There’s a lot of talk about what’s gone wrong with modern society and millennials in particular, but Annaliza Davis thinks it all started to go downhill when we stopped (properly) making mixtapes.
Back in the 80s and early 90s, if you wanted to hear a particular song, you had to buy it (I know!). And if you didn’t like the naff album-filler tracks (remember them?), you’d create your own compilation. This forerunner of the playlist was called a mixtape and our young adults could learn a lot about life and hard work from its revival.
Patience and planning
First, you needed a theme: Funky Prince, U2 Groove or Sade Smoothies? Then you had to organise and finalise your playlist, noting each track in miniscule handwriting on the cassette’s insert card. Sometimes, you’d near the end of Side A and realise that the song you wanted to finish with was either too long or too short. You had to replace it or start over, adding more space between tracks: that’s serious logistics training and taught me more maths than Mr Bevan ever could.
Occasionally, you wanted to include a current hit that you didn’t have or wasn’t released yet. In that case, you’d tune your stereo to the Top 40 (Sunday evenings) and try to capture that longed-for track…
…Only for the DJ to talk over it, forcing you to perfect your record-and-pause technique, cutting out his jabber as you transferred it to your master mix, and your compilation had to splice immediately from one track to the next, Jive Bunny style.
Marketing and distribution
You’d slip your finished mixtape into your Sony Walkman and groove, knowing that your headphones complemented your perm, acne and electric-blue mascara. You’d crank up the volume, certain that anyone overhearing your tunes would be impressed.
Better yet, you took your mixtape to a party, so when anyone commented, you could modestly acknowledge your genius. The ultimate compliment was when a person you respected asked for a COPY of your mixtape. Hell, yeah.
If your Romeo or Juliet made you a mixtape they were a keeper and you gained maximum cred, even if the music was shit, frankly, because that mixtape was an audible love letter so you reigned supreme, girlfriend. Later, if you discovered they’d copped off with someone else, you could rip out those metres of tape in a fit of rage. Fabulously therapeutic.
Finally, the mixtape taught my generation about the transience of life, particularly when its slippery brown guts got tangled up in tape-deck mechanisms. You’d try to unravel it, spinning your cassette on top of a felt-tip and praying as it wound back in, but it would never completely recover from that scar.
Through tearful times like those, and through the pain of accidental tape-overs, we learned how to process grief. Tough lessons, but they’ve done us proud.
Many blame society’s problems today on the internet, lower education values or a generation of egotistical brats, but let’s preach compassion. There’s not much wrong with them that a few good mixtapes wouldn’t solve.2386 Views
Annaliza Davis is run by her own business that involves magazine features, translation and many, many Post-It notes. Finds joy in: tea, pyjamas, family film night, inappropriate jokes and singing along to London Grammar.