Life is a Mix Tape, But Not Anymore

I got my first grown-up record player when I was 13. My first two albums were: Frampton Comes Alive and Wings Over America.

I loved music when I was in my teens and twenties. Insanely loved. Every time I moved the last thing I did at the old place was dismantle the stereo and the first thing I did at the new place was set the stereo up. I needed my music.

I loved to buy 45’s. I loved records. I loved discovering new bands. I loved concerts. I loved to read and write about bands. I read all kinds of magazines like Creem, Spin and occasionally bought a NME plus never missed a free issue of any weekly, BAM and so on.

I spent hours making mix tapes. I also taped my albums for my car and spent intense amounts of time creating the labels, custom decorating, giving them special names. I had a whole math system so there wouldn’t be a giant empty gap at the end of the tape. In Rob’s book, they just threw stuff at the end of a tape to have music at the end and I sometimes did that but it completely violated my sense of logic and order and plus when listening to the tape I’d suffer an internal cringe when I knew the song was going to cut off abruptly.

Most of these tapes are long gone. I made a dance tape freshman year in the dorms that I’m pretty sure is in the basement and I should dig it out because if it still works, I bet it would be hilarious. The only bands I remember for sure are on it are Talk Talk and Flock of Seagulls. One drawback of cassettes is my last boombox died so the only cassette player I have is in the car.

My best mix tapes were the series I made in the late 80’s with hairbands. These were the Cathouse tapes in honor of my favorite club and featured songs from bands like Guns N’Roses,, Faster Pussycat and Warrant. I gave them names like “Cathouse Strikes Back” “The Return of Cathouse” and “Cathouse Steak and Pita Hut.” I think the original Cathouse tape is in the basement but all the others are gone. Heidi says she still has some of them.

I have no recollection of making or receiving mix tapes as any part of mating rituals which is a central theme of Rob’s book. The person I remember exchanging tapes with the most is my sister. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember a single friend who was as fanatical about music as I am. Of course, I made up for that later with my choice in spouse and he is the king of all things music in this lifetime and the next 10.

The reason for this long introduction is that I am the exact opposite now. How can that even be possible?

I rarely listen to music except when I drive. And even then it’s mostly just the radio and I switch around stations until I find a song that I like. I get maybe 2 new cds a year and listen to them once or twice and usually it’s a project. As in, “Oh, I should take that new CD out of the case and give it a listen.” Darren sent me a CD a week or two ago and I said, “Great, I can’t wait to listen to it.” Then I set it next to my computer and totally forgot about it until he asked me what I thought.

If, in my 20’s I had digital music and the Internet, it would have completely changed my life. Burning CDs and making playlists – that would have been awesome. Now it seems like a lot of trouble. My only playlists are the albums except for one called “current faves” that I’ve never updated. I don’t like “shuffle” because I don’t like hearing a random track from “Attack of the Clones” (yes, I’m a total nerd and have all 6 Star Wars soundtracks on my iPod) and then Replacements and then some cheezy Top 40-ish dance track from a compilation and then some mellow mind-numbing music that I keep on there if I get anxious on a plane. If I’m going to listen to a mixed bag, there has to be thin thread of logic why the songs are together.

I don’t take the time to find new bands although I’m always happy to discover a new song I like. But I hardly ever buy stuff because I figure I’ll never listen to it. I love the idea of the Apple Store and buying singles songs I like, but refuse to buy anything with DRM. The last music I heard that really rocked my world was Camper Van Beethoven an album that I’ve had in my collection for 20 years.

I know it’s not age because I know tons of people my age who are music fanatics. I still like the idea of music. I love Pandora but I don’t think I’ve logged on in a month.

When I was in college I had a woman friend who told me as I got older I’d enjoy the quiet more and get used to the sound of my own thoughts. I think she was right.

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