Listening to music from my childhood and teenage years has not only fed my hunger for nostalgia — it’s also helped me cope with the terrifying reality of our new authoritarian nightmare. We all have to do what we can to stay sane, right?
I grew up in a small Arizona town which was surrounded by radio stations that played nothing but country music, and as a teenager in the 80’s it didn’t appeal to me at all. I had to settle for buying the occasional tape or record from the Flagstaff Mall which was an hour away (which seemed like days away at the time). This was before the internet and file-sharing, so I usually discovered music via friends at school or on MTV. Yes, they used to play music videos. Shocking, I know.
One day I discovered that our local TV cable company carried FM stations, and by touching the CAT5 cable directly to my radio antenna, I could magically pick up all the stations in Phoenix! It opened up a whole new world of music for me, and I discovered a lot of music that helped shape my tastes as an adult. So when I hear songs from the 80’s today, it brings back a lot of great memories of that time of discovery, when I’d listen to the radio constantly and record songs on cassette to enjoy many times later.
It’s not necessarily the “good” songs that do this to me. Even when I hear a shitty 80’s song, I’m transported back to my teens just by that 80’s sound. You know it when you hear it: the way the synths sounded, the cheesy and (mostly) programmed drums, the weird sustain effect they put on the vocals for that “stadium” effect…I love all that stuff, even if the song is a turd. And that decade produced a lot of shitty music, let me tell you. (This sound has made a comeback in the past 10-15 years, but most bands trying to emulate it can’t quite get it right. I can always tell a legit 80’s band from a group of poseur millennials trying to replicate the “oldies.”)
So, as you can imagine, I was soooooper excited to find this astonishing collection of 80’s DJ mixtapes, lovingly curated by a guy who created the San Francisco Disco Preservation Society. This was recently profiled on the SFist blog and it’s a fascinating read:
The art of the club mix — equal parts curation, imagination, and rhythmic skill — is something that’s evolved over the decades in different ways in different cities, with DJs finding influences both locally and internationally. But before the explosion of file-sharing in the early 2000s and the widespread accessibility of digitized music a few years later, DJ sets were things you only ever experienced live in the nightclubs themselves, unless your friend was a DJ and copied a cassette for you — or unless that DJ was famous enough to have a record label and a few CDs.
Hopkins wants people who went to SF nightclubs like Pleasuredome, the I-Beam, and the EndUp back in the day to be able to hear some of these multi-hour mixes that they may only have the haziest memories of, and he wants to introduce a new generation of DJs and nightlife mavens to the talents of their forebears.
Some of these mixes were on cassette tapes, but others were recorded on big reels which go for 2-3 hours, recorded directly from the soundboard. He even went through the trouble of scanning the actual tapes and reels so you can see the DJs’ scribbling on them. This extra level of detail proves how serious he is about it. I’m a serial archivist and I totally get off on collecting and curating hoards of different media (music, ebooks, digital comics, photos, retro games), and including the scans is exactly how I would have done it. I tip my Pac-Man hat to you, sir! 😀
There are many hours of music available to play and/or download. Some the mixes I love, others not so much, but it all depends on your tastes and what was hot at the time. I’ve been playing these while I work since they make surprisingly good background music, and every so often a song comes on that just lights up my face with nerdy delight. Stuff I haven’t heard in what seems like a thousand years.
So go explore it if 80’s music is your thang! He also has a collection of 90’s stuff which I’ll have to dive into later. One decade at a time…