Friday, May 14, 2010

MIx Tapes and Life: the annotated spontiety

I peeled my slightly sticky face from the page of my book and squinted my eyes. I had fallen asleep out on the lawn again, listening to Led Zeppelin I in a homework-induced rage. The cold had finally left for certainly more exotic places, maybe almost for good, and I was in a glowing little fried up pile of books and headphones. I have been reading Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. I must inside me have a little too much man chemical or something because I connect with boys and men and 'romantic' man books waaay before I even begin reading an acne and hormone filled tweenie romance filled with saccharine scenes of chance encounters and gushing all over my hands if I am foolish enough to pick one up. Something about girls talking about boys and romanticizeing and fictitiousizing them in the way that, in my surely vast experience, they do has always made me puke up my verbose guts and disassociate myself with most of female population. Maybe that is just the nature of the high school climate, the retched and fascinating thing that it is. I am fairly sure that high school in general is just someones sick science experiement, and at any moment the lid will be pulled off the top of the school and a large hand will dip down, adding some hormones here, some self-inflicted drama there, collecting data. I'm sure you've seen the hand. Thus we come to the conclusion that life is just like a mixed tape. What? You didn't come to that conclusion from that rambling paragraph very aptly analyzing what does or doesn't happen in a woman's mind?
The art of making a mixed tape, or buying cassettes of any kind has fallen largely out of practice by the majority of the population. I know, you're thinking, what?! But its true--this new fangled device by the name of Compact Disc, commonly referred to by its friends, CD (the new kid even has one of those hip two letter nicknames), has seized the world by storm and replaced poor nostalgic Tape and Record.
What exactly is attractive about this shiny, tight little gadget of sorts, besides mere convenience? It cannot possibly hold all of the memories of a decade, band, or human in its nearly one dimensional plate of information. It has no emotional value, and quite frankly neither does the music that it might be storing so matter of factually. If you haven't noticed, good music is a endangered species, in need of desperate revival, and thus, so is the Art of the Mixed Tape. It is much more time consuming, and requires much more thoughtfulness-- the track list itself, the title you give your magnificent piece of compilated material. Track lists are made so hastily these days. Now don't get me wrong, I am sure there have been quite a number of dumpy tapes made, especially in the eighties. But when you concoct your own recipe for an emotion you want a mixed tape to evoke or soothe, a moody brooding tape, or a sunny optimistic one, there can be a great deal of mental arrangement and prowess that is involved. I have made myself several mixed tapes in the last few weeks. This is particularly convenient for me since I only have a tape player in my car, and so that is what I listen to when I am in the car. There is one entirely consisting of Dylan tunes, in chronological order, and thus a sort of mini biography. There is a dark perhaps brooding, definitely upset sort of hipster tape that contains the Violent Femmes, The Velvet Underground, The Kinks, Camper Van Beethoven, and an overdose of Nick Drake. There is my strictly psychedelic tape, featuring much acid rock like Jefferson Airplane and the Byrds, Janis and Hendrix, finishing with Casey Jones performed by the Dead. That one specifically is kinda funny cuz the last solo is cut off because the tape ended. Who can mass produce that sort of personality? One of my favorite tapes I've made was one containing the original vs slightly more modern cover of the song. So Robert Johnson would play Stop Breaking Down and then you would hear the White Stripes take, or Crossroads, and then Cream's cover. Pete Seeger's Turn Turn Turn and then the Byrds much more profitable version. There is a certain joy to be had when the tape player jolts to a stop and a tape full of songs that had not previously ever been put in that order before you put them that way are stored safely on that black ribbon and just asking to be jammed into the tape deck of your car and played with the windows rolled down. Then you pull the liner notes out and sometimes you are wildly disappointed by the content and the laziness of your friends, but sometimes you are greeted by ever reassuring annotations, a little personal explanation justifying each song that is about to be presented to you through song.
Now you say, alright this is all very sentimental and moving and I'm digging out all my old tapes as we speak this still doesn't have anything to do with anything you rambling air headed tangent entertaining just-as-pimply-as-the-rest faux blogger you. But it does. These mix tapes you spend a couple of dutiful hours consulting records and CD's and recording with much thought over what used to be your parents super lame Boston (A side) and Styx (B side) tape and thus giving it a much more purposeful and meaningful life. Life is just the same. When you listen to that mix of different singers and generations and times and protests, you have no idea what to expect, what you are going to hear next, where you are going to be swept. Are you going to be cheered eight miles high up? Know that all you have to do is keep on truckn'? Learn everything there is to know about Cuban politics or what love is? Isn't this eerily similar to your day today? Something someone said made you want to go hole up in a corner and write a dark and brooding poem, and something someone else said made you want to tell your friends how great they are by taking them all out to lunch, and that thing you read in the paper made you feel like the piece of crap kid you are, but it was all made okay when you turned on the radio and Hey Jude was playing.
And wouldn't it be great if life was annotated as well? Then you would know whyyy Billy would ever let such a stupid comment slip out, or why you would have ever thought it in your best interest to ask Summer Wheatly to the dance. You can confidently pull out the liner notes and it will say "To listen to after you were feeling very confident and rightly so because you are daaang good lookin' but have just had your hopes and dreams crushed by some doll in a mini skirt." Then you could say ahh! I'm not a complete idiot Mick Jagger has done it too and suddenly you don't feel quite so stupid and quite so alone. You know what they say, stupidity loves company. I think that's where we get those groups like PETA or congress, or perhaps the American Philatelic Society.
Mix tapes have just got it all man, the good the bad and the ugliest. The cool thing is though, is that you get to control it all this time, unlike that crap day you had yesterday. You are the tape jockey. So what are you doing sitting here reading this silly monologue? Get out there and mix it up. 

1 comment: