Today I’m continuing my summer series of articles about songs that remind me of my past. In case you missed them, here are the previous articles:
TBT-2: “Baby Got Back”
TBT-3: “Sultans of Swing”
Time: Fall 1997
Place: Ellicott Hall, University of Maryland, College Park.
Setting: My freshman dorm room.
Remember mixtapes? If you don’t, you’re probably under the age of 25. Let me explain: there was this thing called a cassette. Music could be stored on it and played back on Walkmans, home stereos, boom boxes, in your car, etc. Most of the time, you’d buy a cassette pre-loaded with music, like a CD album that you can still buy in stores. Yeah, like that, but worse. Way worse.
You could also buy blank cassettes like the one pictured and record your own custom selection of tunes onto the tape. That was called a mixtape. It was like what we now know as a playlist. And like a playlist, I thought that mixtapes had to have an assortment of songs. That is until I met Jeremy, my freshman roommate.
He had a mixtape unlike any other mixtape I’ve ever seen before or since. It was a mixtape of one song. Was it some classic tune? An epic Led Zeppelin or Rush song? No. It was “Barbie Girl.”
Let me clarify. It wasn’t “Barbie Girl” recorded just once on the mixtape. He filled both sides of the mixtape — yes, tapes had “sides” — with “Barbie Girl” on repeat.
Now, let me point out something to those of you who have never made a mixtape. It’s analog. There’s no drag and drop. It’s not digital, it’s hands on. If you made a 120 minute mixtape, it took you 120 minutes. It’s a tedious labor of love.
That means that somewhere deep inside Jeremy’s brain was a burning desire to hear “Barbie Girl” again and again. A compulsion so strong that the tedium involved in making the mixtape was but a mere inconvenience en route to auditory sugar-pop ecstasy.
For more information about me and the guitar lessons that I give in and around Baltimore, visit www.ewguitar.com.
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