Mixtape Memories – Volume 5

After more than two years of searching, I finally found a box of mixtapes in my parents’ garage. These are mixtapes my dad made me as a kid, and they were my gateway into music. So I’ve been listening to them in the cassette deck of my Honda, and each week I’ll go through and share my opinions on the songs and my memories from the time I received them as gifts. I’ll try not to get too emotional.

Kip Uncanny
Presented Christmas 1996

1. Los Del Rio – “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)”
2. Haddaway – “What is Love?”
3. Village People – “Y.M.C.A.”
4. Matrix – “Can You Feel It?”
5. Revenge – “Pineapple Face”
6. Pet Shop Boys – “Can You Forgive Her?”
7. Sigue Sigue Sputnik – “Love Missile F1-11”
8. Elastica – “Connection”
9. U2 – “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”
10. Kenny Loggins – “Danger Zone”
11. Dave Matthews Band – “What Would You Say?”

1. Larry Mullen & Adam Clayton – “Mission: Impossible”
2. Thin Lizzy – “Jailbreak”
3. “Weird Al” Yankovic – “Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars”
4. The Muffs – “Kids in America”
5. Bananarama – “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”
6. The Tornadoes – “Bustin’ Surfboards”
7. The Beach Boys – “Surfin’ USA”
8. The Clovers – “Love Potion No. 9”
9. Sam & Dave – “Hold On, I’m Comin’”
10. Eddie Floyd – “Knock on Wood”
11. Jimmy Soul – “If You Want to be Happy”
12. Michael Jackson – “Burn This Disco Out”
13. Deee-Lite – “Groove is in the Heart”
14. Us3 – “Cantaloop”
15. 2 Unlimited – “Get Ready for This”

If nothing else, this tape proves art needs a good curator. By 1996, I was able to request a lot more songs for these tapes, songs I’d heard on the radio or in a movie or riding in the car with my dad. As such, my 8-year-old taste is somewhat awful, given the first few tracks on the tape. I can’t entirely blame, as the Macarena craze completely overtook America with its infectious rhythms and dance moves. But as terrible as pop music may get, the Macarena will always be its nadir. I also don’t understand why an extended remix (or possibly the album version) of “Y.M.C.A.” appears instead of the single mix, the greatness of which lies in its brevity – a short burst of positivity – that has kept it popular for nearly four decades. But once we get past those, the rest of the tape feels very ’90s and very dance-y. Revenge is the poor man’s Electronic, but “Pineapple Face” is still a great artifact of what so-called Modern Rock looked like more than 20 years ago. The best of this side is a Pet Shop Boys track from Very, still the best album they’ve put out post-Discography. And here’s where I’ll come clean: my love of “Danger Zone” is completely divorced of Top Gun or Archer. I’ve never watched either of those things. My attachment is completely related to the flight simulator at Six Flags over Texas, which sadly no longer exists. There, I said it.

Flipping over, there’s a mix of true classics and duds, but keeping a danceable theme. Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak (and its titular single) remains one of my all-time favorite rock albums, and it’s clearly the best thing here. I know that I must have enjoyed Clueless (or at least its soundtrack) to get the Muffs’ meh cover of Kim Wilde’s ’80s anthem, but there’s nothing to explain Bananarama’s tinny version of Steam’s great kiss-off, except maybe my dad didn’t own a copy of the original at the time. And this side lets me bid adieu to what apparently was a big surf rock phase. I don’t remember actually having a phase like this. I’m judging that solely based on the amount of tracks on previous mixtapes. The rest of the R&B is solid, except for “If You Want to be Happy” popping back up. I’ll go to bat for “Groove is in the Heart” and “Cantaloop” any day. And while “Get Ready for This” is no longer my No. 1 jock jam, it’s a perfect snapshot of what I enjoyed as a kid. But I’ll call out my dad for this programming goof: This should open a tape, not end it.

Best Track on Side One: Pet Shop Boys – “Can You Forgive Her?”
Best Track on Side Two: Thin Lizzy – “Jailbreak”

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