Culture Trips

‘Mixture of Jane’s trendy records!!!’: discover readers’ cherished mixtapes | Music

‘I’ve got two big ones’

In 1992 I started a degree in civil engineering at the University of Surrey. I had no idea until the day I arrived that I would be sharing a room with Carol, also a civil engineering student. We had very different tastes in music. I loved the Cure and Led Zeppelin and Carol loved dance music. We created a mixtape of songs that we both liked – no mean feat, but we had to do something as I kept playing 29 Palms by Robert Plant and it drove Carol mad.

‘I’ve got two big ones’
‘I’ve got two big ones’ Photograph: Rachel Bowden

The mixtape is called “I’ve got two big ones” – a reference to bottles of milk, I think, made by someone during the constant discussion in student halls about what was in the fridge and who it belonged to. We each have a copy. Carol wrote the tracklist on mine, and I wrote it on hers. We both still have our mixtapes nearly 30 years later. Rachel Bowden, 46, business owner, Shropshire

‘Walk in silence, fall 88’
‘Walk in silence, fall 88’ Photograph: Jon Chaisson

‘Walk in silence, fall 88’

This tape was made at the start of my senior year in high school, when my closest circle of friends, all a year ahead of me, had graduated and headed off to college. They left me behind, feeling lost. We’d all been huge fans of college radio and MTV’s 120 Minutes, the only places in our small New England town where we could hear Joy Division, Cocteau Twins, the Sugarcubes, Depeche Mode, and Wire: bands our local commercial rock stations wouldn’t dare touch at the time. Our love for this music was our version of teen non-conformity. We’d borrow each other’s collections, dub them on to cassettes and make mixtapes, giving them thematic titles. “Walk in silence” – named after the first line of Joy Division’s Atmosphere – was chosen for this mix of favourite songs and deep cuts that fitted my darker moods at the time, but also its lighter moments. This mixtape became my soundtrack for that year of perseverance when my friends left. I still make mixtapes to this day, creating them digitally but still following the “45 minutes a side” rule. I’ve since reconnected with some of that old circle of friends via social media, and they still know me as the group’s music nerd. Jon Chaisson, 50, writer, San Francisco, California

‘Mixture of Jane’s trendy records!!!’
‘Mixture of Jane’s trendy records!!!’ Photograph: Jon Davey

‘Mixture of Jane’s Trendy Records!!!’

This is a tape my younger sister put together for me when I was a student at Durham University in the early 1980s. It felt like too much trouble to take my small record player and vinyl collection with me to college and so as a student my music was almost exclusively listened to on cassette – a mixture of home-taped versions of my own vinyl, shared music from friends and commercial releases on tape. Back home my sister was a regular listener to John Peel and I think she put this set together to counteract what she saw as the more middle-of-the-road musical influences I was listening to with my student contemporaries. Instead of being introduced to Rush, the Eagles and Carole King, she clearly thought I should be listening to the Cure, Cocteau Twins and New Order. Jon Davey, 57, freelance photographer, Edinburgh

‘The hobbies tape’
‘The hobbies tape’

‘The hobbies tape’

“The hobbies tape” and “The eating drinking pissing shitting tape” were given as a pair and I can’t separate them. In 1991, the summer after my first year at university, I’d met Gavin once already. He was one of my new girlfriend’s closest hometown mates. Mixtapes were our currency, and I received a large lump sum at the Reading festival that year, where he would have not one, but two tapes for me. I could only respond with one, and his presentation trumped my hastily biro-ed efforts. DIY cover art was his forte, and these two are full of the burgeoning indie/noise pop stylings of the day. These were the first of many Gav “specials”, and they all live in a drawer of an old Ikea unit under the stairs. I don’t play them often, but they do get a spooling every now and then. Generally, if it’s by one of the less-celebrated Dischord bands, I’ve never bought it, because it’ll always be knocking around on one of Gav’s tapes. The new girlfriend, by the way, is my now wife of 18 years. I still get birthday mix CDs from Gav to this day, 30 years on, and they never fail to surprise. Darren, 48, scientist, Norwich

‘Love mixtape’
‘Love mixtape’ Photograph: Kim Zombik

‘Love mixtape’

This mixtape stands out because it comes from the first man I ever fell in love with. In 1989, during a spring semester at UMass Amherst, we met in an acting class. Like all love mixtapes, it’s full of love songs. But the thing is, so many of them were so new to me. I had never heard of King Crimson, or Buckwheat Zydeco. There are tunes from the Who, Van Morrison, Seals & Crofts, Dire Straits, and the variety of all the music made me fall more in love, as it was meant to. Although he and I broke up and went on to marry (and divorce) other folks, we still share mixtapes with one another every year. Kim Zombik, vocalist and yoga teacher, Quebec

‘Senegal selection’
‘Senegal selection’ Photograph: Barry Rowlingson

‘Senegal selection’

In 1991 I picked up a bass guitar for the first time, and soon started jamming with a bunch of friends on guitars and drums. Steve, one of the guitarists, was very into African music and made this mixtape of Senegalese tunes, which he must have gleaned from his collection of original cassettes and vinyl. Looking at this label, which would have rattled out of the printer attached to my Atari ST computer, brings back hazy memories of rehearsals where we’d thrash out 20-minute jams over the chords of Yaye Tima. Barry Rowlingson, 54, research scientist, Lancaster

‘The Epic tape’
‘The Epic tape’ Photograph: Andrea Smith

‘The Epic tape’

This is called the “Epic tape”, named after the Faith No More song. It was compiled in March 1990 when I was a second-year student doing women’s studies at Lancaster University. I was into indie and rock but loved a good pop tune. I was also engaged and in love with someone else. Each song means so much when listened back. I didn’t even know I was having these feelings but it all comes out in the songs. Andrea Smith, 51, research midwife, London

‘Roots + blues for you’
‘Roots + blues for you’ Photograph: Tom Lawton

‘Roots + blues for you’

I had just started dating a woman who, despite her otherwise excellent taste in music, did not care for country or blues. I made for her what I considered a brilliant mix. Her reaction? “It made my skin crawl.” Nevertheless, we were together for over a decade and I know for a fact that she at least learned to tolerate if not love many of the musicians I included. Tom Lawton, 58, hospital administrator, Boston, Massachusetts

‘The EZ Mix’
‘The EZ Mix’ Photograph: Emma Halstead

‘The EZ Mix’

The EZ Mix was made for me in summer 1994 at the end of my first year of university in London, while living in a hall of residence near Marble Arch. It was a parting gift from Erin, who was a couple of years older than the rest of us and on a year abroad at King’s from her home college in Massachusetts. We introduced her to London and she introduced us a slice of east coast American college life: liberal views, Birkenstocks, a bunch of poets like Walt Whitman who I’d never heard of, and some great indie music. Nutford House was an intercollegiate hall and housed students from the many different colleges of the University of London. Bringing us all together that year was the music which emanated from Erin’s room. This tape was her “best of the year” and all the tracks on the mix remind me so much of those friends and the time we spent together. Some of the songs, she introduced me to – especially Closer to Fine by Indigo Girls, These Are Days by 10,000 Maniacs – have become lifelong favourites. Erin flew home to the US in the summer of 1994 and we promised we’d visit each other one day – but although she and I did stay in very occasional contact, I haven’t seen her since the day of her departure. I don’t even have anything to play her cassette on any more, but it remains tucked carefully in a drawer, a reminder of our friendship more than half a lifetime ago. Emma Halstead, 46, Enfield

What's your reaction?

Excited
0
Happy
0
In Love
0
Not Sure
0
Silly
0

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *