Mix Tape Memories

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115 Responses

  1. Burt Likko says:

    I made lots of mix tapes. Made them for friends, made them for girls I liked, made them for girlfriends. I even made a few for my parents. It was fun to make them, and much more of a project than burning a CD or putting together an iTunes songlist. You had to plot out exactly how much time each song was and think carefully about how the mood of one song’s finish would lead in to the mood of another song’s beginning, and plan to have two strong starts and two strong finishes, one for each side. It taught me how to listen to intros and outros.

    Come to think of it, “songs with really awesome intros” might make for a good music post here one day.Report

  2. Mike Schilling says:

    The best mix I ever made was a complete accident. I unknowingly recorded Abbey Road over a previously used tape, so as Her Majesty ended it was replaced by Handel’s Water Music (the bit that starts below at about 18:13.) I couldn’t have found anything so perfect no matter how hard I’d tried.


  3. Chris says:

    I remember one DM song from a mixtape (also from a girlfriend, though one I remember a bit better), but it was more obvious:


    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

      There is no way shape or form that this girl could legitmately could have been called my girlfriend.

      I was about 10 when Enjoy the Silence came out.Report

  4. Mike Schilling says:

    One that was planned was on the theme of working outdoors. These were the first three; I have no idea what followed.


  5. Damon says:

    I’ve made one or two mix tapes back in early high school. Frankly, by accident, one happed to be a kick ass tape. I got several compliments when I played it on my truck stereo.

    When I was in College, I had a room mate make me a tape. He was into “Progressive” or “Alt” or whatever. Later, he bitched that all I listened to was that tape…but it was assembled well:

    There were songs from The Cure, The Smiths, Pop Will Eat Itself, Dead Milkmen, The Other Ones, The Communards, etc.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Damon says:

      There were songs from …, Dead Milkmen, =

      Jumping Jesus on a Pogo Stick!Report

    • Glyph in reply to Damon says:

      “There were songs from The Cure, The Smiths, Pop Will Eat Itself, Dead Milkmen, The Other Ones, The Communards, etc.”

      You’ll dance to anything.Report

      • Damon in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph @James Hanley
        “You’ll dance to anything by any bunch of stupid Europeans who come over
        here with their big hairdoos bent on taking OUR money instead of giving
        your cash, where it belongs, to a decent American artist like myself!”

        I loved this because it incorporated two things I really find annoying: pretentiousness, which those types had a LOT of, and conformity. Trying to convince me that they were rebels WHO ALL LOOKED ALIKE was the funniest thing I’d ever seen at the time, but I enjoyed the music.

        Some chick even told me, “you don’t look/behave progressive, but you do have good taste in music.” Yah baby, I’M the non conformist you are trying hard to be. 🙂Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Glyph says:

        You can dance if you want to. You can leave your friends behind.Report

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever given or received a mixed tape, but I made a few of them in my high school and through my late 20s. I remember how exciting it was to learn I could actually tape something straight from my stereo. The main problem was that I’d usually not get the first part of the song because by the time I realized the radio was playing a song I liked, it had often gotten into the first few words. But I did like those tapes. After listening to any given tape after a while, it seemed to take on an aspect of its own, being a piece or set of songs that simply “went together.”

    Now I get most of my music from YouTube (that is, when I’m not listening to the radio). It’s cool because I can usually find exactly the song I want, even, with enough Google-fu, those long-lost songs I didn’t know the title or author or most of the lyrics of but that struck a memory for me. Still, there was something nice about the serendipity of mixed tapes.Report

  7. dhex says:

    i still make mixes now and then, though the format is digital. (to hell with the cassette resurrection)

    themes are important, either genre (ambient, breakcore, etc) or mood (the sounds of autumn, nihilism, 90s faux futurism) to hold everything together.Report

    • Chris in reply to dhex says:

      Wait, there’s a cassette resurrection? Why?Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Chris says:

        Hipsters. They like to play tapes so they can take them to artisanal rewinders.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I assumed it had something to do with wanting to walk around with a giant Walkman. I used to have one that looked a lot like this:


      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


        For the reasons Burt mentioned above.


      • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        The cassette revival is being secretly pushed by the desperate purveyors of another also-near-dead-yet-symbiotic product, pencil manufacturers (gotta re-spool that tape somehow!)

