Because Mr. Johnson was so influential, I checked out CBC at 11PM that very day. And it was good.
From Sunday to Thursday at 11PM, Brave New Waves played a stunning variety of music. What would be called "Alternative" years later. And on Friday and Saturday nights, Nightlines did the same, but with more of a leaning towards pop.
If Brave New Waves was Skinny Puppy, then Nightlines was R.E.M.
Looking back at those days, I wonder how I functioned. I would listen to BNW every night until the nightly artist profile, which I'm pretty sure was two hours into the show, and quite often would wake up to my radio still playing CBC.
Maybe I did realize though that I couldn't keep staying up so late all the time, so I set up my tape player to record the radio when I went to bed. The next day I'd listen to the broadcast.
And then I figured that making a mixtape of all the good stuff would be the best way to listen to good music when Brave New Waves wasn't on...
That giant lever below the right reel was what you twisted to start it playing. It was immensely satisfying to twist it and hear the mechanical "CLUNK" it made. This kind of tactile experience - like a manual transmission in a car, or old dial-type telephones - is becoming way too rare these days. Mouse clicks is seemingly all there is these days.
The really great thing about this was that you could put a couple hours of music on these reels. And you could play them in the other direction! So we're talking about a 4 hour mixtape here. I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't lots more space on the tape when I stopped with this project.
What was on The Greatest Mixtape of All-Time?
That is a great question. Memory is not one of my areas of expertise these days. There are a few things I remember, but the entire track list is long gone.
Some days I'll hear something that I think was on it, but then the release date disqualifies it. Like Was (Not Was)'s cover of Papa Was a Rolling Stone. I know for sure I had this track on mixtapes I had made, but it came out in 1990.
This project would have started in '83 or '84, and I would have been entirely done with it by June of '88. That's when I graduated high school, and the family moved to BC. I don't think the Sony made the trip, but I have no idea what happened to it. The point being, nothing released in early '88 onwards would have been on it.
Let's just see what my brain can do this morning;
Icicle Works - Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)
Boys Don't Cry - I Wanna Be a Cowboy
Alexei Sayle - Didn't You Kill my Brother?
The Cure - Killing an Arab
Classy Freddie Blassy - Pencil Neck Geek
The Firm - Star Trekkin'
Steinski - The Motorcade Sped On
The Nails - The Things You Left Behind
Yes, a lot of novelty records here. I was still learning about good music alright? These are the weird tracks that stand out, and those CBC shows were all about playing weird records. Even if they were bad in some cases.
Besides that Steinski track cancels out ten bad songs easy.
By the way, I recommend that you don't listen to Star Trekkin' for more than 30 seconds. It is terrible.
Memory keeps me from saying for certain what Depeche Mode song, or what Smiths song, or Killing Joke song was on the tape, but I know for sure I had those artists. Where I get stuck though, is that I can think of a bunch of tracks that I'm 90% sure were there - like Wall of Voodoo's Mexican Radio, or Eddy Grant's Electric Avenue, or Big Country's In a Big Country - but they are also tracks that were somewhat popular. I'm sure I heard Wall of Voodoo on commercial radio. And while I'm not saying I was too cool to put popular songs on this mixtape, Brave New Waves was too cool to play popular music.
Nightlines wasn't though, so, I don't know. It becomes a "I sure hope that 15 year old me was cool enough to know that The Godfathers's Birth School Work Death was a great song" situation.
Even though I am totally confident in calling it The Greatest Mixtape of All-Time, and even though the idea of recording the radio and transferring songs them to that monsterous Sony tape deck to create it was a super cool idea, I don't want to blow my own horn too much...
But, speaking of that, one last thing;
Here is my modern day equivalent to The Greatest Mixtape of All-Time - this Google Music playlist called The Golden Age. All of my favourite tracks from 1990 to 1995. 367 tracks, over 24 hours of music. And all of it thanks to Mr. Johnson and the CBC.