Sunday afternoon. I browse through my collection of audio tapes. Yesterday I finished Rob Sheffield’s ‘Love is a mix tape’, today I wonder how much love my old tapes express. It’s not a fair comparison, Sheffield tells a love story supported by mix tapes, my old tapes just demonstrate a utilitarian drive to collect as much music as possible against the lowest possible cost, the love got buried in the process.
I guess that’s why most of my old tapes don’t relate to me personally. I could easily add the tunes to Spotify and throw away the tapes, but I don’t, I never will, because even though my tapes don’t come with a lot of memories, they still represent growing up in a time before Internet, when my love for music was much bigger than my financial means. My tapes, records, CDs, and MP3 files all represent a different period of my life, there is hardly any overlap.
In that sense every tape I own is a teenage memory. Throwing away these artifacts would be like throwing away myself. Browsing through these tapes results in small shocks of recognition. Did I really like Led zeppelin already in my early teens? Was I that much into Glamrock and Progrock? Why so many different versions of the same Joy Division songs? What was I thinking when I decided to over-tape Nick Cave’s ‘The firstborn is dead’ with a Clash concert?
I don’t remember (I don’t recall). I know when David Bowie entered my life because of a tragic story linked to the release of Low in 1977 and the airing of the Boys Keep Swinging video in 1978. I remember buying The Clash’s Combat Rock upon release in 1982, and not daring to play ‘Know Your Rights’ in the living room, with my parents present. I have letters from a former high school friend demonstrating what we listened to in 1984, and choosing a hairdo like Robert Smith is forever linked to being addicted to The Cure’s Pornography in 1982.
Most of my tapes don’t come with anything as accurate or precise. Only my oldest tapes tell me something. They tell me how financial means, musical taste, design skills and handwriting all develop at their own pace. All work-in-progress, glued together with love.