back in the day, for those of you that were born in the mid-seventies like me…that were on the tail end of 8-tracks, vinyl and in the infancy of cassettes and compact discs… remember fondly the genre of mix tapes.

making a mix tape took hours… especially if you were filling a 90 minute tape (45 minutes on each side). before you could begin, you had to have your music selection somewhat organized… which meant that every single thing you owned that had a song on it wound up on your bedroom floor. everything. all your music, along with borrowed stuff from friends and other mix tapes given to you were on that floor…save for a small walking path you made through everything to get in and out of your room. ah, memories…

once you had all your music together, you had to decide what type of mood you were trying to set… the overall theme of the tape… i can’t begin to tell you how many tapes i made for girls i thought i liked—filled with the most starch ridden, syrup covered, lovey-dovey tunes that i wouldn’t even think of listening to (mush less admit to owning) in civilian life. stuff like debbie gibson, wilson phillips and (gasp) richard marx were weapons in my hormone driven, wanting a girlfriend, adolescent existence…the tapes never worked…but making them kept my butt off the streets…in fact, i could go so far as to say making mix tapes kept me away from drugs…but i won’t. drugs kept me away from drugs… but that’s for another blogpost.

the golden age of frank mix tape making began when i got my driver’s license. my mother had this rusty 1985 red pontiac something… it was small and slow… but it had a tape deck and a set of great speakers… so when i was deemed responsible enough to drive on my own, i started making theme tapes to drive to. driving fast tapes, thinking tapes, depression tapes… you name it i made it.

around this time, late 80’s/early 90’s, i began to make the transition to compact discs. having music on cds was so cool because instead of fast forwarding/rewinding a tape to get to a song, all you had to do was punch the number in and press play. that’s when the soul began to fade…the tapes began to fluctuate in sound quality… you could always tell which songs were recorded from another cassette and those that came from a disc… the ones from the disc were ALWAYS louder… it would scare you sometimes… you’d be driving and listening, the volume know would be all the way up to hear a tape song— if you forgot that the next song was from a disc you’d be blown out. those were great times.

when i got to college and had to get a job, i would make tapes to listen to at work… i worked in a university library shelving books… so i was allowed to wear a walkman…it was probably the best job (aside from being a cartoonist) that i ever had… no one bothered me and there were never times of boredom— there was always a cart of books that needed to be returned. loved it. i had tapes i would listen to while in art class… tapes whose sole purpose was to inspire creativity… i had at least 25-35 cassette tapes… some were so good and so worn out that i had to make copies of them.

kids today don’t have this. i say that as my earbud headphones are feeding me a song from my 5000 song laptop library… if you wanted a song on a mix tape you had to go find it…there was bold-faced intent with each selection… now if i want to listen to something, i view by artist and click… if i don;t have it, i go to itunes… as opposed to raiding all your friends music stash, waiting for the music store to open or even still…calling a radio station, requesting your desired track, then sitting by the radio with your fingers on the record and play button ready to snag it… if you were lucky, the dj would be nice enough to not talk through the intro of the song.

today, we point, click, scroll, move and burn. a process that would once take an entire weekend now takes six to ten minutes.

i still have some of my tapes… but most of the cases have been crushed, lost, thrown away or just simply lost to time. hell, i don’t even own a tape player anymore… but i do have two ipods, a laptop and a desktop computer that have literally days of music on them…

my how times have changed. may you rest in peace mix tape… thanks for keeping me off drugs.

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4 Replies to “on the death of the art of mix tape making…”

  1. I still have the mix tape you made me. And as I recall, there was no Debbie Gibson on it. 🙂

  2. Well I am going to tell my age here… but I use to do that with reel to reel tapes! Also did it with the cassette tapes too, but I do go back as far as reel to reel. At least those tapes were easier to splice 😉

    I still have some of the reel to reel tapes that my dad made, but unfortunately the Bell & Howell recorder/player's have gotten missing that I could play them on.

  3. LOL Thanks for this, Frank! I needed the laugh! I DO still own many, many tapes although few are mixed, and my huge $300 (then) high school graduation gift boombox…

    It’s easier to listen to Sirius online though…

  4. i’ve thrown out most of my cassette tapes, but cant seem to part with my much beloved/worn mixed tapes. the ones we played during college parties; the ones we made out to ….

    those were the days! i loved the recent Bob ‘toon re tapes — it totally made my day : )

    – neko

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