Anatomy of a mix tape
Not long before I began the arrangement and started thinking about thematic elements, the considerations were: how do I arrange all the undifferentiated great shit I was hearing, largely piano-based, into a cohesive whole, and not something K-Tel-esque? And of course, whenever I make a break-up mix, I know that I bear a strong chance of reliving every shitty event of the time period every time I play the damn thing. Nonetheless, it's always cleansing to do these things, and like I told myself at the time, Gotta Find A Place To Put All This Great Music!
Not long before, Gringa Alta Prima and I had split up, well...I felt at the time that I was sort of being casually brushed aside, shortly after a ruinously expensive cross country trip to see her. Then-nothing. No contact, and when it came, it was incredibly weird and contrived-feeling. The worst part was that I knew she was right, and was probably handling it the way I would have handled it...Provided I didn't care very much myself...
We start with Cat Power's "I Don't Blame You". It has nothing to do with romance as such, but is both somber and hopeful, and the sentiment of the chorus was something I was just starting to feel. I'm pretty sure that this song is addressed to someone who is no longer alive, and that's how I felt. Someone had ceased to be, in my life.
The next one, Cat Stevens' "Maybe You're Right", is one of the greatest break-up songs of all time, and also expresses exactly how I felt-no fault more predominantly on one side or the other, and at this point, we're all tired of talking about it.
"Sweet Adeline" by Elliot Smith comes next. What's to say here? All his songs tend to be about the themes I was in the mood to explore...
"Long Long Long" by the Beatles is next. It too, I swear, is addressing someone who is not so much gone as they are Dead. "How could I ever...misplace you..."; creeepy. Not only is she dead, it kind of sounds like George Harrison killed her.
Shortly after this, I read the lyrics, and realized that I was overcome with the somber-ness of the music. This actually is a relatively cheerful song; you just wouldn't know it.
"We're An American Band" by Yo La Tengo is next. The twin vocals of Georgia and Ira; "Driving in the sand...The world is on fire..." It's a beginning that is near-hopeful, starting to see over the top. The destruction is all around you, but you know that you'll make it, at least. But you're still angry, and you need a purgative. It comes in the form of a lengthy noise guitar jam, much longer than the vocal part.
Then comes "Red" by the Dirty 3 . It is entirely instrumental; drums, guitar, viola. And angry, angry, angry: it just gets faster and faster, more reckless and sloppy, finally crashing at the end into a squall of feedback.
I don't know the name of the next song. It's by the High Llamas from their album "Cold and Bouncy", track ten. It sort of sounds like it's underwater. It's calming, and resolves, with each cycle, into something clearer and less submerged. Like you're emerging from anger and confusion.
The next one is "Baby Lulu" by Stereolab. I can't really tell what it's about, and only included it because it's so beautiful, and was constantly on my mind at the time. The horn section comforted me.
Then, the real wild card: "Textuell" by Oval. It's so shapeless, and formless, it's hard to know how to feel about it. It journeys through the fog, one light blinking dimly on the pier behind it, as it goes gawd-knows-where. Something is about to change.
And in real life, something did change. I met Gringa Alta Segunda. She had often been randomly mistaken for Gringa Alta Prima, walking down the street, and we fell into it very deeply, almost immediately.
Nonetheless, the tape has not quite begun to reflect this yet. "Tiny Decision" by The Aluminum Group is still in dazed, I-still-don't-know-what-just-happened mode. It is this odd little meditation of lost love, viewed through the metaphor of Adam and Eve leaving the Garden. Cheesy, yet somehow it works. "The World and the Delicate Pair/pulled the wool over the Great Surveyor/for the World had taken its time/for the Pair to make up their mind/and the way they made it up/made it time for them to go."
"Sally's Tomato", from the 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' soundtrack by Henry Mancini, follows. It is sexy and quiet. It is followed by "Hold Me", by Fleetwood Mac. A new beginning; "Can't you understand me? Baby don't you hand me no lies. Although it doesn't matter; you 'n me got plenty of time. There's nobody in the future, so baby I bid you my love. Step for you to dance to: stick your hand inside of my glove..." On our first date, Gringa Alta Segunda confessed her love for this song, shortly before we decided to wait in bed for the salmon I was baking her.
The next side begins with "Gently Waves" by Takako Minekawa. It is everything the title suggests, and is indicative of how content I am now feeling.
