked the ¾ mile to my Nan's house in Leyton and I recorded the two of us chatting the whole way, me giving a running commentary of our route as we went. I've still got that tape.ReplyDelete
Almost immediately I began recording whole shows off of Radio Luxemburg along with the best bits of Top of the Pops, Lift Off with Ayshea, Crackerjack and any other TV programme that featured the kind of pop music with which I was rapidly becoming obsessed - desperately shushing my parents as I sat cross-legged on the floor inches from the set, clutching the microphone and waiting for the optimum moment to flick from 'pause' to 'record'. I also sat in front of the telly for hours on end taping the moon landings and the dramatic rescue of Apollo 13.
My mate Brian and I started putting together madcap Goons/Banana Splits/Goodies/Python inspired comedy shows, all dutifully documented on my cassette recorder.
And, as the respective record collections of me and my pals gradually increased, I began to make compilation tapes - hundreds of them through the years - for myself, for them and for all the other like minded souls I met along the way.
Eventually, for a brief period in the early 1980s, I was in a band myself. We rehearsed in a damp, cold, echoey room at the back of a chip shop and taped our practices on a succession of beaten up reused old C90s, sellotape covering the previously pinged recording tabs. The results were virtually unlistenable, but they were the best of times and I wouldn't part with those battered cassettes now for love nor money.
One way and another, you had a significant effect on my life Mr. Ottens. I honestly can't thank you enough.
And it's precisely because of comments like this from TS that I keep writing this humble blog. Not sure if you're aware of James O'Brien's morning show on LBC but I'm going to award you a 'Ray Liotta': the ultimate acolade.Delete
Your post started me thinking and the memories just came flooding out. I would probably have edited myself had I left my comment until the following day, but, for better or worse, you got the unexpurgated version!Delete
Had never heard of this chap before but he certainly changed the life of your average teenager in the 1970s. I got my first Murphy cassette recorder for Christmas when I was 12 and it is still up there are being the best present ever. Similar memories to TS above but he has articulated them better than I ever could.ReplyDelete
RIP Mr Ottens
You're right, Alyson - TS speaks for us all: what a lovely piece of writing.Delete
Yes, he did change my life! Thank you Mr Ottens and RIP.ReplyDelete
Indeed, lovely words from TS too.
A candidate for Radio 4's 'Great lIves' I think; in the 80s Lou and his team also went on to bring us the CD. Quite an achievement wouldn't you say?Delete
C 30, C 60, C 90 gone...ReplyDelete
I do miss seeing abandoned tapes strewn in hedges by the side of the road.Delete