Are you a lover of the mix tape? Me too and I'll tell you why...
When I share this music that I love with you, I'm sharing my story. You may not know it but these songs run deep. It may only sound like Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" but really I'm telling you about the first time I saw snow. It is that exact moment when I woke up in the passenger seat of my car after an all night drive to Colorado. The sun is coming up pink and soft on wide expanses of new fallen snow and now you're there too.
I'm sharing that swelling feeling in my chest when I hear The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On". You're glimpsing that time I got pulled over speeding on my way to Austin while listening to Nirvana's Bleach for the first time. "No, officer, I really didn't know that was going 95". I'm also telling you about that time I cried alone in my car or into my pillow those hard tears of heartbreak. I'm sharing love and longing. I'm bringing you into that secret fantasy I have about being Joan Jett (or Bob Dylan, Lyle Lovett, Adele or Johnny Cash) and you are my lover in the audience. Yeah, when I share that song, I'm singing to you.
When I burn Bruce Springsteen on that mix tape, I'm sharing words that shot right down to my core. I'm sharing my favorite poetry with you. The poems I wish I wrote but didn't. I'm showing what words stirred my soul.
The old mix tape took time, manually cueing up record players and cassettes, timing the pauses perfectly. If you got one of mine, there was the added bonus of the decorated case and liner notes. You had my handwriting and maybe a drawing or two.
Of course, there's also the song order. The way I deliberately collected the songs and considered how each one melted into the next. The mix might start slow and build and then slow down again as the story unfolds. It's a delicate thing and, when I'm mixing genres and time periods (because, of course), I consider how it's all going to flow.
The whole process is like a secret language...oh, that rare U2 song that hardly anyone knows about from way back when? Yeah, that one. You too? Of course. It's a toe in the water, a nod to a shared pop culture, a love letter to you and to music and to stories.
I wish I had kept them all but, sadly, I didn't. Now it's playlists and music apps and it feels less personal. It's not quite the labor of love that it once was but it's still a love letter. I don't have to re-alphabetize all the records afterwards though and that I do miss.
This post is dedicated to...
Everyone that ever made a mix tape for me.
Shane- for the Harvest Moon moment and the mix tape left on my car along with the donuts. I wish I had been more appreciative of it when it happened.
Seth R- for Green Day.
Rob- for Nirvana.
Jenny J- for sharing this book with me.
Danny and Chris- for the records.
My Dad- for introducing me to the love of music.