Ah, the mix tape. The lovely artifact of the 1980s and 1990s where you painstakingly, pre-digital, grafted together a dozen or two of your favorite songs into some kind of deeply deep emotional statement that was, most typically, aimed at showing the subject of said tape how awesome you were.
Now that we slackers of that generation have grown up these have become the object of fetishistic nostalgia galore , and why not? They're snapshots of the person you were at the time you made it. Often, I tried to make copies of the mix tapes I made for people because they made awesome car listening, so now I can scavenge out our one remaining cassette player and listen to them on occasion. Here's the first of a trawl through my aging, decomposing Mix Tapes.
The tape: "YO YO MA"
Year created: 1992
Who it was for: "Yo Yo Ma" (I think I just liked the oddball sound of that cellist's name as a tape title) was made for one of my California friends, either John or Sun; unfortunately 18 years on I'm not entirely sure who for but I think this one was for John. Many of my tapes were sent from my college home in Mississippi to my old high school chums out West, cries from the heart of Dixie aimed at showing off what I thought were my impressive tastes; these were vaguely homesick missives, from a stranger in the South to the place he came from. Good god, I'm just as pretentious now as I was then.
1. Hello, I Love You (The Cure)
2. Little Earthquakes (Tori Amos)
3. The Fly (U2)
4. Progress (Midnight Oil)
5. A Campfire Song (10,000 Maniacs)
6. Anchorage (Michelle Shocked)
7. We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful (Morrissey)
8. Only You (Yaz)
9. Getting Better (The Beatles)
10. The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel)
11. So. Central Rain (REM)
1. Strange Angels (Laurie Anderson)
2. She Goes On (Crowded House)
3. We Are The Champions (Queen)
4. Mayor of Simpleton (XTC)
5. I Can't Dance (Genesis)
6. Dome (The Church)
7. Tomorrow (Morrissey)
8. My Finest Hour (The Sundays)
9. Always On My Mind (The Pet Shop Boys)
10. In Your Eyes (Peter Gabriel)
11. Songbird of Love (The Hurlettes)
What this says about my musical tastes at the time: This is a pretty middle-of-the-road selection of early 1990s alternative rock standards -- The Church, Tori Amos, The Cure, etc. At the age of 22 or so, I was fairly proto-emo at the time, hence the TWO Morrissey songs included here. I did have what I like to think were some cool choices even back in '92 -- Laurie Anderson, XTC (who remain one of my favorites today) -- mixed in with the requisite U2 and REM stuff.
Totally obvious choice: Like 99% of mankind, I used Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" on a mix tape. In fact I used it on several of them. It is an awesome song and deserves its mixtape stardom, though. Most disturbing is that this song of everlasting love and devotion is on a tape that I made for a dude.
Clever left-field choices: The Sundays were a short-lived and delicate girl-alt-pop band back in the day, and "My Finest Hour" is a lovely little number. "The Hurlettes" were a made-up band from a snippet of an old high-school play I put on the end of the tape, so you can't get much more obscure than that.
What was I thinking?: Now, I'll stick up for Genesis any day, even Phil Collins-era Genesis, but why on earth I chose the goofy try-hard novelty number "I Can't Dance" from one of their worst albums is beyond me. And I also like Queen, but the insanely overused "We Are The Champions" wouldn't be in my top 20 Queen songs at all.
Hasn't dated so well: The mawkish earnestness of 10,000 Maniacs, whom I only occasionally listen to today; ditto Tori Amos, who put out an utterly superb debut album with "Little Earthquakes" and has faced diminishing returns ever since then.