Ghosts of CDs Past

In the early 2000s, CDs were on their way out. MP3 players had been around for a few years, and Apple had just launched its first iPod… And yet, I still had a fondness for burning CDs, especially for my parents and other family, because they weren’t into the MP3 thing at all. So every Christmas I’d make some mix CDs for them, and they made for great personalized gifts.

When 2004 rolled around, I got the idea to make some special year-end CDs for my friends here in Seattle (plus a few friends back home). By then everyone had an iPod or something that played MP3s, but I figured they still might appreciate an “old fashioned” CD that they could rip to MP3 or just play in the car. I listen to a wide variety of music, some of it pretty strange, and I figured this would be a fun way to share that stuff along with some more “normal” tunes.

I wanted to make these CDs kinda special, though, with custom artwork and disc labels… So I bought myself some printable CD labels, a label “stomper”, and a bunch of empty CD jewel cases. Then it was time to get to work!

The best part of making these (besides picking the songs) was designing the artwork. It gave me an excuse to fire up Photoshop and be as ridiculous as I wanted. Each one ended up having a theme, though it didn’t always emerge until I had racked my brains for a while. So here’s all the artwork that came out of those little projects. They’re completely ridiculous and I’m pretty proud of ’em!


2004: It Came From The Trailer Park

I wanted to create a funny cover but I couldn’t come up with any good ideas…so I picked a couple of pictures of myself from Halloween and went from there. Yes, I dressed as a redneck that year. I probably wouldn’t do this outfit today, but at the time it was a hoot — I think I was still feeling ornery from having escaped Arizona a few years earlier. My friend Jim and I spent the evening making the rounds at various Seattle gay bars and it was one of the best times I’ve ever had on Halloween! Anyway, here are the resulting CD covers and label.

Front cover
Back cover / track listing
CD label

2005: No Mercy! Holy Dance Hits

Feat. DJ Masta Hay-Sooz & DJ Sista Critta

This cover was a lot of fun to make! I took one of our Halloween photos and dressed it up using a classic painting of Jesus and Mary, and added a few of my own twisted touches.  Then, to keep with the emerging religious theme, I found a scanned page from the Gutenberg Bible to use as a backdrop for the track listing.  A couple of coffee mug stains Photoshopped in, and it was good to go!  The label was the final touch, using elements from the cover and a couple of extra goodies.

As the cover idea began to form, I found myself sprinkling fun little religion-themed tracks into the mix.  The last track is by far the worst Madonna cover I’ve heard…well, ever.  Here it is, for your “enjoyment”…

Front cover
Back cover / track listing
CD label

2006: Songs of Rodentia

Vermin Voices from the Pacific Northwest

Since we didn’t do anything for Halloween that year, I was hard-pressed to come up with something for this year’s cover.  Because I love squirrels and they were on the last two covers, I purchased some stock photos and started tinkering. Suddenly, a squirrelly theme was born!

Front cover
Back cover / track listing
CD label

2007: Paradise Lust

Soundtrack to the hit movie based on the bestselling novelization of the highly-rated T.V. miniseries adapted from the legendary adult film

This cover was a hoot to design! I had some stock photo credits to use up, so I bought a couple of pictures of some beefy model and grafted our heads onto it.  Oh, who am I kidding?  We both just whipped our shirts off and posed.  Why be modest?

Front cover
Back cover / track listing
CD label

And there you have it! I didn’t do any more CDs after this, as I figured people might be tired of having to rip the songs they liked (if any) to MP3. My father-in-law always reminds me how much he enjoyed getting these, so that’s good to hear.

I do miss making these every year and mailing them out, even though it was a lot of work. To people of a certain age, there’s something about physical media that’s still appealing compared to the cold, digital MP3 — or the even colder streaming album — even though you need a “old school” machine to play it. But that’s a topic for another post!

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