Cold Cassette 15
Maxell UR, 90 Minutes
The Kinks: You Really Got Me
The Allman Brothers Band: Melissa
Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused
U2: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For
The Byrds: So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
The Moody Blues: Go Now
T. Rex: Bang a Gong (Get it On)
Gary Wright: Dream Weaver
The Eagles: My Visions
The Firm: Satisfaction Guaranteed
The Guess Who: No Sugar Tonight
Half of the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off My Cloud”
Steve Miller Band: Take the Money and Run
George Harrison: What Is Life?
Eric Clapton: Cocaine
Pink Floyd: The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Pink Floyd: Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)
Pink Floyd: One Slip
Tom Petty: Last Dance With Mary Jane
The Animals: When I Was Young
The Doors: Wild Child
The Police: King of Pain
Mountain: Nantucket Sleigh Ride
The Who: The Kids Are Alright
The Who: My Generation
I remember this tape. Not making it, but listening to it. Specifically the part of it that runs from “Bang a Gong” onto the second side.
It was a warm day, sometime in 1997, at least a year after the tape was made. I had picked up my girlfriend, Kerri, and our friend Kristin in my rust-eaten, bare-bones ‘85 F-150, and we were headed to Glastonbury, Connecticut to see our friend Erica’s folk duo, Adam’s Leaf, play in a church basement on a bill that included them and a handful of local metal and hardcore bands (we saw them play a lot of shows like that—they were always the best thing on the bill).
The truck was on its third radio, and we had it cranked, because we were driving with the windows down on I-84, and that was the only way you could hear it. The truck couldn’t go over 60 miles an hour without flying apart anyway, so it wasn’t too bad, though the immense amount of extra drag created by having the windows all the way down did make it a little harder to steer accurately.
Anyway, this evening is vivid in my mind, from the low angle of the sun when we drove past the construction barrels on Glastonbury’s main drag, to Kristin boosting the volume to an almost painful level to sing along to Eric Clapton’s version of JJ Cale’s “Cocaine.” I look at the second side of this tape, from “Take the Money and Run” through “What Is Life?,” “Cocaine,” “Another Brick in the Wall, part two,” “Last Dance with Mary Jane” and even “King of Pain,” and the idea of teenagers who thought they were rebellious (and maybe were, a little) singing along and having a little in-cab party as they trundled perilously down the highway makes perfect sense to me.
As criticism and music itself have changed over time, the way rock and roll—any pop form, really—externalizes the intensity of our emotions and anxieties and joys is something people have increasingly downplayed. But it’s still important. When I remember that night through the lens of the music on this tape, the thing that stands out to me most is how alive I felt, and how very alive we were.
Kerri and I broke up less than a year later (this was my fault, and I have never stopped feeling bad about it), and Kristin died in 2002, a week before my wedding—I heard about it when I came back to town to get married. We’d lost touch completely, but it still made me very sad. My parents kept that truck for years after I moved out—they finally got rid of it not long after it briefly caught fire. And this tape sat unplayed in my big tape holder from about 1998 until now.
Of all these songs, my favorite today is probably George Harrison’s “What Is Life?” I think the memories this music stirs in me offer a pretty good answer.