“Here. I made you a mix tape.”
Wow. What would I put on a mix tape for a new friend – this is an important question. Making a mix tape has never been a joke; it’s a serious business. It not only comments on you, but it also communicates some assumptions to the person to whom you’re giving the tape.
First, what length tape will you give them? 30 minutes a side? 45 minutes a side? I think there were even some tapes that were an hour on each side. Then, you need the right equipment. You can’t record off the radio onto a mix tape. No. The whole point of a mix tape is that the person have the whole song, unadulterated by radio personality bla-di-blah. So you have to take it directly off the CD or another cassette (that doesn’t have radio crap on it.) If you don’t have a clean version, don’t add it.
Here’s what I’d put:
Song 2 by Blur is always good to start a tape. “Woo-hoo!” Upbeat, a little silly. Who can hear that song and be in a bad mood?
Mercedes Benz – Janis Joplin – This one is also a lot of fun. I normally wouldn’t put something folky/bluesey like Janis Joplin after Blur and before ZZ Top, but I think the *fun* characteristic fits them together.
Cheap sunglasses – ZZ Top – Also silly, but still respectable while more rock n’ rollish. Good to blare out the windows on a summer day. With some cheap sunglasses.
Ramble On – Led Zeppelin – Shows you have a solid leg in the rock pool, and chances are good that, even if they don’t like rock and roll, they like this song and will keep listening. Nothing is worse than having to fast forward through a song on a mix tape. Also, it’s half the length of Stairway, so even if they do have to fast forward, you have time to save it. (Although, according to Cohiba, if your friend doesn’t like Zeppelin, they don’t deserve to be your friend. Better to test the waters early.)
Anything by U2 – still respectable, but also good quality. It also shows more range.
Until the Morning – Thievery Corporation. This one might be weird to your new friend, but this is a good place to put it. At this point in the tape, I have a strong foundation, I think they’re bought in, we’ve developed some trust, and now I can share with them something they might think is weird. Not too much, (I don’t want to scare them) but I want to see what they think. They might like it, too.
Bangarang – Skrillix – This one is less mainstream, but it’s a good jam. And if they don’t like it, they can just forward to the end. if they’re my age, they remember the reference to this word.
Side B – Halfway there. Make this side good, too.
Babel – Mumford and Sons – While this is upbeat, it’s getting more folkish.
Sheets – Damien Juardo – Full on indie rock here, a great song while still obscure. They probably don’t know this song, but they need to.
Heart of Gold – Neil Young – still folky, still cool. You’re just looking for good people, man. Just trying to live life. It’s good, man.
Where is My Mind – Pixies. I got to know this song on the walls of my local climbing gym, and I can’t hear it without smelling the chalk and feeling the harness around my legs. This one is fun, and it transitions out of folk, getting the listener ready for something else.
Return Home – Seoan (Eli Kazah) – Again, testing the electronica waters while still winding down a successful mix-tape.
Ishtar – Seoan (Sao Vincente) – This is a fantastic final song, a wind-down song if there ever was one.
One final important question: should you talk on your mix tape? I have always been emphatically anti-mix-tape-talking. No cute little intro or outro to the tape, and definitely no comments during the song. It’s never as cute as you think it is or how funny I know I am ;), it interrupts the flow of “just music.” Also, part of the point of a mix tape is to allow someone to own a cool song. They can go on and pretend they fully own this cool song; they’re just that cool. By talking on it, I prove the falsehood of that fantasy. I don’t let them live the fantasy. I want to be considerate of my new friend.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t draw on the tape. In fact, putting little colorings and drawings on the cassette case make it more valuable. I like to put on a wee comic. Even if it isn’t very good, it’s original and will make my friend smile years from now.