My father is the master of the mixed tape. One of my favorite memories is of sitting downstairs in our den with piles and piles of CDs surrounding us as he crafted a mixed cassette tape for me. We’d go through every album he had that had songs on it that I both heard on the radio and loved or songs he wanted me to hear. This process was the beginning of my music education that had probably started before I can remember considering there’s a photograph of me as a baby with giant headphones on my ears.
I learned about everything from this special thing we did together. I learned how to craft the perfect mixed tape. From this education, I started making mixed CDs for myself and friends as gifts. Most recently, I made them for my boyfriend who was in desperate need of musical education when we met. Because of this, I have a timeline of my life in music and I could not be more grateful to my father for this. I can go through my collection of hand crafted albums and be immediately transported to that year in my life. I can feel every emotion I felt at that time and reside in every memory. It’s basically a time travel machine that is operated by simply pressing play.
What made it special for me was how my father went into the process. We’d sit together on the floor and he’d start taking out albums from the giant CD rack. We’d listen to a song I had picked or he’d suggest one or two and when I confirmed, he’d put them onto the tape. He had an order about it so that the tape flowed and ebbed flawlessly. I’m not even kidding. It was always the perfect combination of artists and style of music and I cannot explain how that’s possible because it’d be anything from Tori Amos to Bob Dylan to Nirvana to Counting Crows to Steve Miller Band. This musical education made me pretty kickass. In 3rd or 4th grade, my favorite song was “Round Here” by the Counting Crows and Bethany and I had the lyrics of “Bohemian Rhapsody” down flat. (Kudos to her mom for that one who had it on vinyl with the lyrics on the back and we’d sit in Bethany’s house singing along)
Bethany and I liked to listen to music and completely memorize it. The music we chose to this with was everything from The Lion King soundtrack (she usually played Pumbaa) to Queen to, unfortunately, Billy Ray Cyrus. In my defense, I never liked that song but when your best friend does and has a singing contest at her birthday party to that song, you have to play pretend a little bit. Seriously, how was that song so popular? I dare not name it but you know the one.
With the mixed tapes my dad made as well as her own collection which included Weezer’s The Blue Album, Bethany and I would dance around her room, singing at the top of our lungs, and dressed in her mother’s lingerie. Yes, it sounds odd but let me explain. Bethany’s mom had older nightgowns that she gave to Bethany to sleep in. My mother did the same for me and I had this adorable silky blue nightgown with a matching bathrobe that I wore every time I pretended I was a princess. I always wore this black pantsuit thing, a la Jasmine, when Bethany and I would dance. I actually have it now, in a keepsake box. I can only imagine what we looked like: 8 year olds dancing around and screaming the lyrics to a graphically named NIrvana song (if you have Nevermind, you know the one) Now, my dad loves music so much that he doesn’t really see any harm in it. And there isn’t, really. Music is music. So when I fell in love with Nirvana, it went on a mixed tape. Didn’t matter that I was 8. Little did he know that Bethany and I would proceed to sing it constantly and (fortunately) had no idea what the lyrics really meant at the tender age of 8. My mother was not pleased. But what’s cooler than an 8 year old singing Nirvana? Nothing. Well, maybe the fact she is dressed in a silky teddy that is too big for her and spinning around in circles and calling it dancing.
As I started writing this blog, Bethany wrote on my Facebook wall a quote from a Third Eye Blind song. As per usual, I quoted another lyric from the same song back. This has become our form of communication in a lot of ways. It’s not a code or anything, it is our form of reaching out and saying “Hey, girl, I miss you” or “Hey, girl, remember that time?” We have a massive catalog of songs to choose from, some of which have been selected to play at our weddings so we can dance with each other. That’s normal, right? We throw some movie quotes in there as well but it really has been music that brought us together. I mean, hell, we met at a backyard concert featuring my dad and her mom’s boyfriend. We were made in the name of rock and roll.
I can only hope that all best friends have this sort of unique connection. I know they do. It’s amazing to me how these little traditions form naturally, with no effort, with no planning, with any expectations. I know everyone can sit and think of the thing they have with the person they consider their best friend. I am grateful mine can always be found on a mixed tape.
The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. Anyway… I’ve started to make a tape… in my head… for Laura. Full of stuff she likes. Full of stuff that make her happy. For the first time I can sort of see how that is done.
-High Fidelity, 2000