In this age of digital music and immediate gratification, our children are missing out on the opportunity to create and share music with their friends on the most personal of levels. Sure, they can share a digital file in point two seconds and there’s a real benefit to that but a mix tape takes time, thought & dedication.
I think we can all remember lying on the floor of our room, WAITING for that song to come on the radio, fingers on the play and record button anticipating that fist note. Making every effort not to record the DJ intro. You had to get that clean recording (but you rarely did). Fun Fact: To this day I still hear the DJ saying “The Eaaaaaagle ninety three seven” every time I hear Stairway to Heaven. My own poorly edited mix tape is to thank for that. It could take hours for your song to come on the radio, but your mix wouldn’t be complete without it. You couldn’t continue with the playlist until that song was captured because there was no ability to shuffle it in the lineup later. You had carefully curated a list of songs in the exact order they were to be heard. Maybe you added in some songs from your own records, CDs or even other mix tapes and finally…your masterpiece was complete. You would meticulously write out each song title and artist on the sleeve of the case and possibly even a witty or cute note on the inside and prepare it to be delivered to the one person who you hoped would appreciate it.
There was real anticipation in finding out if your friend was into the music you suggested for them. Mix tape dedication was not reserved solely for the creator but also for the listener. After receiving a mix tape, you couldn’t skip to the next song if you didn’t like what you heard in the first few notes; you either had to listen through (and maybe find that the song is actually pretty great) or you had to fumble with the fast forward and rewind buttons until you got yourself to the starting point of the next song. And if you liked the tape?? If you listened to it ALL the time…inevitably the tape would come unraveled and you would find yourself sticking your pinky finger into those just-sharp-enough holes to try and wind it back up. Maybe you got over confident and started reeling it back too quickly only to find the tape curving over itself inside. I’ll admit, the malfunctioning tape was a downside but your need to fix it and your willingness to do so was evidence of its importance to you. A mix tape was deliberate. Music feels disposable now.
Today, most music streaming services allow the listener to create a playlist to be shared with friends. I was born in 1983 and have been on both sides of this. I’m not so blinded by nostalgia to miss the concept that streaming music and shared playlists are a nice alternative to the bygone era of the mix tape. These services allow access to an almost infinite library of music which far exceeds our exposure to music as kids. Life is about moving forward but I do hope that our kids are able to find a way to put the personality back in their music sharing. I know I will encourage my son and daughter to explore music through records (thank you hipsters for bringing these back to the masses!) so that they can have a tangible connection to music. Where they choose to go from there is up to them…
One of My Favorite Mix Tape Playlists Circa 1998:
Life in Mono – Mono
Soulshine – The Allman Brothers Band
Mother – Pink Floyd
Welcome to the Machine – Pink Floyd
On the Turning Away – Pink Floyd
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
Samba Pa’ Ti – Santana
Doin’ Time – Sublime
I Think I Love You – The Partridge Family
Today – Smashing Pumpkins
Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers Band
Burning of the Midnight Lamp – Jimi Hendrix
Roses from My Friends – Ben Harper
Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers Band
Blessed – Simon & Garfunkel
Gone Till November – Wyclef Jean
Redemption Song – Bob Marley & the Wailers
Scarlet Begonias – Grateful Dead
Layla – Derek & The Dominos
This mix tape was given to me by a good friend a long time ago and I still thank her for enlightening me with this music that helped form my taste for impressive guitar solos, raspy singer/song writers and a good beat.
-Nicole Campana for Peake Management, Inc.