When I was young, I bought a LOT of cassette tapes. What I didn’t buy, I copied; duping friend’s tapes, or taping songs directly from the radio. Sirius/XM has nothing over the homespun quality of a mix tape created directly from classic radio, especially when the recording apparatus isn’t even built into the radio. That’s when you get to become “Cassette Tape MacGyver.”
1. Place a radio NEAR a tape recorder.
2. Hold antennae in place with string, scotch tape or gum.
3. Hit PLAY/RECORD when a good song comes on and tape over the air.
I have a approximately 200 tapes periodically interrupted by static, my little brother talking or DJ chatter. You don’t KNOW frustration until you wait six hours to catch Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax,” only to have Casey Kasem talk over the first 10 seconds about what “Jenny from Arkansas” has to say to her boyfriend. If I have any anxiety issues now, hypnosis could tie it directly to to the sound of my mother calling me for dinner during the last 20 seconds of the Cure’s “Pictures of You.”
See? It really is always your mother’s fault in therapy.
I bumped into these tapes while cleaning the basement and discovered that I had a real knack for titling mix tapes. Apparently, when it came to music, I was also a separationist. Mix tapes are largely labeled “Black” or “White” – usually with a subtitle like “Black – Hardcore Rap” which included such angry ghetto tunes as “Basketball” by Curtis Blow and “Apache” by the Sugarhill Gang. (They weren’t playing a lot of NWA or on the radio in my little town.) Nearby, I found a tape labeled “White – Hard Rockin’ Kid.” The embarrassment of that incredibly dorky title haunts me even now, days later.
I went through a period in high school where I taped songs I didn’t even like, because I thought it was important to have everything recorded for posterity. This explains the all-Madonna mix tape I have labeled “South Philly Trash,” even though Madonna was born in Michigan and moved to NYC. Being from South Jersey, I just assumed Madonna and all her whore-lace was from the only city I knew (Philadelphia) that sent girls that looked like her to my beach town. To my defense, there was no Google in 1986. I couldn’t just Wiki Madonna, and strangely, she was not featured in our 5-year old copy of the World Book Encyclopedia. Oh, and I was a huge dork.
I had three wooden tape racks to display my impressive collection. I labeled these racks “used,” “semi-used” and “rarely used,” in case I suffered a brain injury and forgot what sort of music I favored. One rack is labeled “Rap/Dance,” which is where I discovered Midnight Star‘s “No Parking on the Dance Floor” filed next to the soundtrack to Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I know. This disturbing. Though not as disturbing as finding an album by America in the “Used” rack.
My musical interests were diverse. My collection varies from Adam Ant to Barry Manilow to a duped Jane Fonda exercise tape I entitled “Make it Burn.” I can only assume that tape contains 90 minutes of Jane screaming “And take it up! And stretch! Make it burn!” I don’t remember. I found a mix tape I recalled as one of my favorites entitled “Amy’s RAGE Tape.” The first song is “Day-O,” by Harry Belafonte. HARRY BELAFONTE. Clearly, I was RAGING. I’m surprised the FBI didn’t arrest me just in case.
While I am not a hoarder, I’m finding it difficult to dispose of this massive collection. I remember how much time I spent collecting, taping, categorizing and organizing. It’s not my fault no one told me technology would change.
I boxed them up this weekend and found a closet in which to store them until the day I finally have enough time to digitize the whole collection. After all, that Duran Duran bootleg concert tape forever effected the way I sing every song from Seven and the Ragged Tiger (Simon LeBon adds unique words and grunts in this live concert version and, knowing where to inject them still makes me feel a little superior). Does anyone else have an INXS Shabooh Shabah tape with the nekkid picture ripped out of the inside cover so their parents wouldn’t find it? And can you still buy a Kaja tape (when Kajagoogoo renamed themselves to try and sound like more serious musicians?)
I doubt it.