Ep. 1: The Lost Art Of The Mixtape

In the premiere episode of Tunestiles: Brian & Jay dive in the lost art known as the mixtape. From recordable 8-track tapes (yes, those actually existed) to modern-day streaming, the concept of a mixtape (as well as the impetus behind them) has certainly evolved. The question is: has the impact of the mixtape been replaced by the convenience of a playlist?

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Ep. 1: “The Lost Art Of The Mixtape”

BRIAN:
Greetings, everybody. Hello. This is the Tunestiles Podcast. I am Brian Colburn.

JAY:
My name is Jay Sweet.

BRIAN:
Thank you guys for tuning in we appreciate it.

JAY:
Hope you guys are all doing well.

BRIAN:
This is our debut pilot episode here.

JAY:
The premier podcast.

BRIAN:
The numero uno right if you’re keeping track at home you know keeping them tally of each podcast we’ve done you just put a little one there, you’re all set!

JAY:
I use the hash marks like we did in prison.

BRIAN:
There you go! So, we are here at the Tunestiles Podcast to talk just about music. Everything. Music, You’re not going to hear a lot of politics on it. You’re probably not going to hear any politics on this. You’re not going to hear any religion. You’re not going to hear anything about movies. Maybe some pop culture references that every now and then. But basically all we ever do is talk music. So that’s kind of what you’re getting here. So if you’re a big fan of Television Podcasts or political talk, this might not be the avenue for you.

JAY:
We we can find some places for you to go for that. This idea, this concept, was born out of the fact that Brian and I pretty much do everything together we’ve known each other since 2000 I believe.

BRIAN:
That’s a long time.

JAY:
Long time…and it doesn’t matter where we are. It always comes down to the fact that we can riff for endless hours on music so we decided to try and put that to some good use.

BRIAN:
Yeah at least our incoherent ramblings will be there to share with everybody.

JAY:
Exactly.

BRIAN:
So we’ve been talking about a lot of different ideas. There’s so many different topics we could talk about and we want to kind of make this interactive with you guys out there, the listeners so if there’s something that you guys want to talk about or something like that, we have a very professional gmail account set up – tunestilespodcast@gmail.com. And you can also find us at http://www.tunestilespodcast.com, where you can download all the episodes and subscribe. We want to make sure we hear from you guys. So if there’s certain topics you guys want to talk about, or certain things that questions you have or stuff that that that piques your interest please send it our way and keep the dialogue going.

JAY:
Stay tuned because we will we will be some of these will go a little longer than others I think but for the most part I you know, we’re just we’re not going to get heady on information and not going to get that dialed down into minutiae. We’re just gonna we’re just going to talk about fun things to kind of pop into our heads at random times and and or while we sleep right asleep and and and we’ll get them out to you the masses.

BRIAN:
Well for the debut show we kind of were drumming up some different ideas and we basically came up with the idea of talking about mixed tapes, something that has evolved over the years since when we were kids to now and it’s basically taken on a world of its own, given the fact that now it’s peaking people’s nostalgia, and it’s still in people’s lexicons about mixed tapes…but nobody ever actually does them anymore.

JAY:
I was gonna say and I think that the last it’s funny because I had a few things research wise when you brought this topic up when I left my our careers have taken us to you know traveling all over the all over the place and me I’ve been in six or seven different states following my, my chosen career path, but when I left Albany, New York, I was working up there for about probably about five years and headed to Florida for to work in Orlando, a friend who was a producer at the TV station I was working for up there made me a mix tape for the ride down it was the coolest thing I was like, Oh my God. And since she gave that to me on a on a CD, and I hadn’t I literally hadn’t had a mixtape since the early 90s.

BRIAN:
Yes, see, so it’s definitely evolved and I think like we need to kind of take it all the way back to the beginning and talk about where it started and then you know kind of bring it into modern day because I don’t know if you’re if you’re somebody that wants to kind of profess your love for a significant other in modern times I don’t quite know if a Spotify playlist really has the impact I know like I just don’t know. So you know, these are the things we’re going to talk about and yeah, so this episode is all about a mixtape.

[Avenue Q Sound Clip]

BRIAN:
Yeah so there you go. Little Avenue Q for you.

JAY:
Yes for those who don’t who aren’t theatrically inclined.

BRIAN:
If you need another pop culture reference…

[Friends Sound Clip]

Even through some friends in there for everybody. So, now that we’re hitting all the different demographics here, let’s take this all the way back to the beginning. Obviously with vinyl there’s no such thing that people weren’t cutting lacquer mixtapes for anybody and if they did that would really show you cared I mean that is a time consuming process. So the fact that that I understand that people never really got to that point but the invention of I would even go back as far as eight 8-tracks because you could buy a recordable 8-tracks.

JAY:
I wasn’t aware of that.

BRIAN:
Yeah, it’s not that they were not very popular by any means.

JAY:
Like beta.

BRIAN:
Yes, but my parents had a recordable 8-track player and I had my quote unquote 8-track which is where I kind of got started with this because I would take my records and record them onto an 8-track so I could listen to certain songs in a row. Now for those of you that don’t know what 8-tracks are, it’s a four sided cassette. I don’t want to say the sound quality is good. It’s okay. It’s better than the cassettes that we all knew in the 80s and 90s.

JAY:
But, is it?

BRIAN:
I mean, the tape depends on how many channels you use. Yeah, I guess if you want to get really technical, little technical stuff, but that aside, it was a way for me and I’m talking I was like, five. To be able to say, Oh, you know what, I want to listen to this song, and then this song, I could just put it on, and kind of be playing Atari . For me, this was a game changer, and this is the first of many game changers in the in the realm of mixtapes. The first game changer was, believe it or not, the cassette tape, because no longer did you have to listen to an entire album.

JAY:
And in your car if you had cassette tape recordable cassettes were basically an endless stream of music that you could finally cultivate and put together yourself which was completely unheard of.

