33 years ago, during my sophomore year of high school, I put together the first of what would eventually become a nearly 20 volume collection of mix tapes, containing my favorite songs that I had gathered either from the radio, a cassette tape, or (eventually) CD. Today, we revisit those mix tapes for the fourth time and see how, or if, the soundtrack of my youth still resonates in today’s digital world and how much has changed over the past four years.
The specter of death hovers over this collection of songs, as it would any music list. Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain took his own life during the timeframe covered by this cassette. Alice In Chains leader Layne Stayley od’d in 2002. Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan drowned due to alcohol intoxication in 2018. Guitarist and chief songwriter Doug Hopkins killed himself after being kicked out of the Gin Blossoms in 1993, just as the band was hitting it big by playing his songs. Snoop Dogg was charged with (and eventually acquited of) murder after a member of a rival gang was allegedly shot and killed by his bodyguard in 1993. Soundgarden front man Chris Cornell hung himself in 2017.
Six instances of death just in a collection of sixteen songs. None of that is out of the ordinary. Rock and roll has a long history of tortured artists who, when given access to money and drugs and find themselves surrounded by “yes” men who don’t necessarily have their best interests at heart, have imploded and found themselves in an early grave.
Are things any better today? It’s hard to tell. Older artists, like Tom Petty and Prince, continue to fall prey to their demons, helped along by the introduction of fentanyl. Younger artists, from what I can tell, seem to be handling things better, whether due to the changed business model of the music industry or because of society’s greater acknowledgment of mental health needs.
Volume 13 takes us into late spring of 1994 and the end of my sophomore year of college. The song selection is now mostly completely alternative, with just one or two hip-hop hits to go along with it., with a little pop and Aerosmith on the side.
Alice In Chains – No Excuses
iTunes stats: 24 plays, most recently on 8/12/2022
The first Alice In Chains song to top the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, originally acquired via 93.5 KHY in Lafayette, added eight new plays over the last four years.
Smashing Pumpkins – Disarm
iTunes stats: 19 plays, most recently on 3/13/2020
The third single from the band’s breakthrough release Siamese Dream, which was banned by the BBC because of its lyrical content, picked up just four new listens and none since the corona virus lockdown.
Counting Crows – Mr. Jones
iTunes stats: 24 plays, most recently on 7/6/2022
The debut single from Counting Crows, which hit #2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, added an impressive seven plays over the past four years.
The Cranberries – Dreams
iTunes stats: 30 plays, most recently on 11/4/2021
The first single from the band, which became a hit after Linger put them on the map, saw an eight-listen increase.
Jodeci – Cry For You
iTunes stats: 16 plays, most recently on 3/10/2022
The 60th biggest hit of 1994 picked up just four listens over these past four years.
Julianna Hatfield Three – Spin The Bottle
iTunes stats: 26 plays, most recently on 5/15/2022
The track, featured on the Reality Bites soundtrack, added five additional plays over the last four years.
Aerosmith – Deuces Are Wild
iTunes stats: 19 plays, most recently on 3/5/2020
Last heard prior to the pandemic, Aerosmith’s contribution to The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience compilation album, originally recorded for Pump, added just five listens.
Gin Blossoms – Mrs. Rita
iTunes stats: 13 plays, most recently on 8/24/2022
The minor Gin Blossoms hit, which peaked at #36 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, managed to more than double its plays over these past four years.