[dropcap]R[/dropcap]emember all those cassette mixtapes you made in the late-’80s and early-’90s? What if one of them randomly surfaced 20 years later? And what if one of those mixtapes symbolized your obsessive love for someone else, complete with your personalized narration between carefully-selected songs?
Matt Guess of Raleigh, North Carolina, was out shopping Friday when he walked into a Cause for Paws thrift shop looking to purchase old cassettes, specifically Maxell XL-IIs. “Basically I picked up every non-commercial release cassette they had there, which wasn’t many, in hopes that I could take them home and dub over them later and compare the quality,” Guess tells Vanyaland.
Among the tapes he brought home was a TDK SA-90 — “a tried and true staple of the ’80s,” he says — which had nothing written on the label.
When he popped the cassette into his tape desk, he was startled as a woman’s voice rang out.
The mystery woman had made a birthday tape for a lover, Robbie, in Wilmington, whom she was unable to be with. At an hour-and-28-minutes, the mix tape has those standard love songs — including Bonnie Raitt, Des’Ree, Sting, Stevie Nicks and Don Henley — with the woman narrating between songs, mostly talking about how much she misses her Robbie.
“This mixtape I’m guessing was made as early as mid-late 1994, possibly later, due to the radio hits present,” Guess says.
For the duration of the tape, the woman longs for Robbie, wishing they could be together, yearning for his touch. At one point she records her cat, Cinnamon, purring for him. She even included a brief telephone conversation between her and her man. But through it all she reinforces that they cannot be together.
Is this woman Robbie’s mistress?
Is Robbie in prison?
Or were they just two star-crossed lovers torn apart by the 114 miles between Wilmington and Raleigh?
There are so many questions.
“I do not know who she is, who this tape is addressed to other than the first name, Robbie, or when it was created,” Guess says. “She mentions in the telephone call on the tape that he is in Wilmington at the time, which is about two hours from Raleigh. Other than that there are minimal details.”
Guess says he was surprised the tape survived 20 years.
“Fast forward to 2014 and this cassette is laying in a pile of cassettes at a thrift store and I picked it up randomly,” he adds. “And now it’s online. I would love to find out more about this mystery woman and her lover, but it’s out of my hands now.”