Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Cult of VHS

Picture your attic, or the cupboard under your stairs in your parent's house. Think about what forgotten delights that place holds. Your toys from when you were little, a stash of yellowing Beanos, mismatched lego. I guarantee you'll have one box there, one hastily packed up, an obsolete technology relegated to charity shops and car boots up and down the country. I'm talking about your old VHS tapes. 

What did your humble childhood VHS collection hold? Along with Disney staples, our household had such delights as Superted, Ferngully and an hour long documentary about Michael Jackson's ill fated statue floating down the Thames. I bet you also had such oddities that you can't quite explain when or how you came across, but would your childhood have been the same without them? What about never rewinding, or pausing or the ill fated day when your tape player would chew your beloved tape and your dad had to painstakingly twist it all back in while you screamed blue murder? Classic memories.

Most people have moved on, some people don't even have DVDs anymore, let alone VHS tapes. Most people can walk past a box of dusty, moldy old tapes and not stick their hand in it, even though your know there's a dried up spider just waiting to brush your fingertips at the bottom. But then there are always the fantastic few who can never resist. I never moved on from VHS. I mean, my DVD collection is ten times the size of my VHS one, but a DVD box will never bring me the same sense of unconditional love that a VHS one will. 

I'm a sucker for Disney tapes. I love that the music is a bit wobbly at the start, their piracy warnings ("dad! the pictures all funny again!") and the trailers you can't skip with the click of a button. I love the artwork and the holograms, and the 'stay tunes after the feature for more information' on Disneyland, or bonus cartoons in the case of my Dumbo tape. I love how they all look lined up on my shelf. Their bright, chunky, clumsy plastic boxes and holographic authenticity logos. Videos remind me of staying round my nan's house, or Sunday mornings before the rest of my family had got up. They remind me of our video shop, Video Nest, and how Free Willy was sold out for months before I got to watch it. They remind me of buying my first 18 film (The Shining) in Virgin Megastores when a) they were still in business (and still sold VHS!) and b) apparently had no problem selling one of the most terrifying films ever made to a thirteen year old.

I'm not the only one. VHS fans are a thriving community. They're a lot more serious about it than I am, searching out long forgotten labels and the most obscure of b-movies. There are nights up and down the country to watch VHS tapes together, some tapes can fetch thousands on Ebay. There is, of course, V/H/S and V/H/S/2 too, bringing their own awareness and not one, but two documentaries currently in the works focussing on how brilliant the format is. You have no idea how happy it makes me to see the community thriving. In a time where charity shops turn away your sorry VHS collection, I like to think at least some of it is going to a good home.

Do you love VHS? Or do you just want to know more? I suggest you get just as excited as I am about both Rewind This! and Adjust Your Tracking. The history of how the humble VHS changed the way we consume media is absolutely fascinating too. Maybe VHS will be the next big comeback, you know, like mustaches and that.


  1. Whoa time warp! I still have all of my VHS tapes as well, but they're at my parents' house. My parents still have their VCR hooked up! Love this post, makes me nostalgic (Ferngully!!!).

    Life of Mabel

  2. I absolutely love this post, so nostalgic! I can't see it having a comeback though I must admit, it's not as pretty as say a vinyl player, although having said that, there was that audio cassette revival a few years ago! Absolutely love your blog :) xx


Please leave me a comment! They make my day xo