“I’ll make you a mixtape that’s a blueprint of my soul, it may sound grand but babe it’s all you need to know, I’ll make you a mixtape that will charm you into bed, it details everything that’s running round my head” – Lyrics from Mixtape by Jamie Cullum
Ah, the beauty of the mixtape. A little piece of yourself that you give to someone for a variety of different reasons. I was listening to Jamie’s song recently and it got me thinking about the idea of creating a tape for someone and what it means when you do it. I asked some lovely folk online whether they had ever made someone a tape and if so what was the purpose behind it. Here’s what they said:
Made loads for my ex when we were together and vice versa – Helen
I have, many times because I find it incredibly romantic – Michelle
My husband made me many when we started dating. Loved listening to them whilst travelling to visit him – Suzie
I had a brilliant one made for me by a friend at school. I think I made one back for her. It had loads of cool songs on it and was my introduction to Beck as she included Sissy Neck and also a song by Corduroy which I loved. I did once make a mix CD for a boyfriend as well. Sad, but true! Nicole
I think the resounding thing I picked up was the idea of making something romantic that you could give to someone you liked to show them how much they mean to you. And the beauty of a tape (for those of us old enough to remember the good old TDK 90 minute cassette) was that you could surprise them with a selection of tracks hand picked just for them. The hours I spent calculating how many songs I could fit onto one side of a tape was ridiculous. Making sure there wasn’t too much blank space at the end before you turned over to side B was an art in itself. My friend Laura told me that sometimes she couldn’t be bothered to work it all out so she just recorded it, and if it stopped part way through a song she’d just turn the tape over and continue where it cut out. How she wrote out the track listing is anyone’s guess!
Now, I wasn’t of the romantic school of thought I have to be honest. For me, it was more about making collections for mates to showcase how much cool music I knew about. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t being an arsehole about it, I just wanted to share my love of the obscure and the downright awesome with people to show them what they were missing out on. And it worked too. I once made a tape for an old friend and included a track by Radiohead on it. It was probably something off of The Bends I would think. She had never heard anything by them before and totally loved it. So much so that we ended up going to see them at the NEC in Birmingham and years later she said to me “if it wasn’t for you Nic, I would never have got into them”. Point made and case closed.
I do totally get the romance thing though. Reading the comments that people gave to me was very sweet and I think it’s lovely that something as simple as making a tape could bring happiness to people. Sharing your love of music is a very personal thing as it says something about how you think and feel about things. It could also show what diabolical taste you have, but I guess that’s a chance you have to take.
I was given a tape once by someone I worked with. We were good friends and went to gigs and talked about music quite a lot. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, I assumed he was just doing the ‘I know more than you’ thing, but I must admit I have been thinking about it a lot since writing this piece. My friend Nicole told me I should re-listen to it and see if there are any subliminal messages on it. Doubtful, but it did have the song ‘If I can’t Change Your Mind’ by Sugar on it which I love. And it’s because of this tape that I love it. In fact, I still have the tape somewhere upstairs in my house and I can guarantee if I put it in the tape deck now and pressed play, it would be queued up on this song. My friend may not have made me a romantic tape (at least I don’t think he did), but he did start my love affair with a lot of good music so take from that what you will.
I decided to write this piece as I find the concept of making someone a tape very interesting on lots of levels. In the film High Fidelity John Cusack’s character talks about the art of making a mixtape.
The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.
He’s right of course. If you’re making a tape for someone you like you need to carefully plan what you want to share with them. After all, the hope is that they’ll listen to it and think “Wow. John really knows his music and he’s put lots of songs on here that he knows I’ll like. He’s great”. Rather than leaving them wondering why you have given them a cassette with some nonsense on it that even the artist themselves won’t ever listen to again. It’s a tough call, but do it right and as the comments above show it can make someone feel all warm and tingly inside. Do it wrong and that tape is probably now gathering dust in a box somewhere while they recipient tries very hard to blank it from their memory.
So finally to wrap up, here’s the song that started me thinking about this whole thing in the first place. I tend to agree with the line about charming someone into bed, but hey, maybe that’s just me and Jamie…