In September of 1985 I was just beginning my senior year of high school. The summer of ’85 had been the first truly interesting one of my life, and going into too much detail here would be a bit of overkill. To summarize, though, it started off with the reappearance in town of Dina, a girl I had had the biggest crush on from practically the moment I discovered boys and girls were different. Having been a geek pretty much all my life, this was the first summer I really spent outdoors and with a girl, no less! Nothing ever happened between Dina and I, and that’s a saga in itself, but it was truly an awakening for me. I started back at Riverdale High School in Jefferson, Louisiana, and had a brief but also slightly significant fling with a girl named Jennie. My life as a teenager was finally starting to begin.
Meanwhile, there was an awakening of a different kind for me. Somehow, throughout my life, music hadn’t really meant much to me. I didn’t own many records except for soundtracks from science fiction movies. There were certainly bands I liked, but nothing I really listened to regularly. That all changed when my friend Gene introduced me first to Kraftwerk and then to Depeche Mode. I immediately got hooked on those bands. I had a tape of two Depeche Mode albums, Some Great Reward and People Are People that I played over and over, literally. I remember one day I was sick with the flu and I sat at my Commodore 64 listening to that tape all day long, pausing only to flip it over when the side ran out.
Gene was dating a girl named Julie and had gotten a tape of songs from her. I liked the tape and copied some of the songs from it, plus added a few to round it out. And thus was born The Cool New Music Tape. There was no idea behind this tape, and I had never made a compilation tape before. I played the hell out of this tape (yet I still have the original, which is still playable) and made tons of copies for friends. Suddenly music was a significant part of my life.
When I wasn’t constantly listening to Depeche Mode, I was listening to this tape. There are a lot of memories associated with it, most of which involve a girl named Katie who I met through a friend named Michael. This tape was the soundtrack to me wooing her.
- Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Relax (Remix)
- Berlin – Dancing In Berlin
- R.E.M. – South Central Rain (I’m Sorry)
- Depeche Mode – Master and Servant (Black and Blue Mix)
- Icehouse – Icehouse
- Icehouse – We Can Get Together
- Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome (Remix)
- Ebn-Ozn – AEIOU Sometimes Y
These are all from Julie’s original tape. The only other song I remember from it that isn’t here is “I Am a Camera” by The Buggles.
This R.E.M. song was my first exposure to the band. They would eventually become one of my all-time favorites, but they don’t show up again until later.
I ended up buying the album Icehouse by the band Icehouse (featuring the song “Icehouse”) after hearing these two songs. You’ll see evidence of this later. The video for “Icehouse”, incidentally, used to scare the bejeezus out of me in those early days of MTV.
- Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)
- Karla DeVito – We Are Not Alone
Being in high school in 1985 meant feeling a very strong attachment to the movie The Breakfast Club, the soundtrack of which both of these songs hail from. I won’t deny still loving the theme song by Simple Minds. The lyrics are totally opaque, but the simple request of the title still resonates with me. I wanted that to be our “Senior Song” but was outvoted because “You can’t dance to it.” (Instead we got the highly dancable “That’s What Friends Are For” by Dionne Warwick et. al.)
- Depeche Mode – Blasphemous Rumours
- Depeche Mode – Told You So
I would eventually impose a one-song-per-band limit on these mixes, but not before letting this one set a Depeche mode threesome standard. The second choice here, while a fine song, is an odd choice considering that their hit, “People are People” never made it on to one of these collections. (I used to enjoy popping out whatever tape was playing in the car to see if “People Are People” was on the radio, which is invariably was. This says more for the ubiquity of the song than any preternatural abilities on my part.)
- The Boomtown Rats – A Hold of Me
- Suzanne Vega – The Queen and the Soldier
These two songs go together. On July 13, 1985, the famous Live Aid concert was held. i and my friends gathered at our pal Pat’s place to watch it, and really felt like we were part of something even though we didn’t pay much attention. Live Aid was brought about by Bob Geldof, and our admiration for his humanitarian efforts led us to his band’s music. In the Long Grass was the last of the Boomtown Rats’ albums, and I believe is considered the worst (it was barely released on CD) but I liked a lot of what was on it. Dina, the girl I was still crushing hard on, was briefly at that gathering and introduced me to Suzanne Vega, which is something I can always thank her for doing. Dina and I ultimately never got together, but I’ve stuck with Suzanne ever since.
- Devo – Girl U Want
- Kraftwerk – The Model
- Ultravox – Vienna
Kraftwerk was the band other than Depeche Mode that I listened to constantly. A tape of Devo’s Freedom of Choice got some playtime in the car as well, but I’ve no idea where it came from. I may have swiped it from my sister, who I can’t imagine would have noticed it missing. As much as I like Devo, this is their only appearance in the series. As for Ultravox, I thought that came from Julie’s tape as well, but looking at the tracks on the Vienna album, I’m pretty sure I owned that as well.
- Rocky Horror Picture Show – Super Heroes
Of course, no mid-80s high school experience would be complete without the Rocky Horror Picture Show, that weekend night mainstay where we could all let our inhibitions loose and pretend we were much more cool and decadent than we actually were. I won’t come down too hard on my high-school self; we had a blast doing this. This song made the tape because it wasn’t in the movie, not despite it, as it gave me a chance to hear it more.
Not much to say here. The title for this tape came from the fact that I felt the music on it was cool, and to me it was new. That’s the original tape, almost 25 years old, on the cover up there.
Click on the player below to listen to this mix!
(xspf player courtesy Lacy Morrow and Fabricio Zuardi.)