I had a restless night at home tonight, wondering why I didn't force myself to go to the gym or do something fun instead of just coming home after work. I needed an outlet. Then I decided: it's time to make the digital mixtape.
I grew up in a tiny NH town in the days before you could find any kind of music on the internet (that time being the 1990s) which means that I heard most of my new music on the radio. Sometimes also at a music store listening station in the mall, but mostly on the radio.
In junior high, the coolest radio station was 104.1 WBCN out of Boston, which played "alternative rock." Apparently it's off the air now, but I like to think they quit while they were still ahead. I mean, is "alternative rock" even a category anymore? When I wasn't listening to Broadway musical soundtracks, I was soaking up the latest Green Day, Alice in Chains, Spacehog, and Better Than Ezra. I know, quite a contrast.
We didn't have a CD player in my home until I got one for my 8th grade graduation so until then I created mix tapes by recording to cassette primarily from WBCN, with the odd song or two off of a friend's CD player. This one in particular, recorded over the winter of 1995 to 1996, when I was in 7th grade, I considered to be my best achievement:
Oh and yes, this is the point when I started getting really into collaging. My older sister used to make cool covers for her custom cassettes so, naturally, I had to copy her. It soon became just as much of an art as pressing the play and record buttons together at just the right time. At age twelve I guess I was mostly into cartoons, weird fart jokes, and the knowledge that people did drugs.
For years I considered this mix tape a perfect build of tunes, and I still do. Yes, now it's very much a time capsule of alternative rock in the mid-nineties, but I think it's a pretty good mix for being composed off the radio. I was especially proud of the sequence on side two that went like this:
No Doubt's "Just A Girl" --> Bush's "Glycerine" --> Toadies' "Possum Kingdom" --> Green Day's "Brain Stew" --> Spacehog's "In the Meantime"
I thought that Spacehog song was THE BEST in THE WHOLE WORLD. Even now I can't describe why. The slow drums and bass buildup? Young men pulling off falsetto? The fact that the lyrics make no sense? Whatever it was, I would rewind that cassette over and over just to get to that song.
So tonight I decided to recreate this experience using modern tools:
Yep, I listened to the whole thing (thanks, roommate's old giant boombox!) and documented it on Spotify. What you miss is the in-between chatter of DJs, snippets of Beavis and Butthead taken from my brother's CDs, and songs that start mid-intro, but if you close your eyes, I bet you can still feel your old giant flannel and butterfly hair clips, right? I sure can.
I should clarify that Blues Traveler's "Hook" is on that playlist twice on purpose, because I truly put it on the tape twice. Yes, Blues Traveler, TWICE. And let's not even talk about the Joan Osborne track. I'm a little embarrassed for my 12-year-old self, but mostly amused.