Saturday, December 26, 2009
Cause you made me the best mixtape I had
"To me, making a tape is like writing a letter — there's a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You've got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with "Got to Get You Off My Mind", but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you've got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can't have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can't have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you've done the whole thing in pairs and...oh, there are loads of rules."
- Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
Somewhere in the back of my memory, I remember sitting in front of my radio circa the summer of 2000, waiting for the perfect song to come across the airwaves so I could hurry to press Record. The first few seconds of the song were always cut off, or sometimes I got the DJ talking at the beginning or the end of the song.
I realize now that this made each recording of this song perfectly unique. It would never be heard the same way each time. And there is something very romantic about that. Each song is a time capsule of sorts that would never be the same before or since.
I've had friends make me mix CDs but somehow they lack the painstaking effort of mix tapes. All that's required now to make such a compliation is the dragging and dropping of MP3 files into a playlist on Itunes. But, oh the mixtape. You had to sit and listen to each song, playing record and stop at the precise beginnings and endings of each song. There was more agony, more waiting - will they ever play my song on the radio? - and more heart.
Sadly, I came of age during the end of the mix tape era. Now there are no cassettes sold in stores and new cars don't come with cassette players. And as a medium, cassettes are impractical - they crack, the tape gets tangled, they're easy to record over. But their transience is what is sacred about them. Just like a lost love or a forgotten friend, it is too easy to let the music of the past slip through our fingers. But for our sake, we should hold on and press record one more time.
I'd recommend checking out the web site http://www.cassettefrommyex.com/ or their awesome book "Cassette From My Ex: Stories & Soundtracks From Lost Loves" edited by Jason Bitner (2009).