If you haven't made mix tapes you either don't love music, aren't at all romantic, or both. Dawn and I bonded spiritually, aesthetically and otherwise when I made mix tapes for her.
I was the DJ, the music writer, the one with the 20,000 record collection (well, maybe 12,000 seven years ago), and it was my role to share the fruits of my recorded soul with her. This was only fitting for me to woo her in this way since she wooed me in other ways.
I have made many a platonic mix tape over the years as well, seeking not romantic love but to share the fruits of my sonic wanderings. In a sense, since I program it myself, my radio show is a mix tape of the air: although, even unintentionally, other considerations come to bear on radio that don't apply to the pure tape.
Hank Stuever, in a thoughtful and wistful rumination in the WaPo, discusses mix tapes and the verging on extinction cassette tape in general:
- Ones and zeroes sound better than oxide-coated polyester or vinyl. Everyone accepts this, driven to fits of pleasure by iPods, and wonders why a few of us can't: the kid in Best Buy who shrugs when you ask if there are any Sony Walkman cassette players left besides the two models on display; the car salesman who is pretty sure you can't get a cassette deck as standard equipment in any of the models on the lot; and the record industry, which saw the cassette format slip to below 4 percent of total music sales last year (from a mid-1980s high of 66 percent) and has decided to let it quietly hiss into history.
....The end, on some strange and intellectually picky level, of the crucial dialectic between Side A and Side B, and the idea that songs talk to one another and take you someplace.
Is the death of the cassette as sweetly sad as the death, years ago, of the vinyl record?
No, the professor sighs. Well, maybe yes. "It's a mixed romance," Jaczko says. "From a fidelity standpoint, I'll be happy to see cassettes go. I never felt the way about tapes that I did about my albums — the sound, the beautiful art on the cover. Tapes never had that romance, but . . . we do lose something with the romance of making someone a mix tape.
"My wife," he says, "is the queen of the mix tapes."
He used to make them so carefully for her, when they were falling in love.
The whole, fraught, goosebumpy methodology of it. The ego involved. Releasing the "pause" button so precisely to start recording. Rewinding and re-recording over awkward and unintended song choices and segues, the way a lover stammers to articulate his emotions. "Fitting the songs just right so they would fill up each side," he says. "The songs titles lovingly handwritten on the inside of the case. I find old mix tapes in drawers now, and they're like a personal record, like finding an old letter."