In the days before the modern internet, it took a lot of awesome to make a meme. Usually, these were faxed visuals of dirty cartoons, pictures or jokes. But there were also audio memes. They were dutifully recopied from one analog cassette tape to another, resulting in increasing levels of hiss.
Some, like tapes of the Tube Bar prank calls, became permanently embedded in pop culture by getting written into The Simpsons. Others just faded into memory when the tape got eaten.
For about 13 years, I have occasionally searched for one of my favourite audio memes from the '80s and '90s: Cable Guy. But somehow I missed it when the recording finally surfaced on YouTube last year (and two years before) and was covered on BoingBoing:
The transcript has errors ("AutoMag" was the name of the show, and "Dogan" is an ancient slur against Catholics) but there it is.
According to No Cable: "This tape came from the answering machine at Cablenet (now Cogeco) in Kingston, Ontario in the mid 1980's. "Automag Magazine" was a car review show that used to air in the area. This customer obviously loves his Automag Magazine! Not safe for work or near children due to the excessive (and hilarious) profanity. This tape was recently featured on Boing Boing, and yes, copies were made and distributed at my high school as well."
From Kingston (my hometown) it spread across Canada in both Beethoven and non-Beethoven versions. The band my brother played in at the time, The Pariahs, used to play it at The Toucan before they took to the stage. It was shared in dorm rooms, at parties, through the mail.
And then the tapes got worn out. Our cassette decks became obsolete. And we forgot about it.
The rate and frequency at which new online memes emerge, spread and fade today is dizzying. You basically need a daily update. Back in the day, though, these things were unusual and long-lasting enough to leave a mark.
And now it's back. It has even been Xtranormaled:
Welcome to the 21st Century, Angry Cable Guy. Wherever you are.