Monday, May 19, 2008

Love is a mix tape

Anyone who came of age during the 80's or 90's has no doubt been the creator and/or the recipient of a mix tape. I certainly was, I even have memories of taping songs from the radio onto my funky white plastic portable cassette recorder/player (it was the late 70's, cut me some slack).

Mix tapes heralded the beginning of individuals creating, in effect, soundtracks for their own lives... self-publishing before the world of YouTube existed. The mix tape was the first step towards what we now take for granted in the modern world of 'pick & choose' MP3 music.

Most of you will remember the popular movie High Fidelity, based on Nick Hornby's book of the same title - a classic tribute to music and love and mix tapes. There was even a Friends episode in which Chandler gives Monica a mix tape for Valentine's Day - sufficed to say that despite his good intentions the evening did not end well.

Chris made me several CD compilations over the years. The first he titled Here's Hopin' and gave to me the summer we started going out - apparently he was smitten and wasn't afraid to let me know! Others included one for Valentine's Day entitled Better Than Flowers (hmmm) and a blues-themed one I received for a birthday entitled Don't Nobody Know My Troubles but God. He also made compilations for family and friends - sharing music was his way of telling them he loved them.

A while back a fellow librarian, knowing of Chris' death, recommended a book entitled Love is a Mix Tape by music journalist and life-long creator of mix tapes Rob Sheffield. The autobiographical book recounts his time in Charlottesville, Virginia during the 1990's where he fell head over heels in love with fellow mix tape aficionado Renée Crist "a hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl". Not quite six years after their wedding, Renée died very suddenly from a pulmonary embolism at the age of 31.

In many ways this book is Sheffield's tribute to Renée but it's also the story of his slow and sometimes painful musical journey back into the world of light and laughter. It's been described as the happiest, sad story you'll ever read. This is a funny and well-written story - I smiled and laughed throughout this book. Of course I cried as well - how could I not?

I think Chris would have enjoyed the story of Rob and Renée - he would have recognized wry similarities in the 'opposites attract' stories. (Although I'm sure he would have taken issue with some of the musical selections or the way they were put together. Like most music junkies, he was very opinionated about how to put together a great compilation - how the songs worked together was just as important as the songs themselves!)

If you enjoy a good mix tape, you'll enjoy this book. It will bring a smile to your face.

1 comment:

Head Tale said...

This book just came back on my radar but I knew I'd heard about it somewhere before and suspected it must've been on your blog.

I'm half done and it's a tough book to read - even without having had that similar experience like you have.

There's one line about "By getting married, you're confirming that you will die someday" (which fits nicely with your recent post about finally seeing that headstone with your name on it.)

Anyhow, thanks for turning me on to this book - I'm with Chris that mix tapes have rules and one the author breaks with alarming regularity is having the same artist appear on his mixes multiple times - bad form, I say!

Oh, and I'd never thought of Nirvana's Unplugged album as a commentary on marriage but I'm going to have to give it a re-listen now!