Rik-O-Sound: Bohemia’s Haunted Disc, My Haunted Past

It’s sad that the mixtape has largely come to be known as something only a conniving would-be boyfriend or girlfriend makes for their prospective target of affection. I used to make them for just about any of my friends, male or female, and often my brothers or parents, anytime that I had some cool or interesting songs to share. And yes, I did make them for those more “stalker”-style moments of mine as well, often attempting to be a conniving, would-be boyfriend on far more occasions than I care to remember.

It was all different at Halloween and Christmas. For several years, I would make annual collections – and this is all in the time before I had CD burning capabilities – on audio cassette of various scary or wintry seasonal songs that I had discovered during the course of the year, duping and passing them out to a large variety of my friends and family. And on the pretext that these gifts were based around my two favorite holidays, I could give them to just about anybody. These tapes were exceedingly simple in design, as they merely listed the songs, written by hand much of the time, and I would come up with what I felt at the time was a clever title. But after about five or six years of doing this, I entered the computer age. Actually, I had already entered it quite a long time before, but it wasn’t until seven years ago that I finally got a Mac capable of burning discs. Eight years ago, though, just before the purchase of my G4 Mac, I had my pal Robear do the job for me when I decided it was time I moved up to the CD age.

My first, and, as it turned out, last Halloween disc which I gave out as a gift was called Velcome to Boo-hemia! Alaskan friends need no explanation, but for anyone outside its environs, it needs to be pointed out that our little theatrical group in Anchorage, who began goofing around together in their teen years, were named (by an old school friend, for obscure reasons) the Bohemians. (Even farther back, before Edie Brickell made it impossible to use anymore, we were briefly known as the New Bohemians.) So the title of the disc was meant to be an introduction to the Halloween side of our little realm in the Last Frontier.

Several elements from our group’s history came into play on the artwork that I drew for the disc. Viewing the cover design to the right, since the official drink of many of our party is Dr. Pepper, I built the theme around a can of soda becoming the drink of the undead. Being pissed off at the line of products then taking my beloved thirst-quencher’s place in soda fountains and chain stores around the city (there were, for a time, even reports that Anchorage Cold Storage, a Coke establishment of long standing, was going to dispose of selling Dr. Pepper altogether), I had the imposters being picked off one by one and planted in a cemetery, with headstones bearing their insidious names: Mr. Pibb, Dr. Slice, Dr. Thunder (on the back cover), and, in a dopey misnaming, The Skipper (which I accidentally called “Dr. Skipper"). Whatever its real name, that Skipper soda belonged DEAD. 

In the hand of the screaming lady on the cover is a can of Dr. Pepper, which is more noticeable in the original artwork, the lettering of which disappeared when Robear added coloring to my black and white original artwork. (I have never been all that happy with the heavy use of color anyway, as I wanted the whole thing to be a little more subtly done, if not the original version in black and white I had created.)

On the back cover is that same can in the aftermath of an attack by the winged vampire Bohemian smiley. The same vampire Bohemian smiley is also seen accosting the lady on the front cover. The implication of the back cover image is that Dr. Pepper could never die, especially after being given a supernatural afterlife by the vampire Bohemian smiley, and such an implication is meant as a cheerful gift to my friends, many of whom are/were addicted to the beverage at the time. Hard to read, but printed on the back cover, is a short paragraph in red, which I built somewhat around the opening to Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:
"Regarding the Strange Case of Dr. Pepper, I remember very little of the affair with any real clarity. That he was left alone to fend for himself in the wild and God-forsaken badlands of Boo-hemia is a certainty, and that he was a markedly changed can was also a fact that went unnoticed by nary a soul. But what we all failed to understand was how he had changed, a sad state that we would all come to regret in the days to come, as we each found ourselves gripped with a never-ceasing, all-consuming addiction! A terrible, ravenous thirst! A thirst, unquenchable and bold, that we would eternally fail to be rid of even with the Sweet Mercy of Death! Do I blame the good Doctor? Or do I blame the Monster that made him?”
As for the vampire smiley, for many years now, the symbol of our little group (and since we have a symbol, some would even go so far as to consider us a gang, which would be stretching the usual notorious aspects of such a term) has been a spoof of the Harley Davidson logo. From what I recall, though there is a strong chance that I will run into some revisionism on this part, good ol’ Smilin’ George took the eagle wings from the famous biker logo, and then fixed between his cartoon version of those wings the head of a smiley face. (Smiley copyright owners, we have never used this logo for commercial gain, only for creating items for our internal usage. So, sod off…) One year at our Halloween show, I made a pair of bat wings and affixed them to a round glow-in-the-dark light. I added the smiley face, creating a Halloween version of our logo, to which I also added vampire fangs. When it came time to consider what to put on the cover of this disc, I gravitated almost immediately to using the vampire smiley bat (almost, because I was also plotting an Alien-style cover with a chest-burster).

The songs, which become almost beside the point after all this, themselves are listed on the third photo, but this list has always been a sore point with me, as the numbers do not actually match the songs which they portray when the disc is loaded into a player. When I made the list of songs – and this is almost entirely my fault – I forgot to indicate to Robear that there were recorded bits from movies like Frankenstein and Ed Wood between the songs. So this means that, from track one, this list goes off the rails rather quickly.

But it’s a good mix of Halloween-type tunes, actually showing the time in my life from whence it came rather clearly, but only if you had access to my music collection and knew when I bought certain items. Looking at the list, I can point exactly to two albums that I purchased not long before I made this collection (both of them produced by Mr. Rob Zombie), the knowledge dates my little “mixdisc” rather precisely for me. It was a fun project, but even though I soon had my own means to produce new gifts for my friends, I never got around to it, or at least fixing the covers so they more accurately featured the proper track list and also some less dark coloration.

Honestly, at this point, I am sure most people have lost their copies by now (I am probably the rare bird that keeps every such gift from all of his friends over the years), and even my own mother gave her copy back to me on her road trip through here a couple weeks ago, possibly not even listened to by her over all those years, but I can’t be certain... maybe once, at most. The bulk of the music – not all, but most – was probably not up her alley, but I had given her one anyway. The return of this gift made me somewhat wistful for the times in which I made it, and then I realized that it was probably one of the few items from that period – created during a low point for me on a personal level – for which I felt this emotion. Besides my best friends, movies and music were all I had at the time.


Lindsay Lamar said…
I have been lamenting that I have lost my copy. I'm sure it's somewhere in storage, from all the moves, but I was sad that I didn't have easy access to it for this Halloween.
Mark Otis said…
Well, now that you mention it, I never did receive one of these. I like the artwork, though.

I do remember the xmas tapes you made, and I still have a couple of those among the hundreds of other tapes that have not been played these past few years. (Not out of lack on interest, mind you, but out of lack of a working tape player...).
Chewy said…
I still have! Screw you for doubting my pack-rat-ness!
Matthew said…
I don't believe I ever received one of these.... I wonder why. :-P

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