Creating the radio mix-tape required an extraordinary skill set. First you needed to be listening to the exact station you thought might play the songs you wanted on the tape in addition to having the radio on as often as possible (in hopes of hearing said songs). Sometimes you might be flipping back and forth between a couple of stations which added another layer of complexity to this endeavor as you might miss something awesome on one station while listening to the other. Growing up in a large market like Houston (as I did), I had several stations from which to choose my songs, so I was definitely a flipper.
In addition, you also had to have precise timing to get the song. You felt victorious when the DJ actually ANNOUNCED a song was coming up next -- so you knew when to hit the 'record' button on the 'jam box'. (I still have my jam box with the detachable speakers, dual tape deck and single CD player. You know you're envious) You were annoyed when the DJ talked over the beginning of a song (which meant you heard him/her speaking the same line EVERY time you listened to the mix tape.) You were thrilled when you were recording one song and an awesome one followed right behind it while you were still recording.
That said, you also remember running across a room, jumping over a table, and tripping on your bed, stubbing your toe, to hit the record button when a long-awaited song came on and you were not hovering next to the record button. Dare I say, you also remember running out of the bathroom mid-pee a few times as well?
You were precise about your timing of the songs. If you accidentally recorded a crappy song, you rewound the tape to the exact moment the crappy one started so as to record the next one over the bad song (or commercial sometimes). This sometimes took a few tries of fast forward/rewind in order to capture the location you were looking for. You carefully checked to see when the tape was running out so you weren't cut off while in the middle of recording one of your favorite songs. It was devastating when the tape ran out during a rare song.
You kept careful notes on the tape jacket as to which songs/artists were stored on that particular tape and on either side A or side B. (Because you didn't have the internet, sometimes you actually CALLED the radio station to ask the DJ/producer the name of the song or artist if you didn't know it!)
Occasionally, when you were sick of one particular song, you tried to find a song around the same (or similar) length to record over it -- this required a tremendous amount of patience and skill as you needed to have your timing down for the old song AND the new song, AND not forget to leave the tape running so you didn't record over the other good songs on the tape.
It was also imperative, if you could swing it (given all the other parameters), that the tape have a good flow to it. You wanted to make sure that the songs that followed each other were not mismatched or ill-fitting. Like any good club DJ, you wanted each song to blend well with the next one. (No one thinks Air Supply should be followed by Joy and Pain)
My best friend from high school was thoroughly envious of my mix-tape collection. She asked me to leave them to her in my will...but unfortunately, it's really time for them to go now (Should I mail them to her?). I am considering saving the jackets though, because I need evidence of the fact that I really did have quite the knack for the radio mix-tape creation.