Every so often, Daily Miltonian will share with you a Mixtape Memory. But, uh…whazzat? Simple: it’s someone’s (hopefully) fond memories of a particular Mixtape. Not a Mix CD, Discman, a TAPE. As in cassette. Pretty cool, right? We know, we know. Now without further ado, we proudly present the inaugural edition of Mixtape Memories for your reading enjoyment. Don’t say we never gave ya nothin’, kid.
MIXTAPE MEMORIES #1
THE HEATHER GREEN TAPES
Or, Chasing Heather Crazy
By Erik Bader
Way back in the mid-Nineties, when the world was green, South Jersey was greener, and the present author was green around the ears, I met a girl named Heather Green. Important facts:
-Heather was a few years older than the present author.
-Heather looked great in brown cords and a fuzzy sweater.
-Heather was the extremely savvy program director at her college radio station.
-Heather played guitar and sang (well, on both accounts) in a band that sounded like, well I guess they kinda sounded like Velocity Girl. She had a voice like a crystal bell.
-Did we mention Heather had terrific taste in music?
-Because she did.
-Heather was really, and I mean really, pretty.
-She also read lots of books which made her even prettier, because she was super-duper smart.
-Aw, Heather Green!
Yep, the present author had something of an impossible teenage crush on formidable and way-out-of-his-league Heather Green. You would have too, if you were there with us, riding down those leafgreen New Jersey highways on those warm summer nights, in search of action, adventure, and, the bottomless cup of coffee. Not that the present author ever could get close to Ms. Heather. When you’re an 18 year old nobody from Mount Laurel, NJ, with no car to speak of, two Vonnegut books on the bookshelf (or rather, in the closet), too many comic books and no cool 7″ records unless you counted blue vinyl hardcore crap, you didn’t really deserve to get close to Heather Green, because, well, you kinda suck.
But that didn’t mean you didn’t have friends who were close to Heather. Take Big Nick, for example. Big Nick went to college with Heather. And Big Nick had a tape that Heather gave him. The present author doesn’t really remember what was on the tape, but he does recall that the first five songs on the second side were, in its entirety, Archers of Loaf vs. The Greatest of All Time.
We mostly listened to those songs and that was it. From there we’d switch tapes. Or else I’d beg Nick to rewind the thing back to the beginning — which he begrudginly did. Now don’t laugh here, ye Indie Historianes, it was 95 and I had no clue who this band was. Adults: I lived in Mount Laurel, not New York. And kids? THERE WAS NO INTERNET. (Although my buddy DID have a weird conversation with Sci-Fi author Larry Niven on Prodigy one night.)
Annnnyways, despite the overoverdubbed total-muffledcrap sound quality, something really magical, important, and essential rang true through Nick’s busted car speakers, as the car zipped under dark canopies of Medford trees, taking us through the warm summer New Jersey nights out there in the endless midnight streets, looking for something, not finding much, but always hoping for more.
The thing I heard was hope. The first track opens up with creaking, nautical sounds like an old ghost ship tied to a rotting peer, while a stopwatch clickes beneath broken microphone fuzz. Seven of the loneliest notes known to man ring out slowly thought a thick night fog, floating like buoys on an indistinct sea. You hear it, this lazy chiming guitar coming in through tape hiss and passing trees, windows rolled down for cigarettes and the sweet nose-sting of pine needle. And then it explodes, a barbed wire web in front of sawing guitars and desperate vocals, singing about who-the-fuck-knows-what, bashed drums and walking bass, guitars playing notes not known to man, guitars shredding your already shredded factory car stereo speakers, popping their fuzzy lids into the passenger seat.
Sucking on sound
Sucking my voice
drain me down
It goes on from there. Twisted guitar histrionics, cigarette-wrecked vocals, and a strained weariness that I didn’t even know was possible for humans to experience.
Distance is up, static is down.
And all the east coast, has burned out.
Save for me, save for you.
There’s nothing here to fucking do.
I liked it. I tried to figure out where Heather stood in all of this…under all the gloss and sheen of her perfect appearence, was her soul in fact dying? Had her world burned out? Was the east coast killing her? New Jersey was saving my soul every day, but what about Heather? Heather, who lived near the beach, in a house on top of a road near a pond, Heather of endless sunshine and limitless wisdom…had she woke up dead / in her bed / too much shit in her head?
Let’s write some hits
The tape eventually dissapeared and it wasn’t until later that summer that I got my hands on those songs again. I was bumming around Ocean City, who knows why, just me and Sean V. living off of Ramen noodles and grubbing change from girls so we could play heated bouts Street Fighter 2 “Turbo” at Jilly’s. I contacted Heather via payphone — by this point I had her number, but rarely dared to call it — and miraculously she showed up, bought me a sandwich at Wawa, some new batteries for my Walkman, and handed me a freshly minted cassette featuring songs by Unrest, Versus, The Grifters, and of course, all five songs from “Vs. The Greatest of All Time.” I wanted to tell her I loved her, I wanted to kiss her, I wanted to — and so I thanked her and waved goodbye and walked off in the soft evening drizzle in the general direction of the boardwalk, hoping to find Sean, listening to those first seven sad notes come through the foamy headphones in better quality than I had hitherto heard, Ferris Wheel lights and seaside smells, gulls circling around street lamps, wondering where we were going to sleep tonight, knowing we wouldn’t until dawn, feeling good and feeling strong and feeling hopeless and feeling down, and totally lost, lost, lost.
All Hail the Black Market indeed.
Got a Mixtape Memory that you want to share? Send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll run it! Unless it sucks, in which case we won’t!