>From Oct. 2006
Revised Jan. 2009
The Meaning of it All:
John Cusack has made it impossible for any guy to up the ante in the arena of wooing a woman. Cusack, whose quintessential character figure for love lorn teenage angst, Lloyd Dobler, who he made famous in “Say Anything” and who every guy that comes in contact with every 20 to 30 year old straight woman is measured upon, states in “High Fidelity”, when discussing the process of a mixed tape hit it on the head;
“The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. That is why the making of a great tape has to take considerable thought, precision, and one should allocate precious time in deciding exactly what song to choose and where it should go.”
Making a tape for our own personal enjoyment aside, creating a mixed tape is a risk. It is not as big of a risk like Russian roulette, playing chicken at the top of a cliff or even climbing Mt. Everest but in certain situations and on occasion it can definitely feel like, if its not legendary, the barrel of a gun is pulling back its Lay-Z-boy and making itself at home while permanently making an ass print on the side of your temple.
If anyone has been living under a rock the past number of years or has never before attempted to mix a tape and you are asking yourself, what the fuck would make one feel this way? It is simple, to make the person they like like them back without saying the actual words I like you. Its the teenage, young adult and quite often the adult equivalent of a boy pulling a girls pig-tails or making a boy chase a girl around the playground. Its basically flirting for the musically inclined, the introverted loner or even the extroverted wild-child.
Look, not to say that Im a true expert in the art of mix tapes or anything, a tape-mixatologist if you will; but I would hope that I have some kind of authority because if I can remember back correctly I may have concocted a mix tape for almost every single girl that I had a crush on or wanted to date. I cannot remember the exact number because it was a shit load. Want to know how I made out? Well here are my essentials as of today: I am a 29 year old, single white male living alone in a one-bedroom condo the size of a small sardine can and I spent the better part of the entire weekend writing to you fine people. How bout them apples?
Damn you Lloyd Dobler!
Realizing that it is the year 2009 and that the majority of the teenage population in America possibly has yet to ever hear the word Tape let alone see one; I want to assure them that I am using that word in a more general context. Do not fret younglings, I will distinguish between a mix tape and CD soon enough.
At the risk of bombarding you all with, what I deem my top secret recipe and I-can-tell-you-but-then-I-would-have-to-kill-you formula, I have finally come to the realization that perhaps if I finally divulge then maybe, just maybe the one person out in the void who actually is reading this will be successful where I have been confidently mediocre.
The How To: The Format, What Type Are You?
Well boys and girls, let us now begin the exciting journey of how to mix a tape. There are numerous components that you have to consider even before choosing a list of songs:
The Tape Guy:
As we all know by now, CDs, digital music and their technological advances have flooded our society and popular culture. Yet, I have to believe that there is that Uncle Rico clone somewhere out there in the great wide open, living vicariously through the glory years of 1980’s high school and heavy metal hair bands with their long protruding locks and enough spandex to suffocate King Kong, yet who is still rocking out to Dolby cassette tapes. This one is for you Uncle Rico, for those about to rock (We salute you)
With mixing a tape, because there is no skip to next song button, one has to be cautious not to over populate one side and have a song cut in half. I dealt with this problem the same way I dealt with the broken gas gauge of my used 91 ford escort; I guessed. When the needle was nearly ½ or ¾ empty I just filled it up again neverminding what was left. Therefore, if you are left with space full of annoying and awkward silence right before the end of Side A and/or Side B then so be it. It is better to have the entire song then being left wondering and half satisfied. Am I correct ladies, no woman wants that!
The CD/IPOD Guy:
A CD can be either seemingly simple or treacherously hard. Simple, for the primary fact that the new and improved Extreme Makeover: Uncle Rico edition does not have to suffer through another painstaking and embarrassing guessing game of being left wondering whether the unlucky soul recipient of his tape was satisfied or is now sitting shotgun in Jake Ryans Porsche.
For that reason, the art of burning a CD is so much easier because the maker finally knows how much space there is and how many songs would be able to be on one compilation. Yet the treacherously hard part comes into play when, in the process of downloadable burning, you lose everything you so diligently worked all of 24, 48, 60 or 72 hours straight for, only to have stopped for bathroom breaks, coffee breaks and intravenous shots of Redbull, because the reliable and unbreakable PC and/or laptop that youve had since college spontaneously decided to take a shit. Dont you hate when that happens?
The How To: Songs and Who to Make Them For…Decisions Decisions!
