Concettina Died and Other Stories of the East Side

Sweet 16, posted September 3, 2008 at 12:21 AM

I moved to New York on Labor Day 1992. I've been in New York 16 years.

Just before I left Cincinnati my friend Sheri gave me a wonderful mix-tape called "Adios Compaņero." It was perfect in its selection and sequencing. Her husband Mike told me that Sheri had worked on it long and hard. It showed. It's the kind of gift that, especially if given on an emotional occasion like a departure, comes to mean so much more than the sum of its parts. At the beginning of my time in New York it was a lifeline back to the comfort and warmth of a previous home and a previous life. And over the years it has brought that warmth back to me with each listen.

But times change, and technology changes. My cassette tape Walkman gave way to a portable CD player, which later gave way to an iPod. My cassettes gathered analog dust in a digital age. When I moved this past April, my new sleek little stereo cart had no room for my cassette deck, so it sits in lonely silence in my storage space. The other day, shuffling my iPod, I heard Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady." As it ended, my brain threw me back to that wonderful mix-tape and I fully expected David Bowie's "Golden Years" to be next. This little musical event, coming so close to the anniversary of that tape and my move, convinced me that I had to rebuild that mix digitally.

I had to do a bit of digging for some of the songs. Turns out Lou Rawls' "Soulin'" album has never been released on CD. I have the vinyl, but the song I needed has a scratch in it. No iTunes, no Amazon, no nothing. I eventually found an mp3 on a file-sharing network--yes, an illegal download. [Note to the music industry: release the music and I'll gladly give you my money. Until then, we are forced to use peer-to-peer....]. I had a similar story with Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Fabulous Places." But it too was eventually found. For three more obscure tracks, which Sheri listed on the cassette's case as being sung by "African Choir," required more sleuthing. Google, and some used vinyl record sites, finally informed me that all three tracks came from an album of traditional South African singing called "Let Their Voices Be Heard." I ordered it from a used record shop upstate. It arrived today and I put the last pieces of the puzzle in place. I now have the complete mix, cued up right here on my computer, and soon to be playing brightly through my little iPod headphones.

And as a special anniversary present from me to you, I've uploaded it here for you. I've taken the following two liberties with the recreation of this mix:
1. Sheri was hemmed in by technology. She was trying to capture a huge amount of emotion in a 100-minute cassette tape. To make it work, she created shorter edits of a couple of the longer tracks. My mix runs to 108 minutes and 39 seconds due to expanding those. Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet can thank me later.
2. I decided to follow the spirit of the cover design, rather than just scanning it and cropping it to be square. Besides the original is such a personal thing for me that I just want to keep it here for myself. The original shows a series of Marilyn Monroe VHS tape covers. It looks like this:


Since we've gone digital, and the cover of this re-made mix only really shows up in your cover-flow version of iTunes or on your iPod, I thought a simple Marilyn collage would do. Here's the new cover:

Here's the complete playlist:


If you'd like to download the mix, follow me over to the "private" side of the site. If you want it, but don't understand the technology or have no iPod or have no way to burn CDs, post a comment requesting it and I'll send you a CD set of it instead.

I love New York. And I love Sheri Kuchta Briggs.

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