The cassette I have spent hours perfecting slides into the top of my favorite Sony Walkman. I shut the case. The door pops open, faulty latch. I still love the damn thing. With my Sony Walkman and my cassettes I can escape for that hour or two from everything that is pissing me off. A lot of stuff pisses me off at that point in my life.
The opening sounds from a segment of Bruce Campbell’s Army of Darkness flows into my ears.
“Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up!”
Then the song, Ministry’s Breathe rips into my head. Like surfing down an avalanche. Perfect for my state of mind. Dodge or die. The music bangs smoothly from one industrial song to another. Transitions to non-industrial songs are accomplished with sound bites from movies.
Hours spent with piles of cassettes and mixing skills mastered to turn a blank cassette into a work of art. Sure everyone at that time was making mixed tapes, most of them compilations of songs pulled off of other cassettes in two-tape boom boxes or recorded from the radio with a boom box too close to the radio. Nothing worse to me than a song with radio blather on either end or that begins too quick or cut off for a commercial. Only the full song edited by me, at my choosing. Mixed tapes were shared with like minded individuals, usually to copy a song or to grab a sound bite.
My friends and I were very good at blending sound bites into mixed tapes. We got very good at having music that flowed from one song to another. Creating a mood or story over the entire length of a cassette-front and back. Great mixed tapes were a matter of pride. I remember spending two-hours with a boom box in front of my television’s speaker while I played around with the VCR. Hit play on the VCR. Hit record on the boom box. Time it right and perfect. Time it wrong and a fucking mess. Back the tape up. Back the VCR up. Do it again!
Songs were not chosen at random after the first dozen mixed tapes. A message, a theme, a story, or something that tied the songs had to be apparent. To do anything else was making what everyone else was made. The best mixed tapes were the ones that people asked to copy. Those were signs you were doing something right, hit that chord. The message of music and inspiration together in a tiny fragile cassette.
There were other shared experiences, anyone remember how to fix a cassette that a tape player ate? Number two pencil is the correct answer. Let me state now, there was only one tape I was not able to save with a number two pencil and some stretching.
What about now? I have an iPad, music sharing is…? Making a mixed anything, non-existent. I feel for people younger than me. There is a certain joy in sharing music in the format of a mixed tape. The songs you choose often said a lot about you and how you felt about the person you were sharing the tape with. Ever make a mixed tape for that girl or boy you liked? I bet you put a lot of thought into which “love” or “sex” songs you put on that tape and when you gave it to them, I bet your heart was racing. You weren’t handing them a cassette of songs, you were handing them a bit of you.