Anyone remember cassette head cleaners fondly? or is it just me?  I’ve not seen one for about 80 years, give or take, but I remember being really taken by their little brushes and pads of chemical dampness which soothed your aching heads restoring them to their former pristine state.  Which is a round about metaphor-ish type thing for the fact that I’ve been away on holiday for a week now, up in a cottage in Northumberland with no internet and a rigorously-enforced family-wide ban on all electronic devices.  No music, no net.  The theory was to wipe the brain clean and start again afresh after lots of tramping around on beautiful windswept beaches, doing a ton of reading* and playing card games, it’s worked too.

Dunstanburgh Castle in distance - 1537 in shorts, just out of shot
Dunstanburgh Castle in distance – 1537 in shorts, just out of shot (sorry ladies!)

First off, I have been there before, but Northumberland is such a beautiful part of our green and pleasant land; some of my favourite coastline ever, it was just great to walk those huge empty, clean beaches under those achingly big, blue skies.  The weather was great and I got to play huge amounts of Frisbee (I am a black belt at Frisbee; true story).  Best of all though, due to the threat of Vikings and those insanely violent Scottish hordes** there are stunning castles and exquisite walled towns all over the place, which makes for a really beautiful, uplifting scenery.


Not listening to a note of music wasn’t difficult at all, surprisingly.  In fact I really rather enjoyed it, I’ve been home since yesterday and I still haven’t put a record on yet.  Maybe I’ll just give it up totally – sell the collection for recycling (loads of good reusable cardboard there) and ride off into the distance.

On the other hand I did treat myself to a copy of The Pretenders^ that I found for £1.50 in a charity shop in Alnwick and bought two books about music, so maybe I’m not quite ready to hand in my (Queen) badge and my (love) gun yet.  Okay, so I’ll focus my, now fully cleaned, head back on the job in hand.

Pretenders, Simon Napier-Bell 'Black Vinyl, White Powder' and Liz Evans 'Women, Sex and Rock 'n' Roll'
Pretenders, Simon Napier-Bell ‘Black Vinyl, White Powder’ and Liz Evans ‘Women, Sex and Rock ‘n’ Roll’

377 Down (still).


*my fave read this holiday was Dimitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2034, can’t get enough of post-apocalyptic Russian public transport novels! (seriously, it was good, maybe not quite as good as Metro 2033 – but I just love the setting so much)

**note to self, make really sure nothing auto-corrects the word ‘hordes’!

^those gloves do it for me every time, I’m yours Chrissie Hynde.

31 thoughts on “Head Cleaner

  1. I had a head cleaning tape for the car stereo and I used to use cotton buds for the one in the house. Always used that head cleaner solution they would sell. It didn’t stop me losing some really good cassettes to the machine.

    1. I just hated that dread when you realized your favourite tape had been munched … pulling yards of tape out of the machine and rolling it all back in with a biro …

      1. Stop it! You’re coming on like a country and western song …

        ‘I destroyed a copy of Live at Atlantic Studios
        With a spillage of molasses and Cheerios
        My children mashed a copy of the Soundhouse Tapes
        With the aid of a hatchet and a garden rake’

        I’m available for hire as a freelance lyricist!

      2. I’m hoping to get Spittoon Nation out in time for the lucrative Christmas market. A limited edition green vinyl version (a pressing of 1537, natch) is a must.

      3. I hated that too. What I hated worse was when cassettes started making that hissing sound which sounded like it was rewinding while you were playing it. Quite a few good tapes went that way as well.

  2. I used a cotton bud and metho. Not recommended for human heads but great for tape decks.
    My day off yesterday was trimming the hedge, accompanied by ghetto blaster and archival cassette. Sort of fun. Wish I’d had your holiday though.

  3. As a man of Nordic Descent I always heard the the trip to England was more of an unplanned picnic than anything else. I guess there is another page of history I had better read one of these days. Nice pictures BTW.

  4. Glad the sea air and the frisbee throwing did you some good. Didn’t miss much here, really. Zombie apocalypse, center of the Earth crumbled, Cold War returned, Jim Morrison found to be living in a small town in South Dakota running a bait and tackle shop, and a fourth Austin Powers movie came and went.

    There, you’re all caught up. Welcome back.

  5. Yep. Remember wiping my mind with them too. Lovely part of the world, you were just north of my favourite beach at Buston Links, just South of Alnwick. I nearly killed a pensioner there with a frisbee – the wind took it and there were only two other people on the beach, an old lady and her daughter enjoying a walk. SMAK! Frisbee chop to the back of the neck and she collapsed onto the sand… but luckily only with fright. If I had of killed her there are plenty of sand dunes in which one could dispose of a body or two.

    1. We stayed in Alnwick actually – fabulous part of the world. My nan always said that if you were going to kill someone with a carefully aimed plastic missile, then do it near dunes for body disposal purposes – I’ve never forgotten that; bless her.

  6. Glad you enjoyed your holiday. And talk about coincidence – my parents are selling their house (after 38 years living there) and are going through everything in prep to move. Just yesterday my Mom handed me a brand new cassette head cleaner, with fluid bottle, still in the package. Who knows how long she’s had it, but I have it now. I’m kind of afraid to use it, actually. I wonder if that stuff gets more toxic with every passing decade…

  7. Yep, I remember head cleaners…I don’t think I ever used one though. I also had a CD cleaner – a CD with a row of bristles. It never really worked too well…

  8. Welcome back. Northumberland looks amazing! But I hate to break this to you… the insanely violent Scottish hordes have been dispatched. After some considerable pillaging we’ll be taking Chrissie Hynde (and her gloves) away with us while we listen to the lamentations of 1537.

    1. No!! I’ll not let you take her, laying the crops to waste, terrifying the livestock and flooding the cafés and gift shops with your slightly dubious bank notes!

      I will therefore challenge Fish to a solo frisbee contest on the beach at Embleton Sands to decide the fate of the world!

      1. “It’s legal tender!” the outraged cry of the Scot south of the border…

        And I’d watch out for Fish at Frisbee. What he lacks in speed he makes up for with his big gangly reach.

  9. I remember head cleaners, but not fondly. I used them again and again and again, with different products and solvents, anything to make my tape decks work better! For whatever reason, most EMI tapes manufactured over here were really shite quality. Wound very tight, lots of wow and flutter.

    So using those cleaners and head demagnetizers, I did my best to keep my tapes decks listenable, but it was a losing battle.

    Glad you had a nice music-free vacation. I don’t think I would get the same enjoyment from that. I haven’t had a real music-free vacation in well over a decade and today I don’t really see that happening at all. I bring my mp3 player everywhere, and the car has a flash drive.

    1. I was just always taken by those tiny little brushes. I also remember saving my money up to buy the more expensive chrome tapes – not sure it ever made much difference to be honest.

      I deliberately left the iPod at home – no cravings at all!

      1. My buddy had the one with the brushes — I had one with just a strip of cloth. It was about a minute in length maybe. You hit play and it wiped the head for a minute.

        The chrome tapes — I never had one. A buddy of mine had one, he said it was worth it, but you needed a great tape deck to make it worth while. And now in 2014, it’s completely obselete!

        I don’t know if I could leave my player at home. Truthfully.

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