My adolescence is punctuated by important mixtapes. One in particular overshadows all the rest, having defined the scope of my music taste for the better part of a decade. It is the mighty “Keg O’ Tunes”.
I have no idea who made this mix. It appeared at some point in my sister’s car during the summer of 1992, presumably having been lifted from the office of the country club she was a lifeguard at.
This post is basically a thank-you note to that unknown mixtape author who introduced my 13-year-old self to the Smiths, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, the English Beat, General Public, the Cure, and the Replacements. Who would I be now without this mix? There’s just no telling.
- Soviet Snow by Shona (misspelled Shana in the notes) Laing
- The Celiba Sea by Vigil
- What Have I Done To Deserve This by the Pet Shop Boys
- I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boom Town Rats
- Cut Me Down by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
- Shell Shock by New Order
- No Stars by Figures on a Beach
- A Million Things by the Lucy Show
- The Game by Echo & the Bunnymen
- Girlfriend in a Coma by the Smiths
- Mirror in the Bathroom by the English Beat
- Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo
- Pop Music by M
- Don’t Go by Yaz
- End of the World as We Know It by REM
- Let’s Go To Bed by the Cure
- Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads
- Phantom Bride by Erasure
- Blister in the Sun by the Violent Femmes
- Faults & All by General Public
- She Drives Me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals
- Everyday I Write the Book by Elvis Costello
- A New England by Billy Bragg
- Can’t Hardly Wait by the Replacements
- Superman by REM
I recently recreated Keg O’ Tunes as a playlist in iTunes. It was interesting which tracks I already had as MP3s (Girlfriend in a Coma, Mirror in the Bathroom, Superman) and which ones I had a very hard time tracking down (No Stars, A Million Things). It was also interesting how many nuances of the physical artifact were lost. On the mixtape, Psycho Killer begins abruptly and with some weird tone problems presumably left over from whatever tape was serving as the “master” in this case. And the end of the song gets cut off prematurely. The MP3 can’t be made to behave this way.
Ultimately the recreation process made me think about how much less precious a mix is when it arrives via ZIP file. Even a mix CD fails (and failed, when it first emerged) to stir me the way a mixtape did and does. It used to take hours to make a good tape — first planning what should be on it, then really considering the order for the songs, queuing up each cassette, trying to make the transitions between songs as non-obnoxious as possible (though now I find the click from hitting stop/record really endearing).
My nostalgia doesn’t delude me into thinking there aren’t other things serving the purpose of the mixtape in friendships and romances now, but I don’t think I know what they are. If I was 13 now and had a crush on someone, how would I let them know it?