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Top Cassette Tape Demos by Big Artists

Updated on April 22, 2017
Jesse Drzal profile image

I am a lifelong music fan and musician, and also enjoy raising analog awareness and promoting the culture.

Getting Word Out on the Street

All the best and most successful musicians, for the most part, had meager beginnings. The biggest and most respected acts had to promote tirelessly to get their product and message out to the public. Whether as a medium to interact with fans at shows or promotional tools to hand out to radio stations, and also producers and promoters alike, these hungry and up and coming artists needed a tool to meet these needs. Enter the cassette.

Cassettes were relatively cheap and easy to produce, were small and compact, and you could still include cover art options as well. Many times these tapes were dubbed from a four or eight track recording system and produced by the band members or artists themselves.

The rare and intimate variety of these recordings can be a special experience for a die-hard fan, making these some of the most cherished items in a collectors library. Here are some of the most desirable cassette demos.

Vintage boombox
Vintage boombox | Source

Metallica No Life Till Leather Demo

Metallica remains one of the most prolific recording artists ever. While some may argue that the quality of their material waned significantly in the early nineties, fans generally agree that early Metallica albums remain classics, forging a blueprint for extreme and heavy music. One of the more sought after demos by the group is the No Life Till Leather demo.

Recorded in July of 1982, it is thought to be the band's most widely circulated demo recording. These are essentially early recordings and takes of songs that would appear on the Kill 'Em All debut. The tape made a big impact on the underground metal scene, with original copies still being sought by collectors. The recording was re-issued in early 2015, as part of Record Store Day, offering a limited edition run made to look like the original copy.

''No Life 'Til Leather'' by Metallica

Eminem And The Soul Intent Demos

One of the most polarizing and controversial figures in the music industry is Eminem. Eminem burst onto the hip-hop scene in the late nineties, with a sharp, witty rhyming style and lyrics. He also went on to work with notable artists such as Dr. Dre, Redman, and DMX, amongst others.

Eminem spent time developing chops in his formative years, most notably as a part of the Detroit underground rap ensemble, Soul Intent. Although raw and lacking quality studio dressings, the content gives a glimpse of the style that would become his trademark and is valued highly to the hardcore fan.

''Biterphobia'' by Eminem

Tool 72826 Demo

Tool has been described as thinking man's metal, with cutting edge mind-bending lyrics, razor sharp precise rhythmic stylings, and also a high level of competent songwriting structures. The band has cultivated and accumulated an extensive fan base, which grows to this day.

Enter the 72826 demo. Released in 1991, this recording features a studio version of the song ''Cold And Ugly'' only previously available on the bands live E.P, Opiate. It features different takes of the songs ''Sober'' and "Crawl Away", which were on the debut album, Undertow. It is said around 1,500 copies of this cassette demo were produced, making this a very sought after and collectible demo on the secondary market.

''72826'' by Tool

Wu-Tang Clan Protect Ya Neck Demos

Hailing from Staten Island, New York comes Wu-Tang Clan and their hard-hitting, genre-defining brand of hip hop. This ensemble of artists, produced and led by mastermind Rza, employed martial arts imagery, furthering to add story and mystique to the groups music.

Before they dropped the debut album, Enter The Wu (36 Chambers), which by some is regarded as the best rap album of all time, came the Protect Ya Neck demo tape, recorded in 1990. Produced by Rza, this demo features songs that would be included on the landmark full-length album.

It's All About Me'' by Wu Tang Clan

Mr. Bungle OU818 Demo

Forming in 1985 but ultimately disbanding in 2004, Mr. Bungle were on the cutting edge of experimental music, fusing element of funk, thrash metal, jazz, and electronic sampling. The last of a series of four cassette demos, the OU818 demo serves as one of the groups more funky offerings, with the band locking in on tons of groove.

This was also the prequel to the ensemble's first proper album, Mr. Bungle, produced by jazz experimentist, John Zorn. The band collected a huge underground following through the years, with this and other demos garnering huge collector interest.

''Slowly Growing Deaf'' by Mr. Bungle

In Closing

There are many more examples of highly desirable demos from the top artists of yesterday and today. The early recordings offer a glimpse of talent that would come, like something written in the back pages of a journal. Demand for these and other desirable demos will only grow, adding to the mystique of these special recordings.

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Tascam four track recording machine
Tascam four track recording machine | Source

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