80s, 90s, Blog, Obsession of the Day — December 11, 2013 8:34 pm

Obsession of the Day: Pocket Rockers

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It wouldn’t surprise me if history looks back on the 80s and 90s as the “Pocket Era”.  In the 1970s, people were okay with computers taking up the size of a football field.  As soon as the home computer hit the scene, everyone became pocket obsessed!  Hot Pockets, Game Boy Pocket, Polly Pocket, Game Boy Pocket Color, Monster in My Pocket, Color Game Boy Pocket, Pocket Etch A Sketch… the list is endless.  I believe the obsession was really signified by one item in particular:  Pocket Rockers.

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June 1980 stood for an important landmark in the world of music.  Prior to this time, if people wanted to listen to music on the go, they had two options:  1) Listen to the radio  2) Hire a Mariachi band to follow them everywhere.  Kicking off the 1980s was the release of the Sony Walkman to the American market.  Hype had already crossed the ocean, as it had been released in Japan the previous year.  By the time it came stateside, people were ready to buy every Steely Dan cassette they could find.

Flash forward a few years to the late 80s when Fisher-Price unveils the Pocket Rockers portable audio player.  Parents (like mine) were tired of their kids wearing out the high-dollar stereo equipment, so a cassette machine aimed toward the young ones seemed like a good idea at the time.

Commercials encouraged kids to wear cassettes like jewelry.

Using a unique style of audio tapes, the player had a fairly limited number of songs available.  Bands weren’t necessarily releasing new singles on this one-off format.  Each tape usually held two songs, including hits from Huey Lewis, Los Lobos, and Bananarama.  The commercials, on the other hand, featured a parody of “Down on the Corner”.  Nothing proclaims “We have the latest hits!” like playing dad-rock in the advertisement.

“Pocket Rockers . . . Wear ’em anywhere” (except your pocket).

The Pocket Rockers player was a little oversized and merely clipped on to pockets.  When it comes down to it, pocket-merch usually doesn’t end up in pockets.  At least, I can’t recall the last time I stuffed a tasty ham and cheese Hot Pocket in my pants.

All good things must end and the market just wasn’t ready for yet another tape format.  In 1991, Fisher-Price pulled the batteries out of the Pocket Rockers lineup.

Despite the short-lived success of Pocket Rockers, Tiger Electronics released a product similar in concept in the late 1990s.  HitClips played digital cartridges, featuring 60 second clips of hit songs at the time (hence, the name).

Marketing strategies toward children changed a lot over ten years.

The public was ready the second time around for a product like this, despite the carts only offering snippets of songs.  If it hadn’t been for the rising popularity of MP3 players during the same time, the success of HitClips may have lasted even longer.  Along the same lines, it would have been nice if HitClips songs had lasted even longer, as well.

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