About three-hundred years ago I used to make mix tapes.
Ankle-deep in C30s and C60s, I’d record music off the radio (usually the Sunday night chart show off the BBC – or the Friday night chart show if Luxembourg reception was good enough – seldom was though), or try to blend selected tracks from my huge vinyl collection (T. Rex – Slider, Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman, Carole King – Tapestry).
I’d blend the mix tape music together to suit my future moods such as the inevitable break up that would inevitably follow when Belinda Thomas actually inevitably deigned to start talking to me which, inevitably, she never actually did. Strangest relationship ever. We communicated exclusively by passing notes to each other on the journey to/from school and only speaking on the phone on weekends.
Or a mood mix tape for the inevitable rebound relationship with Belinda Thomas when she inevitably realised the inevitable folly of her ways and we made it to full-on talking to each other in public (which, inevitably, never happened).
Or a mood mix tape for the inevitable time I picked up my self-esteem and inevitably left Belinda Thomas in tears, as she inevitably realised the foolishness of her ways – but, inevitably, too late – and I inevitably blew the dust of that small Welsh town off me, and strode manfully into the setting sun. Actually, most of that one happened.
My point is a lot of time and mental effort went in to producing each mood mix tape. I’d make lists, I’d make lists of lists. I’d make lists of lists of lists. Probably not that last one.
I’d try to match tempo, so that listening order wasn’t random. I’d try to put lyrical themes together, so that messages flowed. Nothing was left to chance.
Years later, when I was stationed on the Dutch/German border, I discovered the wonderful world of Dutch FM radio stations and the awesome selection of world music they played.
And I made more mood mix tapes. For my car this time. The Phillips stereo FM/cassette player didn’t have much of a receiving range, but I had tape-cases full of cassettes all over the back seat of that Mini.
Fast-forward a bunch of years and I was (largely) consuming music through my iPod Classic. Mix tapes are not called mix tapes any more. Now they are playlists. My playlists. On my iPod. They are made from my music, all 10,000 tracks of it, and these playlists are all exclusively mine. And they’re on a device the size of a cigarette packet.
All those cassettes, gone.
Fast-forward another bunch of years and I still have my vinyl collection (slightly bigger than it was all those years ago). And I still have my iPod Classic. And all those playlists. But now there’s a new game in the musical town,
Now I have access to millions of tracks in millions of playlists. But unlike the iPod playlist years, these tracks aren’t exclusively mine. Yes I can search and select for a global database of music, but there are two additions.
The first addition is that now I can access playlists of complete strangers, no matter which part of the planet they live on. I can add those playlists, or any number of components of those playlists, to mine.
The second addition is that I can share my playlists to anyone; people I know, people I don’t know. I can post a link to any of my playlists here. Or on any social media. I could even share a playlist with Belinda Thomas. Except I can’t. She’s probably still not speaking to me. Inevitably.
But music? That’s growing up really fast.