I am an avowed, High Fidelity-esque music geek. I make top-five lists in my head, I think of the top-five soundtracks opening songs. Hell, I used to challenge my friends; give me a situation, I’ll give you the perfect song. They constantly rose to the occasion, I, I am somewhat disappointed to announce, didn’t always. Then there is the mix tape. As John Cusack so eloquently explained in the previously mentioned movie, the mix tape is and was the summation of all my years at any given moment.
As a kid and teenager I would spend hours pouring over my father’s and my own vinyl collection looking for that perfect combination of songs to fit into 60, 90 or 120 minutes. What I was going for was key to the length. Road trip? Had to be 120. Something to work out to? Go for the 60 and we’ll make a 90 once we get a little better at the gym, and of course, my secret weapon to woo the women who made my world wonky: 90 minutes. Enough to make an impact but short enough to leave them wanting more, wanting me or at least I thought.
I mean how any teenage girls in the world could resist me once they heard my wonderful arraignment of melodies spotlighting my suave sophistication is beyond me. Alas, it seems chubby and pimple face isn’t overcome by Procol Harum or Moby Grape alone, but boy howdy did I try.
So years passed, vinyl LPs gave way to compact discs but still the mix tape continued as a staple in my life, only now somewhat easier to create. No worrying about bumping the needle or not queuing the record to just the right place: Track four – record! Then MP3s, burnable CDs, and music editing software really got big and mix tapes, though now a misnomer, took on a whole new dimension for me.
Instead of song one, song two in a disjointed stop and start with seconds of silence in between, I began taking my high-quality MP3s, legally ripped from CDs I bought (for all you RIAA spys), loading them into my copy of programs like Sound Forge and melded my tracks, one continuous flow of music perfectly conveying whatever emotional state I was after.
So let us fast forward to the here and now, 33 years old, still making mix tapes and top-five lists in my head. Just the other day I was taking my son to school. His teacher, who, by the way, is one of the most wonderful teachers I’ve yet to experience, is playing Kenny G as the kids shuffle through their morning routine. Blasphemy, I tell you. Outright sedition of the highest order, I’m all about corrupting young minds, but I can think of no worse offense on the ears of young-ins then that of Kenny G. So I go to her.
“Kay, what is this?” I asked.
Kay knows me pretty well and was certain I was going to say something to her on her musical choice.
“Oh I know, I’m so outdated. I’ve no time to really research good music,” she said.
We banter back and forth for a minute and then it hits me; Kay needs a mix tape, is practically begging for a mix tape. So I inform her, in all my pompous glory, that tomorrow I shall appear with a good mix of jazz-esque music to help her along. Realize of course that my considerations were to be nothing to jarring as to scare her off and to try and keep things with a bit of a jazzy/bluesy feel
Here’s what I came up with:
1. Django Reinhardt – “Minor Swing”
2. Squirrel Nut Zippers – “Put A Lid On It”
3. Iggy Pop – “Night Clubbing”
4. Tom Waits – “San Diego Serenade”
5. Van Morrison – “Cleaning Windows”
6. Morphine – “Honey White”
7. Poe – “Fingertips”
8. Deadweight – “Sweet Depression”
9. Morcheba – “Trigger Hippy”
10. Beck – “Where It’s At”
11. Bobby Bare, Jr. – “Sticky Chemical”
12. Cake – “Guitar”
13. Chris Isaak – “Pretty Girls Don’t Cry”
14. Tin Hat Trio – “Helium”
Now I have to say, I really like this mix and was very pleased to present it to her with an Anti-Kenny G label lightscribed on the front. I find it perfect for that Sunday morning coming down, chill out, and gently raise the day.
All of this got me thinking, I want to hear your mix tape! Partially inspired by Blogcritic Josh Hathaway’s wonderful collection: “The Listening Room” and my own whacked brain – pick a topic, any topic, just make the music fit it and flow, let’s see what you got!