Saturday, December 5, 2009

Before Playlists...

Okay, G, another musical history lesson of sorts.

Back in the day, one could take a rectangular cartridge called a “blank cassette tape” to record 1) entire albums of music, 2) clips from the radio, or 3) the prehistoric ancestor of the iTunes playlist called the “mix tape.” From my personal experience, choices 1 and 2 were pretty rare although I admit to a brief stretch of listening (in the 80’s, mind you) to Z94.5 forever so I could record New Edition’s song that went, “You got to cool it, now. Oooh, watch out. You’re gonna lose control. Robbie, Bobbie, Ricky, and Mike. If I love the girl, who cares who you like?” or something like that. I loved that jam.

In any event, the “mix tape” was a serious endeavor when I was in junior high and even in high school. Unlike the relative ease in which a playlist maker can simply add or delete tracks with the click of a mouse, a mix tape maker had to pause at the perfect moments between songs. We also had to calculate the amount of available recording space on Sides A and B depending on whether you were going with the paltry 60 minute mix or a marathon 120 minute-er. Plus, you had to have the music on hand already! You couldn’t just pull up iTunes and download the song on the spot. You either recorded the song from a friend/the radio already, or bought an original version from Strawberries, Lechmere, or Bradlees.

Distinctions from a playlist aside, there were several, complicated components to a mix tape. First, who was this for? Was this a pump up the jam mix for yourself while jogging with your Walkman? A mix for someone you were hoping to make more than a friend after he/she heard your final product? Or was this a sex-you-up mix for your significant other? (Wait a second, G, that must have been after college because no one had sex until they were married, I swear.) Basically, the song selection was entirely contingent upon the tape’s recipient.

Second, you had to decide how to decorate the package. Was this just a straightforward the-music-speaks-for-itself kind of operation? Or was this a try-to-show-your-artistic-side-by-drawing-what-you-thought-were-really-cool-designs on it? Would you write the name of the band and the song? Would there be a common theme in your song selections? Would you write some really deep message on the inner lining? These were important considerations.

Third, and most importantly of course, how do you select the right song? To answer truthfully, I have no specific recollection. However, music (kind of like a rediscovered scent) has that wonderful element of reminding you of a forgotten memory. Accordingly, I broke down a list of possible “mix tape” songs depending on whether I was in junior high or high school as you will see, in no particular order...

1987 to 1989: Hooksett Memorial Junior High School – Home of the Hawks

1. Love Bites – Def Leppard – 8th grade dance drama.

2. Here I Go Again – White Snake – the crazy model who does the split on the car and married that pitcher from the Angels whose name I can’t remember – dudes, amen here?

3. You Shook Me All Night Long – ACDC – 7th grade hoops bus rides home.

4. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi – skiing at MacIntyre and drinking peach wine coolers in the parking lot – yeah I was pretty tough.

5. (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party) – Beastie Boys – Before they were Buddhist humanitarians, the Beasties goofed around and had fun.

6. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N Roses – Axl. Nuff’ said.

7. The Flame – Cheap Trick – 7th grade dance drama.

8. Never Tear Us Apart – INXS – Remember seeing this video a lot.

9. Red, Red Wine – UB40 – Thought this was reggae. Forgive me.

10. Like a Prayer – Madonna – Basically on repeat during the bus ride with my French class to Quebec and Montreal.

1989 to 1993: Manchester Central High School – Home of the Little Green

1. Gonna Make You Sweat – CC & the Music Factory – Riding in the back seat of Tolp’s Mazda as he drove 80+ mph anywhere.

2. Good Vibrations – Last song I remember before losing my virginity. Puke. Sorry, I lied before about no one having sex in high school.

3. Summertime – Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff – Driving around with the windows down to this song was just great.

4. Moon Shadow – Cat Stevens – Suddenly, I was a serious music fan.

5. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd – Absolute staple to any mix tape.

6. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel – Go John Cusack! Perhaps this song went back further but movies and music took a little while to make its way to Hooksett, sometimes.

7. Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers – This crazy kid from Iceland in my French class used to throw the best parties during and after school. I always associate this song with his basement.

8. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana – Distinctly remember sitting on the bus ride home from a track meet when I heard it for the first time. It rocked me to the core. Just the right sound at the right time.

9. Release – Pearl Jam – Just an absolutely beautiful song, period. I’m sure it reminds some peeps from my generation about tender moments. (Has Pearl Jam played anything since that can match its debut album? As Troy Aikman would say, I’m not so sure.)

10. One – U2 – Most likely for a significant other or someone you were trying to win over.
Well, readers. I’m sure I missed a million other staple mix songs from 1987 to 1993.

Tell G what I forgot to include. What were on your “Spring Break 1992” or “Graduation 1989” mixes? Let’s hear from the people who curled their bangs or donned flat tops, wore pegged pants and Coed Naked t-shirts, while drinking Natural Light and running from the po-po in the woods of Candia or Reynolds Field.


Melissa said...

I love this one, especially the part about New Edition (I had their 45)

Kaelen said...

Alright people - I have a few of these original "dennis mix tapes" and they were pretty awesome (minus "Julia"....)

Scott said...

Tawny Kitaen is the girl and Chuck Finley is the Angels pitcher. Their marriage ended after she beat him up.

I think my favorite thing about this blog might be that you quote Troy Aikman on a semi regular basis.

Melissa DelPrete said...

This is, by far, my favorite post!! Haha. I LOVED making mix tapes! It was always impossible for me to figure out what I was going to name it... so crucial!

There are WAY too many songs to list but here are a few that definitely made it onto some mix tapes through those early years:

Forever Your Girl - Paula Abdul
Buffalo Stance - Nine Cherry
Born to Be My Baby - Bon Jovi
Heavan - Warrant
Naughty Girls (Need Love Too) - Samantha Fox
I Think We're Alone Now - Tiffany
Only In My Dreams - Tiffany
Hold On - Wilson Phillips
Poison - Bel Biv Devoe
Pump Up the Jam - Technotronic
If - Janet Jackson
Weak - SWV
Show Me Love - Robin S
The Sign - Ace of Base
Shoop - Salt & Pepper

I could go on for days... So awesome!

Dennis said...


Your list was phenomenal. I went through on iTunes to listen to the songs/bands I didn't recognize but they all came back to me after a few notes. Great calls. Can you make my next playlist please?

Scott said...

As a note to your sidenar, Lisa and I love Community. In fact, the entire Thursday night lineup on NBC is great...until you get to Jay Leno. Who is it that decided he was funny?

Melissa DelPrete said...

YES! I will create the Dennis Teravainen (aka D-Train) mix this week... Can't wait! I might mix some old school and new tunes together. My brain is already on overload.

Tom Kirk said...

Greta, your dad is correct about no pre marital sex! Den it's semi refreshing to realize someone younger than my"Generation" is also reflecting on how technology has (very rapidly) changed our lives , and on reflection see such a profound difference! btw Release, totally cool tune as well as all your others!

Dennis said...

Kaelen: Julia is one of my favorite Beatles' songs. I don't know why your mom likes to make fun of it so much!

Dennis said...

Scottie, I agree 100% on the Thursday night line up. It's pretty impressive... Uncle Tom - thanks for the feedback, broheim!

MWG said...

Already mentioned, but Bel Biv Devoe made us whitey suburbanites feel like we were hard code and knew how to walk the city streets........but be home by 6 for dinner, ya know?

Jen Risotti said...

Baby G you should probably know a little about your Momma's choice of music from back in the day, New Kids on the Block need I say more. She knew every word to every song and could probably still recite quite a bit today! She was the master of mixed tapes and would spend hours making them on her boom box!

Dennis said...

G - mom used to be a DJ on the radio, too, yet she hasn't made a mix for dad since they were young lovers in 2006! All that expertise on the boom box and in the radio room, but no heart you big time mixes. It's a damn shame.