Mix it up [ 2007-04-22, 9:58 p.m. ]

Howdy. Feeling a bit better a couple days later now. Yesterday was me hibernating as I'm wont to do when I'm depressed. My kitchen was a complete and utter mess. Definitely a sign. Anyway, by the time 3am rolled around I had finally written the two articles for the 'zine. One was a preview article for Son Volt playing in May. It came out ok. Nothing special. But I did like how my opinion article on making mixed tapes came out. Enjoy.

I recently read Rob Sheffield’s memoir, “Love is a Mixed Tape”, which is about his love for music and his late wife. In the book he starts each chapter by recalling the details of a mixed tape and how the songs related to an event. Ah. Mixed Tapes. In the days before cd burners or iTunes, there was the Mixed Tape. It took some talent to really get the Mixed Tape just right. You had to know when to push record and play at the same time. And you had to know just how much time you had left on one side. It really was an art form.

I still have hundreds of cassettes cluttering up my place. They take up too much space and are much unorganized but I could never part with them. They not only have the songs but also the memories of riding in my non-air conditioned brown Chevette singing with all the windows rolled down. Some are just the regular store bought album tape but about half are homemade tapes, whether of one album on each side or the Mixed Tape. But I didn’t really start making the themed Mixed Tape until I was close to 20 years old. Until then, it was mainly a hodgepodge of my current likes (everything from Michael Jackson to the Clash).

There was one tape I entitled “WJLP: No Rick Astley!” which mainly seemed to feature Athens, GA bands like REM (of course), the Kilkenny Cats, the B-52’s and Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ (yes, I know they’re not really from Athens). This was my reaction to the torturous pop music of the time. With no internet, the only way to hear new music was either from MTV’s 120 Minutes show or by just buying albums without hearing them first. It was a crapshoot but usually resulted in good results.

Another tape was entitled “Through the Wilderness” for a friend who had just lost her virginity. Taking the line from “Like a Virgin”, I peppered the mix with songs from Sade (“Never as Good as the First Time”) and the Bangles (“If She Knew What She Wants”). It came out sounding very good. It’s one I can still listen to now.

There are, of course, the best mixes of all. Road mixes! They are the most fun to make and listen to. I would alternate between actual songs about cars (or just traveling) with songs about finding meaning in your life (traveling always being a great metaphor for introspection). That’s how Ministry (“Jesus Built My Hotrod”) got placed on the same mix with k.d. Lang (“Constant Craving”). Or how Reba McIntire (“Is There Life Out There”) begins one side and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult (“Sex on Wheelz”) ends the same side. What can I say? I have diverse tastes.

There is a fun website out there called The Art of the Mix (artofthemix.org) that I found several years ago. You can post your own title lists for your mixes, get inspired from other mixes and trade with other mixers. The site has been around for ten years now and it truly does inspire. I have a few mixes posted on there under the moniker Judois.

With iTunes and other music software, making mixes has never been easier. I make mixes all the time for family, friends, my boss or guys that I want to send a message to. It’s a challenge to get that right balance of segueing from fast song to slow song. Listening to the mix first before burning it is always a good idea. Don’t just throw songs together and think it will sound ok. Bad segueing can cause musical whiplash. Don’t do that to your loved ones!

I still miss cueing up albums or cassettes to just the right moment but alas, am too lazy to go back in time. Give me my iTunes ease any day for making mixes. Memories of stacks of albums surrounding me while I got a cramp in my leg from sitting on the floor are swell. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything but I do embrace the technology of being able to quickly make a mix, either for myself or a potential friend. Sharing my love of bands is like sharing a part of me. Wait. It isn’t like sharing, it really is sharing. Music is personal. Rob Sheffield is right. Love really is a mixed tape (or cd).

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