BRIAN:
So it started off with just the idea of oh my god, this might work. Where can we start, at five years old, Six years old, seven years old, I had a stack of 45’s and I said well god I’m always just switching these on the record player all the time right, now I could put them all onto a cassette and listen to them in a row? So it was game changing even for my little young seven year old mind.

JAY:
Starting with the you know cassette tapes began as I believe 30 minute recording devices 15 minutes aside yeah yeah. And then they went to 60 and 90 and then oh if you had $1.75, you could get 120 minute mixtape.

BRIAN:
Yeah, but those hundred and 20 minute mixtape Let me tell you those hundred 20 minute cassettes were so thin. If you even put that in like 98.7 degrees he would be done done. But anyway, so we started with with I started with recording 45 and I would record all like my 45’s onto a cassette and then this this idea spawned in my head. Look…everybody’s probably had this idea on their own but once you kind of come to it, it’s like “wow, when I’m hearing songs on the radio I like, I could put this cassette in and record the songs off the radio?”

JAY:
Depending on it back in the day for those of us who didn’t necessarily have disposable income to be able to go down to the record store and pick up you know, the the album or the the single the 45 that you wanted. Or even, you know, even buying other cassette tapes of full albums. Yeah, I said we kind of had to wait for for the popular music of the day. Hey, our favorite song’s on the radio!

BRIAN:
Yeah. And then you hope that there’s no DJ tuck. Oh, that was the worst. You know, you got your song, you finally hear the ref. And you’re like, Oh, thank God. Here it is. And you’re recording. And all of a sudden that guys like, Well, here we go with the next top five and nine and coming in at number three. And you’re shot man! Come on, how am I supposed to get a copy of this, what you’re talking over it? And then you know if that’s the only version you were able to get. And then finally, you know, months down the road, you get the full album and you’d go to actually listen to the song and you don’t hear the DJ talk up. You’re like, wait a minute, this is missing something.

JAY:
That and the fact that sometimes your favorite song is edited for radio of the on like radio?

BRIAN:
Yeah, during the 80s during the whole Tipper Gore situation?

JAY:
Yeah, well, I’m even that for time for time constraints, like songs like Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone,” they take out the entirety of the guitar and the keyboard solos and weird sound effects synthesizer.

BRIAN:
If you go back to The Doors “Light My Fire,” two and a half minutes. But then you hear these album versions and it’s totally different experience. So you have these songs off the radio and I actually even just continuing on the radio, I took it a step further because I want to say it was around my eighth birthday, my parents got me the second game changer. And that was a dubber. A dubber meant you can take your cassette tapes and transfer the cassettes, the song from one cassette over to another one. Now for real audio technical nerds out there you are losing generations of quality and the more you you know, copy from tape, you lose generations of quality but for an eight year old? Game changing!

JAY:
How often did you find yourself with a Q tip and alcohol swab cleaning all controller in the in the cassette?

BRIAN:
I’d say probably about weekly.

JAY:
Because I want this to be so clean. It’s got to be perfect. Yeah.

BRIAN:
And the thing was, like most kids out there want to go and play with toys. And, you know, eight, nine years old, like, Yeah, I did that I rode bikes and stuff and went outside and did stuff. But at night, instead of playing with, like, action figures, or I literally just sat and listen to music. It was just ingrained in me from being a you know, toddler was always about music always wanted to listen to music. And even when I hit that, like video game phase with Nintendo and Sega, I would always turn that down and have real music playing I had to listen to real music. So with the dubber and the radio came another idea that I had, that was convinced my folks to buy me to blank tapes in the in the big to pack, and what I would do is I would take one tape and I would call it the, the master real. And what I would do is I would literally go and record 90 minutes of radio and then I would scroll through the tape and find the songs I want and dub them onto another tape. Yeah. So that way I didn’t have to sit and wait anymore so that it was game changing. Because it’s like…wait, how I don’t have to listen to songs I don’t like I can just hit fast forward and 10 seconds later I got the next song and and then just compile them? And then there was the compilation…that was the one I kept. And the other one I would just keep recording over and over again because I didn’t realize that sooner or later you’re gonna wear to tape out. I’ve used that tape hundreds of times and just record hours and hours are snapped from bring overplayed.

JAY:
Yeah, but and then and then like God, I remember this one time I had a DJ talk up over a song and it was in the middle of likes. I’d a on the cassette and I said you know on this master tape I’ve got a version clean without the DJ like song starts song and it’s just perfect so then I would literally go into the other cassette and try to erase the DJ talk up song with the song without the talk up and not align it up not screw up the song that followed because then it would just create a chain reaction and it would ruin the guy or take you have to start over from scratch yeah you don’t want to do that but that was like delicate so what boils down to is that this is a very arduous time consuming project. That’s why it was so significant that if you presented a tape cassette to to somebody that you you you had feelings for you kind of liked that was a thing.

[Ballyhoo! Sound Clip]

BRIAN:
That song came out in 2017 that’s Ballyhoo! and they came out in 2017 with this song so I mean it’s still out there, it’s still in pop culture.

JAY:
People still know what would mixtapes are, so there’s that. It just seemed like the perfect time to play that so yeah when you made somebody a mixtape and you’re like and you have to sit there and pick out every song that that was like perfect because you couldn’t have the wrong songs you don’t want to send the wrong message…oh yes yes especially this is going into more high school days and stuff yet but you really had to go the the distance and make sure that every song was perfectly chosen because if you gave the wrong signal, you could really you know, it can ruin friendships.

BRIAN:
Yes, it could! I’d say the third game changer in mixtapes for me…radio always had talk ups…and I want to say it was around 10 or 11 years old, my parents went out and bought a big 27 inch TV. The newest, greatest 27” inch TV, and it weighed 400,000 pounds. It could seriously crush people, those tubes in those things were ridiculous. But on the back of it there was an RCA out. And with this RCA out I figured out: wait a minute, we could plug this into the stereo on auxiliary and listen to movies or music through the stereo system, so that was like game changing in terms of that.

