Tuesday, January 17, 2012


As I mentioned earlier, I'm reading Rob Sheffield's book Love is a Mix Tape right now.  I'm loving the shit out of this book, it's sweet and sad and nostalgic and wonderful.  It makes me love him and it makes me miss Renee - an apparently incredible woman I never even knew. 

Anyway, as I read this book, I can't help but think about mix tapes I've made in the past.  I used to have a sweet ass stereo that had two tape decks and detachable speakers (those of you born before 1980 know exactly what I'm talking about).  Mine was covered in paint (with my best friend's name scratched into it) and stickers and who knows what else. 

At the foot of my bed was a bean bag chair wedged between the bed and a cedar chest.  On top of the cedar chest was my stereo and my cassette collection (which over the years morphed into a CD collection and drifted out to zippered cases in my car as I spent more time in my car than in my room).  I would spend hours plopped in the red, yellow and blue beanbag chair crafting mix tapes from the radio and my tape collection.  Sadly, I don't have any of those tapes now - who knows whatever happened to them.  In fact, I don't even have a cassette player anymore.  But I remember some gems that I captured on tape. 

On the night of August 26, 1991 our local radio station (which was normally pretty horrible) played the debut album of a little band called Pearl Jam in its entirety at midnight.  The album was officially released on August 27th.  I was so excited to hear it that I actually stayed up until midnight on a school night and taped the entire thing.  The next day at school one of my best guy friends and I sat in our 8th grade English class and listened to it on his Walkman. His name just so happened to be Jeremy which made it all that much cooler.

Around that same time, our radio station which was primarily a Top 40 station (albeit Top 40 songs from at least 5 years ago) had a show, again at midnight, on Sunday nights that played Golden Oldies.  It was on that show that my best friend had first heard "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells.  I didn't know who the hell Tommy James and the Shondells were, but I promised to stay up one night and tape it for her.  I would be up listening to Casey Kasem count down the Top 40 until midnight like I was every Sunday night anyway.  In the process, I discovered The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" (still my very favorite Beatles song).  I spent a month of Sundays staying up late until I had an entire tape full of those two songs.

Another of my favorite tapes had "Seventeen" by Winger, "One Night in Bangkok" by Murray Head, "Money for Nothing" and "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits, "Fire Woman" by The Cult, "One" by Metallica and "Close My Eyes Forever" by Lita Ford and Ozzy.  All of these were snagged off the radio in the wee hours as I listened with the volume low so my father (lightest sleeper on earth!) wouldn't wake up and make me go to bed.  Thank goodness I've never been much of a sleeper - imagine all the great music I would have missed! These were the kind of songs we just didn't hear where I grew up. We were nowhere near a city of any kind so our culture was sorely lacking. Clearly whoever the late night DJ was on that radio station had good taste and more freedom with what he played than the guys who worked during the day. I don't remember who he was, but I would like to thank him. 

Remember, this was long before the internet and iTunes.  If you wanted to look for good music, something beyond what was being fed to you on the radio, you really had to look.  My parents bought me a subscription to Rolling Stone, so I knew that there was amazing music out there that was changing people's lives - so I was in search of it, and I was always ready to capture it!

No comments:

Post a Comment