Who, among those in their teenage years in the 1980s, can forget the mix tape? This was a staple of 80s kid culture that simply doesn’t exist anymore. In the years before CDs, iPods and streaming on-demand audio on Pandora, those of us who grew up in the 80s felt empowered by what then passed for a miracle of consumer electronics: recordable cassette tapes. If you had a stereo with a tape deck–which I received for my 14th birthday in 1986–suddenly the world of music was yours to command, provided you could find the right songs.
Not too long ago I came across a box in my closet full of old cassette tapes. In amongst the Metallica and Iron Maiden tapes–all well-worn of course–I found several mix tapes I had made in the 1980s and early 90s. I knew I still had the tapes, but like many people I no longer have a working cassette player. But, fortunately for the me of the 2010s, when I made the tapes I wrote down on the little insert each song that was on the tape. Through the modern magic of YouTube, I can thus reconstruct my old mix tapes. And now that enough time has passed that no one will laugh at me for my ridiculous music choices back then, I can bring them all to you, right here, in this blog!
According to the cassette insert, this mix tape was made between February and August 1987. I made these tapes by keeping a blank cassette in the tape deck, and if a song came on the radio that I wanted to capture, I hit record. Thus the order of the songs is totally random. I listened to a lot of pop and some classical as well as metal back in this period, and that’s to your benefit, because there’s plenty of 80s nostalgia!
I even wrote a little note for posterity on the cassette insert. Here is what it reads.
When this tape was made, the Iran-Contra scandal was breaking; an Iraqi plane fired on a US ship in the Persian Gulf; the Iran-Contra hearings made Oliver North a national hero; the movie “Robocop” was a hit.
So here it is. I made a playlist on YouTube; the link to the full list is here. But I will embed the video of each song here.
“Stand By Me” by Ben E. King
This song, originally recorded in 1961, was popular in 1986-87 as a result of the Rob Reiner film Stand By Me. Still one of my favorite songs.
“La Isla Bonita” by Madonna
Okay…yes, I liked Madonna. It was the 80s! I was 15!
“In Too Deep” by Genesis
I loved this song; this was before Phil Collins became annoying.
“Don’t Forget About Me” by Simple Minds
The song from the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club, about which I blogged last March. If you grew up in the 80s, this was an anthem.
“Venus” by Bananarama
“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins
Another movie hit. Kevin Bacon loosens up a tight Midwestern town where dancing is forbidden. I bet he couldn’t convince them to vote for Mondale, though.
“Against All Odds” by Phil Collins
Another perennial favorite of mine. I always listened to it after I got dumped, and thought, “Can I get her back?”
“Alone” by Heart
This remains a very beautiful rock song, and one of the classics of the traditional 80s sound.
“The Lady in Red” by Chris De Burgh
This is the song they played during every high school dance that spurred a lot of teenage boys to go ask the girls they liked.
“Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & the News
Back to the Future, man!
“Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins
Top Gun was still a cultural phenomenon 18 months after its initial release. As my dad was also in the military, Top Gun was very popular at our house.
“The Final Countdown” by Europe
Of course there’s got to be some metal on this list! This song contains the greatest metal guitar solo of all time. I will stand by that statement.
“I Died In Your Arms Tonight” by Cutting Crew
This song has some very personal connotations for me; let’s just say I’ll never forget it nor the circumstances in which I first heard it that summer.
“Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bangles
This song took the world by storm in the summer of 1987. The original video is terrible, but the song is still funny.
“Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams
The less said about this song, the better.
“Who’s That Girl” by Madonna
A bad song that fronted a spectacularly bad movie of the same title, it was on heavy radio rotation during August 1987. I liked it for about a week, then wished I hadn’t put it on the tape at all.
So there you have it–an artifact of the 80s, revived in all its necro glory by YouTube and modern technology. It’s hard to believe this piece of plastic has survived 27 years into my life; now it gets immortalized in cyberspace.
If this article goes well, I may post some more mix tapes. I made a lot of them!