If you were one of the lucky kids who had Pocket Rockers in the 80s, you belonged to a very exclusive club of kids who could play their favorite pop music hits wherever they went, much to the annoyance of every adult around them.
Pocket Rockers were small, handheld devices that played proprietary miniature cassette tapes (each sold separately, of course) that you could collect and trade. Basically, Fisher-Price had a brainstorming session one day where someone asked “How can we turn cassingles into a toy?” and boom, Pocket Rockers were born.
Sure, Pocket Rockers had shitty sound quality, and there were only two songs per mini cassette, but who cares about those things when you can WEAR YOUR MUSIC ON YOUR BELT!?
Every Pocket Rocker device had a built-in belt clip as well as a wrist strap, which was convenient for those times when you needed to hang it on the handlebars of your bike as you cruised the neighborhood, music blasting, looking fly with your spokey dokeys, not giving any fucks. (Or was that just me?)
The devices themselves also came in a variety of hot colors and designs with super 80’s aesthetics that could make any kid look cool, even if they weren’t. If you purchased the additional clip accessories, you could also wear the tapes themselves, making it easy to show the world your love for 80s pop hitmakers like Tiffany or David Lee Roth. Check out my own personal collection below.
The Pocket Rockers music library as a whole is a bewildering collection of music that toy company execs must have thought kids dug. If you’d like to just dive right in and start listening for yourself, here’s a Spotify playlist I put together that has every Pocket Rockers song ever:
Pocket Rockers – a Spotify Playlist by shezcrafti
Obviously, the music is much higher quality on Spoitfy, but if you’d like to re-create the experience of listening to these songs on an actual Pocket Rocker, I recommend turning the volume down to about 25% and adjusting your equalizer to turn bass all the way down and treble all the way up.
There are some genuine Top 40s gems from mega artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson, but also a mix of doo-wop oldies from artists like Chuck Berry and a sprinkling of 60’s surf music. The library also leans a bit heavy into adult contemporary, which seems like an odd choice. Huey Lewis, for example, is one of the rare artists who actually has multiple Pocket Rockers tapes, alongside The Jets. I guess if parents were going to be buying these things for their kids, they wanted to make sure the music they were going to be forced to listen to was tolerable since it was inevitable they would be hearing the same two songs over and over and over again. Perhaps Fisher-Price knew what they were doing after all.
If you’re asking yourself right now how Pocket Rockers, as a concept, could possibly be a good idea when 80s consumers were already buying things like Walkmans and, you know, actual cassette tapes that held actual albums and not just two songs, then you’re already a step ahead in understanding why this toy failed. Later to be outshined by the much more popular (but vastly inferior, in my opinion) HitClips from Tiger Electronics, Pocket Rockers had a short but sweet life span that lasted only four years. I, however, still have a special place in my heart for Pocket Rockers and fondly remember how once upon a time in the late 80’s I was one of the only kids at the school playground who could bust out some Fat Boys on command.
R.I.P. Pocket Rockers, and thank you for the music.