        I haven’t followed the cassette revival closely, but I imagine it fetishizes tapes’ fragility/ephemerability: they break, and stretch, and warp, and degrade fairly quickly – which may prompt reverential physical treatment, and also may prompt the listener to pay extra attention on each playthrough (since *these* specific sounds won’t be available forever); also, those same artifacts of wear and damage may produce distinct sonic (and therefore emotional) effects.

        Cassettes also have a nearly-perfect form/fit factor for the human hand (the only things that you can buy that feel as ‘right’, are cigarette packs – the original iPod was also roughly the same size/shape).Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I was the last person in my social circle to switch to CDs (around ’96), because I had a really large tape collection and I hated CD skipping in the car, but man, I have no desire whatsoever to go back.

        I actually still have a few dozen cassettes and a tape player, but I rarely break them out. I just don’t need to hear Pablo Honey that badly.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        You’re not really a creep?Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


        I had one of those as well!!


        I think a lot of hipsters do like tapes for the antiquarian factor. I have sympathies because I am a bit of an antiquarian at heart, just not for cassette tapes or vinyl but I do prefer browsing Ameoba music to Itunes or Youtube and bookstores to Amazon. A lot of hipsterism is about keeping various lost forms alive like typewritting and letter writing.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Oh no, I’m a creep. I just don’t like being reminded of that fact by York.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Chris says:

        If you’re a creep, what the hell are you doing here?Report

      • dhex in reply to Chris says:

        actually it’s about 75% cost, 25% weird collectibility. though i bet the cost is heading upwards.

        also some folk my age tend to talk about the sound and the hiss in terms of nostalgia, etc. i guess that’s better than being really into 8 tracks, but ugh. tape hiss. ugh.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        Let’s say that you want to cut out a picture of Morrissey and put his picture over your Student ID or Driver’s License? Bona Drag on cassette has a picture the perfect size! You’re not going to be able to do that with the CD.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        …they break, and stretch, and warp, and degrade fairly quickly…

        As well as all the peculiar frequency-response distortions that come from all of the different combinations of noise-reduction tech that could be used. Was it recorded with Dolby? Which Dolby? Chrome tapes played in non-chrome settings.

        There used to be — maybe still is — a music professor at one of the California universities that ran incoming freshmen through a listening “poll.” He would have them listen to the same song multiple times, with one version having the distortions introduced by vinyl, one the distortions introduced by cassettes, etc. Students chose which one they preferred, which invariably matched the type of recording tech they were used to. I remember seeing the story the first time the majority of the incoming class preferred the version with the nasty high-frequency distortions typical of low bit rate MP3s…Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


        Maybe hardcore music fans are just people with extra-sensitive auditory perception.

        I like music a lot but I tend to glaze over at all the geekery of which audio format is the best and why you need 10,000 dollar speakers. I don’t hear all the distortion differences that serious music fans claim to hear and I want a decent stereo system but it does not need to be top of the line for me.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        that probably just means your ears are good. Folks with hearing loss definitely pick up on frequency based attenuation. Makes it far harder to understand what people are saying.

        If you want to know why you should buy a good (~$500-$1000) stereo system, try playing Thief: The Dark Project with a 2 speaker setup. You’ll notice the difference.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris says:

        I was like Chris – held on to the tape format for a long time because I didn’t want to buy a bunch of CDs for albums I already owned. I can’t say that I liked the format much (all that rewinding and forwarding to hear a specific song) but I did like how sturdy they were in comparison to CDs.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        It’s an old joke… “Ordinary people listen to the music. Audiophiles listen to the noise.” I’m much more mellow now, but back in the day, if I wanted to irritate people with $10K speakers, I’d ask if I could see the measurements for how they had tuned the room. If you’re spending that much on home audio speakers, you’re buying such extreme accuracy of reproduction that the room acoustics become important.

        I admit to being a videophile, though. I worked on video compression algorithms for years, and have a tendency to “watch the noise” in digital video.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        you too? I’m working on some quick picture analysis right now… (finding matches between similar images), but a few years ago I was playing around with motion vectors (poaching code from x264).Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        Maybe hardcore music fans are just people with extra-sensitive auditory perception.

        Fans as compared to musicians. Musicians are notorious for having crap audio gear, but enormous collections of recordings. I know we have band members around here; speak up if you fit the stereotype :^)Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        I dunno about that. Certainly isn’t true in my experience.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Chris says:

        i guess that’s better than being really into 8 tracks, but ugh. tape hiss. ugh.

