May 27 13

This morning over breakfast, I explained what a Walkman was to my 21st century littles.

“When I was a kid, this is how we played music. On a giant cassette tape—in a giant contraption. And if you were really lucky, your Walkman was the kind that auto-flipped your tape so you wouldn’t have to manually pull the tape out and flip it over.

And you couldn’t just hear a song you loved on the radio and have it on your device 28 seconds later. Oh no, you had to convince your mom to drive you to the mall so you could buy a cassette tape. You had to buy the entire album. And you couldn’t just skip to the song you love—you would have to either listen to the crappy songs, or sit and fast forward to the good songs on your dual-cassetted boom box.

You guys are so lucky—you literally have music at your fingertips. You can sort your music by album or artist or even alphabetically. You can drag and drop when you make playlists for your friends.

Back in the dinosaur ages known at the 80s and 90s, you’d have to sit by the radio and WAIT for the song you wanted to come on, and you’d pray that the DJ’s voice wouldn’t come on over the end of the song, because, really, that’s the last thing you wanted on your mix tape. Back then you had to know the exact running time of each song because you didn’t want to be left with too much dead air at the end of the side, but you also didn’t want the last song to be too long that it’d be cut off. Back then you had to make every single song work and flow properly. There was SCIENCE involved, you guys. And MATH too. And a little bit of art too. Making these tapes was big business—it took rough drafts and outlines and plans.

They should probably teach a mix-tape class in your school. Oh my god—I could teach it!

I could talk about the art of making the Valentine’s Day mix, or The Second Monday of the Month mix, or the Wednesday is Party Day mix. Or The Noise Day mix. Or the Love Songs mix.

Or the Mellow and Mellower mix, or the the Songs to Make Love To A side with the Songs to Break Up To on the B side, or the Songs No One Should See You Dance To mix, which no one ever saw me dancing to. Rightfully so. Or the COVERED mix, which, obviously, was full of cover songs. Or the Q101s mix…an entire mix of the best songs playing on the radio at the time. Or the Walk of the Mil AKA Roadtrippin’ which was made for the 90-minute drive between school (in Chicago) and home (in Milwaukee. Get it? Walk of the Mil? Milwaukee? Hell’s bells, you all, was I ever clever in high school.)

Now I just have to find a cassette player so I can find out what’s on the Noise Day mix. I am *dying* to know.”




“Tell me something I don’t know, young grasshopper.”

“Ok. Don’t ever teach a mix tape class at my school—that would just be super lame. Also, no one likes Math. Obviously.”


  1. *whispers* I have a cassette player and have been known to listen to my ancient mixed tapes on occasion. So if you want to come over…


    Comment by Sandy on May 27, 2013
  2. This was so funny I read it to my husband. I did ALL of those things.


    Comment by Jodifur on May 27, 2013
  3. I’ve told you the story of when Kaylie started listening to some old books-on-tape that we had, right? When reaching the end, she rewound that side, turned the tape over, and rewound the other side. So she could be at the beginning of the tape, obviously.


    Comment by Jen Wilson on May 27, 2013
  4. You’re speaking right to my (80s/90s) heart, lady.


    Comment by Angella on May 27, 2013
  5. I remember sitting in front of the radio in our living room with my cassette recorder waiting for American Top 40 Countdown with Casey Kasem to come on, so I could record the songs I liked!


    Comment by Elizabeth@Table4Five on May 27, 2013
  6. It was totally a science! Especially when recording off the radio – would the DJ talk? would they interrupt before the end with the new or weather into music? – so many variables. And the art of leaving enough space so that your new song did not cut into the previous song, without leaving *too much* air space. The perfect mixed tape was pressure!


    Comment by Kim@Co-Pilot Mom on May 28, 2013
  7. I made a tape for my mom one Mother’s Day with the Boyz II Men song, Mama, on it, and I recorded my voice before the song came on.

    And I was in college! HA!


    Comment by Kristabella on May 28, 2013
  8. When my husband and I were courting waaaay back in 1994, we made mix tapes for each other. His even featured Canadian bands like the Tragically Hip and 54-40, to introduce me to the music of what has become my adopted country. I also used to make mix tapes to commemorate every year in high school and university. Time to dust them off and listen to Alphaville’s Forever Young. Except I AM SO OLD. Thanks for the laughs.


    Comment by Lisa on May 28, 2013
  9. Oh mixed tapes. I remember trying to tape songs off of the radio. I never perfected it. My trigger finger wasn’t quick enough to stop the song before the DJ started talking.
    He had a sexy radio voice.


    Comment by Kimberly on May 30, 2013
  10. Love it. My original Walkman was the “manual flip” kind. I later bought the auto flip one later. Ahhh, how I loved my mixed tapes.


    Comment by Tania on June 3, 2013
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  13. Reminds me of the goldbergs episode recently where they bought a $900 CD player! Xx love this, and I am proud to say I still have some cassettes for fun!


    Comment by Sonya on April 12, 2015

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