Timeless Thoughts: Mixtapes and CDs

Timeless Thoughts is a monthly linkup hosted by Georgie and Tara, where bloggers write about something from their past – it could be an item, a place, an event – anything that evokes a trip down memory lane. Timeless Thoughts is held on the first Saturday of the month, and runs for two weeks.

What we know as mixtapes are not really a thing anymore. Not a physically tangible thing, nor a digital thing. They are called playlists now, and they can be shared online, synced to your phone, compiled on websites like 8tracks. What we know as the mixtape doesn’t really exist anymore.

Gone are the days I threw a cassette tape into my recorder and recorded songs off the radio, turning the tape manually with my fingers to get to the right spot, and making sure that I didn’t overwrite something that was already on the tape. I used to stop recording at the exact moment the voices of the hosts on air kicked back in, because I wanted just the music, not the radio commentary. I hated when songs with fade-outs had to be stopped before their true ending because an advertisement came on the radio. I filled cassette tapes with my favourite songs from the radio because CDs had not quite become a thing yet, and they were expensive, and people still had cassette players.

An old tape recorder.

Cassette tapes have become some kind of hipster trendy way to release your album – I know Brisbane bands Velociraptor and Woodboot released a limited amount of their albums on cassette.

Can you even buy blank cassettes anymore? I haven’t even looked.

I remember when CDs began to become cheaper. You could buy albums for just under twenty dollars instead of $35, and singles for $1 in some stores, as opposed to $5. Even then, I thought it was expensive to buy only two or three songs for that much. But the price is still pretty much the same on, say, iTunes. You still pay $1.69 for a song. I’ve been ripped off, don’t you think?

CDs were perhaps a lot easier to deal with than cassettes, purely because they were digital. I was not a ‘downloader’, in fact, I had such poor internet that I rarely downloaded music (or anything). I copied CDs to my computer, which might also explain why my physical CD collection became bigger than the average person’s, and I borrowed CDs from the local library to listen to. I’d copy them since they had to be returned. And of my growing collection, I could make as many mix CDs as I wanted.

In fact, one of my favourite things to do was to make mix CDs, name them, and print out custom designed covers for them. At the time, I was a bit of a graphic designer nut, and I loved designing those covers. I was very into music but I didn’t have enough drive at the time to write my own music, so I named my mix CDs what I would potentially have named my albums – if they had been of the same genre.

I strategically put songs of a similar genre on the same CD, but sometimes I would mix it up a bit. I would make sure that songs contrasted so when you listened to the CD you would not have a whole bunch of rock songs with a random ballad somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t ever put two songs by the same artist after one another. I got so obsessed with my techniques, it was like an art, a craft. I even wrote a guide on my old website on how to make a killer compilation disc.

These things made amazing gifts. I recall the time I made my mum a CD of her favourite songs. I also copied whole albums but redesigned their covers and gifted them to friends for their birthdays (I gave my friend a self-designed copy of Missy Higgins’ Sound of White). They were very thoughtful and creative and I think it was where my characteristic of buying thoughtful gifts began. I saw what sharing music in a creative way could do – it made me feel good, it made people happy, and people felt really touched. I can’t give the same gift of music with an iTunes voucher or a Spotify subscription. When I receive these gifts, though, I know that my friends know I love music enough to receive ‘the gift of music’, though deep down I feel that if I were to give that gift, I’d go right back to physical mixtapes and mix-discs.

I wish I had photos of my creations, but these are fond memories of gifts that have been passed on to people, and I never needed to keep them in physical form to know how much doing this warmed my heart.

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Comments on this post

I never made mixtapes or mix CDs much. I think I may have made it once or twice, but I just never got into it. I did have a couple of friends giving me mix CDs as gifts, and I can see now that they do make great gifts — especially if you do compile songs the person likes! I remember the one mix CD I received from an online friend — it had some great tracks on it! I wonder if I still have it . . .

Anyway, I think it was great you were into designing your own CD covers :) I think I did that, too, but I haven’t saved any of my creations, haha! XD

I’ve always preferred CDs over cassette tapes because I always liked how you could select which track you wanted to listen to on a CD. I found it tedious to fast forward or rewind to the track I wanted on the cassette tapes!

Hehe, I remember recording songs onto tapes from the radio!! I even used to have a walkman. Then when CDs were popular, I had a discman. I used to make mixed CDs ALL THE TIME. I still have a lot of them actually. And yes, like yours, they were genre-based and I didn’t have the same artist in a row etc. I used to create a pretty cover with the songlist as well!

