Updated: Jul 28, 2021
Chances are if you were born before the early 1980s, those two little words ‘Mix tape’ will make your heart skip a beat and sigh at the wonderful memories it evokes. For those born in more recent times, you probably don’t know the thrill of waiting for the music charts on a Sunday so you could record your favourite songs off the radio. You had to time it perfectly so you could cut out the voice of the DJ. Then press the heavy clunky record button with a satisfying click. My best friend used to come over virtually every Sunday and we’d listen to the charts together. I spent all my pocket money on blank tapes to record on. It was a great way as a kid to get cheap music, in the days before Spotify put it at our finger tips in an instant.
There's no doubt it's a great thing to have any song you desire there at the touch of a button and yet... mix tapes were about far more than recording your favourite chart hits. They were a way of saying 'I like you' without having to put it into so many words. One of my first boyfriends recorded ‘Sweet Emotion’ by Aerosmith for me on a tape, no other songs, just that one, but he'd clearly spent time decorating the cassette box for me, which made it so much more personal. It meant far more than if he'd spent money on buying a new one.
All these years on however, over a quarter of a century in fact, it’s not that tape that sits strongly in my mind. Let me tell you a story about a boy called Scott. He was my boyfriend's best friend and he was passionate about The Cure. To look at him, you would never have suspected a die hard Cure fan was contained within his frame, he would have looked more at home at a rave. A drunken conversation one night down the pub lead us on to talking about his grand passion. Time passed and I forgot about the chat, until one evening Scott produced a mix tape from his pocket of all his favourite Cure songs. He'd made it to share his passion with me. In that moment i remember feeling incredibly touched. Until that point, i wasn’t even sure that he liked me. Mix tapes however took time to produce. It wasn’t just the time it took to record from tape to tape but the time spent planning and choosing what songs to include, then labeling and illustrating the cassette case. Here was a gift more precious than diamonds or gold, it was the gift of time. I didn’t know The Cure before then but i listened to that tape over and over again and a new fan was born, not just for The Cure but for Scott too. Truth be told, i think i developed a little crush.
I heard one of those songs recently, Just Like Heaven played on a film and all those sweet memories flooded back into my mind like a Tsunami, carrying me away on strong waves of emotion. I found myself wondering what Scott is doing now, he must be nearly fifty? Does he still listen to The Cure I wonder? I no longer have my original mix tape, my husband threw all our cassette tapes out one day not realising the sentiment attached to some of them. I have made my own version of the mix tape now on Spotify, it’s not quite the same but i still have the wonderful memories of that gift and the strong feelings it still evokes. It's not just the music that was recorded on that mix tape all those years ago but a little piece of both our souls.