Like a lot of other people my age, I’ve always liked to make my own mix tapes (or, now, mix CDs). In junior high, Jeff and I made primitive mix tapes by taping from the radio. We preferred to tape from KSKD because they didn’t talk over the music. We made some great tapes, filled with early 80s power rock and new wave and disco remnants, but these formative works have vanished. They’re probably buried in a box with a bunch of Neil Diamond LPs and Mannheim Steamroller cassettes, waiting to be discovered twenty years from now.

Eventually we began to buy records and tapes. (My first record, a Christmas gift, was Paul McCartney’s Tug of War; Jeff’s first record, also a Christmas Gift, was Men at Work’s eponymous debut album.) The first tape that I can remember us buying (jointly, I believe, though Jeff will surely correct me if I’m wrong) was Asia’s first album. We sat together in my bedroom, cranked the sound, and played the opening strains of “Only Time Will Tell” again and again. I’m sure this was one of the first signs for my parents that we were lost to them, we were entering young adulthood and would never be their babies again.

I don’t remember when I made my first actual mix tape. It wasn’t my freshman year of high school, and it may not even have been my sophomore year. Around this time, though, I came up with the brilliantly original idea — or so I thought — of constructing a tape which collected only my very favorite songs. I had too many favorite songs; I had to make two mix tapes.

Those first two mixes are lost, probably loaned to some high school girlfriend and never to be recovered again. The oldest mix tape I still have is Mix #3: English Mix, a tape filled with the likes of Vitamin Z (“Burning Flame”), Thompson Twins (“Lies”), Alphaville (“Forever Young”), Tears For Fears (“Madworld”) and Duran Duran (“Hungry Like the Wolf”).

My first good mix was Mix #4: Soda Pop Music, a tape that I put together soon after New Order’s Brotherhood was released in September of 1986 — I placed two songs from that album on the mix. I played this soda pop mix over and over. I wore out the tape and had to dub a new one (which, of course, caused the sound quality to suffer, but I didn’t care). The new tape eventually broke and I had to splice it together with scotch tape. (How many of you can remember splicing your favorite cassette tapes back together with scotch tape? Sometimes one had to actually unscrew the case of the cassette to fish out the other end of the tape. It was a maddening process, but sometimes it was worth it.) I still have that tape somewhere, but a couple of years ago I converted the mix to CD. The tape held 90 minutes of music, and a CD only holds 80 minutes, so I was forced to remove three songs, but I think that only made the mix stronger.

Mix #4: Soda Pop Music
(a mix by jdroth — November 1986)

  1. Don’t Change (INXS)
  2. Chipmunks Are Go! (Madness)
  3. One Step Beyond (Madness)
  4. Poison Arrow (ABC)
  5. Look of Love (ABC)
  6. I Melt With You (Modern English)
  7. President Am I (Slow Children)
  8. Genetic Engineering (OMD)
  9. Goddess of Love (OMD)
  10. Red Skies at Night (The Fixx)
  11. Radio Free Europe (REM)
  12. If I Was (Midge Ure)
  13. Every Little Counts (New Order)
  14. Chequered Love (Kim Wilde)
  15. Hungry Like the Wolf (Duran Duran)
  16. Close to Me (The Cure)
  17. Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream) (The Icicle Works)
  18. Catch Me I’m Falling (Real Life)
  19. Original Sin (INXS)

This one mix opened the floodgates and suddenly I was making mixes for friends and family every couple of weeks. I made Mix #8: Checkerboard Mix, Mix #11: Summer Nights (and Mix #12: Summer Nights, part two), Mix #14: Voices in My Head, and Mix #25: Soda Pop Music II. None of them were as good as my first soda pop music mix.

I went to college and was pleased to find that Willamette had outstanding audio equipment available for personal use in the library. During my freshman year I’d borrow records and tapes from my friends and I’d trundle across campus to the library where I’d set up a regular duplicating studio: while I was recording a record to tape in one room, I’d be dubbing tapes in two separate rooms. And what did I do with all of this newfound music? I made more mixes of course!

I made mixes for Amy (Mix #31: A Dinner for Two and then, after she left for Germany, Mix #38: Holding Back the Years). And I made mixes for Kris:

Mix #44: Music for the Anatomy
(a mix by jdroth — 28 March 1989)

Side One: Music for Your Legs (and Hips)

  1. Our Lips are Sealed (Go-Gos)
  2. Rock Me Tonight (Billy Squier)
  3. Devil Inside (INXS)
  4. Beds are Burning (Midnight Oil)
  5. Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
  6. Great Balls of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis)
  7. Heard it Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye)
  8. Crocodile Rock (Elton John)
  9. I Want Your Hands On Me (Sinead O’Connor)
  10. Destroyer (The Kinks)
  11. Hello, I Love You (Adam Ant)
  12. Grown Man Cry (The Rolling Stones)
  13. Talking Loud and Clear (OMD)

Side Two: Music for Your Arms (and Lips)

  1. You’re My Home (Billy Joel)
  2. Crazy Love (Helen Reddy)
  3. Gypsy (Suzanne Vega)
  4. Without Your Love (Roger Daltry)
  5. Baby Mine (Bonnie Raitt)
  6. On Your Shore (Enya)
  7. Every Breath You Take (The Police)
  8. Verdi Cries (10,000 Maniacs)
  9. Natural Woman (Aretha Franklin)
  10. Lover Man (Communards)
  11. Sea of Love (The Honeydrippers)
  12. I Just Want to Make Love to You (Muddy Waters)

Of course I wasn’t the only one making mix tapes. Jim Osmer gave me an advocacy tape filled with his favorite bands (fIREHOSE, Screaming Trees, The Pixies, They Might Be Giants, Husker Du, Red Hot Chili Peppers), and another tape he called The Blues According to Jim packed with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, and more Muddy Waters. Amy sent me a tape from Germany. Heather Butler sent me a tape for my birthday; she called it the pink album. Since Heather and I have become estranged, this is one of my prized possessions of our former friendship.

the pink album: I was nineteen, now I am twenty
(a mix by Heather Bulter — March 1989)

  1. Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go? (The Harvard Din and Tonics)
  2. Miss Italiel (Plastic Bertrand)
  3. Can You Feel It (Jane Fonda and the Jacksons)
  4. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Willie Nelson)
  5. Jungle Love (The Time)
  6. One (A Chorus Line soundtrack)
  7. Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183, first movement (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
  8. Something’s Coming (Barbra Streisand)
  9. And She Was (Talking Heads)
  10. Heart and Soul (Huey Lewis and the News)
  11. Something’s Coming (West Side Story soundtrack)
  12. America (West Side Story soundtrack)
  13. In a Big Country (Big Country)
  14. One (reprise) (A Chorus Line soundtrack)

During my junior year I made my second great mix, Woman Unchained, a mix comprising only songs by women (and one song by Tears For Fears). I’ll post the track list later.

The summer after I graduated from college, I worked in the A/V room at Tokyo International University of America (a story for another time). I had access to many fun toys, including a sound system connected to two VCRs and a laserdisc player. Well. What fun it was to make mixes incorporating songs from my favorite movies! I’m still quite fond of my single-sided When Harry Met Sally mix, which features songs from Singing in the Rain. If only I could have come up with a second side…

I continued to make mix tapes throughout the nineties, though I lost track of my numbering system somewhere in the 120s.

