My Life in Mix Tapes: A Musical and Political Memoir in Titles (Part 1)

I made my first mix tape in 1984 at the age of 20. Many others from that era made mix tapes as well, but gave up the habit long ago for all the obvious reasons. I made my last one a few years ago, when I still had a truck with a cassette player.

All 500 or so are safely stored in a large tote in a basement. I’ve thought about leaving them to someone, but who would want them?

Some year ago, at the prompting of a friend who saw all the mix tapes displayed and read their often profane titles, I arranged them in chronological order on my living room floor. The task took a couple of hours. Then I read all the titles aloud, stepped back, and beheld this odd personal archive. It suddenly occurred to me that I was staring at a highly eccentric form of musical and political memoir and quite possibly, a historical artifact with unique cultural value.

A little while later, I began to notice other people’s mix tapes for sale at garage sales and thrift stores and I couldn’t believe anyone would so callously abandon their youth like this. I almost felt a historical duty to adopt these orphans and create some novel museum with them, but I never did.

It was during this time that my friend Nancy emailed me and asked if I wanted her collection of mix tapes. She had a new baby and wanted to get rid of a lot of old, useless stuff. I was appalled and berated her, demanding she box up the tapes and save them for her kid. I told her to imagine her daughter as a teenager, listening to the tapes on some ancient cassette player. (Guardians of the Galaxy ripped this idea off from me.)

For some parents, their music collections become the only way their children ever get to know them or at least think they were once cool. Why in the world would you ever throw the greatest soundtracks of your youth away? You may never listen to them again, but certainly your kid or nephew will. Do you throw away your the books of your youth, or pass them on to your kid? In the end, Nancy promised she would safeguard her collection.

With all this in mind, I’d like to present My Top 25 titles for mix tapes. It was a very hard task of culling, I assure you. Some had dates when they were made. I also added a few notes of explanation for the source of some titles.

These are in no particular chronological, but I remember making every single one of them and can tell you where I was living at the time.

Newt Gingrich Can Eat My Shit (1-95)
Sand in Her Cleavage
Whiskey Sour and Red Hair Girl Dreaming (2-89)
Make Me a Man of God Mr. Devil Rock Fucker
Turkish Afternoon Delight.
Eyes Like Wet Currants (3-94) (Quote from Chekhov)
Kenny G Fuck You
Castrate Donald Rumsfeld (6-03)
From the Morbid Compost (Quote from some French poet, possibly Rimbaud)
I Drink a Liquor Never Brewed (’99) (Quote from Emily Dickinson)
Bring Me Ken Starr’s Gonads (12-98)
The Howard Cosell Memorial Party Tape
Escape the Sexual Gulag (1-04)
To Live like Thoreau, Except for the Women (Quote from Jack Kerouac)
Urge and Urge and Urge (10-03) (Quote from Walt Whitman)
Rock N’ Roll Pagans with Old Crow Nightmares
Satan’s Favorite Band (The Stones, of course)
Vodka, Love and Glory (Quote from Jack Kerouac)
A Peasant Back to the Dung Pile (11-00) (I think a quote from Russian literature or H.L. Mencken )
Jesus Loves Scotch (2-92)
Ocean Air and Gin (’03) (Quote from Malcom Lowery)
Got Tight on Absinthe Last Night and Did Knife Tricks (Quote from Hemingway)
A Drunken Gnat In a Pub Urinal (Quote from a French poet)
A Waco in My Soul (’99)
Bob Packwood