JAY:
Because then I could put drops in between your song?

BRIAN:
Yes. But at the same time, I’m thinking to myself, wait a minute now that you’re, we could record through the TV, and I have access to MTV!! And this is back when MTV still played. Music still played music, I mean where else I mean Headbangers ball, I could seriously record Headbangers ball and have all those amazing songs because there was no metal stations when we know growing up. I mean, the only metal station I remember was 1480 Z-Rock. It was at a Texas and because it was AM, we were able to pick it up randomly around here in New Jersey. They played all the great metal. I’m curious if anybody out there remembers that station, because that’s definitely a throwback, but an awesome metal station. Anyways, now I’ve got MTV and people don’t talkup. They didn’t even talk about videos, right? So it’s like all these are the these are the versions that you want. Yep. So then it went from right. I’m done with radio. Forget you guys. I’ve got MTV given me my clean cuts of all these songs for my for my mixtapes, and it was, it was unbelievable, because you’d sit there for I’d sit there for hours. And you know when a certain video started you’d even know from the beginning of the video like when Chevy Chase and Paul Simon walked into the room. Yes, you knew you call ya’ll it’s gonna start and then you were able to hit you know hit pause and get that whole song because it was just the videos had that that that kind of the 10 second intro that right like the clay nation starting in “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel. So you kind of had that lead in and that was awesome because then it was like, Wow, now my cassettes can have songs from MTV. If they weren’t on MTV. They can have songs from the radio. And, if I owned a few cassettes I can get some deep album cuts and then you really now you’re now you’re you’ve got a good core of sources here! And this was before you can just go on a computer and type in a band name and have endless sources. You had to work for songs. Like if there was a hit song out that they didn’t put on an actual cassette single, and you didn’t want to invest the $8.99 or $9.99 on the cassette because there was no way to preview the rest of the album, right? So, how were you to know that that pretty boy Floyd cassette that you really want?

JAY:
I don’t know and you know, the rest of the tape is going to be any good and you could get it done. And how many duds have you bought over the year over year the hit song is like it’s literally I mean the countless one hit wonders that that have been produced since you know, rock and roll was born, and then you’re you’re stuck and then it was so you always kind of waited till the second or third single for the most part like when Guns and Roses appetite came out I was like when I heard Welcome to the Jungle I’m like wow these guys are gonna be awesome I hope the rest of the album doesn’t suck and then like sweet child of mine and then paradise city I need this tape like and it was like now you knew you’re onto something because they released several singles from a Def Leppard hysteria you had animal pour some sugar ami Armageddon it women like the hysteria and you’re like okay five songs that all my god that’s great. That’s half the album but then you know you had a band like bullet boys move up in you which was a great I mean, it was a great hair band song I was talking to hair bands here but the rest of the album was okay all right. It’s it’s, it’s I couldn’t name another song off it right now if you paid me but it didn’t have the legs and back then when you spend $9 on a cassette, it was a lot different than $9 in 2018 for a CD, yo or something. I mean, you worked hard to get that $9 I for allowances that was like, you know, two months of choice. A lot of chores. Yeah. So well used to run up to like the convenience stores which are kind of falling out of favor. Now it’s everything is in these big box stores. But there was a place called phase up in Syracuse where I grew up and they got they got bought out or something. They went away and they had they always had a cassette aisle and it was labeled as the nice price. And I remember those! White Lion’s “Pride” for $3.99. Oh, that was a get the whole album! Poison’s “Look What The Cat Dragged In” for $5. Oh yeah, bargain bin! What a bargain!

BRIAN:
I also remember like as a kid going clothes shopping before school and most kids would want to go to the toy aisle when you when you go to Bradley’s or Caldor to go shopping. My parents would would take me there and most kids would ask “can I get a toy?” I would ask to go to the music section, and I was always like that! If we were in the mall, everyone would want to go to Toys R Us or KB Toys, and I’m asking to go to RecordTown or Sam Goody. That was my form of relaxation, and I spent so much time you know, digging through tapes and and stuff.

JAY:
At those stores and it’s it’s a definite time investment. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, because you sit there and you look at a cassette, you’d pull it out and you’d be like, Wow, this looks awesome. Never heard of these guys. Could this be any good? There was no Googling. Nope, there was “OK. I’ll start watching MTV and see if anything pops up on them.” And I haven’t seen anything from these guys. So I don’t know if this is going to be any good or not. And then you sit there and say, Okay, now I’ll try to find it on the radio. And you’d have to ask your friends. Yeah, that: word of mouth.

BRIAN:
And let’s be honest, how many people out there have gotten word of mouth from a friend about a band? And you go and listen to it and be like, what the hell were they thinking that I would even like this music? But music is the most subjective art, because I think it appeals everybody differently. Of course, the source and that’s that’s kind of the beauty of it. So kind of rounding out the cassettes, part of this. I mean, in high school, if you sat there and recorded songs off the radio and MTV and other cassettes, and you sat there and put this thing together for somebody that I mean, that’s like, that’s more than where here’s my football jacket. Yeah, okay, that’s fine. You did whatever but my class ring Yeah, this took me a month of my time, my spare time.

JAY:
Right to put together you know that they then she knew she meant something to you and it was it was definitely a you had to know the right time to pull out the mixtape you couldn’t just do like the beginning because then it would be a little like oh wait a minute yeah cuz you You must have been working on this for a month you couldn’t so what were you doing a monthly like a Penny and Leonard when he says to her “I had this in my head that I was in this relationship with you two years before it actually happened.”

BRIAN:
So I guess the fourth game changer here is what’s sitting behind us.

JAY:
You mean the monster rack behind us here an entire wall of compact discs?

