The mixtape, a staple of the Gen X love arsenal in that when pledging your undying teenage devotion to the object of your affection, you would record all of the quintessential romantic ballads onto one tape. You’d then sheepishly present this tape to the person you adored. The labeling of said tape was just as important as the songs it contained. Clever mixtape titles along the alliterative lines of “Songs for Sarah,” “Barb’s Ballads,” or the more direct and simply put: “Mixtape for My Love.”
Some of the standard mixtape go-tos…You have the 80s hair band ballads of course. What mixtape would be complete without Bon Jovi’s iconic I’ll Be There for You or Motley’s Crue’s Without You. Then there is the lighter musical fare, Lionel Ritchie’s Hello and pretty much anything by REO Speedwagon or Air Supply.
The Mechanics of the Mixtape
Believe it or not actually creating this mixtape was a fairly in-depth process. Prior to the development of the dual cassette boombox, there was a definite learning curve involved in order to achieve mixtape mastery. Placing your recording boombox in front of the stereo that was playing the songs, you encountered the very serious problem of trying to somehow contain all of the noise within the household. Rarely was there an early mixtape that did not feature at some point the ever-classic background stylings: dog barking, phone ringing, or mom summoning.
Once the dual cassette devices came onto the scene (and no, they were not called devices back then—I am of course co-opting current language in an effort to make this more comprehensible to younger generations), the external noises stopped and the mixtape recording sessions were significantly streamlined.
Upon getting the perfect number of songs—and generally there was either that awkward dead air space at the end of the tape because it was too short to fit another song or that over-eager half a song because you tried to fit the song anyway—then came the painstaking process of writing the song titles on the tiny lines of the cassette tape cover. Voila: mixtape complete!
I recently made a “mixtape” for someone. (Note the quotes.) I don’t care how technologically and digitally advanced we’ve become, there is something very unmixtape-ish about a Spotify playlist. Did I consider heading to eBay and searching for a vintage boombox so that I could make an authentic mixtape…Of course not, who has that kind of time to hunt down cassette after cassette and then proceed to record a series of songs on a single tape. Though I can certainly see the romance inherent in the gesture. And granted, the Spotify playlist-slash-mixtape was an expedient while still romantic substitute. But there is just something about the utter ease of clicking on “add to playlist” that does a bit of disservice to the memory of the mixtape. Let’s just say back then, you had to work a little harder for love—and maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Anne is a former English professor turned content writer. Holding a PhD in Literature, she spent almost a decade in academia putting that degree to use, until finally realizing it wasn’t exactly the best fit. A full-time writer for the past seven years, she’s learned a great deal about the numerous subjects she’s gotten to tackle, everything from real estate investing to the scarier side of online dating—sometimes more than she actually wants to learn. She can be contacted through [email protected].