I was having a discussion last night with a friend from back home, and we were talking about the mixed tape. I don’t want to boast, but I was a mixed tape master back in the days when cassette tapes were the norm and a car CD player cost about as much as a second hand Hyundai does today. I miss the mixed tape.
Most of the tapes I made were for myself, only one girl ever received a mixed tape from me, and funnily enough, I had and still haven’t, met her. I was supposed to but chickened out when I was in the UK and we had arranged to meet (this was in 2000). Life is weird and all things happen for a reason I suppose. Anyways, back to the mixed tape.
As I said, most were made for my enjoyment. When my football team had tournaments away from home it would be my job to create the tapes to listen to when we were driving excessive distances. While my friends would enjoy the music as well, these tapes were solely for me. And the thought of making one for a guy was totally taboo. I liken it to the scene in Pulp Fiction when John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson are talking about foot massages and when asked if he’d ever given a man a foot massage, Jackson simply states, “fuck you.” While the foot massage might not be sexual, there is something sensual and intimate about it and a guy would not give one to another guy. The mixed tape isn’t sexual by nature, but the songs that I would put on mine are personal and therefore intimate. I don’t need to share that with other guys.
As the years rolled on and technology improved, the mixed tape would be replaced by the rewritable compact disc. The two mediums share the same purpose, but are completely different. The mixed tape reeks of romance. An old school format that required precision to ensure the sound quality was the best. If you were one of the brave and daring who waited patiently with your hand on the record button listening to your favorite radio station in hope that you would press the button as soon as the first notes of your song came on and before the DJ talked at the end of your song I salute you. Many an obscure song has been ruined by the DJ’s voice singing along, or express some dimwitted response to a question posed by the song he is playing. It was frustrating and annoying, and the ultimate gift to give someone you cared about. What better way to show her your heart, in my case, than to offer up a mixed tape, created with passion and energy and time, loaded with songs that make you think of your past, your future, and of course her?
With the arrival of Compact Discs the mixed tape became a relic, a distant reminder to snotty nosed kids everywhere just how barbaric their older siblings and parents had it. The sound quality, the life span, and the fact that your tape deck wouldn’t eat the non-existent ribbon on your CDs ensured a better format for recording music. Technological advances made burning music onto a CD as easy as the girl we used to call “the bicycle.” You know it’s easy when there is the exact same amount of seconds between songs on a CD. The mixed tape, cruelly constructed with human devotion and error, would often lead pockets of white noise that would annoy and humiliate. But it was a wonderful annoyance brought about by someone caring to do something so time consuming and error prone. Ah, the good old days.
Now, you don’t even need the original CD the song was included on either. Why bother “burning” music from your CD onto your computer and then on to another CD when you can go to a music sharing site, a site where you can purchase individual songs, and just download those onto your system? Find the 80 minutes worth of music that you want, arrange them in the order that you want, re-arrange them if you want by dragging and dropping, and press “burn.” Within in minutes, your CD is ready. And if by chance you have included too much music, more than 80 minutes worth, your system will tell you. The days when you’d be listening to side 2 of your mixed tape and the final song stops half way through as the tape runs out are long over. This is now a science – a sweet calculated science that renders the user some God-like attributes.
I have made mixed CDs as well. I have made many of them actually. My football team threw an 80s themed party and I was responsible for providing the music for it. I created 9 CDs, some 13 hours or so worth of 80s music. The task was made difficult by saying we could only have one song per artist, but once the songs were found and decided upon, the creating of the CDs was easy. I had to find ways to challenge myself so I could stay awake during the process. Hey, I’m committed.
I have given friends and family mixed CDs as well. Somehow, they don’t feel as romantic and special as the mixed tape. Maybe I have an obscure way of looking at things. Maybe I just miss some of the sounds that I grew up with. Whatever the reason for my feelings, I shall continue making them and giving them away.
They will soon be nostalgic as well, by the way. The day will come when we’ll all be swapping iPods and our 2000 strong song lists. Wow, that would be embarrassing. I’m not even sure I like 2000 songs. I have the simplest most basic iPod on the market. It doesn’t have a menu screen, can’t hold video, and doesn’t plug into the car stereo. It holds 220 songs, or so, and I struggle to fill that at any given time. But, like the mixed tape, my micro iPod song list was created with love – have you ever tried to download a song on a dial-up connection in Saudi Arabia? I was not downloading crap I can assure you.
And if anyone wants to know what is on my iPod these days, just ask. Music created with this much care should be shared – even if you are a guy! I might not be able to bring back the mixed tape, but it is good to know that some of us still value the romance that was borne from it. Mind you, I do own two iPod Shuffles and neither of which I can find. One didn’t even get the chance to store any of my sweet, sweet tunes on it.