"Better Mend Your Tracklist"

I heart cassette tapes.

I know, I know, cassettes are the lowest form of life in their category. If you get them wet, do they not drown? If you snag the film on something, does it not wrinkle? They can snap, they can warp, the sound quality is pretty meh, and cars can't play them anymore (that's true, by the way- the last car that rolled off the line with a cassette player did so several years ago) so you really can't use them anywhere.

But did you ever think about the time it takes to make a mix tape, versus a burned CD? Mix tapes are made with comparatively intense TLC. You, the maker, have to record them in real time. That means you have to listen to each song as it's playing and be there to punch Stop and Record. That means you have to pick the precise length of time per side so there are no awkward silences at the end, and no abrupt cutoffs. It means you have to listen carefully as you start and finish so you don't try to record over that three or four seconds where it won't take. And while you're at it, you might as well make the songs flow together. I have to say my playlist style owes a lot to my time as a mix tape maker, which occurred well into the 2000's, and put me pretty behind the curve of my CD-burnin' coming-of-age contemporaries.

Woooo! Look at how much fun that guy is having! That's like me, jamming to my Alice Cooper mix in my '88 Ford pickup when I was 16. This is the model of cassette I favored, 45 minutes a side.
Image from http://discountbatterysales.com/product/MAXUR-90.html

I learned a few tricks besides attention to detail after I switched to CDs, such as giving the list a memorable title, or keeping it a courteous length (12 tracks being a little on the brief side, 14 being quite comfortable, and 16 being long enough) if you're giving it to somebody. But my quest is still on for other elements of the perfect playlist.

So far, I hypothesize that there should be at least one very quirky, possibly nonmusical, usually surprising track for a change of pace, and I believe in including one outstanding instrumental track. I do not believe in coding secret messages (first of all, that element gave rock & roll a bad name... how DO you play a record backwards? I never knew; second of all, you pretty much have to be either psychic or twins to pick up on stuff like that). In the next few posts I will talk a bit about what else I like to put on my playlist.

Is there anything you always do on a playlist, whether you're drafting it for yourself or for someone else? Does everybody else just slap stuff on a CD and say "Look what I made for you?" Do you like getting mixes from other people?

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