Scroll down to hear the entire 1982 mixtape ‘digitally remastered’ with my XS-Cargo device.
* is there any other kind of teenager, really
Working the stage crew at Assumption College High School is one of them. Working the lighting board for the school dances was an easy way to get close to the sweethearts without actually asking them to the dance (clever!) (but not clever enough!) Drama club, same thing. School newspaper. Canoe club. All fond memories of events with absolutely zero memories of the inbetweens. High school itself, not so much.
In fact, I really enjoyed hacking the airwaves and later hacking the user port on my Commodore 64 safely at home.
Well, maybe not that safely.
Seems I was the unintentional creator of a rogue pirate radio station. I built a rig made out of Lego that housed a walkie talkie, which allowed me to broadcast to basically my mom without having to hold the spring mounted button in while queuing up my cassette and record player with an amp in the middle.
It was glorious, until one day after I signed off, a trucker (who I feared was waiting just outside my home) broke into my audio channel announcing that it was very much against any public airwave law to monopolize a frequency like I was doing, and it was doubly illegal to broadcast Bill Cosby records and later my famed mixtapes.
That scared the shit out of me having someone actually talk back on my radio station rig, and ended my broadcast career for some time.
On the topic of mixtapes, mine weren’t for anyone but myself. Those sweethearts were more interested in the sporty boys (I know, cliche, but that’s how I remember it) plus my mom really liked the artwork. So I did them for myself, and my mom, and would show off to anyone interested at a few parties I briefly attended. See the artwork, below.
Back then, you either had a record and record player, or a cassette and cassette player. Both required money, which I didn’t have a lot of at the time. So I dug into my dad’s album collection which wasn’t much more than the entire Bill Cosby library, and some jazz albums. Thus began my appreciation for jazz, and a good storyteller.
New music was a little trickier to get my hands on, and I’ll never forget the day when my dad brought home a cassette recorder with line in, which meant I was able to hook up to the line out on the radio amplifier with two RCA cables. I wonder if my mom has any pictures of me, but I remember sitting at the wall unit in the dining room on Sandwich Street, diligently recording songs off the radio using cassettes my dad brought home. I also remember the thrill of him bringing home rare NEW cassettes as opposed to recycled, unwrapping them from the Radio Shack or Canadian Tire Pulser shrink wrap.
The recording process was a real art form, because I did the fading in and out on the fly direct to the master. The challenge was to crop out the DJs, and I got to be pretty good at anticipating when they would start talking. If you take the time to listen to one of these mixtapes in its entirety, you’ll hear just a little bit of a DJ creeping through. What you won’t hear is the groan of me realizing in defeat that I wasn’t quick enough.
Another challenge was the dreaded ‘end of tape’. I had to decide if I risk recording a new track live off the air starting at anything further along than the 28 minute mark or so. Each tape was exactly 30 minutes per side, give or take as much as a minute. You had no idea when the tape would give out, and when playing back a cassette there’s nothing worse that blank space at the tail of a tape.
Soon I realized I’d get a much better bang for my buck by recording the end-of-year countdown shows, diligently fading out the tracks before the pesky DJs broke in.
There was a station in Windsor that broke ground by doing ‘all digital’ which meant they were using CDs as opposed to analogue carts. They called themselves OM-FM 88.7 or Lazer Rock 88.7 and they’re still around today as 89X. All I knew that as a Canadian station the signal was strong, the sound seemed clearer that the rest, and the pesky DJs didn’t talk as much as their American counterparts.
Hot Hyts 1982
So probably around New Years 1982 I produced Hot Hyts volumes 1 through 4.
From Duran Duran, the Rolling Stones, Joan Jett, Queen, Prince, The Alan Parsons Project, and many many more, this is a delightful glimpse into the mind and heart of a young nerd growing up in a suburb of Detroit, one of the most progressive rock and roll, punk and new wave radio markets on the planet.
At the end of Side 4 you can hear me messing around with the dial trying to tune in the clearest channel. I’m sure I regretted the mistake of hitting record and accidentally capturing this business, but it’s fascinating now hearing me turn the dial back in forth looking for the hit I needed to complete my mix. If you’re interested in hearing DJs from WABX, WLLZ, and WRIF… you will enjoy this blast from the past.
At the beginning of side 2… well, you’re going to have to take a listen. It’s me somehow getting my hands on a microphone for my one and only DJ moment in the entire session. I was 15 years old.
Hot Hyts Volume 1 and 3
Caught Up In You
Man on your Mind
Crimson and Clover
Love is in Control
Waiting on a Friend
Keep the Fire Burning
Heat of the Moment
Rock This Town
Do You Believe In Love
Hot Hyts Volume 2 and 4
Intro by DJ Rick Dolishny, ‘This is only a test’.
Edge of 17
Spirits in the Material World
Get Down On It
Hooked on Classics
Eye in the Sky
Think I’m In Trouble
Chariots of Fire
Let It Whip
Don’t You Want Me
We Got The Beat
Angel In the Centrefold
I Love Rock and Roll
Digital Mixtape: How This Happened in 2014
I was at a local clearinghouse XS Cargo and came across a cassette adapter Walkman shaped thing with a USB port on the back. One connector, a driver install, and a launch of Audacity, and I was in business. There are more tapes, plus a lovely recording from my then-girlfriend now-wife leaving me an answering machine message time-stamped at 2:50AM. That one’s in the private vault, but after 25 years it’s pretty amazing to hear her voice from so far ago. Gotta love technology and voices from the past from dusty analogue cassettes.