I haven’t had a cassette player for a number of years now but in my time I had hundreds of cassette tapes that I would either make myself from my hundreds of record albums (many of which I still have, though I haven’t plugged in my turntable for quite some time) or official label releases. I unloaded most of the tapes themselves some time ago but I kept the labels, with the lists of songs, because I can find them now on youtube, spotify or ITunes now if I need them. To save money at Christmas, I would make mix tapes for relatives as gifts and they were always glad to get them because my tastes were somewhat of a barometer of what they would like. I would hand print the contents meticulously on the cardboard covers.
Between 1978 and about 2005 I had two friends who would make mix tapes for me as gifts. While Steve Graziano, who produced bands like Certain General and Band of Outsiders, would put together tapes marked normally and let the music do the communicating, Gary Jucha, who later wrote several books for the Backbeat imprint, was in a class of his own. He would type out the song lists right on the cardboard covers, or else type them on paper and reduce on a xerox machine to fit the boxes. Then he would take the artwork of his choice and place it on the exterior of the cassette box. Above you see what he did for Christmas 1984. I don’t know the artist but I do know the picture was based on a photo of 1910s comic actor Fatty Arbuckle.
Unfortunately Steve passed away in Charlottesville, VA. several years ago, and I have mostly lost touch with Gary, but their tastes in music informed mine for years.
Not NYC, perhaps, but a morsel of infrastructure that’s been lost over the years; we lose more every year. Paper magazines and books are going away as the print Village Voice ended in 2017.