BRIAN:
Yeah that was something else because compact discs were when they first arrived on the scene and I got my first CD player thinking myself. Oh my god. I could go from the first song on the CD to the eighth song on the CD without having to listen through instantaneous six minutes yep you know instant instant and you were right there and it was like oh my god. You know the CDs became a game changer for mix tapes of course because now you’re able to just take songs off a CD and record mixtapes that much faster. Yep. I mean, you were able to, I mean, look, you were doing it in real time still. So a 90 minute tape at minimum is going to take you 90 minutes yeah and that that was if you were literally sitting there and and and not taking any time in between songs right you’re looking at at least a two hour commitment right of time at least but no longer did you have to wait for things and wait for you know songs to come up on the radio. You could just have your friend come over with a CD yet just record the song.

JAY:
In the form of mixtapes, so my friend My friend down the street and I would have we start DJ company that way that’s how I started my first DJ company was he had a number of CDs and I had a number of cassettes and CDs and might tell you when your when your DJ in a private event or a party or something to that effect it it really really work to have mixtapes and also CDs because queuing past things when you’re trying to be a DJ you had three minutes of song to queue up to the next song and right you know you better hope you have two tape decks or at least two tape decks and those CDs really fixed a lot but my buddy chat would come over and we read we put our boxes together and put mixtapes together and that’s kind of what started off the quote unquote professional mixtapes that I started doing from that point on was was really like the song would sling together. There was some, you know that overlap there. And then we could just pop pop in a 60 minute tape and and hit it for the dance and and the kids just listen to the tape but it’s that that was done it was done.

BRIAN:
Yeah, as I was in high school became geekier with my mixtapes as well. I learned how to play with RCA connectors. With RCA connectors, if you took a left and right channel and split it going into a tape deck and you split the left and the right into two separate left and rights, you were able to take two sources and send them into the same tape deck. Mixing power! Mind you, I would just hit play, literally sit there and make tapes where I would unplug the RCA connectors for tape to as tape one is playing cue the song up and as tape to is ending I would fire tape sorry tape one was ending on fire tape to unplug the cables from tape one

JAY:
You’re really bringing it back for me yeah right on the same page and you sit there before before we can afford mixing consoles like you know yeah this was this was like four channel things even this was a trip to Radio Shack and $2.99 for that little adaptor and cables and oh my god, I could record from two sources and do all of this. That’s kind of where my love of radio and mixing and everything else came from was definitely from making mixtapes

BRIAN:
Now one thing I did want to talk about in mix tapes, that kind of died with the cassette, was the end of a side. Yes, I mean that in itself was a challenge.

JAY:
I think the hardest part of making a mixtape was always timing out the you know the side because you could sit there and say all right, Max. I have a 90 minute tape I have to timeout 45 minutes of music so now you start looking at the album covers and see if they have the times listed on the title on the tracks. And then you actually have to match, you have to program, this tape for 45 minutes and you can’t be over, and you don’t want to be. You didn’t want to be over by by too much, but you don’t want to have all that blank space the end of the tape, and you didn’t want to be he didn’t want to cut off any of the last song.

BRIAN:
Worst thing is if you’re in the middle of like the the end of Stairway to Heaven or like I’m just using that as an apple and he goes to hit the high note and it just stops. Yes. And that’s just like you’re the tape. Oh snap. Yeah. And you don’t want to continue it on the next side. Because it’s the moments over. You’ve ruined it, and you’ve ruined the song and he better just move on. Yes, and then rewind and try to put a different song.

JAY:
Exactly.

BRIAN:
So what I used to do, no matter what the tape was. I had a collection of songs that let’s say I’ve got the tape down on a 90 minute tape to 44 minutes and 20 seconds, so I had 40 seconds of blank…which was a boring 40 seconds. I mean, if you’re listening on your Walkman, you’re like “Come on!” You gotta want so what I did is is almost as a cue to myself and and as a way to just fill that space so that way that it was just constant music on both sides. I had a litany of songs that I would go on any mixtape and, you know, here’s a few of them.

[Descendants Sound Clip]

There you go.

JAY:
That’s the song?

BRIAN:
Yeah

JAY:
That’s awesome. All right.

BRIAN:
Now have you ever seen the movie in the 80s? Pump up the volume?

JAY:
Yes. Christian Slater.

BRIAN:
You’ll know this song from the movie, but it’s another another Descendants classic

[Descendents Sound Clip]

JAY:
I always had in the back of my head songs that I knew were like shorter than three minutes like two minutes songs stuff like vacation by the go Go’s yeah which clocks in at 3:19 or something to that effect.

BRIAN:
“Last Caress” by Metallica, if you cut “Green Hell” off of it on the Garage Days cassette, it was 90 seconds…so that made it on a lot a couple more of these these fantastic short songs…one more from the Descendants.

[Descendants Sound Clip]

JAY:
They like food.

BRIAN:
Yes.

JAY:
Yeah. Okay.

BRIAN:
So those songs were it was one group that I would always put now. Now one thing I have to mention is those songs would go on the end of any type of tape. Right?

JAY:
So that was the other part of the conversation was you could do a genre of mixtapes. Yeah. Which is where ultimately my my mixtape magic evolved to was an entire volume of mixtapes. Yes, that I called the ultimate driving experience. They go because when I started you know, when I when I got into high school, we started driving along we took road trips to New York City a lot. We went to Boston we went, we went to a whole bunch of cities. Canada, even even the city. Not it’s not a city like Toronto and Montreal. Yes. That’s what I meant. Canada is not even a real country. So I didn’t know what to call, right. You just ruined our Canadian fan base with that bar. Right. I digress. Um, but yeah, I mean, so you had I had a rock one a hard rock one which is the differentiation is being you know, I would consider rock like Boston sticks, journey Oreo and then hard rock you’re talking Metallica, Iron Maiden, that’s like heavy metal stuff.

BRIAN:
Excellent. Very nice. Right? So you you know those are those are the differentiation there and I had an now Okay, so you have the fifth one right? And you’ve got a lot of do off and all these songs. But then you have a space at the end and you hear and then you hear

[SOD Sound Clip]

That’s “The Ballad of Jimi Hendrix.” That SOD song would fill up the last five seconds of space on that side and then the tapes switches over and you’re on side two. And then at the end of side to you have other songs like:

[SOD Sound Clip]

That’s the extended version of “Diamonds And Rust” by SOD or Stormtroopers Of Death.