Now that we have gotten the nitty gritty aspect of mixing tapes out of the way, I can focus on the more enjoyable choosing of songs. Wait, did I say enjoyable? Forgive me; this is when the barrel of that gun that is waiting ever so patiently, protruding on the side of your temple would come in handy. The process and decision making of song choosing is an art all to itself. It is like what the knight at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade said when Indiana and Donovan, the bad guy, were trying to decipher what the Holy Grail looked like; You must choose, but choose wisely. For as the true Grail will bring you life- the false Grail will take it from you. That is why this process is risky business; a truly great compilation of songs can bring you a potential relationship a failed one can potentially take a relationship from you. Or so I assume. But really what do I know? I had made a countless number of mixes and yet nothing came of them. I can only imagine that all of my mix tapes that I had made for my middle school and high school crushes are collecting dust and/or are being used to prop up a table with one leg shorter than the others. This leads me to the question of which songs and how to decipher between audiences?
The How To: The Mixes
Once again, I refer to John Cusack’s statement in High Fidelity, You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. My formula for any tape that I have compiled has been quite similar in the way Cusack describes: Lead off with a killer, heart-pounding track, push it into second, third and fourth gear with similar sweet tracks, then pull back leaving the listener time to recoup and cool down with great low-key tracks. The next couple of examples I feel represent the only reasons for truly making a mix tape (excluding our own enjoyment and family member birthdays):
The Crush Mix:
Heed these words for life boys and girls: “You think you know, but you have no idea.” Look, we all can attest to having our musical preferences, whether it is: alternative, the blues, country, Emo, heavy metal, hip-hop, R&B and the like. We love music-I would not be writing this if I didnt and obviously you, my lone reader, would not be reading this-but the fact of the matter is, if you want to be freed from Duckie-ville and have your crush finally acknowledge that you exist then pander to his or her musical choices however popish, gothic, electronic, metallic it may be. Secondly, being that this tape is for your crush, you want to be as subtle with your chosen songs as one can. The entire purpose of this tape is to show, through songs, how obsessed you are for your crush without blatantly and overtly demonstrating your Duckie-type behavior. Thus, there should be no problem if your subliminal love songs are woven throughout regular killer tunes.
*Crush Mix Disclaimer: If you only take one thing from all that I have taught you today, let it be this: Never, when making a tape, fill up the entire Side A and B with only one song. I learned the hard way, when in 1992 my mother requested that I make her a complete tape of her favorite song-notice that is not plural- at the time, Whitney Houston’s I will Always Love You. To this day, I still cannot listen to Whitney Houston. I was, am and will always be traumatized.
The Significant Other Mix
Let me dispel any quandaries that you may have. Yes, this tape is for the girlfriend or boyfriend, yes I do realize that my relationship track record after having given a barrage of mixed tapes is not so impressive (0 for I lost count). And yes, I know that I should be a member of the Official Duckie Fan Club. Yet, what I can do is acknowledge the fact that, in the eyes of the women I so dearly wanted to date and be boyfriend material too; my tapes were only seamlessly mediocre so you can keep your significant other while I can keep my record intact. Being that I am single but yet have had the opportunity to make a tape for an ex-girlfriend of mine, I am happy to report that she enjoyed it,… well at the time that we were going out she did. I can only imagine, at the present time, the tape that I gave to her has taken its proper place, propped underneath a slightly shorter coffee table leg.
Making a tape for someone that you are already involved with, once again seems so simple yet treacherously hard. Simple, for the primary fact that the one making the tape would not have to worry about being subtle with their subliminal love songs, just as long as the songs that he or she chooses send a clear message about the state of their relationship. The songs Ugly Kid Joe’s Everything About You, Nazareth’s Love Hurts, R.E.M’s Everybody Hurts or even Johnny Cash’s Hurt would probably not sit well with your significant other, unless the message that you wanted to portray was of disdain and contentment ultimately leading to a break up. Yet, the treacherously hard part comes into play, for example, when I am reminded of a scene in an episode of FRIENDS where Chandler and Monica, while planning their makeshift gifts for Valentines Day, are both mentally stuck in neutral of what to give. In a panic, Chandler seeing a mix tape presents Monica with it. With Chandler seemingly in the clear- -having Frank Sinatra’s The Way You Look Tonight playing in the background- -a sudden blow to his ego knocks him on his ass as the voice of Chandler’s ex, Janice, screams in her irritating and annoying high-pitched voice from the stereo “Happy Valentines Day my Bing A Ling, I love you Chandler Bing.” Do not let this happen to you or you are sure to be one of those unlucky, failed relationships.
What Lloyd Dobler has taught us is to never stop looking for that dare to be great situation. True, I had my pitfalls, my trials and my tribulations going through this mix tape process, all along believing that maybe just maybe one girl would have accepted my tape and view me in a different light, both daring and great. That, I thought, would be my situation. Yet, the fact of the matter is, that is not it at all…it never really was. I have come to the realization, that with as much time and effort that I put in to those mix tapes for other people, I found the process equally if not more rewarding for myself. Needless to say, inasmuch as those relationships were concerned…well there were none, but all in all I sure learned how to make killer mix tapes.
Thank you Lloyd Dobler!