Stephanie Was Here

DATE:

January 19, 1999

THE COVER:

IMG_6640

THE TRACKS:

SIDE A:

  • All I Want is You – U2
  • Jumpin’ at the Green Mill – The Mighty Blue Kings
  • Time to Move On – Tom Petty
  • Nobody Like You – Echobelly
  • In the Garage – Weezer
  • Got My Own Thing Now – Squirrel Nut Zippers
  • Ruby Soho – Rancid
  • Outtasite (Outta Mind) – Wilco
  • Everything I Said – The Cranberries
  • Animal – Pearl Jam
  • Cast No Shadow – Oasis
  • Say Anything – The Bouncing Souls
  • Ghost – Neutral Milk Hotel
  • Here Comes Your Man – The Pixies
  • Buzz, Buzz, Buzz -Huey Lewis and the News

SIDE B:

  • The Entertainer – Billy Joel
  • All Mod Cons – The Jam
  • Love Spreads – The Stone Roses
  • Never Said – Liz Phair
  • Here In Your Bedroom – Goldfinger
  • Tripping Billies – Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
  • Mama Kin – Aerosmith
  • Whippin’ Piccadilly – Gomez
  • Shimmer – Throwing Muses
  • No Surprise – Radiohead
  • Do The Devil – The Amazing Royal Crowns
  • Crazy – The Afghan Whigs
  • Tied to the ’90s – Travis
  • D.A.I.S.Y. Age – De La Soul

THE LINER NOTES:

This is, by miles, the best cover in my collection of tapes. All the covers before, and almost all the covers to come,  are just artfully selected clippings from whatever magazine I had lying around (usually Q) while putting the mix together. But this cover– this is an original piece of art, drawn by the tape’s namesake, while the two of us collaborated on the selections noted above. Stephanie is another acquaintance from high school who I became friends with after college. She’s the reason Trisha (remember Trisha?) moved to Boston. Trisha wants you to know this– she didn’t follow me to the city, Stephanie needed a roommate.

I don’t always have distinct memories of creating these mixes, but the night Stephanie Was Here was put together remains relatively clear in my mind. I can still see my CD’s spread over the throw rug on my bedroom’s tile floor. The room glowed a warm yellow due to the aging desk lamp sitting on the floor in the corner. Stephanie was laying on her stomach, drawing the picture above while we chatted about bands, songs and living in Boston. That’s Stephanie herself in the picture, juggling (inspired by the juggling balls I was tossing around that night) in front of the Boston skyline. It’s a perfect picture from a perfect moment. You cannot beat hanging out with a friend for hours, just talking and playing music.

That happened a lot in that apartment. And if we weren’t playing music, we were watching a movie or a random TV show or playing video games or just eating pizza and talking. We did it in small groups and we did it with big parties. This was the greatest place I have ever lived– the basement apartment I shared with my old college roommate Tim in Brighton. And we had a prime location. Just a short walk to the B and C Green Line trains and seconds away from Cleveland Circle. Which meant seconds away from Mary Ann’s, cheap pizza, delicious cheesesteaks and Chinese food that could live in our refrigerator for days.

The apartment itself was perfect. One big main room housed the futon (of course), the TV, a hand-me-down recliner and Tim’s display of VHS tapes. The galley-style kitchen was big enough for a table and chairs– but since the TV was in the other room, we rarely ate there. Both bedrooms were also pretty large. And the bathroom was an elegant shade of pink. Looking back on it all now, we really scored a killer apartment. And we loved filling it with friends and alcohol. We threw a lot of parties and had A LOT of fun in this place. Highlights of the best moments will certainly be covered as we move through the history of 1999 and these mixtapes, but the early memory of spending an aimless night with Stephanie, mixing, juggling, drawing and talking is as near to a perfect evening as I had in that place (that didn’t involve making out with someone).

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

But… coproducing a mixtape does not yield great results. A mixtape needs to be born of a singular vision. I’m not knocking Stephanie here, not at all. But too many cooks spoiled this pot.

Or I’m passing the blame. As much as I remember the images and tone of the evening this tape was made, I have no direct recollection of how these selections were influenced. I’m basing my assumption on the fact that this tape doesn’t really play like any of my other tapes. It’s too logy. Side A especially. “All I Want is You” (great song) is a fine start, but then “Time to Move On” (great song) shows up only two songs later. My feet were dragging listening to this, and I was in my car. And nothing else on Side A fell into place. Girl-led Britpop, Blue Album Weezer, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers? I love juxtaposing tunes, but this was all just too random.

And if Stephanie’s presence didn’t help, things might have been made worse because I was borrowing albums from Tim. And by “made worse,” I only mean the tape was made more disjointed– because the songs I borrowed are great. Thank Tim for The Bouncing Souls, Liz Phair, Aerosmith and The Afghan Whigs. All great songs, but their placement here just doesn’t meld with anything else.

This mix just never gelled… Well, until we close out Side B.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

There’s a couple of first time entries I could choose from here, but I’m going to highlight Neutral Milk Hotel. I was introduced to their now legendary album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea while working a part-time job at a novelty gift store on Newbury Street. I forget the name of the store or the female coworker who often played the album over the store PA system. This place let us play our own music during our shifts, so it’s essentially the greatest job I ever had. I fell in love with the album’s lo-fi jangle instantly. And from here I was introduced to the Elephant 6 bands and my CD collection would soon be growing.

I WISH I WAS A MUSIC SUPERVISOR:

As slipshod as the majority of this mix turned out to be, the last seven songs suddenly show up for the party. It starts with “Whippin’ Piccadilly” by Gomez (another contender here for “Pleased to Meet You.”) That song’s fresh, British, folk groove segues perfectly into the 90’s alt groove of Throwing Muses’ “Shimmer.”  Radiohead’s “No Surprises” breaks the building tempo but keeps the emotional push, and then– “Do The Devil” kicks in the horns.

That then perfectly transitions to ’90’s rock with The Afghan Whigs and Travis’ aptly titled “Tied to the ’90s,” only to close the whole thing out with the out-of-the-blue, no-right-to-be-on-this-tape “D.A.I.S.Y. Age.” If I had just put those seven songs on repeat and hit record, this would have been a far more successful mix.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

This was an easy choice. And I have nothing against The Cranberries. I still have their “we’re sitting on this couch” album. But I can’t even fathom the reason I chose to include this downer of a track on this mixtape. It stops everything in its tracks. I hit every red light when its playing.

Every. Red. Light.

I blame Stephanie.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

Here’s another clear memory from my old apartment.  Well, from walking home to my old apartment. I had taken the C Line home this particular night and was listening to WBCN on my walkman. I heard two amazing songs in a row as I walked up the hill from Cleveland Circle. The first was “Army” by Ben Folds Five. I didn’t know a new album was coming out and this single was its amazing herald. Directly after it was “78 Stone Wobble” by Gomez. Follow the link and take a listen. I was mesmerized. Folky. British. Sampling. Co-vocalists. I stood outside of my apartment until the song ended (poor reception in the basement, you know) and raced out the next day to find their album. And as was my fashion at the time, I bought all the singles that were available. For a time, they were my new Oasis– in that I became obsessed. Without looking, I’m going to guess that “Whippin’ Piccadily” probably shows up about eight more times in the year’s worth of tapes to come. I love it so.

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