Before the Internet, before downloading, to own the latest top 40 hits, you only really had two options: buying cassingles at the mall or, even better (and cheaper), dubbing songs from the radio onto blank cassette tapes.
At least once a week, I’d walk up to the Eckerd’s in Mayfair Village and buy a three-pack of blank Maxell 60s, the feeling of control firmly in hand as you fit about fifteen or twenty songs, the first five seconds invariably cut off as you rushed to hit record, onto each side.
But in the early 90s, music was changing, coming out of the uncertain era of pop in the 80s into the bold, brash alternative rock in the 90s. Songs about love were out; droning about shooting a classroom full of kids was in. And I hated every moment of it.
Sure, I pretended to like grunge like everyone else, but at home, it was still all about pop music and nothing but. Any and all New Jack Swing, female crushes like Amy Grant (and secular Amy Grant, at that!), hardcore rappers like Gerardo and Jesse Jaymes, anyone produced by Maurice Starr…if I could sing along to it, dance to it or imagine myself making out with a girl to it, it went on the cassette. And what better place to find and record these hot trax than KJ 103’s Hot 8 at 8 show. Every weeknight at 8 p.m., a rundown of the top 8 songs of the day.
Recently I found a few old notebooks detailing tracklistings for mixtapes I made for various girls I was “in love with” in middle school, painstakingly sequencing tracks so that she’d see they have some sort of imagined meaning behind each lyric and magically fall for me, the chubby kid with a bad haircut and a briefcase. (Yeah, I was that kid with the briefcase.)
It never worked—mixtapes never do. But at least I tried, I felt. Looking through my notes, this week, almost 25 years ago, I was a sixth grader at Harding Middle School and I made a mix tape for this brainy Laotian chick I had a massive crush on named Phykoon. She took the tape, but apparently threw it out the bus window on the ride home while telling her friend I was “sweet but too fat” to ever be her boyfriend.
Here’s the top 8 tracks she never got to hear, recorded right off of KJ “Kontinous Jams”103 around this time over a quarter of a century ago…
Vanilla Ice – “I Love You”
Wilson Phillips – “You’re in Love”
Tara Kemp – “Hold You Tight”
Londonbeat – “I’ve Been Thinking About You”
Hi-Five – “I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)”
Lisette Melendez – “Together Forever”
Guy – “Let’s Chill”
Timmy T. – “One More Try”
Louis Fowler is sweet but still too fat to date. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisFowler.