Mix Tapes

We have been on vacation this week, which has been hectic, but at the same time, soothing. It’s allowed my mind to wander at the strangest times – and I have remembered things I have not thought about in forever.

Like mix tapes.

Did you make them all the time like I did?

Have you read Rob Sheffield’s book?

Love Is A Mix Tape was so much aligned with how I think, and thought, for so many years. Although I almost hate to tell you to read the book, since parts if it were utterly melancholy, but it really is – so, so good.

I feel melancholy when I think about all the mix tapes I made, mostly because I have nothing to play them on anymore.

There were a few people in my life with whom I built whole relationships around our mix tapes.

I am mostly thinking of my friend Kim, who I worked with at the record store when I was 16. I think we had a year or two together before she went off to college in New York, but then there were times of writing long letters and making mix tapes to share whatever we were listening to.

It almost seems like a lost art now, considering about what song goes before the next, and how to make it all fit on each side of a tape. People often said mine started out fast and ended slower, only to speed up again when you flipped the cassette over.

Kim had very lovely, loopy cursive handwriting and a proclivity for ballpoints. Personally, I almost always wrote out my mix tape covers with thin Sharpies – another oddity that has been lost in the digital age… Fitting all the songs on the tape, and then fitting all the names of the songs on the insert.

I think I gained my love of British bands from Kim. There was some indie station that beamed in to her college from across the ocean, and I found out about bands like Sisters of Mercy and Belouis Some so long before my friends.

And mix tapes never had the whole album, right? We always got the best songs, from the most interesting artists.

Kim and I sent tapes back and forth for years, well into my own college era – but somehow fell off right before I graduated. I have no idea where she is, and honestly, I have been staring at the keyboard for  a full 10 minutes – trying to remember her last name.

But I can picture her handwriting as if I was holding one of her tapes in my hand. And I could name probably 25 bands I discovered because of her.

Many of whom I still listen to today.


This article has 12 comments

  1. zenrain

    I still have mix tapes I just can’t bear to part with for sentimental reasons…….and if I could get the VW running long enough, I can listen to them in it!

  2. Sizzle

    I definitely had entire relationships defined by the sharing of mixed tapes. I have kept many even though I no longer have a cassette player. I miss the good old days.

  3. jennyonthespot

    I clicked over thinking I’d find a song list and found a touching story… love this… And bummed I wasn’t able to make a connection happen while you were in our area. However, I will see you in just a few weeks… xoxox

  4. melissa

    I loved making mix tapes, I still have one my husband made me when we were in high school. Trying to recreate it on a CD just wasn’t the same.

  5. Lisa

    And how when you hear a song on the radio you expect to hear the next song on your mix tape after it…..

  6. Mayberry

    I can still play cassettes in my car! During college, a friend made a great mix tape and gave it to a bunch of us. Many years later, he recreated it on CD and gave it out again. It was SUCH a great gift!

  7. chlo

    Now people romantically make play lists…..I still have my husbands cd he made me when we were dating:)

  8. J at www.jellyjules.com

    All I can say is that I’m glad neither you nor she knew my husband back then. He would have fallen in love with you and your musical tastes! (Then again, we we were young when we fell in love, and I think you’re several years younger than we are, so perhaps I’m safe…)

    I still have some tapes my husband made for me back then. It’s different than play lists. Play lists are so easily deleted, but tapes and CDs sit in a box in the closet and last for decades.

  9. Dr. Pants

    I was just thinking about mix tapes today. I almost want to start making them again, since I have a cassette player in my car. I want to put the care into the compilation process that I did then. Playlists seem cheap and undeserving of my time and energy. I don’t know. But I was a master. It’s no coincidence that my radio show was called Mixtape Jones. Because I was that guy. And I so want to be again. I want that mode of sharing music back..I want sharing music to be something real, tactile, and special. Hmph. I sound like an old man. *sigh*

  10. monstergirlee

    Back when I was about 22 or 23, I worked in a restaurant and there was this dishwasher/prep cook who would always talk to me and help me at closing time and give me extra food and stuff. And one year at Christmas we all did a secret santa gift exchange, and he got my name.
    He gave me like 4 things that were small but very personal from talks we had had. Including a lovingly created mix tape that was to die for. I literally wore it out playing it over and over. I kept it for years even when it didn’t work, just to look at the tape cover he’d made.
    I didn’t realize it until years later, that he must have been totally in love with me. Sigh. He was a good guy tho. And mix tapes, what a wonderful thing they were.

    btw – we have two small tape player/radios in our house for tapes. I have some music only on tape. Can’t bear to part with it. blah blah blah sorry to blather on.

  11. Kim @ This Belle Rocks

    I love the art of the mix tape, even though I didn’t really make them myself (my thing was always buying a favorite band’s vinyl album and recording THAT onto a tape, so that I had both the full size art and a cassette).

    I still have my Greeblemix CD you sent me a few years ago, and am so ashamed that I never returned the favor. Maybe I can get around to that soon, but you are probably light-years ahead of me when it comes to new music.

    I am considering sharing playlists on my blog more often, though, and participate in as many music memes as I can because I still love coming across something I’ve never heard of that I must not live without from that point forward. I know a lot of people may not get that, but to me, that’s such an amazing thing.

    So…..are you actually attending all the concerts on your calendar? I was thinking of doing something similar, but I don’t know how to do widgets like that 🙁

  12. Aimee Giese

    @Kim, I do *NOT* attend all those concerts. I add ones that I think like minded people would want to see here in Denver. I do see a lot of them though – ha). It is simply a google calendar!

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