The art of the mix tape has been discussed in so many different places for so many years that it almost feels futile to spend an entire post writing my philosophies on the mix tape. Almost.
I spent a good portion of my high school career making mix tapes. Mix tapes weren't just for love interests; they were for friends, for relatives, and most often, for myself.
Mixes have changed the way I hear songs. I anticipate the order of songs now; or a skip in "The World Is Turning On" by the Pooh Sticks, all because of a mix. I associate The Swirlies with a black-and-white picture of a man bending over to get something out of the trunk of a car, because it was on the cover of a Swirlies cassette that someone once made for me. I spent hours on my own covers, finding the perfect page in a magazine to manipulate with scissors and glue.
There were so many mixes. Road trip mixes. Mixes for art class. Mixes for prom dates and birthdays. Mixes for play rehearsal. A mix called "A Mix To End All Mixes." I even once borrowed a mix tape from a girl named Beth, a tape made for her by Ryan, and used some of the songs on that mix tape to make other mix tapes. It got complicated.
Even once I thought I'd made all the mixes there were to make, I got creative. I started incorporating skits from my dad's old Firesign Theater records and clips from Charlie Brown cassettes between songs by The First Edition and Echo & The Bunnymen, or Neil Young and The Farm.
Selection was key. Nick Hornby characters have already devoted pages to this topic, so I won't go into it more than to say that picking the tracks that opened both Side A and Side B was crucial; as was finding a song you could squeeze in at the end (how heartbreaking was that "click," the sound of the tape shutting off before the song had finished?).
I thought I'd be making people mix tapes for the rest of my life.
Now, it's all changed. It's been years since I've made a mix tape. I've made mix CDs, sure, but that's a different breed. The same amount of dedication isn't necessary when making a mix CD. It's flippant. Whimsical. With a mix tape, once you included a song, there was no going back. I poured my heart into the effort, and so a piece of my heart was in each of those mix tapes.
So, this Valentine's Day, I've decided to make a Valentine's Mix for Mix Tapes:
(If that doesn't work, click here: Mix Tape, Will You Be My Valentine?. It's technically not a mix tape, rather, 50 songs in no particular order, with no Side B in sight, but it's the closest I could get on the internet.)
I hope the Mix Tape likes it enough that he'll make me a mix tape...
(Incidentally, the next book in my queue is Rob Sheffield's love is a mix tape, which takes this topic to a whole new level.)