Thursday, January 24, 2008

Love is a Mix Tape

For Christmas Mark gave me Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. I finally picked it up this week and I'm loving it. While grabbing a Diet Coke from Elsi's and sifting through the Chronicle, I saw that he's coming to Book People on Sunday to sign copies. I'm not sure if we'll be able to go, but I got tickled at the timing.

For some reason I'm having a hard time grasping the concept of Mix CD. It doesn't make sense to me. I still struggle with "burning" CDs and putting together mixes in iTunes. I'm not a technically savvy person. That said, I loved making mix tapes. That's my generation. Even back in elementary school when I'd sit at the tape deck and wait for the deejay to play the song I requested so I could press record and capture it on cassette. It was such a painful process, but once I had it recorded, I'd listen to it over and over again. Songs included things like Walk Like an Egyptian, The Reflex, We Got the Beat, Papa Don't Preach, Alive and Kicking, Who Can it Be Now?, The Sun Always Shines on TV ...

In high school and college, we graduated to some pretty stellar mix tapes. Everything from Crowded House, Big Star, Suzanne Vega, The Ramones, Pavement, Blake Babies, The Clash, REM, Billy Childish ... and we'd even sprinkle in some James Taylor, Ella Fitzgerald or even god forbid, Broadway tunes ... Take note, I was really into theater in high school. But it never hurt to toss in something like At the End of the Day from Les Mis.

First off, making a mix tape usually took several hours, sometimes half a day. It was a process. You'd collect all of the CDs or tapes that had potential song choices and pile them on the floor by the stereo. You always knew which song would start it all off. That was the simple part. It was a kick ass song, usually fast and upbeat, the kind you scream out loud in your car. From there you'd have to test certain songs against each other before you made that permanent decision to record. Does this slow song play well after that hip hop one? And then the really painful part was when you got to the end of each side of the tape. You're wondering if that one last song was going to fit or would it get cut off. It's a tricky timing thing. If it got cut off, poop. But if it fit, gold. Once you finished the actual recording, you'd move on to the layout and decoration of the cover. And then write down all of the songs and bands. And you only got one shot at both of those. If you misspelled a song title and had to scratch it out, it just sucked.

There are two mixed tapes that were given to me ... one from Clare in high school and one from Tom in college that were my all time favorites. They played over and over again in the tape decks of my two Toyota Tercels. Clare's was neatly colored and collaged with magazine cut outs and had songs on it like, Groove is in the Heart and Left of Center. Tom just scribbled in his chicken scratch the songs and artists ... Alex Chilton, Rock N Roll High School ... I loved those tapes. I wish I still had them somewhere. I wish I had all of them. They really do define so much about that time and who we were.

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