#643: Boom Boxes and Walkmen

GETTING MORE TALE #643: Boom Boxes and Walkmen

In the 80s, you had to have a Boom Box.  Or a Ghetto Blaster.  Or whatever you wanted to call a portable tape deck/radio.  Everybody had one, because they were awesome.

In order to make your Boom Box truly portable, you needed batteries.  There was often a place on the back where you could wrap up and store the power cable.  Then you’d load up the deck with batteries.  My first Sanyo stereo deck took about eight D-cells.  They’d last less than one afternoon of rock and roll.  When the tape started to slow down, you knew your batteries were dying.

Next door neighbor George liked to prop his Boom Box up on his shoulder as he walked, like the kid in the video for “The Right to Rock” by Keel.  It seemed cool at the time.

My second Sanyo was a dual tape deck with detachable speakers.  To make it portable, you just secured the speakers to the sides and plugged in those batteries.  This one took even more batteries than my first one.  In addition to the D-cells to power the music, it also required two AA batteries for the clock!  The truth is, a Boom Box was such a pain in the butt to make portable, that we tended to avoid it.  Sure, we could take it to the park and assault the tennis court with Black Sabbath, but it was just better to keep it at home.  A Ghetto Blaster, plugged into an extension cord in the garage, could still keep us entertained outdoors.  Parents would yell to “turn it down!”, so we would…for a little while before turning up again.

A Walkman was easier on batteries than a Boom Box.  The only problem with a Walkman?  Nobody else could listen in.  So that made it a little awkward and a lot funny when George would walk down the street with his Walkman.

George worked an early shift at Long John Silver’s, which was walking distance.  In the morning he could be seen strolling off to work, earphones on his head.  My sister and I would watch from the window.  As he walked forcefully down the street, suddenly he burst into song.  A lot of the time, you couldn’t tell what he was singing.  Most memorably though, he serenaded the neighborhood with “Love Gun”.

We watched him walk when he suddenly yelled, “ALRIGHT! LOVE GUN!” just as Paul Stanley did on Alive II.  And then George ripped into the chorus:  “Love Gun, Looo-ooo-ove Gun…”

It was hard not to laugh.  George singing in the mornings was a daily event, rest his soul.  We teased George a bit but he was a good person.  He was certainly unique and a non-conformist.

My parents bought me a neat little speaker set to go with my Walkman.  When fully packed up, it looked like a cylinder with the speakers on each end.  When you opened it, you could remove the speakers and set them up on your desk or shelf.  Just plug in a Walkman and you were good to go.  If you wanted to go portable, there was room inside the set for both speakers and your Walkman.  It too was heavy on battery use, but it was a very cool little set.  I brought it to school when I needed musical accompaniment to any of my OAC-level presentations.

Who misses stocking up on AA and D-cell batteries?  And don’t forget extras for when your Walkman slows down. You don’t want to be stuck without batteries! Isn’t it so much easier to just charge some USB speakers and plug them into your phone?  Sure is!





  1. I remember those batteries! and then came those rechargeable batteries, too late though. I even had a mini-disc player. Remember taking it with me on the train trips. As a kid I had this small cassette player with a strap to carry. I think it was similar in size of those longbox cd’s but a lot thicker. That was so cool.


  2. Damn! I’ve got stories too about those batteries! My sister’s ghetto blaster took 8 D batteries too. My first ghetto blaster took C batteries, and for whatever reason, they would always leak before they finally died.
    As for the walkman, man, I spent so much money on batteries, it was not funny! A racket, I tells ya. We were constantly buying them, and they were not cheap (about the same price as today! No inflation on batteries!). I remember $12 for a pack of 12 – and at that price in the 80s, it was like liquid gold going into your walkman… and those bastards wouldn’t last two hours! Do you remember Eveready batteries with the cat on them? I remember there was a hierarchy in our minds that the cheaper the battery, the less they lasted, so we insisted on better quality ones like Duracell or Energizer, thinking they would last longer (but probably didn’t).
    Charging my phone is a lot more economical. When you think about it, the smartphone cut into industries’ bottom lines – the battery industry, the camera film industry…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for that memory! Batteries sucked. Could you imagine having to pay today’s prices for batteries. 8 D batteries today would be so expensive. Yeah for technology improvements. I did love my little boo box and Walkman though.


  4. I remember talking to my math department ahead about our graphing calculators – they weren’t nervous about kids stealing the calculators, but I guess in the 90s, it was the batteries (presumably to fuel walkmans/discmans/boom box clocks) that would go missing!


  5. Ah the memories! I never took my ghetto blaster anywhere there wasn’t a plug socket. Didn’t want all that mess with batteries. Walkmans were better but they had their limitations too. I think the greatest invention was the rechargeable MP3.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The advantages of modern technology. One day, they’ll invent a device that hooks straight up to your brain and you can listen to any song or album whenever you think of it.


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