A new mix minifeature kicks off today, inspired by the recent loss of my iTunes library. I was able to rebuild some mixes from Art of the Mix, but had to go back to j-cards from the original tapes for many of my playlists. At that point I decided that it was time to stop being embarrassed about my old mixes and just go ahead and post them, if for no other reason than so that I would have a back-up record of them later—but also so that I could transcribe some of my memories about what was going on at the time.
I started with my first self-consciously titled mix: the unapologetic liberal psychosis blues. The mix dates from my second year in college—in fact, if my rare handwritten date on the j-card is to be trusted, from right after Thanksgiving break, November 25, 1991. I was, if the playlist is any indication, knee deep in my contemporaneous love affair with the Pixies, just discovering Bauhaus and Joy Division, and working out from under the influence of U2’s Achtung Baby. I was still buying discs from the music services, including the Bob Dylan Bootleg set and the Jesus and Mary Chain. I was also digesting a stack of CDs that I had bought during the summer from the independent music shop in Patrick Henry Mall in Newport News, including a two-disc Hendrix compilation and a House of Love rarities disc.
In fact, for all its aggression and noise, this disc has my hometown written all over it. In addition to the stuff from the mall, I had been turned onto Nine Inch Nails and the Jesus and Mary Chain by a kid a year younger than me who used to go to my high school. I was trading tapes with friends, and my sister’s friends, and getting feedback about the Pixies from people who had seen U2’s show at the Hampton Coliseum where the Pixies opened for them.
But the tone of this mix was so much darker than anything I had made before. What brought that darkness? Maybe it was the second year of college. In fact, almost certainly it was—I was taking a more than full course load, 20 hours compared to the original 15, and I was freaking out. I was also, I feared, in danger of failing my first math course—I was in a math for physics majors course with third years and in way over my head. I was also being distracted by things that were much more interesting—literature, music, philosophy—and didn’t know what was going on. Didn’t I want to be a physicist?
I’m just now, 14 years later, realizing how confused I was and how much anger I had stirring in me as a result of what I was fearing was a waste of time, years spent as a science student, years not spent learning how to be a kid. I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up, in a way, ever since.
But none of that changes the fact that this is damned good music. It’s funny how the distance from those events actually makes the music that much better.