The year I bought my first CD-burner was a revelation: I could rip all of my CDs to mp3s on my hard drive! And then came Napster: I could download difficult-to-find songs! And then came mp3-manipulation software: I could create seamless segues between music tracks! My favorite technology, though, was my soundcard and its ability to record from external audio sources. Suddenly my old scratchy vinyl records could be converted to digital music (complete with pops and clicks). I spent several weeks converting hundreds of songs from vinyl albums and 45s to mp3. I’ve made three mixes from these vinyl tracks, the best of which was the first:

Clinging to Vinyl
(a mix by jdroth — 05 May 2000)

  1. Heading for the Moon (Cyndi Lauper)
  2. Mirror Man (The Human League)
  3. Talk About the Passion (R.E.M.)
  4. Europa and the Pirate Twins (Thomas Dolby)
  5. Going Down to Liverpool (Katrina and the Waves)
  6. If You Were Here (Thompson Twins)
  7. Johnson’s Aeroplane (INXS)
  8. Stand or Fall (The Fixx)
  9. October (U2)
  10. Don’t Change (INXS)
  11. Love of the Common People (Paul Young)
  12. Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream) (The Icicle Works)
  13. Madworld (Tears For Fears)
  14. Left of Center (Suzanne Vega)
  15. Pop Goes the World (Men Without Hats)
  16. Chequered Love (Kim Wilde)
  17. Space Age Love Song (A Flock of Seagulls)
  18. Haunted When the Minutes Drag (Love and Rockets)
  19. Modigliani (Book of Love)
  20. I Don’t Mind at All (Bourgeois Tagg)
  21. I Need You (The Eurythmics)

Notice any similarities between that mix and my very first mixes?

I have a special file in my desk which contains lists (and partial lists) of songs for future mixes. Scattered across my hard drive are dozens of Winamp playlists featuring mixes-in-progress. I have an uncompleted bluegrass mix, a still-to-be-finished “Best Damn Abba Songs Ever” mix, a half-finished mix of a cappella covers of U2 songs, somewhere there’s a nascent heavy metal mix, and I still haven’t finished the science fiction mix you all helped with earlier.

The best thing of all? Kris likes to make mixes, too. When we go on long trips, we take turns listening to each other’s mixes. She has a penchant for bitter women. I tend to like repetitive synthpop. It’s great!

Here’s a list of previous entries featuring mixes I’ve made:

Maybe I’ll make a new mix tonight…


On 09 May 2003 (09:40 AM),
J.D. said:

Here’s a mix that I love but Kris hates. The segues between the tracks are s-m-o-o-t-h and the music gets me jumpin’:

Funk Is Its Own Reward
(a mix by jdroth — 15 November 2002)

  1. It’s Just Beginning (Jummy Castor Bunch)
  2. In the Hand of the Inevitable (James Taylor Quartet)
  3. Funky Music (White Boy) (George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic)
  4. Theme from S.W.A.T. (Rhythm Heritage)
  5. You Sexy Thing (Barry White)
  6. Mr. Big Stuff (Jean Knight)
  7. Monkey Drop (New Jersey Kings)
  8. Get Down On It (The Gap Band)
  9. We Want the Funk (George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic)
  10. Lady Marmalade (Patti Labelle)
  11. Green Onions (Booker T and the MGs)
  12. Light Years (Jamiroquai)
  13. Brick House (The Commodores)
  14. Pick up the Pieces (Average White Band)
  15. I Like Girls (Fatback)
  16. I Think It’s Better (Jill Scott)
  17. Love is Rare (Morcheeba !?!?! — yup, Morcheeba)
  18. Theme From Shaft (Isaac Hayes)
  19. Sex Machine (James Brown)
  20. Rock Wit U (Alicia Keyes)
  21. Take the L Train (Brooklyn Funk Essentials)

This is quite the funky mix, and plenty of good listenin’.

