Tuesday, August 14, 2007
A Letter to the Editors
The following missive (in hardcopy form, with CD) was received over the weekend by the editors of Teenage Kicks.
THE BEST MIX TAPE I EVER MADE!!!
I’ve asked myself to write some liner notes to explain the significance of this artifact, and I’ve graciously accepted my offer. I feel the need to explain a bit, because on Thursday, August 2, I finally committed the musical and aural distractions found on “Thru the Past circa 9/1/83” to CD; the next day, I made a cover with a photo of the A-side of the weathered Maxell UD XL II C90 and a headline declaring “THE BEST MIX TAPE I EVER MADE.” The very next day, one of the co-conspirators at the Teenage Kicks blog [teenkicks.blogspot.com] posted an entry titled “The Greatest Mix Tape Ever Made.” I’ve included the timeline of these events so said co-conspirator won’t think I was ripping off his title. Great minds, as they say.
The tape that I have humbly deemed “The Best Mix Tape I Ever Made” was recorded on the eve of my 28th birthday. I assume there was a gathering planned to mark that insignificant occasion, and some of the selections on the A-side of the tape somewhat self-consciously address the passage of time, most obviously [perhaps embarrassingly so] the first song, the Animals’ "When I Was Young” [take a bow, Hilton Valentine] and the second track, which contains the line “I feel I’m getting old.” But the rest of the tape, I will not so humbly declare, charges through four decades of rip-roaring, hair-raising popular music. I will not give any hints about the rest of the songs preserved on the magnetic tape sound recording [though only a few of them are from the decade of its creation]. My theory of tape mixology embraces the element of surprise — if, for instance, you make a jaw-dropping segue from Barry and the Remains to Richard Hell and the Voidoids [and, no, that does not happen on this artifact], one doesn’t want said segue to be spoiled by its listing on the cassette insert. [And, dear reader, this tape is crammed with jaw-dropping segues.] The experience of listening to a mix tape for this first time should be a leap into the unknown, a peeling away of layers of delight. [And a mix tapist should never include more than one song per artist per tape; and, if that rule is broken — as it is on this very tape! — those songs sound never be heard consecutively.]
I have mix tapes heaped in various boxes and teetering on shelves [I have no idea how many there are; who would want to count the countless?]. I often listen to them late at night, when the new CDs and mp3s and Internet streams have run their course. I slip a tape into an ugly Sony boombox and delve into the inspired [and insipid] mash-ups, always enjoying a bemused delight when a song whose artist I cannot identify comes on [others would never have this who-the-heck? disconnect, as they compulsively label the results of their labors]. I’ve spent a lot of time with year-end compilations from the ’90s, radio grabs of live shows from the ’70s and ’80s, and random then-new comps that got played in rusting Pintos and Corollas and Encores and on an Aiwa walkman. But this tape, “Thru the Past circa 9/1/83,” is my Basement Tape, my High Fidelity special, my GREATEST MIX TAPE EVER MADE. Every time I have played it — countless times — I have resolved to dub copies and foist them on those who I think would care to listen. But copying tapes is time-consuming, and blanks cost $20 each now that they have become virtually obsolete. So I finally dragged the ugly Sony boombox next to the hard drive [full disclosure: the ugly Sony boombox is usually about eight feet from the hard drive], ran the mini-to-mini wire from the headphone jack to the audio input, and turned the splendor on the magnetic tape sound recording into 1s and 0s. The result runs for 46 minutes and 50 seconds [C90 — yeah, right]. [And the result also includes an unplanned contribution from 2007: a Windows “alert” that occurred during the transfer.]
Enough ruminations, dear reader. At this point I encourage you to become a dear listener and delve into this virtual tape. I have not made this CD a two-disc set and included the B-side [labeled “9/1/83 — 5 star mix”] because, as heard in 2007, it is merely a 3 star mix [and leads off with a song by an artist I cannot identify]. The A-side, though, deserves 10 stars.
Perhaps one night I will return to the basement and make “The Best Mix Tape [or At Least A-side] I Ever Made In the 21st Century.” In the meantime, I’ll just slip this tape into the ugly Sony boombox one more time.
Jack A. Sery
August 7, 2007
Listen to THE BEST MIX TAPE I EVER MADE!!!