        Actually, new 8-track tapes were pretty good wrt to sound quality, at least compared to cassettes. The recorded tracks were wider and the tape ran twice as fast. The big issues were head alignment, consistent tape speed (essentially a friction drive), and the oxide would flake off from constantly grinding against itself. And of course, having four “sides” rather than two made for interesting track ordering at times.

        Yeah… aside from a half-dozen really serious deficits they were great… 😛Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        I was the IP advocate inside a couple of the giant phone and cable companies. I was doing real-time multi-party multi-media communications prototype demonstrations — now more than 20 years ago, where does the time go? — before it was “a thing.” I had to roll my own video for quite a while because encoding one stream and decoding two or three at 13-15 fps in software on a 50 MHz ‘486 box equipped with a one-bit-deep display is a serious challenge (yay, Moore’s Law). It’s surprising how much information you can pass with video that’s that bad (screen grab done some years later). Enough that it led to some psych research at the U of Oregon and Oregon State that showed that in a business setting, the video channel was almost never used for more than simple body-language signaling (I’m interested, I’m bored, I have something to say but am too polite to simply interrupt). 13 fps is an important threshold because that’s where you can tell if the audio is sync’ed with the video of a speaker — a feature that’s pretty much taken for granted today, but was disastrously bad in the early days of (even expensive) video conferencing.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        Did anyone bother to ascertain whether video-enabled conferencing was actually more effective than a simple telephone-conference?
        [We tend to mostly do telephone conferences, with optional “speaker has video”…]Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        There were situations where the video was useful — mostly for someone moderating the meeting, reading the body-language cues I mentioned. Ie, “George, do you have something to add?” when George is bouncing up and down because he does, but is too polite to interrupt. Or for someone whose smile doesn’t show up in their voice. I recall one test session where it was nice that everyone could see that Sue had her arm in a sling and was irritable because it hurt. For long-distance personal interactions — grandma and granddaughter chatting, say — video is a big deal.

        The real value-add medium was, IMO, the smart shared paper (talking business use again). Everyone could paste pieces of documents or screen grabs onto it, draw lines and boxes, move the pointer, type notes (you really needed a separate color for annotation to work), go back to a previous piece of paper, locally suppress annotations if they obscured something you needed to see, etc. Since there’s not all that much data, it was easy to just dump the packets into a file so you could replay later to check something. I’m still waiting for an affordable high-res stylus-based display-plus-touch device so that you could do, say, office hours for a calculus class on it where drawing/writing without the visual feedback loop that paper-and-pen provides is too painful to put up with.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        I’m certain the artists have good ways to draw, using styluses, and that they’re reasonably high-res (how high res do you need for Calc, anyway? Can’t be as high res as you need for drawing!). Ping a few webcomic artists, I’m sure they can point you in the right direction.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        “ugh. tape hiss. ugh.”

        [cues up 24-hour GbV and Clean playlist with which to drive @dhex mad]Report

      • Glyph in reply to Chris says:


        “themes are important, either genre (ambient, breakcore, etc) or mood (the sounds of autumn, nihilism, 90s faux futurism) to hold everything together.”

        I definitely do themes at times, but I can say that my best-received-by-others mixes are often (maybe even primarily) non-themed; after all, the defining trait of a “mix” is its variability and variety, its ability to juxtapose and surprise.

        Otherwise, it risks simply being another type of “album”.

        Plus, you can get so focused on the theme that you include tracks simply because they fit the theme, rather than select them on overall asskickingness.

        My tapes with a general theme of ‘asskickingness’ are the ones that I have been told that their recipients still play (people have requested that I digitally re-create some of them from long, long ago).Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        Graphics tablets, particularly the pressure sensitive ones, are a big step up from using a mouse. My daughter and I used a pair along with shared-window software to do calculus assistance sessions when she was away at college. Writing on one is definitely an acquired skill although, IMO, when separate from the display it never matches the visual feedback loop of putting the drawing tool on the image. If I were more of an artist, developing the skill would probably be time well invested because of the other advantages of digital media (simple example, erasing inked lines). For casual use for written text, not so much.

        If you insist on the visual feedback loop, things get pricy — at least a few hundred dollars. This bad boy will set you back almost $2,500.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris says:

        Those Wacom tablets are one of the coolest things ever. I wish the price would come down. SO FUN to play with.Report

  8. j r says:

    Early in our relationship, I made my wife a mix tape of some rap songs, which at the time I think she generally saw as low brow stuff full of boasts about b*tches and money and what not. A bit of Tribe, Black Star and Common put her on the road to becoming a legitimate fan of the music.

