After my gushing reminiscing about HMV I thought I’d follow up with a post I’ve been meaning to write about mixtapes (but really, about one mixtape, and without any real point to make).

The thing which brought this to mind was listening to my ‘AWDB Misc Tracks’ album on the speakers at work- Ed said there were songs on there he hadn’t heard in years- some of the tracks were even taped from the radio.

It’s tagged as an album because it consists of MP3s from non-pristine sources. I love ID3, and I have a meticulously manicured collection of music, almost exclusively ripped from the original CDs, with a few digital downloads, but back in the day these tracks came from all over.

Some were literally encoded from cassette tape or radio broadcasts. One of the tracks has a Radio 1 DJ talking over the outro- the other has the volume change half way through the track because it started to clip and whoever recorded it didn’t want to bother starting over again.

Some were from Napster. I don’t know if it was an early attempt by the RIAA to poison the well or just ignorance on behalf of other users but some of those files were criminally badly tagged. Typos and completely incorrect information (even the artist!) were the norm.

Some were from FTP sites, when these things had ratios– you’d upload a file and get 1x-5x as much credit to download from the same server. Typically, midway or just after uploading a file, I would hear a click (from my modem) and I’d redial with a new IP and no ratio, and have to start again.

In the 90’s I dreamed of being able to use a university network, and now I have about the same amount of bandwidth on my phone. (While we’re walking back in time- I did get one chance to use the network at Dublin City University– you couldn’t just attach random devices to the network, but if you cloned the MAC of an existing Sun workstation you took the RJ45 out of, you were good to go).

The second thing that prompted me to write this was hearing Cake’s version of “I Will Survive” from Fashion Nugget. This was literally the first piece of music I pirated on the Internet. Of course, it was another time, I was a minor, and I was in another country so … statute of limitations?

Other individual tracks I remember getting: “Under the Bridge” by RHCP, “Cannonball” by The Breeders, and “Celebrity Skin” by Hole.

These choices hold up pretty well compared to the first CD single I actually bought (which was earlier, I promise): “Informer”, by Snow. I literally listened to that CD on a Fisher Price CD player.

Where was I?

Mixtapes. Pretty much the musical course I’m on was set by one contraband mixtape. A guy I knew off of IRC (who was otherwise a consistent tool towards me), ANDY (all caps), made a mixtape up for me and a friend. He was a muso and I think if he had to put up with our presence it was worth a shot at ‘correcting’ our musical tastes.

I don’t remember it all, but it included “Into the White” and “Manta Ray” by Pixies, “Men in Black” by Frank Black and a couple of tracks from the first Foo Fighters album. I’m a boring human being, but while my tastes have expanded, I still (basically) listen to the same music that I got from that tape.

Even though it took Dave Smith to finally drill NIN into my brain with constant repetition of “The Hand that Feeds”, at that point, 15 years earlier, I was playing the Quake soundtrack on repeat. I think they call that imprinting.