Turn back the clock by about 25 years. I am a gangly teenager growing up in a small farm town in Switzerland. There were no cell phones yet, or Internet or Facebook. My best friend and I communicated from our kitchen window to their dining room window. Yes, my bestie was also our neighbor. We had made up a whistle as signal and would then gossip through the open windows. On winter days we would inevitably end up at each other’s houses. The good old days, where face to face communication was still a thing!
We also had Walkmans and tape recorders, blocky old TVs and VCRs with tapes that had been watched over and over. One of our most favorite thing to do on Sundays was listening to the “Hit Parade”, the Swiss Charts that is. One of the National radio stations broadcasted the charts every Sunday between 3 and 6pm. If we are out and about with the family we would start to get antsy right about 2:30pm, ready to go home or at the very least find a radio somewhere.
Getting the Saturday paper was imperative, since they would publish the newest hit list of the week on Saturdays. Once every one had read to through the newspaper, the charts page would be cut out and intensely studied with highlighters and pens ready to mark our favorite songs. Empty tape supplies were checked and if we weren’t stocked up, an emergency trip to the store was in order, which had to be done before 4pm on Saturday. That’s when stores (used to) close in Switzerland on Saturdays and they stay closed on Sundays.
Out of all those “Hit Parade Sundays” the ones during the Summer were my favorites. My bestie and I, and sometimes a few of the other neighboring kids, would set up camp under our beautiful birch tree. We had blankets and chairs, the boombox, drinks and snacks, a pile of empty tapes and of course the highlighted and marked hit list. Last minute bathroom trips were made, radio signal checked, and then promptly at 3pm we would settle down and not get up again for the next three hours.
We followed the list closely and whenever one of our favorite songs would come up, we would sit in front of that boombox, fingers hovering over the “record” button, ready to spring into action. If we managed to get a clean recording, meaning that the DJ wouldn’t talk over the beginning or the end of the song, we would let out whoops and hollers and high five each other. And let me tell you, getting a clean recording was a challenge and it often took several Sundays before it would happen (sometimes it just never did). It almost seemed as if the DJ knew exactly which songs we wanted to record and talked over them constantly.
We had a fancy double cassette deck, which meant that we could play back one tape and record on the other. That is how we made mixtapes . And we made lots of them, for all occasions and all kinds of genres. I still have a box of my favorites somewhere in my Grandma’s attic. Kids nowadays download music, often illegally. We recorded ours, in a way illegally as well.