JAY:
Oh my God, I don’t even know this.

BRIAN:
These were two CDs, some of my buddies and I listened to a lot of like metal and punk in high school. And and these are songs I am sure there’s maybe an ex girlfriend out there that has an old cassette maybe…well I would hope they burned it, but just in case…scroll to the end of the side, if they even have a tape deck or an old Walkman collecting dust somewhere. they might hear like all these nice songs. That was my way of saying side is coming to an end.

JAY:
Well, now if you know as a sidebar if being a big Tom Petty fan as I know you are.

BRIAN:
Yes.

JAY:
If you bought the CD “Full Moon Fever.” After “Running Down A Dream,” all of a sudden Tom Petty comes on and says “Well, this is the part and part of the cassette where they said owners would have to take the tape out, turn it over. So we’re just going to pause just for a few minutes here. I’m gonna do that now.”

BRIAN:
That was fantastic. Because you wouldn’t know it was you wouldn’t know it was there. And I was like a little special bonus for the CD owner.

JAY:
Yep. And that just showed his sense of humor, which is fantastic.

BRIAN:
And that, you know, because that album came out right around the the advent of the CD. So yeah, it was like they were just taking off and that was one of the ones where, you know, all three formats were widely accepted sure vinyl before I set and CD because cassettes didn’t really die I want to say until like the mid 90s because I still bought a set singles in high school. Yeah well yeah i mean you know but that’s when I didn’t want to chalk up the $16 at Coconuts, Nobody Beats The Wiz, Record Town, I think there was a Record World and Sam Goody’s. I mean, you know, here in New Jersey we had like music merchant Princeton Record Exchange, which is still an institution, you had Vintage Vinyl, Scotti’s. You had the independents, but you also had all these massive record stores and mega chains and you had the big box stores that all had a music section: Kmart, Bradlees and Caldor. So there was no problem getting your hands on music.

I mean you can go to a gas station and they had some little racks of cassettes right by the counter. I want to say Game Changer number five was the big one I think…well no. The next one is this one was definitely a game changer…but the CD-R, the burnable CD. You’re sitting there and you’re like “wait a minute…I could take songs and burn my own CD of all songs I like where as I’m dragging the songs into this, it’s doing all the math for me, it’s sitting there and timing it out, so all I have to do is press a button??

JAY:
I don’t think that the first CD burner I had was a ridiculously fast for time burn. I mean, that was like, Oh, my God, I can get this song burned in 25% that’s twice as fast as my cassette dubber, right game change. Big time. Big time. game changer. And it only took me an hour to make, you know, get all the songs, get a compile, get the timing, right. Hit burn, like maybe under an hour. And it’s like, oh my god, just burn a CD.

BRIAN:
Now. Maybe this was just out of my time. But I don’t think I gave a lot of CDs to people. But I don’t know. I feel like some of the lore of it of came down a notch.

JAY:
I would agree with you there, because the hours that you spent making this, this piece of art for somebody has now whittled down to…. “um I was worth 45 minutes of your time? Thanks.” So it’s not only that, but you kind of like you lost a lot of that being able to overlap the songs and really like make better use of your time because you know, on a 90 minute tape again you only have 45 minutes on that side. And if I had if it was a difference between oh I have just enough time to put Go-go’s “Vacation” on the end of this if I slide this song and over just a little bit and overlap just a little bit more, you know, now you can’t do that. Now every track is individual on the CD-Rs.

BRIAN:
Yeah and making road trips if you were lucky enough to have a CD player in your car, right? My first CD player in my car was a CD Walkman that yeah that went through a cassette adapter, and I kept it on the seat next to me sitting on like three sweatshirts bundled around this thing and sure enough, I mean anytime you hit a pothole, not even you could hit a pebble and the damn thing would skip and that will be so it was it was a frustrating experience to say the least. And I ended up sometimes I would go as far as to burn the CD. Leave that home and then record a cassette of the CD, just to have it for the car just to have her for the car. Because it was just so, so much easier to deal with at the time.

JAY:
You know, one thing we didn’t talk about though, this could be for the cassette or the CD, was writing the tracks down. I mean, that was in and of itself part of the art form because let’s say you you were writing the track name down and he spelled it wrong. Did you break out the white out or did you have an extra card from an old cassette that you didn’t need to start a new one? Or what happens if you had so many songs on a side because when you’re dealing with you know, that’s a song so let’s say you have 10 of those, right? You’re running out of space on top of all the other songs you guys said. Then you got to flip it over.

BRIAN:
Do you want to fold a sheet of paper in there and take up more space. Add more songs do you want to write really really small and trying to go line by line and then then there was like sometimes we would do is design the front cover ourselves yeah so like we you know, we write on it, you know, whatever the title of the mixtape was and then the inside cover you write the songs out and you can’t do that on your your standard insert for a cassette that you bought like from from the store right now a guy I went to high school with I still talk to him now this guy John, I remember he made a mixtape once of like our old band and he took a bunch of our like rehearsals and put them onto a tape. He went as far and this was awesome going way back when he took the cassette apart and took the inserts of the cassette tape out printed like an album, a cassette album, cover and put it inside the cassette and then screwed the cassette back together. So both sides look like kind of this graveyard picture. And It looked amazing.

JAY:
Yeah, that we used to do that. I mean, that’s, that’s like that was precision with with tweezers and like really getting the What do they call them the the the eyeglasses, screwdrivers like so he went all out and did that and that was something I was like dude you’re really taking this thing to a next level I mean that’s that’s part of it and and you know that’s again another form of just keeping this thing you know the special part of it yep. N

BRIAN:
Now, I don’t know about by you, but in New Jersey malls, there was a company in the late 80s early 90s called Personics. Do you remember the name?

JAY:
I don’t.