On 09 May 2003 (09:49 AM),
J.D. said:

Last fall, Paul Carlile came up and we spent a day together, mostly huddled around the computer listening to music. He and I both love ethereal electronica type stuff, trip-hop, etc. This awesome driving mix was the outcome of that session:

Passengers: A Driving Mix
(a mix by jdroth — 15 October 2002)

  1. Announcement (Arling & Cameron)
  2. Voulez-Vous (Arling & Cameron)
  3. Lebanese Blonde (Thievery Corporation)
  4. Hell is Around the Corner (Tricky)
  5. Nights Interlude (Nightmares on Wax)
  6. Breathe (Telepopmusik)
  7. Intermezzo (Arling & Cameron)
  8. Gorecki (Lamb)
  9. Days Go By (Dirty Vegas)
  10. Signs of Love (Moby)
  11. Battersea (Hooverphonic)
  12. Sea People (Emiliana Torrini)
  13. Slug (Passengers)
  14. Your Blue Room (Passengers)
  15. Always Forever Now (Passengers)
  16. Different Kind of Blue (Passengers)
  17. Beach Sequence (Passengers)
  18. Miss Sarajevo (Passengers)
  19. Tears in Rain (Vangelis, from Blade Runner)

For those who are unaware, Passengers == U2 and Brian Eno, sounding very much like The Unforgettable Fire. This is a great mix, perfect for long night-time trips. It’ll put you in a high-mental-state trance and make the miles melt away.

On 09 May 2003 (10:53 AM),
Tiffany said:

It is funny. I have more music in common with you then with Rich! He loves to make mixes, but never labels the stupid CDs so; he can never fine the CD that he wants when he wants it. I have made a few mixes, but am not that committed.

My first music buying experience was unpleasant. In 4th grade I wanted �Michael Jackson Thriller�, yes, I am ashamed to admit that now. So, I saved up my allowance and headed for the BX (military Wal-mart). There were two album covers at the store, so I picked the photo I liked better. Only to find out that I pick up the extended single album and not the whole album. I was devastated, cried to Mom, who went and bought the right one for me. J

As a side note, Rich has a whole box of records that we keep moving around. We do not even have a record player to listen to them on!

On 09 May 2003 (01:29 PM),
tammy said:

Heyyyyy! What do ya mean, “how many of you remember splicing your cassette tapes with scotch tape”. Like nobody does that anymore . We just taped a cassette tape with scotch tape a couple weks ago. Are you implying we’re way behind the times!?

On 09 May 2003 (05:26 PM),
Lisa said:

J.D., I recently realized that you provide a forum for vaporing on at the world, and I thought I’d give it a whirl.

A friend of a friend has become famous for his annual CD mixes. (I think he may give them at Christmas.) Each year he puts together a variety of songs that have been interesting or meaningful to him. His name is Jay, and the mixes are called DJay 2002, and so on.

As onlookers (onlisteners?), Craig and I love going to Kaylene and Matt’s, where DJay is often the choice in the CD player.

Sooo… If you’re affirming your dedication of mixes, perhaps it’s time to create retrospective of the music that you’ve enjoyed over the year, fiscal quarter, lunar month, or whatever.

The first album I bought (bicycled to Grand Central before it was purchased by Fred Meyer) was Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair when I was about 14. Fine album.

On 10 August 2003 (04:42 PM),
Brenna said:

How nice to see that someone else besides me remembers and appreciates Bourgeouis Tagg! I’ve also made my share of mixes, and used to fill the last 1-2 minutes on each side with random stuff off the radio (pause the record function, find a radio station, unpause, record 5-10 seconds, pause again, find new station, and so on). Quite enjoyable, and the results were pretty funny at times.

On 14 August 2003 (11:18 PM),
Korrie said:

Hey, I have an interesting situation that you might be able to help me with. My boyfriend is a 19 year old Marine that lives in Cali and I’m a 16 year old high school student that lives in Kansas. We talk for hours every night and we are truly in love. A few days ago, he asked me to marry him. (Don’t worry, we are going to wait until we are both through college until we actually do) I was wanting to make him a mix tape as one of my ways of saying yes. Think you can help me with the details? If anyone has ideas or wants to help, my e-mail is [email protected]

3 Replies to “Mix Tapes”

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