Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.
CP: Proust went on about how smells can take you back. For my Susan B. Anthony dollar, it’s music.
RN: Totally. Mrs. Van Bellinger, my take-no-prisoners spinning instructor, played “Stayin’ Alive” in class the other day, and I could practically feel the polyester of my skintight Angel’s Flight suit.
CP: I recently passed a wintry afternoon organizing my store-bought and homemade cassette tapes from three bulging grocery bags into library-worthy cardboard boxes. Once I dusted off a boombox and started playing my old mixtapes, the day flew by.
RN: I’m shocked to learn that you are still in possession of an actual cassette player. Does this mean you’re also still using Radio Shack’s Trash-80 laptop computer?
CP: Get used to it, amigo. I was Mr. Cassette back in the day. In addition to the boombox, I had two portable recorders and even a dual-cassette player hooked into Mission Control. How else you gonna throw together the essential 1989 party tape?
RN: I can hear the Bananarama now. In a good way.
CP: Maybe, but I leaned a bit less sunny than that — rockier, with more eyeliner. You know, such Rick Nelson faves as Iggy, Bauhaus, Dead Kennedys, Cramps, Ramones, Lene Lovich.
RN: Well, the last two, maybe. What I appreciate most about the whole party-tape concept is how resourceful a person needed to be to make it happen. Today, pulling together a musical compilation takes little more than a few mouse clicks, reliable Wi-Fi and a CD burner, and boom. Back then, it required an enormous LP library, hours of free time and the manual dexterity of Rosemary Woods.
CP: I know, but we had tons more time, too, with no mobile devices to distract us. Plus, we simply could not listen to the radio on car trips. At parties, we were way too busy to be changing records. Making a tape for a sweetie was a labor of love involving endless fast-forwarding and do-overs.
RN: I still have a relic labeled “Neal’s Party 1988,” a Pet Shop Boys-Talking Heads-Tracy Chapman-Bangles-Cher compilation that I pulled together for a gathering — in my studio apartment — for a visiting out-of-town pal. I feel as if I should donate it to the Minnesota Historical Society.
CP: Copy that to the Smithsonian, too. And me.
RN: I used to love getting mixtapes from friends as gifts — in part because now they’re these amazing and personal time capsules — although I don’t recall ever receiving one of the tapes you allegedly produced.
CP: Be careful what you ask for. I have a gift tape from a former partner, wrapped in a tiny leopard blanket inside its plastic case. I can still pick it out of a lineup at 50 yards.
RN: A favorite of mine is one that was assembled many years ago by a friend, now dead. He scrawled “Demure Butchness” — which was also the name of his zine, remember those? — on it, and every time I listen to it, I’m immediately transported to 1996. It’s the audio version of Proust’s madeleines.
CP: When it come to remembrance of things past, nothing works like a mixtape and madeleines.
Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib