Skip the CD, Make Mine An Audio-Cassette Tape!

cassette tapeI was at a friend's place and decided to look through his vast music collection (we were just "hanging out"). I hadn't noticed how unusual the music collection was until now: he must have had all the audio media, including LPs, 8-tracks, cassettes and CDs; data storage crystals (for the general public) are still years away.

[an image of a magnetic audio-cassette tape has been provided for those not familiar with what it looks like due to youth, amnesia or denial; an 8-track tape is a bit bigger, and an LP is much bigger but it's flat and circular.]

I normally wouldn't have paid much attention to this assortment of audio media. However, a wall rack of cassettes and tower of CDs had a commonality that appealed to me: they were all mixed compilations, whether made by my friend or given as gifts is non-consequential. This got me thinking about the last time I made a mixed compilation, why I made it, who it was for, song tracks included, etc.

The last time I made a compilation was in '95, in celebration of successfully installing a new CD burner; however, I did not know then that it would be a wasted effort. The last time I made a mixed compilation with true gusto was in '91, and it was on magnetic audio-cassette tape (dubbing with a no-nonsense double tape deck). Can you already feel and hear the difference?

With the CD burner, practically no effort or time went into making the mixed compilation. Drag-and-drop songs onto a playlist and burn ... that was it. What more, re-arranging tracks and burning multiple CD copies were far too easy. Compare this with making a magnetic audio-cassette tape compilation: queuing up source tapes to the desired song-tracks, dubbing to a new tape, re-arranging tracks and cutting multiple copies could require an evening's night in. There was always a strategy in sequencing the song-tracks; thus, creating a mood was child's play with a compilation mix.

With a mixed audio-cassette tape, it was fairly easy to make sure the listener would listen to the entire tape at least once (the notion of fast-forwarding to the next track using an audiotape player is still a mystery to most). However, a CD compilation is far too flexible and tracks could be randomly skipped about, or not listened to, without a thought. Furthermore to draw attention to the songs themselves rather than the technological ease of making a CD mix, I would give the CD mix in a sleeve (no song-track label, of course) and not in a jewel case. People seem to get excited over and distracted with the "impressive" CD jewel case ... go figure.

And so this is why I have not made a compilation mix CD in many years ... but may make a compilation audio-cassette tape sometime this week. It's less glamourous and takes more time, but, like the artist of old-world painting before the invention of the everyone-is-now-an-artist Polaroid camera, the audio-cassette tape is a reflection of my intentions and the artistic process that went into making it. The satisfaction and magnitude in making a mixed compilation is in the media ... go search your music collections for mixed compilations.

By the way, I have heard much about devices called an iPod and MP3 players ... emailing a playlist is neither romantic nor satisfying. Perhaps friendship is possible as a direct result of exchanging playlists; I'll have to keep an eye out for such developments.

tags: ....
another point of view ...

Blogger Kallun

I take your point about the effort that went into making compilation tapes, and how you can just skip entire tracks without listening to them...

Though I will say that there is still alot of effort into deciding which songs should go on a compilation CD. Loz and I have started exchanging compilation CDs, trying to introduce different types of good music that the other has never heard before. Looking at the tally board, the songs I'm coming up with are really good, so I think I'm winning. Loz, however, has come up with some real gems, but not as many as me. Its her turn to send me a CD, now.

Blogger Knottyboy

When I was a kid I had a huge, single mic, single speaker cassette recorder. I made comps off the radio when I heard them. There were a lot of missed intros and curses when I couldn't get the damn thing cued up correctly. And sometimes I would inadvertently rewind over some previous song and cut off half of one of my faves in the process.

Blogger Love Hurts

I loved making mix tapes, mostly copied from that weeks chart show but getting annoyed by the DJ talking over the intro's! Now I have found out how to 'rip' & 'burn' compilation cd's on my computer. I recently acquired a mp3 player & my music was quite a range from Cher (If I could turn back time) to T.Rex (I love to boogie). Out of my family I can claim to have the largest music collection, mostly cd's ranging from ABBA - Whitney Houston. I've been given a mix cd but that was St Valentines Day a few years ago, I still have it & cringe to some of the songs that are on it.

Blogger Nam LaMore

kallun: oh, don't get me wrong about sharing playlists -- it makes absolute sense to do so when miles of land and sea make it so much more practical to email, less the playlist become golden oldies by the time of arrival via traditional posts or pigeons.

Blogger Nam LaMore

knottyboy: oh, i can't say i've ever recorded off the radio -- but sounds like much frustration to be had if that was ever the case. i take it you probably don't go through that whole trouble of recording off the radio these days, or do you?

Blogger Nam LaMore

love hurts: i enjoy making mixed tapes/CDs as well, but i just haven't of late. in my family, i probably have the smallest music collection; one of my younger sisters can open up her own music store if she has the desire.

she has practically everything out there. she's into downloading music and, while i keep a modest CD collection, she keeps a library of hard-drives! the young people, they really know how to take advantage of all that the internet has to offer!

the last compilation i got was ... i can't remember what songa are on it, or when i got it (much less given by whom)!

Blogger TrueJerseyGirl

I still have all the mix tapes that boys made for me in high school and college. There is just something special about them (and it wasn't the boys, that's for sure!).

Anonymous Anonymous

Funny, In HS ('78-'81) we listened to 98.5 Kome in San Jose. They would have an entire weekend of a rock artist, so you make an entire cassete collection of say all the Led-Zepplin songs.
Does anyone remember Kome?

Blogger Nam LaMore

truejerseygirl: i bet the boys would differ, and argue that their hearts and souls went into making the mixed tapes for you! and how does hubby feel that you still have those tapes after all these years?

Blogger Nam LaMore

peri: i listen to KOME now! i didn't grow up in the area, and, where i grew up, there was no week-long tribute. as a teen, i was listening to new age before it was fashionable to listen to new age. i'm pretty sure i was the only one in my entire graduating class in high school of 2000 kids who knew who enya was!

i sorta missed out on the 80's stuff, so it's no wonder that i'm addicted to to 80's revival now!

Blogger Loz

No, No, No. The CD I sent was quite obviously the best compilation CD ever compiled. I cannot ever agree that a mix CD with rob thomas on it is better than mine!!!
and I'm in the developmental stages of the next CD... making up blueprints, calling in the engineers... it will be The New Best Compilation CD Ever Compiled.

Blogger Nam LaMore

loz: is that sorta like the rolling stones' or cher's LAST CONCERT tours?

Blogger jaja

nam, knottyboy and love hurts, yeahh i used to do it too... recording straight from the chart shows.. and getting mad at the DJ for talking during intro & cutting the end of the songs for commercial break..

the last time i make a compilation was about 10 yrs ago... i'm dubbing duran-duran song come undone, i even have the casette, neatly styled with some paintmarker, so it will look hip & cool when i lend it to others friends.. hehe

Blogger Loz

nam: yes it is. each cd is going to better than the one before! thus, my cd titles will never be accurate for long

Blogger Nam LaMore

jaja: i miss those days of listening to music on the radio .. the only reason i turn on the radio these days is to get my news (as i don't have tv). all my music listening time is either at the clubs or on my mp3 player (NOT iPod!).

i can see how frustrating it would be to have the DJ overlapping your recorded songs -- i bet they knew people were recording off the stations, and so spoke during popular songs.

Blogger Nam LaMore

loz: you sure have the right marketing strategy! madonna would be so proud of you!

Blogger mquest

About 5 years ago I dumped most of my tapes. I threw away over 200 comp tapes.
I only miss one of them.

Blogger Nam LaMore

mquest: i've never had a large collection of tapes, so i never went through the 'dumping' phase. a matter of fact, i still have all the tapes .. and i have them (somewhere) in my car.

you must tell the story of 'the one [cassette] that got away'.

Blogger mquest

I looked and I still own about 30 tapes. I will never listen to any of them ever.
The Tape that I am missing is a William S. Bouroughs tape from some African band. They/He worked up a great set of music based on the traveling of souls from the books that fall around the trilogy of “the western lands” and “the place of dead roads”
I have no idea what it was called or who the band was.

Another tape I wish I had was from the punk band DI. I have the song “Richard himself” stuck in my head. I have no idea why.

Richard hung himself
It happened just the other day
Jesus caught and pushed him off the shelf

Blogger Nam LaMore

mquest: i love reading william s. bouroughs - but you really have to be reading his stuff in the wee hours to appreciate where he's coming from.

hmm .. i'm not familiar with DI - i'll have to look it up. and, yes, i have heard 'signs' a few times, but it's not sticking to me.

Blogger Lester T.

i used to make tapes from records for all the girls with whom i was infatuated. glad to know that some girls still would have them to this day. probably true though about something being special about the tape and not the guy who made it. probably because they were making out, etc. with a different guy whilst listening to the tape...

Blogger Nam LaMore

LESTER: i just can't buy into that! i mean all my sweat and toil can't have gone into a dumpster somewhere! .. yeah, i'm in denial .. typical.

Blogger mquest

I am not sure listening to DI will impact your life one way or another. I just have that Damn lyric stuck in my head.

Blogger Anthony

You really nailed the McLuhan "The medium is the message" idea. I'm getting crazy flashbacks to "Media, Technology and the Internet" in first year.

Blogger Nam LaMore

ANTHONYPEREIRA: "flashback to ... in first year" i'm sorry to bring such memories back for you.

what i thought about including in this post, but didn't because it would make me look like a poseur, is the whole discussions and debates between philosophers, artists and music critics on music+words=song.

meaning, can words of songs exist independent of the music? does an instrumental song lose much of its impact and is transformed by the exclusion of the vocal? anyway, i got on that track (sorry for the pun) as i tried to remember songs from compilations, but can only recall the beat/music and not the lyrics.

speak up!

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