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.
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 Facebook, Twitter, 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?