THE LINER NOTES:
Falling into a relationship with Carrie was easy. Perhaps it was because I had no illusions that this was going to be anything more than a months-long romance. She was moving to Los Angeles come the summer, so there was no reason to get too attached. There was no anxiety about how this would all turn out. The conclusion was foregone.
So instead of fretting about the future, I enjoyed our present. Of course, it helped that she was adorable and laughed at all my jokes. Seriously. All of my stupid, stupid jokes. And I at hers. Neither one of us bothered putting up some impressive facade. We were just us. We only went on one actual “date.” (A movie where I serenaded her with “Rhythm of the Night” before the trailers started) After that, we were just hanging out at each other’s apartments like old buddies. Buddies that would watch Friends and ER and eat pizza and drink alcohol. Buddies that would make out a lot. She was my female Tim!
And as with any new woman in my life, I had to make her a mixtape. ASAP. I had made Melissa several mixes through college. And Kirsten got at least one during our brief summer romance. Just Smile, Loretta is Carrie’s introductory mixtape. And this is the first tape for this blog that I’ll get to listen to and talk about that wasn’t made specifically for my own enjoyment.
That seems like a big deal. I’ve made loads and loads of mixtapes for other people in my time. But there aren’t many (in fact, hardly any) that I have immediate access to. It’s been an interesting few weeks listening to what was essentially my musical hello to Carrie. So instead of highlighting just a handful of tracks, I’m going to walk us through it song by song. We’ll see if I can recall (or surmise) the reason for including the song. What was its significance? Was there significance? Could I possibly even still have any idea after 15 years?
So here we go– a reverse engineering of all 30 tracks to see if I can recall what the young, infatuated me must have been thinking.
THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:
- excerpt from Out of Sight
- “Love is Better Than a Warm Trombone” – Gomez
- “Flame” – Sebadoh
- “Every Single Day” – Dodgy
- “Hoodoo Voodoo” – Wilco
- “Tightrope” – The Stone Roses
- “Brass Monkey” – Beastie Boys
- “Big Star” – Letters to Cleo
- “Creep” – Radiohead
- “Cadillac Boogie” – The Mighty Blue Kings
- “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – The Clash
- “Good to Be On the Road Back Home Again” – Cornershop
- “The Grouch” – Green Day
- “Center of the Universe” – Built to Spill
- “El Scorcho” – Weezer
- “Ants Marching” – Dave Matthews Band
- “Time Bomb” – Rancid
- “Speech Bubble” – Longpigs
- “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” – Neutral Milk Hotel
- “Eye Know” – De La Soul
- “The Bartender and the Thief” – Stereophonics
- “Cannonball” – The Breeders
- “Super Bon Bon” – Soul Coughing
- “Put a Lid on It” – Squirrel Nut Zippers
- “Anaesthetic” – Feeder
- “Red House” – Jimi Hendrix
- “When I Argue I See Shapes” – Idlewild
- “Debris Road” – Ocean Colour Scene
- “Bank Holiday” – Blur
- “A Little Bit of Soap” – De La Soul
The tape opens with a snippet of dialogue from the movie Out of Sight, which I pulled from the film’s soundtrack CD.
“Is this your first time being robbed? Well, you’re doing great. Just smile, Loretta, so you don’t look like you’re being held up.” This is a favorite film of mine, and especially so in 1999. If I hadn’t watched Out of Sight with Carrie prior to giving her this tape, we probably watched it the next day. I probably opened with this to A): highlight the movie and B): to add a little opening build up to the tape. A mini intro before the rock kicked in.
And then I had the rock kick in with “Love Is Better Than a Warm Trombone.”
This song has its own little intro before the full band joins in, so I was clearly trying hard to make a memorable entrance.
Gomez is an obvious opener. They were a Top 3 band of mine for the second half of 1999, as my previous mixes have made clear. This particular song is less obvious, (why not “Whippin’ Piccadilly”?!) but I’m sure it was chosen due to that opening and its general groove.
Sebadoh’s “Flame” and Dodgy’s “Every Single Day” come next. The first, a lesser known American band. The second, a lesser known British band. This was me saying, “Check it out! I’m into cool bands you may not know about. I hope this impresses you. Let’s make out.”
I’m basically saying this for the majority of the mix.
Wilco’s “Hoodoo Voodoo” is next, keeping the alternating British/American pattern going. This is a fun, nonsensical track, which I was probably hoping would convey how fun and nonsensical I could be. My music has, and therefore I have, a sense of humor.
