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.”
“YOU ARE SO OLD.”
“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.”