Lazylad, both a fellow blogger and fellow insurance jockey, did something really nice for Jady Lady and I: he made us a mixed tape. Okay, it's a mixed CD, but still! When's the last time anyone gave you a mixed tape? It's a very cool gift.
When making it for oneself, a mixed tape affords you the luxury of capturing favourite tunes, thus avoiding less-than-great albums. But creating a mixed tape for someone - if it's done correctly - is an art. It's more complex than picking a few songs you dig and slapping them on a tape; the music has to have a flow, the songs have to connect and be meaningful to both you and the lucky recipient. You can build a mixed tape on a theme (most of Lazylad's choices had something to do with girls, in honour of baby Jade), or start off mellow and reach a crescendo, or just basically rock out. It's all in the hands of the mixed tape creator.
I remember making dozens of mixed tapes for my friends, boyfriends, cousins and pen pals back in the 80's. My mother had an amazing stereo with a dual tape deck, so the possibilities were endless. I think I even attempted a radio drama once to entertain my sister during her first year in Australia. It had something to do with an older woman seducing a grocery delivery boy while Frank Sinatra crooned "The Summer Wind" in the background. Hey, art doesn't always have to be good.
In fact, I still listen occasionally to three or four mixed tapes I found wedged in the old glove compartment of my Kia last year. They are real, live cassettes with actual tape in them (the Kia never had a CD player), and the only place I can play them is on my old, beat up boom box (the Kia's tape player is now defunct). It was like finding little time capsules:I mean, where else can I listen to Young MC sing "Bust a Move" or groove to "That Girl" with good ol' goofy Shaggy rasping away in the background while I make dinner?
Anyway, the last time I made a mixed tape was for D, for his birthday the first year we were dating, because he is extremely hard to buy for and I was pretty much broke at the time. (Not to mention I was getting realllly tired of listening to Kenny Chesney everytime we were in his car.) It was fun picking out songs that had meanings both obvious (Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet) and more subtle, introducing him to the type of music I liked and waiting to see what he thought.
Mixed tapes can be memory boxes, love letters, games or simply friendly gifts, like a musical handshake. They were the ultimate song shuffles before iPods reared their fancy heads. Next time you have an hour on your hand, make someone a mixed tape. It's a retro way to show them you care. And plus you'll look pretty cool.