A lot in my generation grew up with music compilations, basically a form of Top 10 lists committed to albums. One of mine — I think I only had two or three — was Star Tracks, by that pantheon of the compilation album, K-Tel.
K-Tel, for those of us who remember it, was a record label that did compilations, often brilliant ones, the commercial equivalent of a mixtape. I got the tape — yes, cassette — for Christmas, the same year I got my first personal cassette player.
That was a keen memory, that first player. It wasn’t a Sony Walkman — those were prized possessions and you paid a very pretty penny for them. I received a Toshiba KT-series, though the exact model escapes me. Nowhere near the cachet of a Sony, mine was bigger and bulkier, I had the advantage of a recording feature and unlike every other player my friends had, a speaker on the back.
This completely changed car rides. I lived in Oakville, then a small town west of Toronto. Visiting my grandmother was a near-hour trip into the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto near Eglington and Bayview. Nearly an out of staring out the window (reading in the car made me ill, sleeping was too weird a sensation), seeing the same sodium streetlights on the highway, the same sights right up to the sudden drop that came as the QEW cross the Humber, smelling the stench of the malting towers along the waterfront, the slow wind up the Don Valley and past the brickworks, holding my breath past the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. I hated the drive then, I almost pine for it now.
My personal cassette player allowed me to go elsewhere. My brain cared less for the scenery than it did for the sound. I already knew some of the songs from my Star Tracks tape, but there was just something so much more important listening without anyone else hearing. I was in my own little world.
This was the dawn of my personal soundtrack: the songs that would define the movie of my life. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, I wasn’t yet as into movies as I would become, nor did I realize the impact music would have on my life, both in the moment and in recollection. It started here, truly.