Monday, June 11, 2012

I Made You a Mix Tape

Remember the mix tape? A customized compilation of songs that conveinently crystalizes thoughts and feelings onto magneti tape? Nowadays the cool kids make up playlists for their iPods and blogs, but they're basically the same thing. 
In the movie High Fidelity, Rob Gordon is the king of the mix tape. He and his employees spend their days compiling top five song lists to cover every conveivable occasion and emotion.
 “Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do's and don'ts. First of all you're using someone else's poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”
He's so right, isn't he? As cheesy as these things can be, the blend of music and lyrics can create a powerful emotion missive that either melts a girl's heart or cajoles her into reconsidering a break up.

I think this is one of the reasons teens create mix tapes or playlists. They're vulnerable and often overwhelmed by their feelings. It's so much easier to use a song as a proxy for sentiment then to actually say the words out loud. 
In Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Nick makes break-up CDs for his ex-girlfriend, Tris. She hates them so much she dumps them in the trash, but Norah finds them and seeks him out. Even our beloved Lloyd Dobler created a "cool English road tape" for Diane in a deleted scene from Say Anything.

Once, when I was a senior, I crushed a guy's heart. He sent me a plaintive letter with lyrics from Richard Marx's song, Should've Known Better. Here's the chorus:
Should've known better
Than to fall in love with you
Now love is just a faded memory
Should've known better
Now I'm a prisoner to this pain
And my heart still aches for you
Oh man, I read that today and my heart hurts that I did that to someone. But back then, all I can remember thinking as I read that letter was, Richard Marx? Really? Couldn't he have found something better than an up-tempo, top-forty ballad to expression his heart break? 

Yeah, for the record I do know how cold that sounds.

Another time, when I was a high school freshman, my "boyfriend*, a senior in the drama club, broke up with me after we'd gone to a dance and made out during the slow songs in a very conspicuous fashion. Now, what the whole school knew, and apparently he did too, was that he was gay. But I didn't. Or at least I wasn't sure. I didn't care though, because he was a senior and I was a lowly freshman and he'd asked me to the dance. And we were friends.

So when he sent me a break up letter the next week and gave me a recording of the Wham! song, Careless Whisper, I didn't understand what the heck he was trying to say. 
I feel so unsure
As I take your hand and lead you to the dance floor...
I'm never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it's easy to pretend
I know you're not a fool
That song goes on and on. In hindsight, and knowing his sexual orientation and the struggles he must have gone through in our little provincial town, I can see what he was trying to say. He dated me, and fucked my face publicly, to somehow prove to the school that he was straight. But he felt bad about pretending to be something he wasn't, and for using me to do it. As a naive fourteen year old, I didn't get any of that. All I saw was the reference to the "guilty feet" and thought he was accusing me of doing something wrong. 

I didn't meet my true musical soul mate until I was nineteen. After Patrick and I dated about a month I got the most awesome mix tape in the mail. It had music from Simon and Garfunkel, Paul McCartney and Wings, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Crosby Stills and Nash, America, plus some great old big band stuff. I played that tape about a thousand times, nearly driving my roommate mad. The words and music spoke to me like none other. I knew he@d selected each one of those tunes for me. They were someone else's poetry, but they expressed his love. I still have the tape. In August we'll celebrate our twenteth wedding anniversay. 


You can learn more about Lea Nolan at her website, on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads. Her debut novel, CONJURE, is the first book in The Hoodoo Apprentice series. It will be released in mass market paperback by Entangled Publishing in October 2012 and is available for pre-orderatAmazon and at Barnes and Noble

So what say you, dear readers? Did anyone ever make you a mex tape? Quote song lyrics to you? Which songs do you remember the most? 


Lorie Langdon said...

Love this post, Lea! It brings back so many memories! The mixed tape really was an art form...I'm thinking a lost one at this point in time. ;-)
I still have a few mixed tapes from my dating years...I just pulled one out and saw the first song - "There She Goes" by The La's - man, I loved that song!
Oh,and High Fidelity is a classic! Great movie.
Thanks for sharing. :D

Jenny Sulpizio said...

LOL-I can recite every word to Wham's, "Careless Whisper!" And I love that you even mentioned Wham. Ah, the memories. :)

Okay, I confess to the fact that I have made a few(!) mixed tapes in my past, and yes, they were sad, sappy loves songs that made me all depressed during my teen and college years...but man, do they have some memories attached to them.

I was actually (recently), thinking of resurrecting the mixed tape...for my kids that is...with subliminal messages recorded by me. Repetitive sayings like, "Take out the trash, Be nice to your sister, Respect your mommy because she's the only one you've got and she may go crazy soon if you don't." You know-helpful reminders/phrases I already say at nauseum. If it worked, wouldn't that be fabulous? I dunno-worth a shot, right? LOL

Great post, Leah!

Melissa Landers said...

I still have the mix tape my first boyfriend gave me after our breakup...but now I have no means to listen to it, so I can't recall the songs that are on it!

Lea Nolan said...

Lorie - Thanks! Yes, it probably is a lost art. While today's kids make up playlists, I wonder if they put in the kind of effort we used to in ordering the songs in just the right way.

Jenny - Wham! Love them. How can you not love those old mix tapes? Once a song gets listed, you'll never think of it in another way again. It's automatically linked to a time and place, a relationship and possibly breakup forever.

Melissa - I can't play my mix tapes either--Patrick eventually made me four! Yes, he's a sentimental guy--But I'll never, ever through them away :)

CareyCorp said...

Great post Lea!

