you spin me right round baby, right round like a record
three months after my husband and i met, we celebrated our first valentine's day together. the entire week, i scavenged my brain for clever ideas, exhausted a number of glue sticks and concocted more clever crafts than a room full of preschoolers to prove my love. fyi...a love note with candy bars glued to it, their brand names substituting for hot and sexy verbs? check. try it. it works. thank goodness for reece's pieces. that's all i'm saying.
the culmination of my week's work was a mix tape filled with songs, both cheesy and classic, that all had the word "love" in the title. "my love." "crazy little thing called love." "don't hold back your love." every possible song, good and bad. i even prolonged the agony with phil collins' "groovy kind of love," and then wrote out the titles on red construction paper, substituting hearts for every "o" and placed it in the cassette case.
this gift proved to be the hardest to complete. filling a 180 minute cassette with love songs when i was listening to angst-ridden, emo performers was tough. anything off alanis morissette's "jagged little pill" wasn't really going to cut it.
i was reminded of this cassette tape this past week as i finished reading a beautiful biography called "love is a mix tape" by rob sheffield. one song at a time, as the subtitle states, he takes us on a journey of love and loss, recounting how he and his girlfriend met over the common thread of a song, built a marriage with a diverse soundtrack of music from the changing period of the 90s, and how he had to relearn to love the music they shared after her sudden death. each chapter begins with a track listing culled from the insert of a cassette case. diverse titles and artists that had me recalling which tracks i own, on my own cassettes (i still have many, though no way to play them now), or making a list from them of the songs i want to explore.
at the nucleus of the book is the loss of his wife, but her death is just a small part of the story. while it celebrates her, it also celebrates the importance of music, and that's what i loved about this book. music is something universal to all of us. i wonder if we learn to love music from an early age, when our parents talked to us in the sing-song voice all parents serenade their babies with. it connects us to people. we celebrate and mourn with it. it helps us pass the time. moves us. makes us think. it helps us to make friends. it becomes the soundtrack to significant events in our lives.
some of my friends became my friends purely because we were able to cut the ice after hearing a song by a band or artist we both liked. if one didn't know about the songs the other was gushing about, the offer to make a tape - to further test the budding friendship, really - was always extended. i still have cassettes made for me by friends from college. it's from these people i learned about the smiths, the alarm, concrete blonde, 10,000 maniacs and the cowboy junkies. i may no longer have contact with the people, but i always have an appreciation for them because of the world they opened for me.
music reminds me of the people i've loved. i know it's cheesy, but hearing the first notes of aerosmith's "sweet emotion" flings me back into my first post-college apartment. i'd be up in the middle of the night, talking on the phone to my then-boyfriend, and we'd both have our televisions tuned to mtv. every night, usually around 2 a.m., "sweet emotion" would play and would soon be followed by van halen's "right now." in between long distance (and expensive!) declarations of our love for each other, we'd dissect the bands playing on mtv. it made us feel like we were together on that couch. to bridge our gap, i'd make tapes of these songs for my boyfriend and include them in our weekly letters.
this particular boyfriend introduced me, reluctantly, to country music. not the new age of country that had boomed, but the classics. while i still can't say i love much of that genre, because it meant so much to him, i made every attempt to embrace it. in response, he conceded my passion for u2 was great and attended a concert with me. we drove the hour to the venue and played my cassette of "achtung baby" over and over. that night, under the open skies and the giant flashing billboards on stage, fueled by the cassette we'd listened to prior, he became a u2 fan. from then on, every letter from him included a lyric from "the masters, paul and dave..." that he'd relate to our relationship.
when we broke up a few months after that concert, i had to break up with "achtung baby" for awhile, too. eventually, i slowly introduced it back. i couldn't give it up entirely. it's a fantastic album. but even today, because of what that music meant to me at that time in my life, i still have to listen to it alone.
today, my ipod serves as my mix tape. sure, there are some among the more than 1,700-plus currently stored within it that don't strike a chord beyond the fact that i simply just like the song. but then there are many that, as soon as the first notes start, remind me of someone or make me think "wow. i'm so glad they recommended this to me!" (a thank you to j for recommending some really great additions to the shuffle lately, btw. there's not a lot of my chemical romance played on the radio smack dab in the midwest, but because we talked about it, and seem to have similar tastes in music, i have to say i'm quite fond of "i'm not okay").
the mix tape i made for my husband is now tucked away in a storage box of things i hold onto. one day our kids may cringe when they see it (here's hoping we'll advance so much as a society by then they'll have no way of hearing some of the selections). my gift from him on our first valentine's day? an engagement ring. shortly after he gave it to me, we started talking about the songs we wanted performed at our wedding. and yes, one of those cheesy songs from the mix tape i gave him was the first song we picked.