Mixtape Magnum Opus

So I’ve been working on this for quite some time (which doesn’t make it any good).  I just wasn’t sure if I was actually going to ever post it, but here goes.  Enjoy my neurosis!

In an episode I watched of Californication (which fucking rules, by the way), the 12ish year old daughter of the main character(s) gives a mix tape (CD) to her older teenage guitar instructor that she has a crush on.  All well and good and mostly innocent, but in a way I’ve come to loathe the practice of giving someone a mix tape.  Unless, of course, it is done for all the right reasons (to be discussed later). I’ve been thinking, more so than usual (and usual for me is still MUCH more than any rational person should actually spend time pondering), about my next mix tape (CD, and for the sake of saving a few parentheses, we will assume a mix tape to in fact be a compact disc, or CD if you will).  The scene was actually just the thing I needed to put my thoughts to words, as thoughts of my new mix tape have popped up quite often in the last couple of months and this practice of giving someone a mix tape has tended to really bother me as of late, although no more than it ever has before.

I think in my life I’ve been given exactly three mix tapes (but maybe four, sorry Bex, I can’t remember if you made one for me or if it was yours or if it was the goodness of G Love and Special Sauce’s Philadelphonic that you introduced me to or some combination thereof).  In my life I’ve only made one official mix tape that was actually given to anybody (but maybe two, again, sorry Bex, can’t remember if the “Tiffany Incident” was an actual mix tape or a soundtrack for the evening, and shut up Ahad).  I absolutely love the idea of a mix tape, but to actually give one to someone is a huge step in my insipid little world.

In essence, and for sake of reference, a mix tape is created for one of just three reasons.  The first and most popular creation is just the act of recording a handful of hit songs to pass out to random people in your life (like making an amateur “Now” cd, y’know the ones that say “Now Hear This” and have all the pop hits for the last year).  The second reason for making a mix tape would be to put together a sampler of some artists that you enjoy with the idea of passing on their greatness to random people in your life.  The third reason, and the one closest to my heart, is the idea that someone else has already said “it” better that you’re able to say “it” and you wish to convey those words, musically, to a random (or perhaps not so random) person or persons in your life.

Several years ago, a friend and I had started dating different girls at roughly the same time.  Things were going well for both of us when he told me he had made a mix tape for his girlfriend.  I was awestruck.  I’m like, “Dude, are you for real?  Isn’t that a big step?”  As you can probably guess, he didn’t think it was that big of a step.  He wanted to make her a tape of artists he enjoyed so that maybe she might enjoy the same things with him.  Reasonable point, I suppose.  But at the time, she was unaware of many of these musicians.  I almost felt betrayed on behalf of these artists.  At the time, I had discredited her musical tastes (things have changed, mostly for the good) and was offended that he would just up and give her shit she wouldn’t “get”.  For example, has anyone (besides maybe The Thunder) really ever listened to Southern Culture on the Skids?  Even know what that is?  That’s my point.

I concede there’s prolly some psychobabble that would explain my thoughts, but just bear with me for a few (oddly enough, Microsoft spell checker did not put the red squiggle under the word ˜psychobabble”, I’m almost impressed).  I believe, and this is total dorkdom, that “my” music helps me to define the person I am.  Therefore, giving someone “my” music is like giving away a little piece of me.  I think a good example of this would be the band Vertical Horizon.  I’m sure most of you have at least heard of them if not actually “heard” them before.  Most people are familiar with their late 90s multi-platinum album Everything You Want and to a lesser extent the follow-up GO.  What most people do not know is that they’d been around since the early 90s and had 3 excellent albums before Everything You Want that were primarily all acoustic and one album even featured a little-known drummer by the name of Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews Band).  I dig these albums more than the latter two albums, but not in the proverbial Metallica sense (::Stoner Voice:: “Dude, I dig their old stuff, but they totally sold out when they cut their hair, man”).  To me, this is the “real” Vertical Horizon that hardly anyone knows about.  Almost as if it’s my little secret.  This is why it is so hard for me to wrap my mind around giving someone a mix tape.  It’s giving away my little secrets.

Yeah, I know, that sounds fucked up, but that’s how I roll.  I made five (5) copies of my first official mix tape.  As far as I know, one is in Arizona, one lives near Soulard, Sal may have another, I have one, and one has gone MIA.  I made a sixth copy later for my sister since it included Rufus Wainwright’s cover of the song “Hallelujah” which she saw some douche sing on American Idol (despite him actually doing a good job, now it seems everyone is singing it, like that chick from One Tree Hill, and don’t ask why I know that).  I actually heard the original on some old Leonard Cohen album, blown away, chronological progression followed, covers by John Cale, Jeff Buckley, and Rufus Wainwright that all rocked in their significant and unique way (and I know it was on the Shrek soundtrack).  Sorry, I digress, but this is what I mean.  When I find a nugget like Cohen singing “Hallelujah” I want to bury it away for myself.  It’s mine now, it spoke to me and it made me feel.  What if I proverbially “give” it to someone else and they don’t feel the same way?  Or worse, they toss it away as fodder.

The emotional roller-coaster I go through when trying to anticipate what the recipient might think about the little tidbits of Ry that I so lovingly placed on the circular plastic would blow your mind, possibly even make you laugh if you really knew, and laugh hysterically at how mundane this all seems.

My original five copy pressing of Ruminations Under a Dreaming Tree took roughly three months to narrow down the songs and place them in the proper order.  As it is, they almost tell a story.  Another few weeks passed as I designed the front and back cd covers, yes, I took it to a whole new level, completely unnecessary, but nevertheless.  The only thing I did not like was the actually label I put on the cd, rather plain, boo.  Anyway, as I see it, it takes time to put together a proper mix tape.  It should say something, better yet, mean something. John Cusack’s character in the movie Hi-Fidelity is a slightly less neurotic portrayal of what I think when I’m going about attempting to put together a proper mix tape (and for all you Say Anything fans, “In Your Eyes” almost made my cut for my second “album”, not Peter Gabriel’s version, but Ari Hest’s).

I think we all have these little “secrets” or little pieces of “me” that we like to keep for ourselves.  My little secrets just happen to be musical ones, well, artists and songs anyway.  One of the tougher things in life is probably learning how to share these wonderful tidbits with those we know and love.  Whether it’s a song, a book, a drawing, a recipe, or something else equally dull, we all have something buried deep that we just can’t let out.  Maybe that’s what life is all about: sharing those things we hold so dearly with others, in order to achieve some maximum enjoyment level, but are just to afraid of the letdown if the maximum enjoyment is not attained.  Maybe it’s getting over the idea that something “liked a lot” by ourselves is better than the possibility of something be “loved” by all.  This is where I trip up.  I think my “little pieces of  me”, songs in this instance, are extremely amazing, but what if I share them with you and they are completely dismissed and/or not appreciated like I think they should be.  That’s the chance I don’t know I can take.

Needless to say, I’m nearly finished with the final song selection of my next mixtape (only about 30 songs left to trim down from, woohoo!). Unfortunately, you’ll probably never hear them.


Ps… there is a chance this collection of ramblings could be a metaphor for my whole little world, but I’m not an expert in this field.

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