Mix-tapes used to be an art. I’ve still got most of the CD’s and tapes that people have made me over the years in a box at home. I can’t play half of them, CD’s have been scratched and tapes have tangled but the track-listing’s are still legible enough to remind me of the memories of first listens and last listens.
Good ones stand out, whether from art work, secret tracks or strong themes. Bad ones are never all bad, they may be disorganized or scrappily made but there’s nearly always a gem hidden away somewhere. I have friends who’s mixtapes I await with constant anticipation. Birthdays mean a flood of new music. Rare days off mean having time to meander though music thinking of what would be the perfect opener.
Ok so I realize that the days of crouching beside a tape deck and recording the week’s Top 40 have gone but surely people can do better than a file share? Mixtapes didn’t just used to be about handing over some new songs to a friend, it was the whole thing all together, the songs flowing together, the creation of a cover. Mixtapes can be the start of a love affair with a new genre of music, I credit my entire love for reggae to a mix CD made for me by a friend on our respective years abroad. My entire musical perspective was totally thrown by 3 mixtapes dropped off at a restaurant I used to work in by an anonymous benefactor.
What I’m mourning is the fact that in the 8 years between me and my baby brother something has got lost. Technology means that instead of recording onto tapes he makes mixes on Spotify and shares them with friends. Actually he probably uses some other fancy electronic site that I am unaware even exists. Now I realise that some people reading this will be all up in my grill going “What’s the difference between an online playlist and a CD? Get with the times.”. That’s because they’re probably 14 or lazy, I’m sorry no matter what anyone says I don’t know anyone who would rather receive a link to a Spotify playlist over a personal CD in a hand made case with home-made artwork.
Yes maybe it’s a little more work, yes maybe you need to think about it more than just dragging some songs across a screen and yes it will take more time but surely that’s the whole point.
A mixtape is supposed to be a labour of love, not an after-thought.
Here are some songs I was given on mixtapes that pretty much changed my life. Put them on one of yours.