BRIAN:
Okay. Personics was featured in Sam Goody’s and Record Town, all these big chain stores. You’d go in they’d have a big book and you’d scroll through the book and you’d fill out a card and you’d right like let’s say the song was, I don’t know, “Addicted to that Rush” by Mr. Big would say like “BIG123” you put that down and write the name of the song down I need to fill out this this card you bring it to the front. They would time it out until you okay that’s a 90 minute tape it costs $1 a song plus $2 for the cassette and you know think about how forward thinking this is back in the mid 80s $1 a song Does this sound familiar? I mean really so you’d sit there and go wait a minute I don’t have to go and buy 10 different tapes for those songs or 10 different cassette singles I can go into the store and pick the songs out of a book and then they would have the freebie of the month one song that they would put out and you could include on the on the cassette is a freebie okay that’s how I discovered “Black Velvet” Alannah Miles was via Personics. I don’t know if if anybody ever heard of this out there they were called Personic Cassettes and you can only get them at the malls and you literally go and they would fill out and they would print you out a book that you’d open the J card and would have all your songs listed. And the cassette would have a sticker on it with the songs listed. And it was your and you can name it. And I mean, these things were great. And you could, that would have been, I mean, that would have been pretty cool. I’ve had access. Now think about it though. If you a 90 minute cassette, sometimes you’re looking at 20-25 songs. Sure. So could get costly. I mean, you know, I made it $25 cassette once and then you know, you just explained it to your parents. Like, why are you spending $25 on one tape? Well, it’s instead of buying 20 of these cassettes, singles which would cost me $50 is what a what a bargain, right?

JAY:
You know, so that’s something that that I’d be very curious out there to see if anybody knows what it is. It goes back to, if you know you talking about those tapes or those albums that some of the songs were okay on. Like, maybe Skid Row’s debut album with maybe 18 And Life, Big Guns, Youth Gone Wild, Piece of Me. I remember that one is for me that I like that one. Yeah, that one I like I’m not gonna say that that one’s got a lot of bad tunes on it that one’s definitely uh. I know “18 And Life” was one of those songs that I used to try to record off the radio right right. Got the whole CD but they would talk up over the opening riff and that just every time killed it for me so yeah so that’s definitely that was a pretty cool concept that you just don’t see any you know back then right they kind of came and went.

BRIAN:
I want to say it lasted about two or three years and that kind of died because CDs were becoming more popular right and you know I kind of jumped backwards here because we were talking about CDs but and CD burning were and I jumped back in time a little bit so I apologize about that those Personic Cassettes, man those were those were very forward thinking…to what would become the next game changer in this series. Now I’m going to this is probably by far the biggest, biggest game changer now it’s also the most controversial, right? So I will say that I don’t condone, maybe not in the Metallica level, but I understand the negative impact of it…yes but I’m sorry when Napster first came out man we were all over it…we were I mean that was…

JAY:
Yeah that was like oh my god file sharing it was unbelievable because now I didn’t if you lived in Syracuse and I lived in New Jersey I didn’t have to drive up with my cassettes. We didn’t have to like get together, right, you can just send it over over the internet and you’re like, wait a minute, I can get a copy of this and I don’t even have to you know we could trade music this way and it was just unbelievable.

BRIAN:
And In and of itself, it was just a totally new way to you could check out songs before you bought them. And at first it wasn’t, you know, the mp3 we can talk about in a whole other show, by all means where the sound quality versus you know what you’re getting off of even accept tape.

JAY:
Um, the sound quality wasn’t always great. Sometimes you got it less than, like, 112 kb.

BRIAN:
Oh, I remember a few 96 and 64. So what do you guys think about that sounds like, you know, your eight bit Nintendo could do a better job then.

JAY:
Yeah, and some of these down conversions. But, you know, it was part of a again, it got swept up into a controversy. A very big controversy, which we kind of glossed over we didn’t really even mentioned this just a little while ago was that the the record companies have the same problem with cassette tapes, yes, because here you were…able to record songs for free and you could take them onto immediate and you wouldn’t have to go pay to get the album you could just have your favorite songs and the record companies cried foul that’s not fair. We’re shipping the musicians, you know, they’re not Yeah, we all know how that works out.

BRIAN:
But then eventually positions as well they eventually embraced it though they came in and they said, you know maybe these cassette thing that I don’t say they embraced it but they kind of went with the tie.

JAY:
Yeah, a lot more than they they wouldn’t in nowadays in modern music, because you’re talking about the fact that look, if you like, if you like one song from Def Leppard’s “Hysteria.” You’re going to want to buy the album you’re going to buy you’re going to buy the whole the whole cassette because you want the rest of those songs. They’re not always all going to be radio hits. You’re not right here. All of those on MTV.

BRIAN:
So along with with Napster also came the the little something that I don’t remember when when you first had Napster I still had dial up yeah so one thing that like like you know first world problems here but my god I wanted to get that new song by whatever band and you know hit download in seven hours and 48 minutes The song is gonna be a little window pops up and says progress and it just says 1% for about 1520 minutes and then it goes to 2% then you go to bed and get up the next morning and maybe 89% or or your dial abrupt or have to start a game or not he picked up the telephone upstairs so yeah so that that was a that was definitely a game changer. I think with Napster, it really made the record companies say “okay we need to embrace digital”

JAY:
I also remember record companies crying foul with burnable CDs.

BRIAN:
Because at that point now with lots to talk technical for a quick second with a cassette tape, if you record a CD or cassette, you are losing one generation so it’s not going to be the same quality as the CD. You’re trading a little bit of quality for the convenience of having it on cassette and cassette to cassette you’re losing a quality and so on and so forth. Sure, you know.

JAY:
So you could essentially keep downgrading the song. I think that’s why they kind of gave up on the whole cassette thing. Because if you wanted the best sounding version, you should go by the exactly so the first version but now with CDs going from a burn to a burn is is there’s no difference, unless you ripped it as mp3 first and compressed it you were doing a straight rip.