    What is funny is that, while it wasn’t all that long ago that I made that CD, it seems like a completely different era. I cannot imagine myself making a mix tape/CD now. And I don’t know how much of that is because I’m old and how much of it is just that people don’t do that anymore.Report

  9. Jaybird says:

    I tended to make mix tapes and introduce each song. I guess I was pretending to be a DJ. “Hey, when you listen to this, pay attention to the bass line. I mean, it’s not like you’d be able to ignore it… but everything plays off the bassist rather than playing off of the lead and that’s just awesome.”

    That sort of thing.

    Now kids are putting songs without introductions onto memory sticks.Report

    • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      “Gooooooooooood morning [Insert Person You have Crush On Here]!”Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      What about “Gloria”?

      Anyway, it’s ambiguous whether Lola is also glad or also a man.Report

      • No, it’s not.

        I know what I am and what I am is a man and so is Lola, Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo-Lola.

        She’s a man, baby.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Not quite right.

        Well I’m not the world’s most masculine man
        But I know what I am and
        I’m glad I’m a man
        And so is Lola

      • Distinction without a difference for this conversation. Either way, Lola is a man.

        Not that there’s anything wrong with that.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I hesitate to question Schilling when it’s the Kinks, but his lyrical note, though correctly transcribed for the song’s original version (“Coca Cola”), appears in the song’s later (“cherry cola”) version as “I know what I am *in the bed*, I’m a man, and so is Lola”.

        This would seem to clear up any ambiguity.

        It’s also my understanding the song is about Candy Darling, also famously of “Candy Says”.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        “Cherry cola” vs. “Coca cola” isn’t a different version of the song per se. The BBC objected to “Coca cola” as advertising, so there was a quick overdub done for radio broadcast.

        I’ve heard many versions of this over the years, and never once heard “in the bed” there.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Also, one thing about Ray Davies is that if he’s asked a question three times, he’ll give four different answers. [1] The story I recall is that it’s about the time he met a woman at an after-hours club and danced with her all night, until the light of the rising sun revealed the stubble on her not-recently-shaven face.

        1. Townshend and Lennon too, except that where Ray is telling entertaining but inconsistent stories, Pete is telling inconsistent but nonetheless heartfelt (at that moment) truths, and Lennon is just lying to fish with youReport

      • Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        @mike-schilling – Well, I’ll be damned.

        I could’ve sworn it was that way on the “cherry” one, but I busted out my headphones, and now I’m not too sure – it’s not *clearly* “bed”, but it’s not *clearly* “glad” either – at least one voice sounds like they are making a “b” sound, rather than a “g” sound, when we hit the word.

        Upon close review, I deem the word “bleahd”.

        It’s right at 3:00:

        The original, which sounds more clearly “g” to me:

        I wonder if it’s just a tiny recording or mastering artifact on the “cherry” version that led to my mondegreen, or if there was any intent at all there, since they were probably P.O.’d about having to do the re-record (or dub-in, or whatever)?

        I can certainly see someone involved saying, “OK, we’ll change ‘Coca-Cola’ for you, but while we’re in there messing about with it, we’re gonna get away with just a tiny thing more.”

        After all, we are getting to the “punchline” of the song that resolves the ambiguity of the preceding (not that it’s that ambiguous to US, what with the “Girls will be boys and boys will be girls” bit, and the fact that the narrator has to fall to the floor (get down on his knees!) – with his eyeline where, as “he looks at her and she at he”? – to come to his epiphany; I mean “ambiguity”, from the narrator’s point of view).

        Punchlines aren’t usually ambiguous, they generally clarify that one’s “conventional” interpretation of prior information is not the correct interpretation in this case. Which is why my mondegreen made perfect sense to me. There’s no more confusion, we are down to the blunt truth, and the truth has set the narrator free.Report

  10. Mike Dwyer says:

    In my youth our local radio station had a Top Nine at Nine thing they did every night which were the nine most requested songs of the day. I used to sit in my room with a blank cassette in the tape deck and my finger paused over the record button so I could grab the songs I wanted. Thankfully I still have a few of those tapes and every once in a while they are pretty funny to listen to just to see what kind of music I liked at any one point in time. There was a lot of metal around 1989.

