As the second piece in the punk damask series I wanted to pay homage to the mixtape. While audio cassettes have recently had a modest revival with hipsters and record companies for their low-cost in production and their difficulty in conversion to digital format, long gone are the days when people would share mixtapes.
I can remember how much it meant to me to get a mixtape from a friend. You could almost measure the depth of a meaningful friendship by the number of mixtapes that were carefully prepared and shared. The amount of time it would take to fill a 60 or 90 minute tape with carefully curated songs was always appreciated. How close the new music would match your personal preference or challenge your perceptions of music would also indicate how well your friend knew you. Sometimes songs were strategically recorded from the radio when they aired for the first time. Other times it was a collection of new favourites.
Explicit content was all the rage in middle school. It seemed like the parental advisory sticker was less a deterrent than it was a call to action.
Sometimes it was a way of sneaking music into the house that otherwise would have been banned from consumption by juvenile ears. Often purposely mislabeled “Tiffany” or “Wilson Phillips” these tapes would contain the likes of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Ministry, the Ramones, Public Enemy and Pearl Jam. Explicit content was all the rage in middle school. It seemed like the parental advisory sticker was less a deterrent than it was a call to action. When a favourite band didn’t have the sticker they were said to have “gotten rid of their edge” to placate the PMRC. Looking back it seems as though it was just another form of rebellion that no one paid much attention to.
The mixtapes had a life of their own too. Played in a rogue player they could be warped, chewed and mangled, forever changing the playback and quality. My mixtapes were no strangers to the Canadian winter neither, often suffering from hypothermia and never fully recovering. Seeing as those mixtapes were unique (often the only ones of their kind in existence) they would still be played through the stretched and garbled sections and parts held together with Scotch tape. It meant I had a special version of a song that no one else had.
However, my mixtape collection is no more. I no longer own a cassette player. My love for all kinds of music has remained. But lost are the mixtapes of my youth.