Now the only time I make mixed CDs is when I want music for the car. Especially if I only have a band’s album digitally and not hardcopy. So I’ll just burn it onto a disc through iTunes and voila! :)

I think stopping the tape just before the radio presenter started talking was a real skill. I wonder how many of us would still be able to do it now. I used to love recording music from the radio. I’d get ready for the chart show, on a Sunday, and record all of the songs I loved.
Then I used to make mix CDs as I got older. I actually had a friend to used to make CDs for me all the time. I’d name a couple of artists and he’d make a playlist full of similar songs that he thought I’d like. I still occasionally burn songs onto disc for in the car, but I haven’t done it for a while. It always takes me ages to choose the perfect songs.

Ah mixed CDs were fun to make! I personally hated using cassette tapes because you couldn’t really jump to the next track right away. It was a chore to rewind or fast-forward on to a track. I don’t recall making mixed CDs as much back then, but I find myself making them now because my car has a CD player and I like having mixed CDs for long drives.

Tapes were so amazing. I can remember being obsessed with making my own ‘recordings’ as well. It was something me and my friends would do when I was 8 – 12. It was disastrously hilarious. It was a nightmare trying to record songs off the radio though. Especially when they used to talk or you would run out of tape half way through a great song. ;_;

Like you, I had terrible internet so never downloaded songs when ‘everyone else did’. I brought so many CDs. It was really exciting and awesome. When I finally got ‘okay internet’ I was kind of reluctant at first to purchase via iTunes, because I liked having a physical copy of the music on the disk. It changed eventually and had so many albums purchased that way. xD It’s so weird that now most music can be ‘free’ with subscription now. Sometimes you don’t know which direction things are going to take.

Wow this post makes me so nostalgic! I remember when I would record songs from the radio to make mixtapes, then once CDs became popular the coolest thing was to have a CD player! Once digital music was available but before I was rich enough to own an iPod, I made my own CDs! I still have so many of them, hehe.

Now is the age of laziness through Youtube. :P

I don’t think we can buy empty tapes OR CDs here anymore. But what if we gift people special playlists?

I’m a bit younger than you so I just missed cassettes but I did used to make mix CDs when my taste in music was very questionable… making your own CDs sort of felt like defying nature.

“I would make sure that songs contrasted so when you listened to the CD you would not have a whole bunch of rock songs with a random ballad somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t ever put two songs by the same artist after one another. ” – this was me when I first got an iPod! And it was for a while, haha, but it’s too much effort. I’ve now ditched iTunes for Spotify (hear hear!) (HAAHHAAHA that pun so wasn’t intended but apparently I’m a comic genius) and my playlists are just my mix of the week, songs of the moment and ‘thinking’ songs.

I used to buy some CDs when I had a Walkman, but I always hated that you would have to be stuck with some songs you didn’t like. Unless, of course, you got that rare thing: an album where every song was one of your favourites. I’m looking at you, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge… (and Nevermind, of course).

I remember making a lot of mixtapes. I used to record all sorts of things while watching the tv. I was a huge fan of Pokemon (still am) and I used to record the title songs and make mix tapes of them since I couldn’t find the hindi version of the songs online!

Nice post for Timeless Thoughts Georgie!

Wow, you took a lot of effort making your ads and stuff! I bet they were lovely!

I remember recording various stuff on tapes, and making my own mix tapes or cds. I think I gave some cds as gifts to friends too if I recall. Was a nice way to make your own cd, with just the stuff you liked.

I used to make mix tapes and CDs! Before CDs, I did the same thing where I would record songs from the radio onto cassette. Though I mostly buy digital versions of songs now, I still buy a physical CD now and then. It’s just kind of nice to have a physical item, you know? I totally did the same thing where I would make my own CDs, with custom covers that I made in Photoshop. I also made sure that the songs transitioned nicely, and I would have themed CDs.

Aahh, this entry makes me miss making those CDs! I don’t miss having to carry around so many discs, but it was fun to design for them :)

I made mix CDs for my husband and only him. I loved doing it so much that I started doing it a lot and even started doing it online through my box.net account.

I even did my own covers <3 It just brings back so many memories!

I’ve never actually made mixtapes or mix CDs – maybe because it was past my time? I remember owning one McFly CD and only heard of mixtapes and mixing up songs through Soundcloud fairly recently! I’ve always just been very digital in terms of music so I don’t have any CDs!

It’s pretty amazing how technology evolved from having bulky gear to it being digitized. Though, it’s good in a way that you can keep physical storage to a minimum and maximize logical storage ;). I think it’s cool how you designed your own covers for the CD’s you made! It’s cooler than handing someone a CD that just says, “Name’s Mixtape” (or something). I wonder what’s this era’s version of mix tape’s is!