    I make mix CDs for my wife and each of my daughter every year for Valentine’s Day. For my wife I usually just share a bunch of songs that I am into at the time and I think she might like. For the girls I try to educate them a bit by introducing them to music I think they should know about. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s a disaster. This past year I included several punk songs on my oldest daughter’s mix and she said she thought that overall the mix was kind of ‘soft’. Next year my goal is to see if I can make her ears bleed.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      “I make mix CDs for my wife”

      I may have mentioned this before but I do as well with my wife, and it’s a big hit with her and all her friends.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Glyph says:

        Since the mix CDs I do for my wife are little snapshots of the past year Shazam has become invaluable. It’s like a digital music diary for me that I can go back to as a reference many months later. I love it.Report

  11. Michael Cain says:

    When I was in graduate school in the 1970s, I had a reel-to-reel tape deck. The only “mix” tape I had was referred to by my housemates as “the math tape.” Thin tape and relatively slow tape speed meant I could start the tape and put the headphones on and not have to mess with it for six hours. I found out after the fact that one of my housemates was rescheduling my social life based on the tape. What I was told was typical for his side of phone conversations: “No, Mike can’t come to the phone now. He has the math tape on and is covering page after page of paper in funny symbols. No, you don’t want to have dinner with him tonight, he’ll just ignore you because he’ll be working the math problem in his head. Tomorrow should be fine, he’s only like this for a day at a time. I’ll leave him a note.”Report

    • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

      ROFL. I know someone who would work mindless, meaningless jobs while working on math problems in his head. (Later, he’d get paid for actually solving the math problems — far more than you make at a warehouse).Report

  12. Pinky says:

    I was always more of an album-listener. If I wanted a variety, I’d listen to the radio, but usually I wanted to really get into a mood. All four sides of a double live album, or a few artists with a complementary style. 8-tracks were the best: the same album over and over. (I didn’t do drugs, by the way. For some reason, every time I discuss my record collection or listening habits, that question comes up.)Report

  13. Will Truman says:

    Off-topic alert! Hey @kim or @mike-dwyer or anyone else who might know… can you identify this creature? He or she has decided to stake out the Himmelreich-Truman lands.Report

    • Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

      Groundhog. Shoot on sight before it undermines anything else. (ours have six foot deep holes in our hillside. the buggers are creative). If you can’t shoot, a good whack to just behind the head will kill it. They do know how to run fast, though.

      Do not allow pets to engage, groundhogs are pretty vicious.

      Alternative fixes include mothballs, if you really don’t care about your land. (I do not recommend).Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:


      Raises eyebrow.

      I jest but that is a rather unfortunate last name considering history.Report

    • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

      Yup, that’s a groundhog. They’re harmless.

      Ironically, I’ve seen dogs chase them up trees. A groundhog in a tree strikes me as pretty damn funny.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Will Truman says:


      I concur with Kim. That’s a fat groundhog and they are trouble.Here in KY groundhogs are probably the most hated creature by many farmers and they will shoot on sight. You can try to trap them but they are smart (and also kind of cute). If you decide to shoot him, you can do so safely with a good air rifle and a clean head shot. I’ve eaten groundhog once. The meat was pretty good and they are ‘clean eaters’. They just munch on vegetation like rabbits and squirrels. Raccoon? Blech. Garbage eaters.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Assuming everything goes through, we should be moving in a month or so. The landlord was notified, so it’ll be someone else’s problem.

        Talking to the neighbor, apparently a whole bunch of them lived in the house near us that burned down a couple months back, and they dispersed afterwards.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Moles are a lot worse IMO. At least groundhogs have the courtesy to usually stay in one place and they come out of the ground often enough that they give you the option of dispatching them if the relationship isn’t working out. Moles are much more stealthy and they really get around.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        One of my least favorite things to do in my childhood was collect the mole traps.Report

      • Mole traps? Why, when I was a lad visiting grandparents in a small Iowa town, you went down to the hardware store and bought a small amount of calcium carbide. Open a molehill, dump in the carbide, pour a quart of water in on top of it, close the hill back up. Carbide plus water yielded acetylene (plus some other nasty gases depending on the impurities) which would displace enough of the oxygen in the tunnel system to asphyxiate (or poison, depending on the impurities) the little bastards. Local kid mythology said that you could put a length of waterproof fuse in the tunnel with one end hanging out after you closed the hill, let the acetylene disperse for ten minutes or so, then light the fuse and get a WHOOMPF big enough to blow open all of the connected molehills; never tried that myself.

