I remember, when i was 11, maybe older, the feeling i would get whenever i got my hands on new music. I can remember coming home, tearing the wrapper off the cassette case, popping it in to my boom box and laying on my bed with the cassette liner notes spread out in front of me. There was always that moment of anticipation, wondering if your favorite band had posted all of their new lyrics, filling the tri-fold with type that no one over 30 could possibly read, of if they had filled it with mascara filled, aquanet worshipping pictures. There was really no open internet then, you couldn’t pull up a lyrics search site and read them off, you couldn’t go to a band’s website. If there were no lyrics inside that cassette you would spend hours, rewinding songs over and over until you new every word, every guitar solo by heart.
That first moment was amazing, the first notes of the first song would kick in, and you would lay there with the ear of a critic and a fan. You would always listen to the whole tape the first time, it was too much trouble to fast forward, overshoot the next song, rewind, and fast forward a little more just to get it perfect, so you just sat there, enraptured, each new song becoming your favorite, every ballad your next breakup song. Then you would tape your favorite song onto a new mixtape, sometimes revolving the whole tape around how you felt about that one new song. There was always an art to making the perfect mixtape, and it was taken seriously.
When Cd’s came along it almost felt like cheating to be able to skip through a song, and as an 80’s kid, brought up on Vinyl and cassettes, i initially tried not to use this newfound power. Now i think nothing of listening to the first 2 minutes of a song then moving on, and every now and then i realize that i’m missing something. I don’t think i’m dating myself by writing about tapes, i think music has lost some of its mystery and innocence. I don’t mean innocence pertaining to lyrics or covers or overall content, todays music is no less shocking than Chuck Berry was in the 50’s. No, i think music today is too easy. I can stop writing this and go download 100 songs in minutes. There’s no longer a need to make a mix tape for a friend, there’s no music that you have that they can’t get within seconds. Artwork can be downloaded and lyrics searched for and printed with ease. I think my biggest gripe is there is no anticipation for music anymore. An album is usually leaked online before it’s even finished and someone you know has always posted a review on their blog moments before you even hear the first song. Music is quick, dirty and always ready for mass consumption and immediately discarded. So what’s the solution? there is none. Music has made its natural progression like it has through all of the previous formats, and for better or worse this is where we are today.
But i think that next time i buy a cd (yes i actually still buy cd’s) I’ll sit down in front of my stereo and go old school. I’ll take a moment to enjoy ripping the cellophane off the case. I’ll pull out the cd liner notes and just listen. No skipping, no internet searches. I’ll start my favorite song over and over till i learn all the lyrics and maybe, just maybe, if you ask nicely, I’ll make you a mixed cd.