In order to redo my office, I had to, eventually, move pretty much everything out of the room. Along the way, I found a lot of stuff I’d long forgotten about, including a bag of tapes. I don’t even know if we have a cassette tape player in the house anymore…maybe Scott has one, but I sure don’t. My only CD player is the CD drive on my computers. All my tunes are electronic these days.
I sorted through the bag of tapes, tossing most of them. Some of them I’ve already replaced; some of them are irreplaceable; some were important at some point in my life but aren’t now, and I have the memories to keep regardless of what happens to the tape.
But there was one I kept just for you. It was called “Dancing and Romancing” and I made it for Scott and me for the dancing I imagined we were going to do during our long and glorious future. As it turned out, the dancing we did on our first date (to Billy Vera and the Beaters’ “At This Moment”–I know, right?) was merely a stratagem to impress the girl, because I think I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve danced in the 21.5 years since that first date. Still, I was naive and hopeful in the way that young people often are. And whether he dances or not, my man has many other fine qualities that make him a keeper despite this glaring omission.
Check it out—a genuine mixtape, c. 1991, hand-written and everything:
I think this may be the first purposeful mixtape I ever made. (Any others were just whatever I collected on a tape that I recorded off the radio.) What’s funny about this particular mixtape is that I can date it fairly precisely to my freshman year of college based on the songs on it; they reflect the paucity of my record collection at the time. I had just started buying CDs; the CD player I had in my dorm room wasn’t even mine; it was my best friend’s. She left it with me when she hared off to California for some adventure. Most of my collection was Duran Duran; I’d recently picked up an album from this new young pianist I’d never heard of until I heard his music wafting down the hall from the room of the gal from New Orleans. “Who is that???” “Harry Connick, Jr.” I think it was the first CD I ever bought; it’s still my favorite of his.
So I decided to recreate this playlist for my own nostalgia, and for your own romantic moments, in the hopes that you will have more luck on the dancing front than I did with it. You can download the works here.
As is tradition with mixes among my nearest and dearest blogging family, no mix would be complete without some commentary, so if you’re up for that sort of thing, read on.
Side A (there aren’t really sides to that .zip file, but there were on tapes. I still hear the pause where you had to flip the tape on all albums I originally became acquainted with via tape, or even record.)
To Know Someone Deeply-the artist formerly known as Terence Trent D’Arby
I always liked TTD, from the first I heard “Sign Your Name” on the radio. He had some kind of major life change and now goes by the name Sananda Maitreya and writes this funny stream-of-consciousness stuff on his website that is both bizarre and drily funny. I still dig him, and his voice.
Save a Prayer-Duran Duran
Can you still see the video? Shot in Sri Lanka? “And you wanted to dance, so I asked you to dance, but I won’t again after this first date, so you’d better enjoy it…” Wait, maybe that’s not how it goes. Great song. One of my favorite bands of all time, if not THE favorite. I’ll be seeing them for the 4th time in August; I can’t wait.
Stand By Me-Ben E. King
I was kind of surprised that I didn’t have the Ben E. King version in my collection when I went to recreate this mix; I had John Lennon, and as much as I love and respect Lennon’s work, when it comes to this song, only Ben E. King will do. So I bought the track; you’re welcome.
Why Can’t I Fall in Love-Ivan Neville
This song appeared on the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack. How old is this movie, you may ask? So old that no one has rereleased this album in digital form, and I had to buy an actual used CD of it ($0.75 on Amazon!) to get this song, because the song didn’t exist alone, either. And this CD (much like the aforementioned CD player) belonged to my friend Laurie, so when she came back to town, I had to give both back. That was a great soundtrack; it introduced me to Leonard Cohen, too (though the soundtrack itself has the Concrete Blonde cover). And oh, Christian Slater, sitting alone, wearing nothing but a cock ring. I didn’t know what that meant when I saw the movie; however, I do now, and may I just say “damn.”
I Only Have Eyes for You-The Flamingos
When I was a kid, I got a record for Christmas one year. It was sounds and songs from Happy Days, with Fonzie on the cover. It had this song, among other ’50s greats on it, and a 3-minute track of some Fonzie sound-nearly-alike saying “aaaaaaaay” over the Happy Days theme in the background. I didn’t understand it then; I still don’t know what the point of that track was; it was so lame. But I love this song.
