Magic of a Mix Tape

I may be old-fashioned. I understand the benefits of technology. Sure, I love having the entire Pearl Jam catalog at the touch of a button. But I will always love physical music media. There is something in the tangibility of a mix tape or CD mix that technology will never replace.

Allow me to give you an example:

Each year, my friend, Adam, keeps a running collection of his new favorite songs for the year. At the end of the year, he creates a double-disc CD mix complete with customized and professional CD sleeve. Each year, each of those CDs have two separate themes that intertwine. For example, this year, disc one was “Luvin'” and disc two was “Fightin'” Consequently, the songs on the first disc were love songs–I don’t mean sappy ballads you hear on the radio. Each track was carefully selected from his eclectic tastes which range from old school (good) country, to great new alternative rock, with a few good Christian rock songs peppered throughout. Likewise, the second disc follows the same pattern related to the theme of fighting, hurt, and heartbreaks.

Usually, throughout the year, I will hear a new great alternative number on the rare occasion that I tune in to radio land and say to myself, “Hmm. I should buy that.” After some contemplation, I might purchase it but I like to hear at least three good songs from a new band before investing in a (real, hard copy!) album, be it vinyl or CD. Yes, I did say vinyl. For there is a beauty in vinyl that will never be replaced by its more “practical” counterparts. For example, you have to really sit and listen to a record. This means that you will give it your utmost attention. Hopefully, you will silence your phone, blowing up from text message alerts from your friends at work or afar, and cherish the sounds. Taking time to be still and only absorb music is so essential to the inner peace we crave in this “Me-Mine-Fast-Now” culture we’ve been shoe-horned into.

But I digress. A thought follows my quest to obtain the new song: I bet it will be on Adam’s year-end super mix. If not, I’ll reconsider purchasing it. Usually, I am pleasantly rewarded by discovering that my favorite songs during the year have found their way to his ultimate music-sharing list, and thus, into my hands.

Mix CDs are personal. Sure, Adam creates these for a multitude of his friends, but the each one is done with care to contribute to the rewarding community that music is. Mixes, in general, are very personal, though. They are far superior to a greeting card and that says a lot since–you guessed it–I still adore writing by hand and receiving REAL mail. Mixes bulldoze over a youtube video share on Facebook. They are, in ways, the ultimate consideration. Someone in your life has sat down and really taken time and effort to make a mix especially for you, for whatever reason.

I challenge you to make a mix this week for a friend, maybe even someone you’re not terribly well-acquainted with. Perhaps it might help you get to know them better. Whatever the case, they will most likely appreciate your time and effort, even if they weren’t too crazy about that new Cage the Elephant track.

Be well and keep on rockin’ in the free world,


P.S. If you would like some inspiration, do yourself a favor and read Rob Sheffield’s memoir, Love is a Mix Tape


All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned…

…from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

It’s funny how, in certain times of our lives, we subconsciously reach for just the right CD that is in tune with whatever we are feeling. I’ve been in a rough patch for a while–this winter has clung on too long–and I picked out Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Echo for my CD sleeve sometime last week.

This morning, I reached for it and hesitated, thinking of the “Room at the Top” opener. With a title like that, and accompanying lyrics such as, “I’ve got dollars in the bank and I’m all right…” you’d think it would give me a lift, but no. I have always viewed it as a sad song. Thinking on how sometimes sad songs make you feel better, I put it in anyway.

By the time I hit the interstate, I had a strange sensation slip into my skin. It was that giddy music endorphin flood that happens when we listen to things that just make us feel alive. By alive, I don’t even mean all happy and upbeat and obnoxiously cheerful. Sometimes certain music makes us feel alive because it is so in tune with the way that we feel.

I smiled because I had the thought, which I uttered aloud to the plush TY pink flamingo I keep in my car: “All I ever need to know I learned from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.” The spirit of music will always uplift me and I owe it nothing less than my life–however dark at times–my words, my breath and my full attention.

I know I’ve ranted about Tom Petty more than once, but if it feels nice, do it more than twice. Any album of his is good for a road trip, a long commute, or a back porch rocking chair sit.

Isn’t it a relief to know that, even in a bad spot, music can make us feel alive and surrounded by people who understand. It felt like suddenly, the pianist was in my backseat and Mr. Petty had his right arm draped over my passenger door, feeling the cool April breeze pass through his talented fingers.