Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mixing it up

And, while we listened faithfully, hour after hour, for that one song -- the perfect song -- sometimes you just need a certain song, at a certain time...

The right song at the right time is the difference between a great moment and a legendary one.

A moment is not simply a measurement of time, it's snapshot of life. It's a memory, and we know that the more of your senses you employ in creating a memory, the better chance it has to last. Think about that dance from when you were a kid. You know the one I mean...

You see the whirling lights, and the girl there before you (this one is mine, sorry).

You see the crowded dance floor.

You see the fog machine.

You feel the hardness of the gym floor, beneath your feet.

You feel her close to you.

You feel her hand in yours.

You feel her head on your shoulder.

You smell a potpourri of perfume, cologne, hairspray, sweat and whatever that smell is from the fog machine (I swear they were blowing deodorant onto the dance floor...).

But it's the song that ties it all together. The melody moves you. The lyrics inspire you. It's the song that takes you back there, even now.

And that's the power of the right song, at the right time.

It's immortal.

Before iPods, before play lists, before itunes and napster, there was the mixtape...

Let me back up and get a running start at this, for anyone reading who maybe unfamiliar with what a tape is. A cassette tape, to be precise:

Cas*sette (kuh-set)
1. Also called cassette tape. A compact case, containing a length of magnetic tape that runs between two small reels: used for recording or playback in a tape recorder, or cassette deck. The word came into usage in the 1950's, and is derived from the french casse, meaning box.

Basically it was like carrying around your own reel to reel tape machine. It was revolutionary. It could record music. It could be erased and re-recorded. We didn't buy records, or albums, or CD's -- we bought tapes. It could get tangled, and then things went south fast. It could break, and if you were very careful, it could be repaired. Most importantly, it was portable.

Recorded sound had been around for roughly a century, but until the cassette tape, it was never more portable than the clunky phonographs of the previous generation. (We're not going to mention 8 Track Tapes -- even though I may, or may not, have spent hours listening to an 8 track recording of Debbie Boone singing "You Light Up My Life." Don't judge me). But the small size of a cassette tape enabled you to carry music everywhere you went -- in your car, in your boom box, in your Walkman (that's a whole other post -- a Walkman was a primitive iPod, for the uninitiated).

After portability, the next best thing about tapes and tape recorders was the ability to create a personalized collection of music, from all of your individual tapes.

The Mixtape was born.

You could put Van Halen and Kool and the Gang on the same tape. Why you would do that is beyond me, but that's beside the point. The Mixtape could be anything. It was a declaration of independence.

The Mixtape was freedom, and freedom is the overarching theme of youth.

The Mixtape was created by, and, in a very real sense, is almost exclusive to, Generation X. Our grandparents had the giant, cathedral-like radio, in the corner of the living room -- it was, literally, a piece of furniture. Our parents had phonographs. Our children have iPods. But anyone who uploads a 300 song playlist on to their MP3 player, owes a debt to the teenagers of the 1980's.

A mixtape might be a collection the biggest hits of the day, or a mass of songs, that fit a certain mood or style -- ballads, head bangers, glam rock, new wave (gag me with a spoon).

A mixtape often was a love letter. If you couldn't compose your own sonnet, let Steve Perry and the boys do it for you.

And when you couldn't depend on the DJ at K-whatever-station-you-listened-to to play the music you wanted to hear on a regular basis, your best bet was the Mixtape.

And it wasn't easy to make. Here's the problem: Tapes came in basically two lengths -- 60 minutes and 90 minutes, but every song is a different length, and you wanted to fill up as much tape as possible. No one wanted a length of silence at the end of the tape, you wanted the music to end, right as the tape did. This required precise calculations and timing.

And you thought math would never come in handy...

It would take hours of rewinding and fast forwarding (remember rewinding and fast forwarding?) and synchronization to create the perfect combination of music.

A great mixtape is like a great meal -- timing, seasoning, the right ingredients and everything prepared just right. C'est Magnifique!

And, whether you were breakdancing or slow dancing, rocking out, hanging out or making out, or sitting on the hood of your car, watching the sunset across the valley from Zarahemla Drive, with mixtape in hand, properly queued up to the right song (or combination of songs) you were ready to face the world.

You were ready to create a moment that would last forever.

1 comment:

Kimmie said...

Chris.... You totally ROCK with your writing! Oh how I have LOVED reading your childhood posts! They all make me smilie LOTS and just make my day a little brighter!! Oh the Mix Tape... I was the QUEEN of making MixTapes for my friends. Oh the memories and YES! That one right song, playing at just that right moment embedded wonderful memories, like nothing else could! My husband and I had a MixTape from our early marriage and of course (other than an old cassette deck) we no longer have any device to play it on. It was SO fun to recently purchase all the songs that were on our MixTape, create a playlist in the order that they were in on our original MixTape and oh the trip down memory lane we had! Anywho, you're awesome! Thanks for sharing your writing talent with us! (Def Leppard was awesome... one of my favorite HS bands). Foreigner..."Waiting for a Girl like you", Wham! "Careless Whisper", and Dead Or Alive "You Spin Me Round" were probably my three most favorite songs from HS