As you should already know, I can’t get enough ’80s nostalgia the whole year, but Christmas is an especially nostalgic time for me. Here I share a personal photo snapshot that takes me back to My Christmas Memories from 1982…
Before we go any further, please check out the pajamas! Yes, I am not ashamed to say those are E.T. pajamas I am wearing. The film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial had been released in theaters in June of 1982 and became a pop culture phenomenon. The movie became the biggest blockbuster to date remaining the top box office grossing movie for six straight weeks and holding either the #1 or #2 spot until January. It holds the honor of being the highest grossing film of the entire ’80s decade. They put E.T. on everything from books, to bikes, to cereal boxes, to dolls, to lunch boxes (had one of those, too), to an Atari video game , to pajamas and so much more. So seeing those PJs takes me right back to 1982.
Also in this picture, you can see the present that I had just unwrapped… the Panasonic RX-1230 AM FM Stereo Cassette Player/Recorder! Oh yes, my very first and very own radio with cassette player/recorder. Up to this point, I only had a transistor radio and my parent’s stereo. We also had a separate cassette player/recorder, but my only way to record songs on the radio was to hold the cassette recorder up to the speaker which, needless to say, did not provide the highest quality of recordings. Now I could record my favorite songs right off of the radio.
Anybody who had these old cassette recorders will remember the process of simultaneously pressing the RECORD with the PLAY button together at the precise moment you wanted the recording to start. This would often include waiting for a commercial to end or a long-winded radio DJ to stop talking over the beginning of a song. It brought joy and rapture any time you could get a clean radio recording of a favorite single with as little talking as possible at the beginning or end of the song. That brings me to Casey Kasem and his “American Top 40” radio show.
“American Top 40” was heard in the fifty states and around the world every week on great radio stations like the one I was listening to on my Panasonic RX-1230. I would sit poised with a finger on the record button and play button listening to Casey introduce each of that week’s Top 40 pop singles (as determined by Billboard magazine) deciding if I needed to record it or not. I would also often handwrite each week’s list in a spiral notebook (which I really wish I still had) for reference. Casey would mix in some trivia, anecdotes and, of course, the long-distance dedication which all added to the overall experience. Casey Kasem (who, as an awesome side-note in case you didn’t already know, additionally provided the voices of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo and Robin on Super Friends) became synonymous with the radio countdown. Though he retired from the countdowns back in 2009 before passing away in June of 2014 and I hadn’t listened to one in many years, I still find myself fondly remembering Casey Kasem and his Top 40 countdowns. Especially in the early ’80s, much of my musical tastes were influenced by listening to Casey count down the hits. I would get multiple upgrades to my stereo equipment over the years, but what awesome memories I still have of listening to Casey Kasem on my first Panasonic. “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
Taping my favorite songs off of the radio would lead to making my first mix tapes. I consider myself a master of the now lost art of the mix tape (and later mix CD), but that is a topic for a different day. You could never have enough blank cassette tapes ready to record on. I can still remember the smell when you crack open the wrapper on a brand new blank cassette tape. Memorex. Maxell. Sony. TDK. Hitachi. Scotch. JVC. Tightening them up with a pencil. Trying to determine if you had enough room on the tape for one more song. Writing the song list in such tiny print on the inside of the cover. Choosing each song and its order with care and purpose. Almost nothing beats an awesome mix tape. It all really started for me after I received that Panasonic RX-1230 for Christmas in 1982.
The extent of my music collection prior to that included mostly 45 rpm records, but now, in addition to recording songs off of the radio, I was able to buy some real music of my own. My very first cassette I chose to start my collection was 1999 by Prince. I am proud to say that I still have this original cassette (pictured here) though I seem to have lost the case over the years. Prince’s 1999 became his breakthrough album after being released in October of 1982. If my memory is correct, my Mom bought 1999 for me shortly after Christmas that year, probably in January of 1983. I was still a little too young and a little naïve to catch the sexuality in many of the songs, but I just knew I liked to listen to Prince’s music. I listened to the first three tracks on side 1 of this cassette countless times partly because it was my only cassette for a while and mostly because I loved those songs. The album’s title track “1999” was first, followed by one of my all-time favorites “Little Red Corvette”, then followed by the quirky “Delirious” all of which would reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. I just tried it out to see if it still played and I am surprised it still works and wasn’t worn out from over-use. As I hold this 30+-year-old cassette in my hand right now, I can’t help but be flooded with memories of my Panasonic RX-1230, my very first AM FM Cassette Player/Recorder, and Christmas of 1982.
I can’t thank them enough because my parents gave my brother and me a wonderful Christmas each and every year. This included much of what we put in our letters to Santa and so many warm memories and traditions. I decided to share the picture above and just this one of many special recollections. The E.T. pajamas. My first radio/cassette recorder. Casey Kasem. Prince’s 1999. Christmas joy. All of that from this one snapshot from 1982. For along time, I thought nothing could be better than being a kid opening presents on Christmas morning, but I have since learned that it is only exceeded by watching your own children open their presents on Christmas morning. All the best to you this Christmas season and hope you are all creating awesome holiday memories like I am so grateful to have from the ’80s and every other decade of my life.