I love mix tapes, or should I say: I loved mix tapes. Thanks to mp3s and CDs they’re virtually non-existent and that makes me sad. It’s difficult to accept that I was part of the last generation to grow up with tapes. When I was a kid (am I getting that old?) CD burners were a luxury; it was way before every desktop and laptop came with one. I made tapes out of necessity, but I’m glad I had that experience.
Burning a mix CD or making a playlist on GrooveShark is easy. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s lazy. Do a couple of searches, make a couple of mouse clicks and you’re done. There’s nothing to it. But that wasn’t the case with a mix tape. You had to gather all of your CDs and tapes and sort through them to find exactly what you needed.
Then you had to rig up your tape deck, boombox or whatever you were using. After that, you actually had to sit there with one finger on the record button and one finger on the stop button to make sure you didn’t cut off the end of a song or go into the next one. You couldn’t click “burn playlist to disk” and go make a microwave burrito. It took dedication.
Oh yeah, and you actually had know how many minutes you had on each side of the tape and how many minutes each song was. Only a chump would let the side end during the middle of a song. But that wasn’t all, no sir.
After you successfully recorded your mix there was the matter of box art, which was a necessity. What was this mix for? Cruising? Skateboarding? Barbecuing? Just plain ole’ rocking out? The songs certainly had to reflect the tape’s use, but so did the box. And if you wanted to get really fancy, you could spray-paint the cassette to add extra flair.
And was there any better way to show your crush how you felt? According to any 80’s movie ever, no.
In short, making a mix tape was an art. Here’s my tribute to the lost medium (partly inspired by Calvin and Hobbes’ Ode to a Tiger): Ode to The Mix Tape
Oh, cassette tape
Dull, and square in shape
Not shiny and round like a CD
Yet so much more personality
Two miniature spools
Perfect for mix-making fools
Spending all afternoon long
Searching for that song
The sound of ‘click clack’
The rush of finding the perfect track
A raw finger from holding record
You’re perfect for playing in my beat up Ford
Constantly having to push stop and start
That’s why you have much more heart
How I love to reminisce
About that pure audio bliss
Knock on wood
That you’re not gone for good