Just recently, as I was reading Rob Sheffield’s memoir, Love is a Mix Tape, which is about his relationship with his late wife all told through the making of a cornucopia of mix tapes they had made each other, it got me to think about how music has influenced my life. If it weren’t for music as a constant, I don’t know what would have gotten me through each and every day.
I remember my younger years having been rambunctious, talkative, and always curious, while at the same time enjoying the confines of my four-walled bedroom and taking pleasure out of listening to my music blasting out of my headphones and stereo. I was in love with my music, I still am. In many ways, the same way one recalls a vivid dream, my dream-states consisted of, reminiscent of Mitch Kramer at the end of Dazed and Confused, covering my ears with my headphones and feeling as if I was living vicariously through the words and beats of the lead singer and his band mates. All of which had intoxicatingly seeped into my subconscious. Now, older and wiser in my late 20’s, indicative of the author’s single years, I am still enjoying the music of both my youth and today. Having the music saturate my life and know that at any point I could escape, not only in my dreams, but also from the realities of life, I could not be happier.
Music, like with any other artistic medium, can extract feelings and emotions. As the author admitted in his book, “ In my headphones I led a life of romance and incident and intrigue, none of which had anything to do with the world outside my Walkman.” I too lived a life of incident and intrigue all within the confines of my headphones. With each song that I wrapped myself around, similar to a book lover’s imagination I was able to: live alongside Guns N Roses in their concrete jungle and experience Motley Crue’s wild side, I was able to love Blondie’s gentle heart of glass and Def Leopard’s wild Hysteria, I would cry for Pearl Jam’s Jeremy while singing Hallelujah with Jeff Buckley, and die alongside Metallica as they faded to black beneath Sonic Youth’s Diamond Sea either one beat at a time or all at once.
In the vein of his own admiration for this medium, for example, Sheffield recalls a moment with his father, in the spring of 1979, while having had listened to the Beatles record “Hey Jude” the two of them wondered whether it was possible to loop that one song onto both sides of an entire cassette. After a few hours of trial and error he explains, “We had a ninety-minute tape of ‘na na nas’, along with many ‘yeah yeah yeahs’ and a few ‘Judy Judy Judy wows.’ We listened to the playback, and I could not believe what we had accomplished.” Then again he goes on to say, “I listen to Hey Jude now, and I never want to hear this song again.”
I cannot remember a time whether my father and I had a similar experience but I do recall a circumstance with my mother that was very comparable, back in 1992, when I was thirteen. The movie, The Bodyguard, had just come out and my mother was fascinated by the theme song, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. She had asked me if I could make a tape of just that one song. Seeing as how I enjoyed the song at the time and did not wish Whitney Houston any ill will, I obliged. After compiling the entire tape exclusively of just that one song, like Sheffield, fifteen years later, I still cringe every-time I hear it or any other Whitney Houston song for that matter. Despite the fact that both Sheffield and I could happily live out the rest of our days without hearing “Hey Jude” or Whitney Houston ever again, these two moments in time speak less about the mix tapes that were made and more about what was shared between the author and his father and me and my mother. They are moments we remember.
Accordingly, my own admiration for music has resulted in the creation of many of my own mix tapes throughout the years, tapes that delved out lives and escapades that I had always yearned to live but was too timid to experience. Similar to Patrick Fugit’s character in Almost Famous, I was experiencing life one band at a time and loving every single minute of it. I didn’t mind that there was life outside my headphones, yet alone outside my very own four-walled atmosphere because for moments, the mix tapes and the music that inspired them were my life, my reality. I felt good about the life that I was living and the escapades that I was imagining. With each beat and lyric I felt I could relate with what I was hearing, they were songs for life… for my life.