The mix tape.
Possibly the best invention to ever come out of the 80’s. And one which i still make regular use of – even if the tapes of old have now been replaced by shiny silver discs.
As a former D.J. (and by “D.J.”, i mean someone who basically got too drink for free while at work), i am well acquainted with the concept of “mixing” – just not of the beat variety. No, my mixes were what i liked to call “emotional” in nature, in that while they didn’t necessarily slide gracefully from one track to the next – so that the dancers on the floor never knew of the transition – they did serve to “set the mood”. What that mood was at any given moment was all up to me, but most often i tried to keep it pretty light and upbeat. You know, the kind of upbeat that allows for occasional slam dancing. And with my mix tapes, i like to operate in very much the same fashion. Now, could the repetition between my previous use of the “emotional” style while D.J.ing and my mix tapes of today be simply an elaborate excuse for me to avoid purchasing expensive mixing programs? More than likely. But i’m a solid believer that the free option (in this case iTunes) will work just fine – until such time as a nicer free option comes along.
That being said, i hadn’t made a mix tape in quite sometime (around 19 high-school 7ish) until a couple of years back, when some vendor/friends made the ultimate error of letting me know that they had no idea who The Clash was.
Now, in their defense, they are residents of Missouri, but honestly, i don’t see that as a valid excuse. Actually, i don’t see any excuse as being acceptable to explain away not knowing who The Clash is. So, to set them straight, i promised to send a “mix tape” highlighting new wave and punk rock music – if they enjoyed it, great. If not, then that would be alright as well – at least they would never again suffer the embarrassment of not knowing who The Clash was. I felt bad for them though, because when they said that that would be simply lovely, i’m pretty sure they were expecting a singular mix tape disc. What they ended up with, many years later, was a grand total of 45. Including art work and liner notes.
Obviously, i branched out from the original idea of focusing on new wave and punk, and “produced” a couple on Ska, one on swing, two on metal, a male and female “crooner” disc each, one of old songs stuck in my head many years later and two on really old (and deplorable) songs my mother used to force us to listen to as a result of a one story house and AM radio. Heck, i even threw in a Christmas disc or two, based on the idea that all the other “series” (as put out by actual labels) always make sure that they include at least one. My personal favorite however, was one titled “The Gayties” (think of bands like Erasure, Pet Shop Boys and Jimmy Somerville and you’ll figure out the disc’s focus). And while my two vendor/friends initiated the mix-plosion, by the end i had upwards of 20 “subscribers” who each received copies as they came out. As with all things however, time went on, my mix mojo slowly ebbed and – considering that i wasn’t getting paid for any of these anyway – i eventually called it quits.
Fast forward a couple of more years, and upon hearing that a friend of mine had decided to have what she called a “CD exchange party”, i found my mix mojo suddenly refilled! Especially since for every disc i put out, another’s mix tape is returned for my listening enjoyment. We’ve had (3) such parties so far (none of which i’ve actually been present at due to the fact that i live in a different state than the rest). And for each one i have tried – and failed – to engineer a mix tape that chronicles my life. i don’t know where the idea came from or why, but i thought it would be cool if i had the ability to tell “my story, in song”. As always with me, a couple of ground rules needed to apply – the songs had to be from the period i was “discussing” (or there about), they had to be related to something about my life, or about “me” (for instance, “Born In The USA” says nothing about me really, but Judas Priest’s “Heading Out To The Highway” does) and most importantly, they needed to mix well. As you can imagine, these three rules continually butted heads and my dream mix tape was never realized.
Just recently, i was able to make it all squeak together (well, for the most part), out of a sense of sheer stubborn determination. And sadly, no one will ever be able to hear it. In part because the damned thing came in at four discs long – and i didn’t even start my “story” until the high school years! i also can’t share it because i was a bit surprised (although i shouldn’t have been) to see what the final tracks laid down for the story of me turned out to be. There are a lot more songs like that of Depeche Mode’s “Useless” and The Bolshoi’s “Looking For A Life” than there are those along the lines of Dio’s “Stand Up And Shout” or Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” (that’s right, even Aguilera made the mix). The inclusion of “To Hell With Poverty” by Gang Of Four doesn’t shock me, and nor does the presence of “Redemption Song” (i chose the version Wyclef Jean sang at the 9/11 memorial concert, partially to acknowledge possibly the biggest event to ever take place in my children’s lifetime). In fact, i would assume that most people – those who know about music and didn’t come equipped with a silver spoon – would include these 2 ditties in their musical “biography” as well.
(i feel) There are a lot of good choices included, and they all say something about me – or maybe they speak more to me instead. As noted, they pretty much take you from my time in high school to the me of now. And – as any good drama queen knows – the set ends with a nod towards “The End.” Overall, not my best mix ever, but pretty damned good. And possibly a little too personal. If nothing else, i think that is why this mix will never see the light of day. Which seems a shame, considering how hard i worked on it. But then again, maybe much like my lil blog, this too can be something i created – not to impress or win others over – but rather solely for my own satisfaction. And maybe, if i keep it as a “work in progress” status instead of “releasing” it, i can someday remix it to include far more happy songs than not.
i just hope it doesn’t take 45 discs to do so.