Sara Smile-Hall & Oates
Love Hall & Oates. Love this song. It’s sexy and slow, and these are two things good in combination, much like chocolate and almonds or peanut butter and jelly.
A Nightingale Sang in Berkely Square-Harry Connick, Jr.
I told the story of how I came to have this album above, but I think this was my favorite song on the album.
Sea of Love-The Honeydrippers
I honestly have no idea how I came to have this song on my tape. I didn’t own it. Didn’t know who Robert Plant was; I swear I was the only kid I knew in high school who had no deep and abiding love for Led Zeppelin. Maybe I grabbed it off the radio?
At This Moment-Billy Vera & the Beaters
This was our very first dance. It had to be on the mix. Some of the best love songs are the end-of-love songs.
Nights in White Satin-The Moody Blues
I told you I had mostly Duran Duran in my record collection at the time, hence them appearing twice. But a great song on the seriously underrated Big Thing album.
Seeing Things-The Black Crowes
I had seen The Black Crowes open for Aerosmith the summer after graduation and before I started college and had become a fan, so this was a recent acquisition. This was the second song we danced to that night; when it ended we kissed for the first time. I can still remember how it felt in that heavy moment when the song ended, and we looked at each other in that brief moment of will-we-or-won’t-we. We did. Sigh.
Holding Back the Years-Simply Red
One of the great songs of the ’80s. I played this song the first year I went to guitar camp. It was a very simple arrangement, because I couldn’t strum up at that point. No kidding.
When A Man Loves a Woman-Percy Sledge
Classic song. This was off the Platoon soundtrack tape I bought for Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, one of my favorite pieces of orchestral music…it’s so beautifully sad, and more than a little codependent.
Cowboys and Angels-George Michael
Say what you like about the man, he can sing. He’d disappeared from the stage for along time after Wham! broke up. One day I was sitting in the TV lounge of my dorm, watching MTV and the video for “Praying for Time” came on. I sat transfixed and weeping as the song played. I don’t know why it struck me so deeply, but it did, and when I hear this song, I go right back to that moment, that feeling. This song was on the CD I eventually bought. Lot of unexpected (from him) stuff on there, all good.
What a Wonderful World-Louis Armstrong
This is off the Platoon soundtrack, too. In high school, at the ITS (International Thespian Society) convention in Grand Island, Nebraska, I learned to sign this song in ASL. This is a skill that has benefited me not at all in my adult life. But you can’t go wrong with Satchmo.
Vision of You-Belinda Carlisle
For those of you who don’t remember, or never knew, Belinda Carlisle was the lead singer for The Go-Go’s, the only all-girl band any of us knew in the ’80s. I always liked her, and this song seemed oddly exotic to my young Midwestern self at the time.
If I Were Your Woman-Gladys Knight & the Pips
On the original tape I had a cover of this by George Michael (styled as “If You Were My Woman”), but I had that on the B-side of a cassingle I must’ve bought of “Praying For Time” before I bought the CD. But I no longer have that cassingle, and the original (which I did have) is even better. Gladys rocks. If you don’t like her version, you have no soul. Sorry.
Delta Rain-The Blessing
This album ended up in my hands as a review demo sent to the Daily Nebraskan, our college newspaper. I had a dual gig as a news and arts & entertainment reporter, because I was a journalism major when I started college and thought it’d be smart to get a job there. We got paid $10 a story at the DN, but there were bennies to being an A&E reporter; you got to keep the albums you reviewed. I still recall a scathing review I gave an album by a zydeco band called The Bluerunners. (I didn’t keep that album; I think Scott has it.) Writing a bad review is fun; but it’s also mean, and in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t. I plead my youth. Not that they’d ever know, but now that I’m an adult, and a performing musician myself, I have a much different view of criticism of the arts.
Somewhere in Time-John Williams
This is the theme from the movie of the same name. It came out in 1981, about the time that HBO was newish, as was cable, and we got it at home. This movie repeated again and again on HBO, and I’ve probably seen it 75 times over the years, which is fine, because I had a huge crush on Christopher Reeve for most of my formative years. Can you blame me? It’s one of my favorite movies ever.
If I made this mix today, it would obviously be different, owing to my bigger music collection and greater life experience, but this mix is sweet for what it, and who I, was when I made it. What songs would you want to add to this list to make it the complete and ultimate romance mix?