I recently finished reading Rob Sheffield’s Love Is A Mix tape (currently on Jools Holland’s biography – also proving to be a good read so far). The book in essence is very simple as brief biography of Rob’s, it doesn’t delve into the glitz and gossip of what has encountered as a music journalist and DJ; but addresses part of his life including the tragic death of his wife after only having been together less than 10 years.
Two things makes this book engrossing; firstly the perspective – by telling his story through some of the mix tapes he received or made at the different points in his life, and secondly the very matter of fact and honest way he describes the feelings and experience of being a bereaved husband at a young age.
Rob closes his book with a some cool words …
A lot of my music friends don’t touch cassettes anymore; they stick to MP3s. I love my iPod, too – completely love it. I love my iPod carnally. I would rather have sex with my iPod rather than with Jennifer Lopez. (I wouldn’t have to hear the iPod whine about getting its hair rumpled.) But for me, if we’re talking about romance, cassettes wipe the floor with MP3s. This has nothing to with superstition, or nostalgia. MP3s buzz straight to your brain. That’s part of what I love about them. But the rhythm of the mix tape is the rhythm of romance, the analogue hum of a physical connection between two sloppy, human bodies. The cassette is full of tape hiss and room tone; it’s full of wasted space, unnecessary noise. Compared to the go-go-go rhythm of an MP3, mix tapes are hopelessly inefficient. You go back to a cassette the way a detective sits and pours drinks for the elderly motel clerk who tells stories about the old days – you know you might be somewhat bored, but there might be a clue in there somewhere. And if there isn’t, what the hell? It’s not a bad time.
The book also made me think about whether the art of the mix tape is a dying skill. With the arrival of CDs and then MP3s and their playlists the skill needed to neatly fit music onto a short fixed period and deliver the peaks and lows in tempos (aesthetics) along with the care for editing the tracks together are disappearing as Nick Hornby described in his book High Fidelity or here.