From the time I was in second grade and learned how to push the RECORD and PLAY buttons at the same time on my mama’s portable tape recorder that had all the sleek styling of a 1976 GoodTimes Van, I have been a fan of the mix tape. For a seven-year-old in love there is nothing sweeter than listening to REO Speedwagon launch into “Take It On the Run” while a DJ continues to talk in the background.
Bonus points if you were ever able to time your mix tape recording skills with the moment the DJ actually announced your song dedication on the radio. That takes a special brand of dedication and skill possessed only by fifth grade girls with a lot of time and Doritos on their hands. And also parents who had a master bedroom downstairs and couldn’t hear that we were still up and calling local radio stations after midnight.
In the early days, mix tape perfection was achieved if I managed to get some combination of these five songs with minimal DJ interruption.
1. “Open Arms” by Journey
2. “Keep on Loving You” by REO Speedwagon
3. “Kiss on My List” by Hall and Oates
4. “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield (Oh Rick Springfield, I loved you most of all)
5. “Endless Love” by Diana Ross (To this day I have never seen the movie because clearly my mother wanted to ruin my life in 1981 and deprive me of everything Brooke Shields)
There was really no better music to listen to while spending an evening with friends as you all decorated your bookcovers with paint pens and took turns calling various boys to find out who they liked or maybe just to hang up them for the tenth time in the night. (Caller ID has spoiled all the fun for this generation)
In later years, my musical taste became more sophisticated and I preferred the song stylings of Tiffany (“I Think We’re Alone Now”) and Madonna (“Material Girl”).
And even in college, Gulley and I would occasionally make ourselves the best mix tape of all time (Bell Biv Devoe, Kid N Play, MC Hammer, and Dee-Lite to name just a few) to listen to while we got ready to go out. That’s right. I was in college when cassette tapes still ruled the world. In fact, my York stereo with its dual cassette player was perfect for making multiple copies of the best mix tapes to distribute to various friends. (I tried to ignore the fact that it also had an 8-track player)
We couldn’t have imagined the riches of iTunes. For that matter we couldn’t have imagined that one day everyone would own any technology more sophisticated than a Brother Word Processor. Music on a computer? That’s pure madness.
It makes my heart happy that my child is growing up in an age where she can have any song at her fingertips (ear tips?) in mere seconds. She will never have to spend her childhood listening to a DJ play “Whip It” by Devo a hundred times when all she really wants to do is record “Our Lips Are Sealed” on her super-cool mix tape.
God bless America. It really is the land of opportunity.
Anyway, the reason I’ve rambled endlessly is because the other day Caroline wanted to hear “Sweet Caroline” and I couldn’t find the mix CD (old habits die hard) that has that song on it. I suggested that when we got home we could sit down, listen to music and she could make her very own mix of songs that I’d burn to a CD for her. She is her mother’s daughter because no words can describe her delight at the power of creating her very own playlist. MUSIC IS POWER. Or whatever.
She immediately knew what songs she wanted on her CD. The following is her list:
1. “Our Song” – Taylor Swift
2. “I Like To Move It” – Will.i.am
3. “Little Drummer Boy” – Jars of Clay
4. “Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond
5. “Mama Tried” – Merle Haggard
6. “Walkin’ After Midnight” – Patsy Cline
7. “Every Move I Make” – Worship Jamz (the z makes it edgy)
8. “Big and Chunky” – Will.i.am
9. “Gonna Make You Sweat” – C&C Music Factory
10. “Redneck Girl” – The Bellamy Brothers
11. “Groove is in the Heart” – Dee-Lite
12. “Happy Song” – Chris Tomlin
13. “Ghostbusters” – Kidz Bop Kids (again with the z because marketers are savvy)
14. “I Missed the Bus” – Kriss Kross
15. “Batman Theme” – The Marketts
16. “Boondocks” – Little Big Town
While I question her selection of “Little Drummer Boy” for year-round listening, I applaud her love of Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline and Kriss Kross. Clearly, we are raising her right. Because what kind of world would this be if there was no one to appreciate kids who possess the fortitude to rap while wearing their clothes backwards?
A sad one.
(Although the question was meant to be rhetorical, I felt the need to insert the obvious answer)
The only problem is we haven’t been able to actually burn her list to a CD because the CD burning feature on my Macbook appears to be flat busted. Apparently when the nice folks at the Genius Bar replaced my bunk keyboard they replaced it with a bunk CD burner. Dang.
So now I’m going to have to schedule an appointment to let them look at it and you just know they’re going to want to keep it for a few days which makes me sweat just thinking about it.
The worst part is I can’t even make a good mix CD to listen to while I drive to the Apple Store.
Sometimes I think life with cassette tapes was easier.
Except for the times when my York stereo cassette player decided to eat one. I still can’t think about the tragedy that befell Def Leppard “Pyromania” without getting a tear in my eye.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what constitutes the perfect mix tape present or past. I bet it doesn’t include “Ghostbusters” by Kidz Bop Kids.