Mix Tape A-Go-Go

Some of my younger readers might not understand what exactly a “mix tape” is. Essentially, prior to the MP3 era and organizing those items using playlists, and before CDs were easy to rip to MP3s and to clone, many of us shared our music by copying CDs, and before that, phonograph albums, onto cassette tapes. We placed songs from different artists in an order of our choosing.

My main goal behind this method of sharing was to convince eligible, single women that I was interesting, based on the idea that if I listened to deep, thoughtful music, I must be deep and thoughtful as well, and therefore attractive. How profoundly must I have missed Cindy Lauper’s message that “girls just want to have fun”?

Anyway, I thought long and hard about how to blend this song and that. I listened and made notes, alone in my apartment, for hours before clicking record/pause on the cassette deck, then start on the CD player, then releasing the pause button so the tape would start at exactly the right time.

John Cusack from the movie High Fidelity…”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.”

I knew someone for a while who would put short pieces of audio at the very end of the tape, since there was almost always a longish gap between the end of the last song and the actual end of the tape. That way there would be 20 or 30 seconds of silence followed by a surprise. His favorite clip for this was Kate Bush’s brief laugh at the start of The Fog from her album The Sensual World.

In addition to picking out and arranging songs, I always made a point of creating some deep-sounding title for each cassette, imagining beautiful, often sad women looking for comfort from their music collections, and finding my tape with its imaginative title, listening to it, and discovering that she and I were kindred spirits.

In the end, of course, it was myself, not my pretentious compositions, that landed me with my wife and kindred spirit Abby.

Why am I telling you this? I was digging through some notes the other night when I couldn’t sleep and found a handwritten list of titles for these mix tapes. They are derived from lyrics to the songs on the tapes.

  • When the Winds of Forget-Me-Not Blow (This Mortal Coil, Another Day)
  • How Strong Am I (Bee Gees, Odessa)
  • A Smile from a Veil (Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here)
  • It’s Just the Way You Smile, You Said (The Cure, Plainsong)
  • Fate Must Have a Reason (k.d. lang, Season of Hollow Soul)
  • Two Lost Souls (Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here)
  • I Pretend that I Flew Away (Cocteau Twins, Wolf in the Breast)
  • It’s Not a Message of Love (David Gilmore, Out of the Blue)
  • This Reclusive Silence (Dead Can Dance, Spirit)
  • How Time Does Fly (Bee Gees, Odessa)
  • Please Stop Loving Me (The Cure, End)
  • The Hardest Words, Spoken Softly (This Mortal Coil, Mr. Somewhere)
  • As You Claw the Thin Ice (Pink Floyd, The Thin Ice)
  • Love, the Higher Law (U2, One)
  • My Dark History (Roger Waters, The Remains of Our Love)
  • You Make Me Crawl (U2, One)
  • Only What I Want to Hear (Supertramp, A Soapbox Opera)
  • When the East Wind Blows (Roger Waters, Home)
  • Make Me Whole Again (Tori Amos, Baker Baker)
  • We Carry Each Other (U2, One)
  • How Much Longer? (The Cure, A Thousand Hours)
  • There’s a Storm in My Head (Supertramp, A Soapbox Opera)
  • I’ll See Your Face Again (Bee Gees, Odessa)
  • Grey Would Be the Color If I Had a Heart (Nine Inch Nails, Something I Can Never Have)
  • Just to Feel My Heart for a Second (The Cure, A Thousand Hours)
  • Apparitions of Your Soul/Self (Sarah McLachlan, Do What You Have to Do)
  • Don’t Go Away (Toad the Wet Sprocket, Don’t Go Away)
  • The Sweetness of Your Skin (The Cure, To Wish Impossible Things)
  • God Damn This Noise Inside My Head (Nine Inch Nails, The Becoming)
  • A Stone I Must Cut (Toad the Wet Spocket, Nothing is Alone)
  • The Chance to Behold Your Face (Alan Parsons Project, The Eagle Will Rise Again)
  • Don’t Fade Away (Dead Can Dance, Don’t Fade Away)
  • What Ravages of Spirit (Sarah McLachlan, Do What You Have to Do)
  • The Taste of Your Tears (Nine Inch Nails, Something I Can Never Have)
  • Howl Into This Wind (The Cure, A Thousand Hours)
  • My Empire of Dirt (Nine Inch Nails, Hurt)
  • I Know I Can Love You Much Better Than This (Sarah McLachlan, Full of Grace)
  • None of It Does Compare to Her Eyes (Duncan Sheik, Out of Order)
  • Everyone I Know Goes Away in the End (Nine Inch Nails, Hurt)
  • What Have I Become? (Nine Inch Nails, Hurt)
  • and the best title for a cassette tape… Erase Me (Nine Inch Nails, Eraser)
I pulled these spools out of a cassette tape I bought specifically because these cool-looking spools were inside it.
I pulled these spools out of a cassette tape I bought specifically because these cool-looking spools were inside it.


  1. Excellent! You have caused me to reminisce. I used to make mix tapes clear up past when I was married and had kids. Even after that, in the initial Napster era, I made compilation play lists of MP3s on Winamp.

  2. Just this past weekend I catalogued my mix tapes. Well…mix CDs to be exact. They’re organized by relationships. There is zero correlation, I discovered, between level of heartbreak and number of mix tapes.

  3. No, the actual title was, “Songs from the Heart: The Infidelities That Haunt Us All to the Grave Itself, Possibly Beyond.” Very romantic.

  4. Nothing to play them on and they still sit in a prominent position, carefully chosen photographs displayed through plastic covers. Each mix tape was a labor of love.

  5. I knew I would drop everything (possibly literally) once I started reading a reminiscence on mix tapes. Finally, the moment has arrived. I regularly purge my belongings, and when I purged my cassettes, I almost had to request a bulk pickup. But the mix tapes, I kept. Nothing to play them on, but no way I will ever throw them out. The playlists in tiny handwriting, the credit to “Pirates for a Better America,” it’s all in the time capsule. I made most of them for friends, though. The ones I made for myself that I played most often were entitled “Road Rage Antidote” (made soon after I moved to the Bay Area and started commuting) and “The Inner-Ear Solution.” The latter one was carefully synced to exactly match Jane Fonda’s “The Lower-Body Solution,” a frequent workout video with an unbearably rancid soundtrack. … Oh, mix tapes. A huge part of my life for years. Thanks for the flashbacks, Richard. (Also, today’s overall blog subtitle did indeed make me LOL out loud.)

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