        It was amazing what a 10-year-old could buy in a small-town hardware store in what had been Iowa’s coal-mining area.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Our mole traps consisted of four long, very sharp spikes, and a spring loaded pressure plate. When plate was struck, the springs activated and shot those spikes into the ground with a remarkable amount of force.

        You put them in the ground over a mole track, and checked every couple days to see if they’d been sprung. I dreaded pulling them up every time, even though most of them were sprung without catching anything, because if those spikes struck mole, the results were not pretty.

        Ah look, here’s one:


      • Glyph in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Holey moley.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I’ve never had groundhog but I love chicken mole.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Will Truman says:

      At the other blog, I guessed “nutria.”Report

  14. dhex says:


    “I definitely do themes at times, but I can say that my best-received-by-others mixes are often (maybe even primarily) non-themed; after all, the defining trait of a “mix” is its variability and variety, its ability to juxtapose and surprise.”

    well, i dunno. mixes for others are really about putting together something that will please. i don’t think most folk really want surprise so much as flow; something pleasing to the ears. once you get deep into genre – or just darkness in general – it’s more about curation of selection and blending skill, i think.Report

    • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

      “mixes for others are really about putting together something that will please.” Agreed.

      “i don’t think most folk really want surprise so much as flow; something pleasing to the ears.”
      Semi-agreed, but here’s where we start to diverge (or at least, in my experience there are several ways to go wrong here).

      Too much surprise can indeed be bad – in that vein, I’ve found that most people I’ve made mixes for like to hear at least a few songs they are familiar with (or, that are at least somewhat similar to songs they are familiar with) mixed in.

      100% novelty can be overwhelming and even off-putting to the listener, so giving them a few familiar handholds, seems to help the rest of it go down easier.

      Basically, the best-received mixes I’ve made have been some percentage ‘edutainment’. Too much focus on flow/consistency often risks leading you to go too obscure (= too far to the ‘educational’ side) and you thereby risk losing many casual listeners (of course, curations primarily intended for hardcore music nerds, or for yourself, or for vocational/avocational use or documentation, represent a different audience. I’m talking here about your basic gift mixes for friends, girlfriends, family members – you want to pick stuff you think that they may like, not dump a bunch of homework on them. To that end, you want some “hits”.)

      I’m not saying that themes will *always* lead you astray, but in my experience they can often lead to showing off (or the perception of same), rather than tailoring the mix to achieve the maximum enjoyment of the intended recipient. You often end up with an artistic mix that YOU really like (“don’t you get it, man? It’s a PALINDROME mix!”*), but that they play once, then stick in a drawer.

      “once you get deep into genre – or just darkness in general – it’s more about curation of selection and blending skill”

      If you are getting ‘deep into genre, or darkness in general’ you are probably dealing with a hardcore music nerd audience or vocational/avocational use or documentation. So, yeah. At that point, flow and consistency should have the upper hand.

      * actual mix theme once used by me.

      Not successful.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        It just dawned on me that it would have been more appropriately called a “Chiastic Mix”. But I doubt that would have helped.Report

      • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

        theme is probably overly broad, but you gotta cover everything from what kazzy said or only songs from 94 – READY TO DIE IS 20 YEARS OLD WHAT – or songs for short women who like grindcore or songs played at 3/4 speed (this is actually cool if there’s not much singing) or whatever.

        back when the wif was doing 2 hours each way commutes i had a four hour mix set up of some of her favorite songs, but tried to time it out so the way up was more wake up wake up sunny times (she was driving at 5 am) and the way down was a bit calmer but without being soporific. it was all either songs she really liked or would really like in context.

        so perhaps themes are the wrong term outside of more straightforward genre slices or “novelty” mixes.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

      But “theme” can mean a lot of things. It can be songs of the same or similar genres. Or it can be all covers, from various genres, arranged for proper flow. Or love songs or breakup songs or songs about getting high…

      I didn’t make a mix tape, but I’m trying to get a colleague into hip-hop music. I appealed to her more sentimental side (she’s a mother who sees that as her true passion and calling), starting with 2Pac’s “Dear Mama”, then went to Kanye’s “Hey Mama”, and then included a Lauryn Hill joint that had nothing to do thematically with moms or motherhood but because she was a mom and pregnant during the creation of that album, I connected it that way.

