My adolescence is punctuated by important mixtapes. Â One in particular overshadows all the rest, having defined the scope of my music taste for the better part of a decade. Â It is the mighty “Keg O’ Tunes”.
I have no idea who made this mix. Â 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, and the Replacements. Â 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. Â 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). Â It was also interesting how many nuances of the physical artifact were lost. Â 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. Â And the end of the song gets cut off prematurely. Â 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. Â Even a mix CD fails (and failed, when it first emerged) to stir me the way a mixtape did and does. Â 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 Â 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. Â If I was 13 now and had a crush on someone, how would I let them know it?
This mix still rules, soÂ I just turned it into a playlist on YouTube: