For as big of a music geek as I am, I ought to spend my more time in my music (and comic book) room.
My cats, Venus and Pandora, spend far more time there.
More often, as is the case right now, Venus hangs out there while, across the hall, I’m in my office tapping away at the computer keyboard.
When I do venture in, I can spend hours going through the contents – visual, aural or both.
Recently, a small box caught my eye. It was a minuscule collection of cassette tapes I’ve kept. I have upward of a thousand LP’s, 45’s and CD’s. But cassettes… just didn’t hold the same aesthetic appeal.
As soon as I had the technology to convert the cassettes to digital files, I tossed them with no regret.
Except for this box:
… Of mixtapes.
Both Pauly and Phylum have written about their experiences with mixtapes. As I looked through this box, I realized it might be worth sharing the few stories from the ones I’d kept.
In truth, I only created some of them, and I wasn’t the intended audience for any of them.
Maybe that’s why they made the cut when the other cassettes didn’t.
“Our Tape for Mom’s 50th.”
In 1992, when my mother turned 50, my brother, sister and I solicited stories from her siblings and her longtime friends.
We then took turns narrating them, a la Casey Kasem’s “Long-Distance Dedications,” and playing the songs the friends requested for Mom’s tape. The last three stories were ours:
- My brother dedicating Three Dog Night’s Shambala (a song that soundtracked our summer of ’73) and two with more obvious meanings
- My sister dedicating Stevie Wonder’s You Are the Sunshine of My Life…
- … and me dedicating Gladys Knight and the Pips’ Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.
“Tape for Thomas”
It would be easy to tell that this was way early in our relationship because I was oh-so-seriously calling him by his full name (something I never do today).
I mentioned in my reply to Phylum’s column that I had made mixtapes for us each year of our first 21, but not the more recent years – both because he wasn’t as much a Top 40 fan.
And because, by this time, neither was I.
For our 30th in November, I gave him a digital frame and two flash drives full of pictures from three decades. No music, though.
“The Redesign, Part III: One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Press”
This is an artifact of an era gone by.
One of my then-colleagues at The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., created these mixtapes for three straight years in the early to mid-‘90s, capturing lots of newsroom stories via carefully selected songs. The songs are a much more eclectic mix than what I tended to put in my collections.
“The Gary Tape”
Another keeper for the same reasons – more diverse, adventurous and bitterly funny, this is a collection that a friend created after a breakup. There’s “The Slightly Less Harsh Side” and “The Harsh Side.”
One of my favorites, “Faith Formation, Vol. 2,” is so despite its anodyne title and fairly obvious, middle-of-the-road selections.
Not long after moving from the Midwest to Raleigh, N.C., in 1993, I knew that the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi would be my spiritual home. At the time, the pastor, a Franciscan friar, personally interviewed prospective parishioners. I decided I needed to know right away if I would be fully welcome, so I came out in the interview.
His response? Something to the effect of:
“We have lots of volunteer opportunities at St. Francis.
Have you ever thought about being a catechist?”
A year later, I was.
One hallmark of our seventh-grade faith formation classes was the music that my co-catechist and I played at the end of each week’s session. We purposely selected contemporary music to matched the themes we explored. At year’s end, we gathered the songs and gave a tape to each student.
Mixtapes and memories.
What stories do your mixtapes hold?
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