      It helped that I shared these via YouTube links in an email and could include an actual narrative of how they work together. I told a story with them. That is one benefit to such an approach.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

      In a way, this is exactly what I am talking about. Rob realizes that his obsessive focus on the minutiae of “correct/perfect” mixtape making (and music, in general) is causing him to miss what should be the point – connecting with others.Report

      • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

        it’s weird how he’s a human 12″ extended single version of “the worst”.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        It’s funny (and hurts) ‘cos it’s true. I saw myself there when I read the book. And I wasn’t the only one.

        For years, I kept having friends tell me: “I just read this book (later: ‘saw this movie’), and the main character totally made me think of you!”

        Me (wincing): “Let me guess…”Report

      • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

        i hate that movie a lot. and not just because i want to choke out jack black repeatedly.Report

  15. Kazzy says:

    I had a friend who wanted to break up with a girl via a mixed tape (he was an ass). He decided to use American Hi-Fi’s (godawful) “Flavor of the Week”.

    “You know that song is professing his love for the girl, right?”
    “No, he’s telling her she’s just the flavor of the week.”
    “Yea, to the OTHER guy she’s dating. He wants to be with her in a real way.”
    “Oh. Well, maybe I should include a note that I’m the other guy?”
    [shakes head; walks away]Report

    • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

      I actually sometimes had the opposite problem. I often don’t really pay attention to lyrics unless they are either really good, or really bad. Otherwise they are largely just another aural component of the song (this is probably one reason I often tend to approach hip-hop, a famously verbally-dexterous genre, from the side of “dance music” and production – even my favorite hip-hop tracks, I can generally only recall a few lines of lyric – there are SO MANY words, and they aren’t being carried on a mnemonic melody).

      But in my experience when you are making a mix for a girl you are interested in, (or, who is interested in you) they tend to really read into the lyrics of songs you may have picked simply because you thought the music pretty or whatever.

      Which can lead to some awkward conversations where you have to clarify that no, you don’t actually think THAT about them.

      Still, I was never QUITE so clueless as my friend, who included THIS on a mix for a girl he was trying to woo:

      I like ERP, and it’s a good song, but man, did you even look at the title (I incredulously said to him)?!Report

  16. Boegiboe says:

    A vital part of Jason’s and my long-distance courtship was the mix tapes we sent back and forth across the country. Then we’d listen to each other’s tapes over and over and talk about them in our ridiculous long-distance-bill-exploding phone calls. They were like mental synching devices, dependent on REM, Counting Crows, Depeche Mode, Bjork, with classical and other stuff sprinkled in.Report

  17. Glyph says:

    As it happens I was just rearranging some boxes in my lair and found one that has a bunch of old mixtapes I made for my now-wife.

    If I have time later today I may try to find a good one and post it here.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

      OK, here’s one I made her in 1999.

      Maxell XL-II, 110 minutes.

      Artwork is a collage of pics/text clipped from mags and CD packaging (in particular a sleeve blurb from the Ryko G500 reissues) and hand doodles.

      Mostly collage, I’m not much of an artist.

      There’s also a note indicating the mix was made under the influence of severe stomach cramps.

      Presumably due to tape length (usually I used 60 or 90 minute tapes, not sure why this one’s longer), 2 bits of slight unusualness in the organization – Side A is labeled “Rocket” and leans towards rock/psych, side B is labeled “Melody” and leans towards pop.

      Also, each artist is given two tracks rather than the usual one.

      The Abandoned Hospital Ship/Buggin’ – Flaming Lips
      Teenage Riot/Schizophrenia – SY
      Love Apnea/Trip Trip – Dirt Merchants
      Precision Auto/Untied – Superchunk
      Tugboat/4th of July – G500
      Never Understand/Why’d You Want Me? – JAMC
      Chasing a Bee/Car Wash Hair – Mercury Rev

      Emma’s House/Willow – Field Mice
      The Mohican Antler-Yard Alphabet/What Does She Know? – Kleenex Girl Wonder
      Metal Detector/Keep All Yr Windows Tight Tonight – East River Pipe
      Will My Feet Still Carry Me Home?/Jane – Elf Power
      The State I Am In/String Bean Jean – Belle & Sebastian
      Yr Maps/Summer Was A Waste – Saturnine
      Royal Cafe/Jesus’ Hands – American Music ClubReport

  18. Rufus F. says:

    Ohhhh I remember when Jennie, who I’d been courting all through junior year in High School, gave me a mix tape that started with the Pixies “La la love you”. That was the best!Report