Following this is "Over The River" by the High Llamas. An instrumental, growing more lush and gorgeous with each passing second, almost ridiculous, never cloying. She liked that one, too. I said, "Doesn't it just kill you with its beauty?"
"Wear Your Love Like Heaven" by Donovan is next. It's just something to put after the previous song that might just approach it in terms of beauty, which is difficult.
And then we're at "Olivia Lost" by Joan of Arc. This is a playful and weird song by that most p&w of bands. "Some people are just lucky I guess, and they're born lookin' tired...But weren't we always in a hurry, and an hour late for everything?" And here is the beginning of the trouble, as well. There is too much confusion inherent in the good thing. "Half asleep, everyone looks funny..." Y'just know it isn't gonna last, but there goes the couple on the screen, insisting on making plans for the future.
"Such Great Heights" by Postal Service: another song about fooling yourself. It's so cheerful, you wanna box the guy's ears and just say, 'Wake the fuck up!'.
"Up the Junction" by Squeeze: "I never thought it would happen, with me and the girl from Clapham...I said, 'You are a lady'. Perhaps she said, 'I may be'..." It's sort of relevant, but really I just wanted a song by Squeeze in here; they excel at this sort of song. It's also sort of a song that knows it's been wrong, "I'd beg for some forgiveness, but beggin's not my business..."
Another High Llamas song that I don't know the name of follows. It's a pretty instrumental, but there is a feeling of furtiveness and potential loss around the corner. The overall effect is that of the sun setting on a beautiful day, darkness falling.
"Excuse me please as I wipe a tear away from an eye that sees there's nothing there to trust..." So begins, with a crash, the next song. It is "Trust" by The Pretty Things, and records how, just before, I 'd had a bad feeling one Friday evening, after being blown off for too long, and entered into Gringa Alta Segunda's room to find her in bed with The Colonel, who'd introduced us. I'm mad, but casual. I ask him if he'd mind leaving, so she and I could talk. No problem, says he, putting on his shorts. He pauses. "Hey, you've never seen my cock before!" he says, perhaps trying to lighten the situation.
"Still haven't," I say, staring at her.
The song that follows is "The Porpoise Song", which begins the movie 'Head', in which the Monkees bid farewell to show-biz. "My my, the clock in the sky is pounding away; there's so much to say"...What's to say? I drank up an entire paycheck in a weekend. I wasn't there. I was going away. I had never been there. People ain't worth it. "The porpoise is laughing, 'goodbye, goodbye'."
Then it's "Flowers of Memory" by Lambchop. A beautiful song, it is nonetheless recorded in some coffeeshop in Louisville, and you can only sort of hear what the guy is saying. Something along the lines of "Oh forgive me...I ain't kiddin' you, oh no..." I'm never not seeing my own fault in disasters. I've caused several, been around for many, and can't help thinking that maybe I even was responsible for more than I've noticed. At one point, as an aside, he sings, "My God, I'm an idiot..."
"Gasoline Alley" by Rod Stewart follows. My roommate had been playing it constantly, and I'd always been enthralled by its melody line. It comforted me. It too is a song about going away, or going back. "Just let it be known that my intentions were good, I'd be singin' in my alley if I could...Just one favor I'll be asking you; don't bury me here, it's too cold."
Lastly but not leastly, the first song off of 'Requiem For An Almost Lady', which Lee Hazlewood recorded after Nancy Sinatra dumped him. Perhaps the ultimate break-up album. She had liked it, too...Second only to The Ladybug Transistor's 'Beverly Atonale' on her list of great albums for laying around enjoying each other.
The song is called, "I'm glad I Never", and I quote it here in its entirety:
"(Spoken) In the beginning there was nothing. But it was kinda fun watching Nothing grow.
(Sung) You came walking into my life
carrying your own dreams
You coulda been...Yeah, you coulda been good
So why were you so goddamn mean?
But 'til you, I never had any fun.
But I sure am glad I never
Ain't you glad I never?
Be glad I never owned a gun."
Perfect. There's a lot more to the entire story than I've said here, but I feel I've crossed enough lines by writing this here at all. Sitting around staring at the ocean for a week, later that summer, I concluded once and for all that I was done with women both skinnier and taller than I am (which is a shame, because now I find them incredibly attractive), and as far as Segunda goes, I was sort of thinking of a moratorium on Scorpios, too. I nevertheless went and broke that one a few months later, to my utter misfortune (I'm looking at you, Wrong Again Evans).
What can I tell ya'? Music; it'll kill ya'.
Labels: Anatomy of a Mix Tape