My High School Soundtrack

I still have a ton of my old cassettes from my high school days and just recently, I found my Sony Walkman (which still works.) I had a boombox, but most of my music came from my Walkman. Thanks to Columbia House and BMG in the early/mid-90s, I also started a compact disc collection like most people at the time…paying two cents for my first 24 discs (and God knows what for the next 24.) Sony had graduated to the Discman by this time and also gave me the universal problem of fooling with those stupid cassette adapters for your car stereo. I still preferred cassettes and mainly littered my car with them for local driving and left the cassette adapter for long trips.

I decided to rummage through the boxes in my garage and pick out 12 actual cassettes from my collection for this list. There are a few cassettes that I’ll have to list the whole album because I couldn’t possibly choose one song. I owned many cassette singles or “cassingles” as well which worked well if you had auto reverse on your player. Here are my high school favorites from the years 1991-94:

INXS Kick & Welcome to Wherever You Are

These two albums are probably the ones I remember jamming to the most when I was just getting from here to there around town. I could listen to them both all the way through, but there were certain songs that could hit me at any moment resulting in a rewind. So many good songs on Kick including probably my favorite track “New Sensation” and the windshield crooner “Never Tear Us Apart.” The one I probably rewound the most was “Need You Tonight/Mediate” because I would try to memorize all the “ates” at the end of the combined tracks. I definitely spent more time on side one of the WTWYA album. From “Heaven Sent” to “Not Enough Time” were my favorite tracks, but occasional I flipped the tape to side two to listen to “Beautiful Girl.”


Phil Collins Both Sides

This album was always with me…the car, my room, basketball bus trips, everywhere. It came out my senior year and always think of that time when I hear the title track. I think its highly underrated when talking about Phil’s discography. I went through a case of the high school blues after I graduated and used numerous tracks like “Can’t Turn Back The Years,” “Everyday,” and “I’ve Forgotten Everything” to get me through. Also got the opportunity to see Phil live at Hershey, PA after I graduated in the summer of ’94 and still remains as one of my favorite concert experiences.


Van Halen 1984 

Love every track on 1984. My steering wheel frequently became a guitar listening to this tape, but for the most part I remember playing more air drums. I can probably pop this tape in now and remember about 90% of the cymbal smashes by Alex Van Halen. I also remember this album being surprisingly good background music when playing Bulls vs Lakers on Sega Genesis.


Beck “Loser”

Wow, the sound quality on my cassette single really sucks, if that tells you anything about how much this song impacted me. It was just different than anything I had heard. Even the lyrics were a combination of words that had probably never been sung before. It really defined alternative music away from just alternative rock, if that even makes sense. Plus I remember my parents hated the song, which made it even better.


Tone Loc – “Funky Cold Medina”

“And we go a little something like this…hit it!” I liked this song more for the humor effect than the actual music or beat. I was big into MTV and the video was just entertainingly funny. Plus any song that references “Spudz MacKenzie and Alex from Stroh’s” is just destined for infamy. It was like “Parents Just Don’t Understand” but with alcohol. This cassette single was one of those that played both tracks on each side, so that probably why I kept it in my collection.


Prince “Batdance

Another single that no longer plays good quality…evidence that I played the crap out of it. I remember playing in the car, but for some reason, my main memory is before high school at boy scout camp in 89. I brought my little boombox, this single, and Escape Club’s “Wild West” to camp that year…you know, all the things necessary to earn your wilderness survival merit badge.


ZZ Top Greatest Hits

 This album was on regular rotation in my car. I connected with them at the young age of 9, when a neighbor friend and I swiped his brother’s Afterburner album. Our favorite was “Sleeping Bag” but by the time I bought this album during my high school years, there was nothing cooler to me than cruisin’ downtown on Friday night with “Rough Boy” cranked to eleven. The album also introduced me to their earlier stuff like “Cheap Sunglasses” (my favorite now) and “La Grange.”


Radiohead “Creep”

This was a song that was like two songs in one to me…mellow, nice tempo, and then just unadulterated rock. Very easy to sing along to in the car and then headbang like you were Wayne and Garth. It’s really weird though because I never really got into Radiohead beyond this song. Blame it on the cassette single or the fact that my music library had more variety beyond alternative rock at the time, but they never gave me anything passed this radio hit.


EMF “Unbelieveable

I wore this single out. (It’s probably good my Walkman was the player of choice.) Side two has an awesome remix of the track called the “Cin City Sex Mix” that I liked even better than the regular track. Had nothing to do with the name I promise, although I’m sure it didn’t impede my liking of the track. I always made sure to keep this single in my car, just for the remix.


Sting “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You”

How great was this song??!! (album, really. Except maybe for those couple weird country-like songs) Even as I listen to it now, I could repeat it 100 times and never tire of it. Easily in my top 10 all time and was heavily played in my high school and college years. Plus, side two of the cassette single was an acoustic version of “All This Time” which is another one of my favorites from his solo career. I also still have a VHS copy of the Ten Summoner’s Tales documentary film featuring the recording of the album. Now that’s love of music right there, ladies and gentlemen.


Crash Test Dummies “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”

This song was definitely a favorite among my group of friends in high school. It had the novelty feel with the crazy lyrics of outcast kids and that weird video, but at the same time, it sounded unlike anything being played on the radio. Yeah, you can let me have it in the comments but I don’t care if Rolling Stone, VH1, & Blender have all put it in their worst songs of all time lists. I even liked the CTD track on the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack.

Most would probably agree that our musical taste is developed in our teenage and high school years. Guess with this list you can see that I had a whole menu of flavors which still rings true today.

Check out more of the TRN staff’s Soundtracks

Eric’s Soundtrack  |  Kevin’s Soundtrack  |  Hoju’s Soundtrack

About Jason Gross 557 Articles
'80s Kid, '90s Grad, and '00s Dad. I've been writing and podcasting about 1980s pop culture since 2011 at my website. I collect vinyl, cassingles, '80s comics, Batman memorabilia, and all things Mobile Armored Strike Kommand.

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