BRIAN:
Yep. So you all you’re doing is you’re getting all the music just not the so I feel like that was where they started. say we’ve got a problem right and start as they are trying to address that problem of the the CDs, Napster started coming up from kind of the Woodworks. Here of this compression that just blew people’s minds and and became fodder for endless trading. And I would say Napster was probably 1999?

JAY:
I would say. Yeah. And when we work together in the early 2000s, I want to say that that it continued. I don’t think iTunes really broke big into the mainstream. I want to say it was 2003 or 2004. Yeah. Well, that’s because of the fact that people got, you know, spoiled and it’s like, yeah, let’s see. I go over to Napster and I can get this track for free. Or I go over to Apple and pay 99 cents for it. Yeah, but at the same token, 99 to 2004.

BRIAN:
It took them five years to address the situation. Had they addressed it in 99 or 2000, maybe Napster would not have exploded to the masses because they would have swooped in and said here’s the legit way right for the get go right but because Napster essentially was spiraling out all over the world and becoming this this this monster of a thing ever anything that that iTunes put out at that point was crap now you want me to pay for this I just I can just get it over here free and then that’s when all the lawsuits and everything else happens but the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and yeah but that’s all that’s definitely fodder for another another topic but but with mp3 and iTunes and and the like you could still burn mix CDs for somebody and that was that was you know a nice sentiment right it was it was cute yeah it was uh oh that’s that’s nice thank you but after that came the iPod. The first time I held an iPod I actually said to my (now) wife, I said “my god this thing is going to kill the radio industry as we know. And it could huge, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.” I mean, this is a Walkman that you could essentially carry your entire music collection on and you can create your own radio stations at playlists and and and kind of where I’m going with this you know like the playlists are the modern mixtape it is and I mean it stayed if you think about it since 2003 when the iPad came out you can make playlists on it until now in that is your mix tensor mixed it because through iTunes, you created playlists and you could, you know, burn the playlist to a CD and give it to somebody, right? But now if you want to even, you know, transfer into modern times, Spotify title, you can create playlists and share with somebody

JAY:
Yes. So I don’t know. And I’d be curious, has anyone ever received a Spotify playlist from a potential suitor? And if you did what how did that make you feel? Because that I mean you got to think about this this person put in at least 30 to 40 seconds of our time yeah for you and I understand that that people’s attention spans have shortened so maybe maybe the the maybe this is considered the level of a mix tape but maybe the art of just dragging and dropping a bunch of songs and just kind of just typing names in and boom there they are and no work to find them know how sweet you took 30-45 seconds out of your day thinking about yourself to think about me how kind will dig it millennials.

BRIAN:
This is something where I feel like I you know, having live through all these generations of a mixtape up until the current, I feel like now there’s a resurgence between vinyl came back obviously we can get into that another time and with Record Store Day and everything cassettes have started to pop back up…yeah we see him in thrift shops we see him and I’ve seen them in record stores with like new release cassettes and just recently I was in a rite aid or drugstore again in picking up some stuff and sure enough blank cassettes were there

JAY:
I swear to god swear to God may be there for your house did they find those I don’t know maybe they are from 1990. I don’t know but but they were there I would check the chromium and it was a $5.99 for a pair of cassette tapes and I mean these weren’t even the good the good high bias ones these are normal bias yeah clear Maxell tapes, so i mean this was their their kindness still bubbling at the bottom of the at the bottom of the cauldron of music consumption if you want to call it that
and I feel like there’s still a place for mix CDs, and mixtapes because people still enjoy that that I don’t know if it’s the nostalgia because of younger kids are getting into it they don’t have anything to base it off. Oh it’s that and and this um there’s a certain level of control and this is the kind of the the summation of what what I would think would was the difference between streaming services iPods even. You know and versus mixtapes, I think the mixtape offers you a little bit more freedom control because you’re at the mercy of a computer program spitting out songs that you and you’re going to hear based on that computer program you’re going to hear the same pattern of songs you’re not necessarily going to hear the songs in the order that you like the men or or even songs that you like necessarily like you may find artists that you like on that channel or in you know they may pop up in your commute but this the mixtape that that gave you a very specific set of songs I’m going to listen to the song it’s going to be an hour drive and I’m going to hear most all of my favorite songs exactly on that tape.

BRIAN:
Exactly. And like when I was in college in the 90s I mean I drove a Chevy Beretta and I had a cassette deck in it and I went down to school in North Carolina and I you know, had the 10 hour drive from North Carolina in New Jersey by myself and I will tell you that I literally spent the week prior at night hanging out in my room making 10 hours of mixtapes because as you’re driving from state to state the radio stations were changing faster than you could find one. Yeah, that’s the thing your campaign you bring, you know you bring seven 90-minute tapes you’ve got the whole drive up covered. Great music all the way down! You could do a 10 hour playlist on your iPod in probably a minute and a half now.

JAY:
I mean really if you really i mean if you really spent time yeah 10 minutes and that and that’s the thing there so there’s some dedication there that has to go into like if like I said, if you have a mixtape you have 25-30 songs on there that you really want to hear in the next hour hour and a half whatever your commute was going to be so I’ll throw on streaming service acts and listen to that and I’ll hear really good songs I got songs that I really love but I’m not gonna love it yes but I’m not going to hear excuse me I’m not going to hear like you know sometimes I want to hear Skid Row and going into into a Bon Jovi tune or something to that effect where I’m not going to necessarily here today. I’m in the mood to hear some you know journey a specific song Bye bye. Stick specifics and you do that with the mixtape you could do that with your iPod you can do that with your with your windows equivalent whatever it is your your mp3 players but that’s again that’s time so now we’re talking about all right I have an hour I want to every time I go in I’m going to build up my my iPod and save this playlist and do that they’re in I think you would would have that that freedom of control right right and and the the art of it like if you were to give a mixtape to somebody now I wonder what the reaction would be now I mean we’re we’re Generation X here so if we were to give it to somebody who was also Generation X i think they might look at it and say oh my god like you really went all out maybe or that or just wow your big dumb nerd like like they could you know one way or the other you know i don’t know but but like the thought process and now because there’s that hint of nostalgia.

