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The Janarama Show

November 6, 2011

In college, I had a radio show. It was called The Janarama Show, and I was assigned a spot no other DJ wanted: Tuesdays, 5:30-7:30 a.m. Yet as a freshman, I jumped out of bed those mornings, eager to play the songs I loved, to bring friends, to accept calls from listeners (a total of five, usually), and speak into a microphone. I loved having a voice, and I taped almost every broadcast. (When I listened to those tapes later, I couldn’t stop cringing.)

The radio station was where I met my husband, who was a college sophomore with an awful penchant for wool sweaters and brown loafers. When I first met him, we talked for a long time, but his puffy white socks stuffed into brown leather told me it just wasn’t the right time for us. A few years later, he was a senior who had finally gotten a decent pair of shoes. That’s when we started dating.

After he graduated, it was unclear if and when we’d see each other again. I didn’t have a radio show anymore, so I sent him a mixed tape.

(For the record, I prefer “mixed tape” to “mix tape.” Mix is a verb, not an adjective. I seem to be the only one in the world of old-fashioned tapes who feels this way.)

Compiling music in the 90s and early 2000s was quite different than it is today. Today, a person can put together a hundred playlists in an hour or less. Your phone or iPod can even do it for you, if you’re really lazy. But in those dark days before Steve Jobs was hailed as a God, I’d sit on the floor of my bedroom, listening to each song I selected before recording it. Sometimes I’d copy it from a CD, sometimes from another tape, which was even more time-consuming. Then, in the process of recording, I’d listen to the song in its entirety so I could pause it at just the right moment to allow space for the next song, and the next. Today, the CDs people use for recording fit, at most, 80 minutes of music. Bullocks. I was able to fill a full 90. Making a mixed tape was an all-day affair, with breaks only for lunch and the bathroom. When it was all done, I’d take the tape on a walk and listen to make sure all the songs worked well together. Then I cut up an artsy photo on a postcard and slid it into the case, naming the collection after a song lyric. The listener got to figure out which.

I need to stop for a moment to explain to you that I’m really, really good at this. I’m so good, I can make a boy fall in love with me.

When Mike graduated college, I sat on my childhood bedroom floor and started to put a list together of songs I could send him in his new apartment two hours away. By this time, I had a solid music collection from my frequent stops at the used record store within walking distance from my dorm room. I decided to start off with Echo and the Bunnymen’s “What Are You Going to Do with Your Life?” followed by “Dancing Barefoot,” a cover of Patti Smith. Side B began with Radiohead’s “Stop Whispering” and ended with U2’s “Stay.”

At the time, I told myself I was choosing good songs for someone who just graduated college. I wasn’t trying to get his attention or have him call me. Nooo. I just really wanted to give him a gift. Something cheap (I had no money) but sentimental.

As it turns out, I was also really good at lying to myself. When I look at those songs now, “Dancing Barefoot” represented my own vulnerability; Weezer’s “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” was as much about my feelings as the ones I assumed he would have as he embarked into the real world. “Stop Whispering” might have had something to do with his soft-spoken voice, and Ani Difranco’s “Shy” was a clear admission of my own nature.

I named the album Green Light.

This November, we celebrate eight years of marriage. I’m really glad he called me.



*If you want to learn more about the power of “mix tapes,” read Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Here’s a popular excerpt from that book.

Image: “Music is love in search of a word” by Kirstea via Flickr.
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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Vanessa November 6, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Happy Anniversary! How fitting you gave out mixed cds as wedding favors. When the title of your new post popped up on my screen I thought to myself, “Hey, I remember that show!” I will always attribute my love for mixed tapes (and yes, I do too call them “mixed”) to you. I remember as a teenager how you always seemed to be pouring over tapes and cds in your room searching for just the right song for yet another mixed tape. Perhaps that is why my college roommate and I got along so well, because she too was in love with mixed tapes. With her assistance, I was able to create a husband winning mix that I entitled “Enterance” . Unfortunately, it was actually misspelled which seemed to create a more sentimental feeling in my future husband’s heart. Looking back at the title makes be see how appropriate it was as we entered a new phase in our lives. But music brings forth so many other memories of you…but my favorite has to be one involving a new cd, a crush and cops. Remember?


TheKitchenWitch November 7, 2011 at 9:11 am

You are queen of the “mixed” tape! My husband shares a similar skill–I’m always in awe. Happy Anniversary!


Elizabeth Mosier November 7, 2011 at 10:24 am

Forwarding this to my husband, who wore these weird pants from Greece when I met him, and played guitar in a band called “Victims of Entropy”. Ah, the 1980s.


Jana November 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Oh, Elizabeth. You must use that band title in your own work. That’s an epic under your nose, just waiting to be told. :)


Sarah November 7, 2011 at 10:54 am

Oh, I miss the mixed tapes! I still have a shoebox full of my collection (those I made for myself, and those I received) and my brooding teen got into it one day. We had everything form Pink Floyd to the Cure to the Clash to Garbage… I think that was an eye-opener for him. Now he wants his own cassette player/recorder.

FYI: Do you know how hard it can be to find a cassette player? Sheesh.


Elizabeth Rago November 7, 2011 at 11:39 am

This could be the most adorable post ever! Happy Anniversary! I am now reminiscing about all the mixed tapes I sent to boys and all the copies collecting dust in my basement.
I am also thinking about the radio show I had, REALLY early Saturday mornings, with my good friend, Amanda. I would drag in to the studio with coffee and my smokers voice and we would play fun girlie Indie music. All depressing, of course. And we had one caller, God love him, who said he listened to us every Saturday.

You have brought back some happy, yet frightening memories this morning. Thank you!!

Great post!


Kristen @ Motherese November 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm

My husband was the king of the mixed tape (I usually call them “mix” tapes, but I concede the grammatical point). I still have the sleeves from the cassettes he made me; the tapes themselves are mostly worn out – and who has a tape deck anymore to listen to them?

Ahh, the good ol’ days.


Liz S November 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Great post!! I must admit – I also had a radio show in college. And my boyfriend at the time used to tune in from home and tape my shows….good times, good memories. The experience provided a nice backdrop of music that will always take me back to those years….. :)


Tiffany November 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I say “mixed” too. I use to make them all the time and Matt and I still make them for each other…but just on itunes and they’re playlists. Happy Anniversary!


Cathy November 7, 2011 at 7:12 pm

I never had any penchant for mixed tapes, nor did any of my boy friends. Somehow this post makes me feel like I missed out on something. Happy anniversary and a November one at that.


denise November 7, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Happy happy to you and your hubby! Like most of the people commenting here, I love mixed tapes. I still have one from a dear high school pal whose skills sound like they may equal yours. I also still have a mixed CD my husband made me when we first started dating. The songs and images freeze a part of life, which shoots back through the filter of years.

(Laughing about the clothing choices from college–me too, me too. I wore so many over-sized flannel shirts that were longer than many of today’s dresses. And I wore them over pinch-rolled Levis. I. Was. HOT.)


Coeliquore November 9, 2011 at 9:06 am

The perfect gift for the perfect person, it seems: congratulations to you both!!!1


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri November 9, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Happy Belated Anniversary! Mixed tapes are the best kind of nostalgic goodness.


Finola November 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm

What a sweet story, and I hope he still has that mixed tape in original cassette format! And what the heck is a mix tape?


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