Her mix tape’s a masterpiece

October 29th, 2007

To make a great mix tape is an art, I think. To make the perfect mix tape is almost impossible and it’s something I’ve tortured myself with fairly regularly in the past. And wait – do people still call them mix tapes? Mix CDs. Regardless of the technology holding it all together I think the basic premise remains the same. Mix tapes are hard, man.

This is particularly true if you’re making it for someone you’re trying to impress. Factor in a recipient with some music savvy and really, it’s one of the hardest things you can do. And it’s not just about what tracks you put on there. You’ve got to get the overall feel of the CD right, and, MOST importantly, the track order. This is so so important. There are usually 2 or 3 songs on there you REALLY want the recipient to listen to, and without putting great big red flags on the track listing at the back, you have to resort to making sure the tracks are stacked so that each of these super important songs gets their big moment. It’s a delicate balance.

I think the first mix tape I made was a compilation of stuff I pieced together from listening to and recording the top 40 broadcast from our local AM station in Wagga, 2WG. On Sunday afternoons they’d feed in to this national top 40 chart, and I’d hit record for every song I liked the sound of. I remember getting probably too exasperated when the tape ran out half way through a particularly awesome song (like, for instance, I Want You Back by Bananarama), or the DJ had the audacity to speak over the intro or outro of a song. I made me nuts.

Then there was the radio shows my friend Skye and I used to make – taped music from the radio interspersed with our running commentary about the music and/or our snappy 11 year old repartee. Part of me is a little sad those tapes are lost forever. Part of me, though, is more than a bit relieved. I have a feeling listening to any of that stuff would result in instant mortification.

The first mix tape I made for someone else was actually FOR Skye. I remember at the time she was completely in love with Feargal Sharkey (which included making up dance moves to all his happening tracks), and this was something I was utterly mortified by. So I made her a mix tape because I of course assumed my taste was so much better than hers and she needed hard and fast education before her brain rotted away. I wish I could remember exactly what was on it, but I’m certain it included some Bananarama, and I’m almost sure it had some Def Leppard too. Yikes.

Of course all this top 40 nonsense changed when A) I started seriously listening to the vinyl lying around the house and B) Triple J came to town. Because that right there was a revelation.

I’m making a Mountain Goats mix CD right now. I’m sure to the whole wide world this is not at all surprising. I have one person in mind with it, but I reckon it will end up going to more than one person. It will definitely go to Tara, because I’m trying to encourage her new found obsession with The Sunset Tree. Persistence pays off, kids. Choosing the tracks was hard, but now I have to find a way to balance the lofi and the studio stuff. To result in the best overall listening experience I mean. It’s a little tricky.

I’ve received a lot of mix tapes and what not in the past, but recently they’ve taken a new face. I’ve found myself a boy that makes them for me on a regular basis, and I gotta say, it’s all kinds of wonderful. Mix CDs have become not only a way for me to get to know someone, and to feel like they’re thinking about me, but also a way of finding new music. And honestly for a person like me, the gift of new music is one of the best ones you can give. I just love it. Making something for him though was a particularly intimidating experience. Still, I managed.

I’m also thinking about a mix CD for the sister moving to another city. Her big step out into the world. Master of her own destiny and alla that. I have a lot of songs that will fit a feeling like that, and I can think of no one else I’d rather share them with.

I also love to hand make the cover art. But that’s just nerdy arty me.

I was struggling a bit with the idea that the mix tape or mix CD thing was being lost in amongst all the technology. But then talk today of making iPod play lists that run about an hour long to play on road trips to both Canberra and Melbourne have me excited again. I guess it’s the way of the future.


2 Responses to “Her mix tape’s a masterpiece”

  1. wayne on October 30, 2007 6:44 am

    I have already made 2 iTunes playlists!

  2. Karen on October 30, 2007 2:12 pm

    Yikes, you’re a ways ahead of me!! I need to get on that.

    I promise no Killers tracks ;) Can’t promise no Bananarama though.

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