BRIAN:
Yeah. Is it coming back to the point where if you actually burned a cassette for somebody or whatever, you recorded a cassette for somebody or burned a CD, I don’t even think I honestly I don’t think the CD-R has the impact. There’s there is none. I mean, like, like the cassette was the impact, right. And I feel like it’s trickled down to the point where the sentiment is gone. And you know, yeah, and the attention span is gone with us and, and, you know, talking about the streaming services, sometimes you create a playlist and then the streaming service will continue on the playlist and it’ll go from, you know, 20 songs that I love it and you’re just sitting there all excited about the songs you picked, and then you’ll get throw in something because you enjoy x you might enjoy why Yeah, and then it’s also I don’t like it at all.

JAY:
Yeah, so I mean, that’s, that’s where you’re giving up control of what you’re listening to. But on the flip side to that, sometimes you do discover some new music and I do see a benefit to that which is definitely a topic for another future episode. I do have one funny thing, the funniest part about my mixtapes, right, I touched on a little while ago that I had an entire volume of “The Ultimate Driving Experience.” I had Volume One, which was rock, Volume Two, which was 70s rock, Volume Three which was 90s alternative…stuff like that. And I had by the time I got out of college, I was living with three women who up on the hill and we just kind of we were all friends. we all we all worked in theatre together and we all had this house we they invited me to be one of their roommates and that was incredible. I had at that point in my life a really high fidelity stereo a nice I think it was a Pioneer amplifier and a double cassette deck and I had a Sony five disc changer and it was programmable and it was really nice. I think I saw that exact setup at a Goodwill for $12 and I paid somewhere in the hundred dollar range for that I don’t even remember but I had all that stuff and it was all the wires and everything and it was split low so I was able to and every day for hours I would be sitting there trying time out these tapes and the girls would be pounding on the door “Come on!”

BRIAN:
But that is that in live the the the beauty of it yeah because when when you were sitting there I like to like in a mixtape to a piece of art. Yes, you’re taking everything that means something to you and kind of making it into your own creation which I know that’s that’s that’s making a big deal out of something so small but really, you know, if you want to follow up a 90s pop ballad with a death metal song by Deicide, you could, and that it just was whatever your personality and whatever your your intentions were you can make it your own and sometimes the random cassettes of mixed songs (that make no sense together) we’re fun in and of itself.

JAY:
And it’s kind of like the iPod on random now because you never know or Spotify you never know what you’re going to get right but you know the the the mixtape you were kind of sitting there saying okay how can I be random with the next song and you were kind of creating that randomness because you know if you’re doing a road trip with somebody how great is it yeah if they don’t know it’ll randomness yes that’s about to install and that that’s part of the fun with it and so there’s a little bit there was a little bit of you that went into the making of a mixtape that that your personality come through and that’s how you that’s how we got to know each other like hanging out long road trips in the car pop in the CD oh you like that song Oh I like this one oh this is a good one too yeah and that’s something where you really learn a lot from people for for what they listened to and different things and you could be like oh wow I can get along great with this person is this person has just awful music taste as a psycho Disturbed’s “Down With The Sickness” into “Bodies” by Drowning Pool, what’s going on here he wants to kill someone so yeah so basically you know that’s kind of the art of the mixtape and and something that that I hope has life in the future.

BRIAN:
I don’t know what the future will bring for for the for the mixed I’m sure there’s another game changer coming somewhere. I mean, really like if you think about it, which streaming we’re definitely going to be talking about streaming a lot and because I mean that is the the, the way of consumption now for modern times, but there’s definitely been some changes over the past couple years that I definitely want to, you know, dive into on a future cast. But, who knows what the next forums going to be and maybe maybe something where the the time consuming nature and aspect of it maybe that will become nostalgic even more so right and bring it back because I mean let’s be honest when I was spinning vinyl records in 2009 because I never really stopped people would say to me really are a nerd like what are you doing like like you know and but I said no I’m like but then you get the guys in the in the in the in the ladies who are like wow that’s an art form. But now now here we are in 2018 and and I can actually guarantee it was 2009 because it popped up on my Facebook on this day right and I was posting it out and picture in 2009 so it’s legit now I go into target and they have a record section and I go into BestBuy and they have a record section and I go into to Barnes and Noble yeah huge record section expensive as hell yeah but Sunday’s now our best buy stop selling CDs as a couple weeks ago yep and I mean this is something we definitely need to talk about down the road but but maybe next episode yeah this is like the circles and circles of the trends kind of coming and going so maybe maybe there’s a future for the mixtape outside of a playlist it could be and that’s something that we’ll have to kind of wait and wait and see here. So once again, my name is Brian.

JAY:
And I’m Jay.

BRIAN:
And we appreciate you guys tuning in to Tunestiles Podcast. Again our very professional, heartfelt email address: tunestilespodcast@gmail. com.

JAY:
We’re still kind of getting the things ramped up on this and getting this site up and running which is tunestilespodcast.com – Individually, if you want to if you want to pick up where were you where I am, I’m on Facebook. I’m on the book of faces as a Jay Sweet.

BRIAN:
And I am Brian Colburn. And you can find us there on individual channels. And as well. We are on Facebook and Instagram as tunestilespodcast. So please look us up, connect with us keep the conversation going, because there’s a lot to talk about here. And I’m sure there’s a lot of music nerds out there like us that would have some input in this. We definitely want to hear what you guys think what you guys want to talk about.

JAY:
Definitely. And we’ll be addressing it and hopefully bringing some of us on down the road to sit and chat with us. And we hope you guys enjoyed this and we’ll definitely see you in round 2.

BRIAN:
Yes, looking forward to it. Have a good one. Until next time. Stay tuned.

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