The Mystery of the “Cassette Shop” of South Lismore

There is an empty shop opposite the old Railway Station in South Lismore that has caught my attention.

Most weekdays I’ll take a walk down along Union Street to the Duck Pond Espresso to grab a take-away. I quite enjoy the walk, I enjoy the coffee, and I enjoy the chat with Noreen and Alex who run the coffee shop.

Along the way, I might also pop into the chemist, the pie shop, the chemist or the cake shop.

Occasionally, I’ll also peak into the windows of the computer shop, the laundromat, or the second-hand clothing store.

But there’s one shop that has caught my attention, not so much for what it sells, but how it has been decorated.

It looks like the shop has been closed for quite some time now.

Maybe they’ve been closed since the 2017 major flood which would have seen maybe two metres of water enter the premises? Lots of shops in Lismore closed after the flood, and many never reopened.

Either way, I have no idea what type of business previously occupied the premises.

What fascinates me is the decoration on the outside: lots and lots of cassettes.
Slowly but surely, the cassettes have been falling off. I can’t be sure if the glue is finally giving way, or they’ve been “helped”, but I noticed this handful of cassettes on the ground the other day.

Before it gets too late, I thought I should document the commercial recordings. Of course, there’s lots of blank tapes which were presumably bootlegs of commercial recordings, or perhaps mixtapes given in the pursuit of romance. It was a “thing” back then to dedicate your love to someone by putting together a tape of the songs that touched you, or which you shared in common. But the best I can do is document some of the commercial recordings, and these are some of my favourites.
Who doesn’t remember Leo Sayer from his big hit songs in the 1970s and 1980s? He has been living in Australia for about twenty years now, and I have memories of interviewing him on the radio about his decision to move here.
Though I don’t specifically remember the Telmak label, it sounds like it was one of the many “generic” brands of the 1970s where they had session musicians recording popular hits of the day.
Another cheapie compilation by the look of things.
I’m starting to think the collection of cassettes once belonged to an older person. Even in the 1980s, liking Al Jolson implied someone of a “certain age”.
The awesome Dame Vera Lynn. Yep, that kinda proves the age of the owner of the collection.
Richard Clayderman. The ultimate soundtrack to an uncomfortable first date in a large, empty overpriced restaurant.
At first, I rightly thought this was a recording from the UK, but then I noticed the 1988 Australian Bi-centennial connection. How curious. Did they come here?
Frank Bourke & The White Rose Orchestra were huge in regional areas. Growing up and watching local commercial television, hardly an ad-break went by without seeing another recording by them. There were many many more releases after this one.
The Judds were/are a mother/daughter American country music duo. This looks like an example of a “cass-single”.
The Flying Emus were a great Australian folk/country band who I still like very much.
And of course, no collection is complete with head cleaner. The only thing missing is a razor blade, some sticky tape and a pencil. Those reading of this who are of a “certain age” will know what I’m talking about.

The cassette collection fascinates me. Was it just from one person, or were there many collections? Were they picked up as a bulk lot? Why did they decorate the outside of the shop like this? Maybe you can answer some of the great mysteries?

PS

Author: James O'Brien

Born / Currently : Lismore / Widjabul Wia-Bal - Bundjalung Live : Sydney / Gadigal - Eora Also : Brisbane, Bourke, Renmark, Wagga, Perth Pronouns : He/him/his.

7 thoughts

  1. Ribbons of unwound failed cassette tape on the streets Saturday and Sunday mornings thrown in disgust by the late night youth from their car windows. The not so good old days.

  2. What an intriguing artefact! How do you date it? I reckon the critical date is when cassettes became obsolete. This depends also on the individual responsible so could be later than you think.

    You’re out of lockdown soon. Someone at some party might be able to tell you.

    I wouldn’t rush back to Sydney if I were you unless I was sure I could pretty soon after rush back to Lismore. In other words, I can only recommend a trip back here as a mercy dash to appease pangs of homesickness no doubt including for a spot of personal autonomy.

  3. This is really delightful!

    Because I can’t resist an opportunity to bust out my inner Jessica Fletcher …

    Google street view shows the cassettes weren’t there in January 2010, but were there in December 2015.

    Store appeared to be called “House of M” and sold comics, vantage video games, vintage collectables and other emphemera – and has moved to South Australia

    I don’t have a facebook account, but I’m getting lost in their many, many, many facebook photos! Pix of flooded premises, pix of the front of shop with the cassettes.

    I think this is probably the start of the project in 2012! https://www.facebook.com/LismoreHouseofM/photos/a.405453346183827/426157990780029/?type=3

    Thanks for the excellent lockdown distraction :)

    1. Carol – thanks to your investigative work I’ve tracked down the former owner of the shop.
      He says

      “Wow! I closed last year and moved to South Australia after having the shop open about 9 years and I have always been obsessed with tapes I have made some other tape artworks and have a massive collection of tape myself to listen to ”

      He also sent through some pics of further works.

      He adds

      “The big tape made of tapes was in a show at Lismore regional gallery And the big boom box was in a show at Wagga Wagga regional gallery”

      And that’s when I remembered I’d seen his work in an exhibition in 2014 https://jamesobrien.id.au/2014/12/resistant-obsolescence-at-lismore-art-gallery/

      He adds

      “I’m working on a bigger tape artwork I have the tapes but haven’t got the space to start gluing it together yet”

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