A question inspired by Teen Week 2017: Do teens still drive around with large binders full of CDs?
Looking back to high school, it seems like every car I climbed into as a teen required shoving one of these cases out of my way. We’re not talking about just the hardcore music nerds, either. Even somebody who listened to purely Top 40 pop hits, at this point, must have been driving around with a couple Britney albums and some Shakira. But then who could blame us? I started high school in the year 2000, the height of the radio consolidation era, when Clear Channel was busy steamrolling any local radio diversity around the country. The iPod had barely been invented, and we certainly didn’t have satellite radio.
I had not one, but two such binders, one enormous and black with an Allman Brothers Band sticker on the spine, and another with large, mall-store modernist dots. They were a stylistically incoherent jumble. There was of course all the Led Zeppelin (in addition to my two Led Zeppelin t-shirts, both purchased at Hot Topic); my Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack; lots of Bob Dylan with a heavy emphasis on the Rolling Thunder Revue era; some Loreena McKennitt; numerous additional folk CDs, some of them purchased at, literally, the Atlanta Renaissance Faire; and, of course, the Shrek soundtrack. I am racking my brain to remember anything that might have had even the tiniest shred of true teen coolness, but that didn’t come until college and therefore doesn’t really count for our purposes here. I once went to Rasputin Music & Movies in Berkeley and bought, I swear to God, a Steeleye Span folk-rock CD. Who even let me out of the house as a teenager?
Of course, most teens do not have infinite disposable income. So the trick was to pad heavily with burned CDs. You really wanted friends and/or siblings with lots of CDs who were willing to copy them for you. Even better was somebody who fearlessly used an illegal file-sharing site. (I knew at least one such person and remember him confidently asserting that it was fine as long as it was for your personal use and you weren’t selling the CDs you burned. Teenage boys are, of course, noted copyright scholars.) Best of all was somebody with actual taste who could burn you legitimately good mixes full of, I don’t know, Radiohead or whatever. Look—the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack is really good.
So: Do teens still drive around with binders full of CDs? Do they just plug in their phones? Do they listen to the radio? Are tape cassettes so cool now that teens drive around with a bunch of them rattling together in the bottom of the front seat? Are CDs now cool again, so they’re all running around with the CDs that my generation donated to Goodwill in the last three years? Please, enlighten me.