“The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. Anyway… I’ve started to make a tape… in my head…” – Rob Gordon, High Fidelity
Mixed Tapes may be the best invention of all time. I remember spending hours on them for friends (and myself) and never getting tired of the process or the result… always trying to come up with the perfect combination, and oh! to be known as the ultimate compiler of tunes… now that was something!
But this is tricky.
Here is my best attempt at “The Mix Tape Of My Life”:
1) The Tide is High – Blondie
My parents are total music lovers and I have been surrounded by good music throughout my conscious memory, but this album was one of the first that I picked out on my own and loved and listened to endlessly, especially this track and Rapture. It epitomizes my early musical years… bifurcated and eclectic.
2) Come on Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
I was listening to Casey Casem on The Mightly 690 (am) in San Diego and stopped doing what I was doing to call my friend Shanna and exclaim that this song was #1. So exciting… And it barely edged out Tony Basil’s Mickey. Ah, the touching and traumatic shift into adolescence… rife with bad choices.
3) Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
I had gotten into MJ with the Off The Wall album, but this song… well, it IS middle school for me.
4) Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
There was no escape from this song and I think my mom even bought the album. One of my last ‘dictated by pop radio’ favorites as I was starting to feel my own way at this point. I cannot hear this song (truth be told, I don’t often) and not think of a very specific point in my life.
5) Once in a Lifetime – The Talking Heads
My mom took me to see the movie Stop Making Sense and I was sold. Suddenly it was super cool to be the one with the ‘unknown’ music on their mix tapes. Same as it ever was… same as it ever was… same as it EVER was!
6) You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere – The Rave Ups
My friend Mara and I drove around and around listening to this song, an old Dylan song that has also been covered by Joan Baez, but this band (made famous by the not-so-incidental-but-made-to-look-that-way graffiti on Molly Ringwald’s notebook in 16 Candles) did a great cover of it… again, the whole album is great.
7) Where the Streets Have No Name – U2
The turning point for U2. And though I had liked the band since I heard War, there is no doubt that my friend Jason was absolutely correct when he said, “The Joshua Tree is U2’s best record and people who say they like the old ones better are only doing that to look cool, everyone fell in love with I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, not Party Girl.” They are great, but this is their greatest. The symbol of my high school years.
8) Buffalo Soldier – Bob Marley and the Wailers
Any Bob song could be here but I have always really loved the horns in this one and I like that as I was getting really into reggae to try to impress a boy, Marshall… UCSD, I was also learning about the corresponding history Bob was singing about. Made it even better.
9) Connected – Stereo MC’s
I got hooked on the Stereo MC’s when I saw them for free in Golden Gate Park and I bought the CD and listened to it on repeat for months as I travelled around Europe on my own. It is a multi-purpose song and I am still not tired of it.
10) The Horizon has Been Defeated – Jack Johnson
I listened to this song over and over as I completed my graduate thesis and even used the lyrics in one of my preface pieces. Somehow it embodies the nature of my work and my mental state at the time… and gave me enough of a push to make some really big changes.
11) BONUS TRACK (because CD’s hold like 17 songs now anyhow….) Fidelity – Regina Spektor
The last year has been frought with challenge for me, good and bad, and this song has been a constant throughout.
Well, there you have it (and I do to because I just made that a play list on my iPod.) It is by no means comprehensive, or even my favorite music but it showcases a lot of important transitions for me and I think for those of us who are as musically UNinclined as I am we might feel the metaphorical transitions like the musicians feel the actual ones. I couldn’t even begin to add music from the Grateful Dead, which absolutely changed my life, or songs that I remember hearing my parents sing from forever ago, or music that I loved in spite of myself… The Beastie Boys, Tone Loc, New Edition, Abba, Katrina and the Waves, Nena, Ace of Base… or music that I loved for someone else. It all takes me somewhere deep, vsceral, transcendant. Not always comfortable, but important.
I guess that is the gift of music… it can transport you instantly; it is way cheaper than airline tickets and much safer than teary phone calls to the ones that got away.