And Jenny - subliminal messages *hilarious* Can you burn me a copy for my kids?

Loree Huebner said...

I still have a couple of old CD's that my son and daughter made for me titled, "Mom's writing music."

Congrats on the upcoming anniversary!
Hubby and I share twenty-five big ones in August.

Kimberly said...

I loved those mix tapes! It made me feel so special with the thought that went into making it. One of my boyfriends actually wrote me a song and recorded it on there. Sadly, all those tapes were left in a storage container and warped. So upsetting. :-)
But, it's nice when you hear one of those songs randomly because it takes you by surprise every time.
And I also would love one of those subliminal message tapes for my five kids, Jenny! Especially something like, "Be nice to your brothers and sisters. Someday their kids will be your nieces and nephews and your kid's cousins..."

FB3 said...

"Love Theme To Superman?" (sic)

How could I compete with that?

Checkmate good sir, CHECK MATE!

Lea Nolan said...

Carey - Thanks, hon! :) I want one of those subliminal tapes too!

Loree - Mix tapes from your kids? How incredibly sweet! Congrats on your anniversary, too! 25 years, that's epic.

Kim - Ugh, warped mix tapes! How horrible, especially the one with the original song. Was it any good? Romantic? Maybe the memory of it is actually better than the song. :)

Micki Gibson said...

What a great and fun post! I had so many tapes lying around my home back in those days, but sadly none from a lost love. Hubby still has a few of his. All I can think of is his "driving tape" and how there was some song on there I hated but never told him. Most of the music on there was probably from a James Bond movie. Now, the hubby has various mixes on his iPod/Pad/Phone. Me? I need my 13 y.o. to show me how to do anything technology related.

Gotta love Wham and "Careless Whisper". I think of that video and that tall condo George Michael's in. The one with the curved balcony railing. I pointed it out to my sister (a Wham fan) every time she visited me in Miami. We'd drive through Coconut Grove and I'd say, "Look! It's the George Michael building." Only the "Miami Vice" building (the one with the hole in it in the opening credits) gave it any competition. It was in the background when my hubby proposed to me and we've been married 19 years today. Congratulations to you for 20 wonderful years in August!!!

Jennifer McAndrews said...

oh, crap.
wait, let me start again.
Lea, this is an awesome post! And just thinking on it, isn't it great that we have this music that conveys what we're feeling when we're too tongue-tied to say it ourselves? It's wonderful I think.
But to the crap part? I am humiliated (I think?) to admit no one ever gave me a mix tape. But damned if I don't still have a double-deck cassette player in my house! OMG, I'm such a loser!
So Melissa, send that mix tape over to me and I'll tell you what's on it.
Livin' in the 80s

Anonymous said...

Did "I" make a mix tape?! Oh yeah, several. In fact, I remember playing a song I loved so often on a cassette tape that it broke from overuse! lol. Those were the days. Thanks for the reminiscing :)

Unknown said...

"Playlists" are my addiction. Exercise, relaxation, and every book I write has its own playlist that reminds me of the characters. Love this blast back to the past. Like Jennifer, I never received one either and still have a cassette player. In my garage, is an 8-track. Yeah, I'm old.

Caryn Caldwell said...

Oh, yes! The power of the mix tape. And somehow it was even more meaningful to make a tape for someone than CDs. They were so much more tactile somehow. I still have a mix tape a friend of mine made for me senior year. Wow. I listened to that thing over and over again. Lots of U2, Pearl Jam, Gin Blossoms, and Cranberries on that tape.

Lea Nolan said...

Micki - A James Bond driving tape? That's one I've got to hear, LOL! And, how cool is it that you got engaged in front of the Miami Vice building?

Jen - Totally agree, thank goodness we have music to help express our feelings. You're NOT a loser! The only reason you didn't get your own mix tape is because you were in an all girls school! If there'd been some guys around, I'm sure you'd have gotten at least one, maybe more. ;)

Tuere - Wow, I can honestly say I never broke a cassette tape from over use. You must have REALLY loved that song.

Lea Nolan said...

Harley - You've still got an 8 track? Holy smokes, THAT'S a blast from the past! My mother had one in the giant Chrysler and we used to rock out to Leo Sayer, Melissa Manchester and Carley Simon. Damn. That makes me sound really ancient. I love my playlists, too. I find songs for each book. Lyrics in particular are very inspirational for me. My exercise playlist has a lot of Pink and Kelly Clarkson - lots of girrrrl power. :)

Caryn - I think tapes are more meaningful than CDs because they take so much more effort to make. CD lists are too easy, point and click and you're done. But a tape takes time, rewinding/forwarding/ pausing, it's an art!

Anonymous said...

I hope it's not cold that I laughed at your pain;) Great stuff, as always. You really made me wish I held onto all those mixed tapes my h.s. boyfriend made me . . . but I was so angry when I found out he'd cheated on me multiple times during those 3 yrs that I threw everything out when I called it off. Now I tell my tween, don't throw anything away--you can use it in your writing:)

Suzanne Lilly said...

Oh, that was so harsh about your senior date. Isn't the girl always the last to find out? Your post took me down memory lane, driving along country roads with friends in a souped up Ford, playing our mix tapes over and over again. So fun!

Anonymous said...

omg, mixed tapes. that was such a great post. i was so into making mixed tapes and trading them with my firends. we'd create themes for them, make our own artwork and everything. very much a lost artform. i do still have a few of my favorites, but i have nothing to pay them on. guess i could recreate them as playlists, but somehow without the cramped hand written covers, it just wouldn't be the same.