My Playlists

Over the course of years, I’ve changed music players, I’ve changed computers, but I haven’t changed my playlists. If anything, I’ve created more. Under last count, I have fewer than one hundred playlists. Now, you might wonder what these playlists do. Come into my Freedom Friday parlor said the author to the reader.

Musical notes

Musical notes

For those who haven’t used playlists before, they provide a music enthusiast a means by which to create a song lineup. That’s it. Simple, don’t you think? Playlists are the digital equivalent of old-style mixtape. For those of us who remember mixtapes, much of their content depended on how much music we could fit in a small cassette tape. The typical size of these tapes ranged between sixty to ninety minutes in length. Many of the older vinyl albums the music corporations distributed had a typical running time of forty-five minutes.

A lot of folks back in the early days of portable players would copy their favorite album on tape and then carry around the tape to play in their car or on their Walkman. Yeah, we’re talking ancient history here. Others had more creativity in their bones and wanted to create their own tapes based on their taste in music. They scrounge from one album to the next to cherry-pick the song they always wanted to hear in a certain order. These tapes would then make the rounds among friends and become part of a community of enthusiasts appreciating each other’s work.

Fascinating stuff, huh?

Let’s get back to my playlists. When I first discovered I could create mixtapes on my music player—I mean, playlists—I went nuts. I chose my favorite artists and added them to their own playlists based on the chronological release date of their studio albums. I can’t tell you how much I had wanted to do that since the early days. I enjoy the continuity the playlists have and the vibe. After all, we’re talking about the artists’ discography presented in a way never dreamed of before by the record labels.

Musical staff

Musical staff

I next tackled mixtape playlists. I know what you’re thinking, “I thought you did that with the chronological ones, dude.” Well, I did, but I didn’t. Remember what I said about mixtapes? I picked a generous helping of songs with common themes. For instance, I created inspirational playlists, power playlists, college playlists. Each one reflecting what I felt at a certain time in my life. I’m proud of the college one the most since it contains modern instrumental pieces tailored after a sunrise/sunset vibe.

My absolute favorite playlist, and the one I took a long time to put together, is the oldies playlist. The songs come from a pool of 50’s and 60’s music put together to play at random on a Saturday night. When I first got married, a radio station in Toronto played nothing but oldies on a Saturday night. If I remember correctly, the show went by the name of Saturday Night Oldies. I think it’s still around, but I haven’t checked in a while. Anyway, I wanted to recreate that experience on my music player. Whenever I listen to the lineup on a Saturday night, all those memories flood my brain:

  • That night when we painted our new apartment before moving in
  • All the rides home alone after spending time together
  • Driving her home from the movies

I never tire by what music can do. A simple song can unlock a vast wealth of experiences we thought we’d forgotten. It can make us jump, it can make us cry. One thing’s for certain, it can take us right back to where we were the instant it played for the first time in our lives. That, in itself, is an amazing feat.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Have you created playlists for your music player? If not, have you ever tried online jukeboxes built on your song preferences?

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14 Comments

  1. Jack, I think we were cut from similar cloth – although I have to admit I never thought of creating a playlist of just 1 artist’s work in chronological order (until I just did one for Howard Shore). I remember mix-tapes, walkmans and even vinyls fondly and have often applied the same theory to playlists! Loved the post, Jack.

    Reply
  2. I remember making mix tapes! 🙂 And I remember Walkmans! I use Pandora these days where I have stations based on my favorite artists.

    Reply
  3. I agree with this post almost word for word, except the personal bits. When I was making mixtapes as a kid I didn’t really call them mixtapes, they didn’t have a name other than maybe compilation, but the really special ones had to be on chrome tape, not ordinary tape.

    When I started developing ideas for stories, still at a young age, the mixtapes became the soundtracks of these stories and over the years became increasingly elaborate with hand drawn artwork becoming computer artwork, cd sleeves to box sets!

    Now I have playlists on my computer which I play when I’m writing. Nothing beats a bit of Burt Bacharach alongside Berlin and the theme tune to Van Der Valk!

    Long live the playlist.

    Chris

    Reply
  4. Arlee Bird

     /  March 8, 2014

    I’m one of those still stuck in the past. No modern gadgets. I still have some of the old mixtape cassettes that I loved making many years ago. The last one I made was probably 20 years ago or so. I don’t listen to music as much as I used to, but lately I’ve hooked up my old turntable and going through my vinyl collection.

    Yes, such memories. You’ve described well how music can take us back. It’s the next best thing to owning a time machine.

    Lee
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

    Reply
  5. Thanks for making me feel old Jack 🙂
    As far as mine were concerned, mix tapes were never about chronological order, genre or other slightly sad ideas I’ve heard in the past (in my lowly opinion anyway), they were about the girl I knew at the time. I suppose in a way it’s become chronological but in truth it’s about memories.

    I do like iTunes and MP3 purchases off Amazon, it allows me to get songs/music I like without having to buy the whole album, creating much more specific mixes. Have you noticed that some music we loved at the time just doesn’t do time travel well at all? Hence the single selection – a great way to set up our music.

    Interesting discussion, Jack. Ta.
    David

    Reply
  6. I use playlist sometimes, but most of the time I am stuck on one artist that I play over and over. I am horrible at picking a list for my moods. But this gives me some ideals on making a better playlist.

    Reply
  7. I make playlists for my writing projects, creating the mood and character for the piece. I also make playlists for long trips, like an ‘epic playlist,’ or ‘rocket ship playlist’, so I can pretend the road trip is more exciting than just driving.

    Reply
  8. Ooh Oooh! I know this one!! It’s Saturday Night Oldies on CHFI!! Originally with Don Daner. Now known as “Coop’s Classics” with Mike Cooper, and still fun but not quite the same.

    Reply
    • Yes, Amb, Don Dayner! I love the guy! During my Saturday night drives home, I used to listen to him and he was a comfort. For an hour drive on the 401, I’d enjoy his lineup. Gosh, I miss those days. Especially when I had that old car I had. The lights in the car, the lights on the highway made the drive home all the more wonderful! Thankfully, I’ve been able to reproduce the feeling of those nights with my playlist, yet, without Don Dayner, it still’s missing that magic!

      Reply
  9. Can’t beat a playlist, I just have such complex rules as to what can be on each one, that I never end up making any!

    Reply
  10. That’s a lot of playlists! I enjoyed hearing about your process of creating the playlists; and you reminded me how absolutely “golden” some of my old playmix tapes were to me. Thanks Jack!

    Reply
    • Golden, yes, that’s the word! Golden! I have mixtapes I’ve gone out of my way to reproduce on my music player. There’s one tape in particular I have yet to complete because I’m missing one song. It’s an obscure tune I have yet to find anywhere–even in the collector shops. One day I’m hoping to find it, so wish me luck!

      Reply
  11. I don’t really make playlists, I just put a song I like on my MP3 and that’s that. But, I guess you could call all the songs I have on my MP3 a playlist. In which case, playlists are awesome.

    Reply
  1. Living Musically: Wanderlust Edition | The D/A Dialogues

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