Boomboxes. Synonymous with hip-hop. Synonymous with loud. Its standing in the cultural zeitgeist has faded over the years, but its past glory and appetite for D batteries will always be loved and adored by me.
Perfectly timed to complement (or perhaps aid in) the rise of hip-hop, the boombox rose to prominence in the late 70s and early 80s. Panasonic, Aiwa, JVC, Sharp, Conic, Yamaha, Sony and Lasonic were all kings of the street.
In it's most idealised form, the boombox was monolithic—both in stature and cultural relevance. Companies began competing to see who could make the loudest, flashiest machine around. Those big, beautiful graphic EQs that would rise and fall with the music became commonplace on machines like this, looking like a bot-send from the future.
While walking around town blasting a tape as loud as one possibly can is the imagery that first comes up (peace to Radio Raheem!), I think the tape-making ability of the boombox is what I loved best. You always hear stories about rappers, producers and DJs talking about how they used to spend all day dubbing tapes from the radio. By the time I got a boombox of my own in the early 90s, they had passed their marketing prime, and the ghettoblaster of my dreams had been reduced to a boring, black piece of plastic. But it was my own, and it still had a radio tuner and a record button!
As a kid, I was addicted to compiling tapes full of my favourite songs from the radio. I used to sit by the boombox, finger always at the ready, waiting for the song I wanted to come on. It was a precision artform—the tape had to be queued up to the right spot, you couldn't hit record too early and get too much DJ jibba jabba and you had to make sure to stop recording before the next song hit.
But I digress. The point is that while the iPod might be the new way to show off your standing in the social pecking order, the boombox might possibly have been the first piece of musical gadgetry to signify one's cool. Before the Walkman. Before the car sound system. Before all that. Long live the boom box. (Top photo courtesy of Photo Courtesy of ddefranza)