Not too long ago, I came across a thread on a message board I visited and it was started by a guy wishing to start a mix tape swap for members of that board. The rules were pretty simple. All that was needed was just sending your address to this person and in return, he gives you another board member’s address to send a mix tape to. Overall, we could pretty much include any songs we wanted to on it, and it had to be in CD form as well.
This week, I not only sent mine to the lucky recipient, but also got my own “mix tape” in the mail as well. I listened to it the next afternoon, only to find out I really didn’t like much of what was on there. Nothing personal really, but some of the songs were either short instrumentals or other jazzy rock songs that I really wasn’t too interested in. I only came out liking one song for the most part out of the whole 18 songs on there.
It got me thinking about my old mix tapes I had made. Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone magazine wrote a great book called “Love is a Mix Tape.” He describes the different kinds of mix tapes a person can make, including one called “The Radio Tape,” which you had in your boom box ready to record onto a cassette. These songs always had the intros cut off and had the DJ talking over some of them. Most of my tapes came from my years in elementary or middle school. Top 40 radio was the huge thing for me at the time. I listened to I-94 and Z-100 at the time, and the tapes show it, too.
As a teenager, these tapes showed how much more rock was starting to rub off on me. Most of them came from my brother’s CDs, which came in handy since I didn’t have to wait until they came on the radio. I didn’t grow up in a region of Wisconsin that had a modern rock station, so this stuff was new to me.
During high school, I started buying CDs at an alarming rate. I no longer needed to record off the radio. CD burning was getting really popular. Combine that with Napster and downloading off the Internet, and we no longer had to worry about not having something going wrong with the tape. If the CD scratches, burn another one. I had fun burning CDs for whatever particular topic or concept I had at the time.
One of these I had the most fun with was burning CDs with the popular Top 40 songs during a certain period of time. I’d usually divide these mixes into spring, summer, and fall for a certain year. This became really fun, especially if you ever felt the need to have some sort of time machine to take you back to a certain place. Who doesn’t hear an N’Sync song and suddenly think about being a teenager?
Today, the iPod has taken me to a new level. Besides smart playlists that can sort songs by genre or year, I fill this little machine with countless mix tapes. Besides the Top 40 soundtracks, I can also throw on a workout or road trip mix with the click of a button. Take the thousands of songs on my laptop and the shuffle option, and you have a never ending source of mixing songs together like never before.
Technology may change for the audiophile. But in the end, the mix tape remains the same as ever . even if you only like one of the 18 tracks.
Trevor Tinberg is a senior political science and print journalism major and a columnist for The Spectator. “Pop Culture Club” appears every Monday.