A Cassette Valediction: Part One of Two

Like Thurston Moore and Rob Sheffield before him, AD contributor j. neas reflects on, and laments, the art of the (actual) mixtape. Now, raise your hand if you've created a muxtape (yes, I'm guilty). Part one of two. - AD

"I spent hours putting that cassette together. To me, making a tape is like writing a letter - there's a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again..You've got to kick it off with a corker, to hold the attention..and then you've got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch..and you can't have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you've done the whole thing in pairs, and ...oh, there are loads of rules." - Nick Hornby (High Fidelity)

In thinking about cassette albums that I've adored over the years, tapes that I listened to time and time again, I couldn't help but think of mixtapes. Labors of love - works of art. Slavish devotion to the belief that great, whole truths can be discovered with the right combination of music. I often get giddy thinking of my weekly radio show in terms of creating an entirely new mixtape every week.

And when I say tape, I mean tape. I've been given and have created some great mix CDs in my day. But they're never as satisfying. It's almost like they're less work, less sweat, less thoughtful. Cutting and pasting is infinitely less personal than outlining playlists, pressing the record and pause buttons, the actual process of having to listen to the entire tape while you're creating it.

I grew up, and so did most of you, in an age where cassettes were a standard format for music. We also grew up in an age where the only way you could copy an album for someone was via cassette. You had to put the other tape on, or cue up the record, or press play on the CD, hit record on the other tape, sit back, and enjoy. But mixtapes - collections of various songs, a playlist created solely by us - they were even more refined. It was as if we were designing our own 90 minute (or 120 if you sprang for the longer tapes) radio show. Living and dying by the sacred segue. Finding or creating connections between songs and artists that no one else would ever have put together. We were creators of art, whether we knew it or not, incorporating the words and work of others in order to manufacture our own, divinely inspired masterpiece.


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