After the upbeat fun of “Hoodoo Voodoo,” I switched gears with the more subdued “Tightrope” by the Stone Roses. I knew little of Carrie’s musical tastes before putting this mix together, except that she owned only a handful of CDs. So as much as I was introducing my tastes to her, I was also using this mix as a gauge to see what kind of tunes might stand out for her. What song might become her favorite? Are we going to connect musically? Which bands will she want to her more from?
I honestly don’t remember if she had a favorite from Just Smile, Loretta, but I do know that she never, not once, ever, in our entire time together, mentioned the song “Tightrope” to me.
After five songs from bands I assumed she’d probably never listened to before, I knew I might be losing her. Beastie Boys to the rescue. Then I knew I had to get a female voice onto the tape. What better choice than my favorite female-fronted rock band at the time, Boston’s own Letters to Cleo? I mean, of course I had to have Letters to Cleo on this tape. This band was a huge part of my college life and Carrie had to know this.
“Creep” is the first track on the mix that surprises me a bit. In 1999, both The Bends and OK Computer were available, and I also had a few EPs and singles to choose from. I can’t recall why I went back to “Creep,” a song I’m sure she was already familiar with, to make my Radiohead fandom know. I wasn’t choosing songs based on their lyrical content, that much I can be sure of, so I wasn’t trying to hint to my self loathing. I wasn’t trying to get any hidden messages across, beyond “here are some bands I hope you will like with me.” So, 15 years later, “Creep” confuses me.
But “Cadillac Boogie” does not. This was me trying to prove I was a hipster long before being a hipster was no longer hip.
And then some Clash to reestablish my rock cred.
The next track another minor mystery. “Good to Be On the Road Back Home” is from Cornershop’s third album, When I Was Born For the Seventh Time. This is the same album that has “Brimful of Asha,” which was the band’s only major American hit. I can’t really imagine why I picked “Road Back Home” over “Asha,” or even “Sleep on the Left Side,” but here it is. My only conclusion is that it’s here because it’s a duet and I felt I needed another female voice on Side A. There’s two on Side B and I’m all about the symmetry. Also– flute solos.
“The Grouch” by Green Day comes next, and it’s clear I was looking for a counterpunch to the mid tempo Cornershop excursion. It’s very successful.
And then Side A concludes with two previously highlighted Super Ultra Mega Songs: “Center of the Universe” by Built to Spill and “El Scorcho” by Weezer. Two really strong choices from this time in my life. If Carrie was put off by either of these two tracks, I was definitely going to be putting off Carrie.
On to Side B!!
Dave Matthews Band was another group that carried me through college, and “Ants Marching” is easily their best song. I think I may have opened Side B with it to keep things familiar from the start.
And then some Rancid to reestablish my rock cred.
The next track is a virtual time machine for me. “Speech Bubble,” is from Longpig’s second album, Mobile Home. This was released the same month this tape was made, and this song in particular was my favorite off the album. I played this track a lot closing out 1999. Which is why when the opening acoustic guitar/tambourine combo started playing, I was immediately transported to my basement apartment, cuddling with Carrie on the futon, watching Doug Ross fighting for some kid’s medical rights at County General. And it’s not just that sense memory that makes me love this track. It’s just a damn good song. There is no YouTube clip, so check it out at this link. It saunters and rocks with fits and starts. It’s acoustic, electric, a ballad, a stomper. I haven’t listened to it much the last decade or so. I had no idea how much I missed it.
“Speech Bubble” found its way on to Carrie’s first mix tape because it was of the moment. The next few made it because they were classics. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” is another Super Ultra Mega Song making an appearance. I included this because it’s a great song and I was hoping Carrie would enjoy its musical quirkiness. I did NOT include it to be a message of my immediate infatuation with her. The same goes for “Eye Know” from De La Soul. I should have thought better than to put these “love” songs back-to-back on a mix tape for a woman I’ve only been seeing for a couple weeks. But their lyrical content was secondary to their general groove and flow.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU:
Interestingly enough, I did not maintain an “established acts only” segregation on this mix. I took some risks. And apparently I felt confident enough about Stereophonics’ “Bartender and the Thief” to include it here. It’s a good song of a decent album, but one I chose to part ways with many years ago. I likely traded it for some other disc I no longer own. Another new-to-me band, Feeder, shows up a couple tracks from here. I no longer own that album, either.
THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE REST OF THE MIX?:
“Cannonball” is the fourth Super Ultra Mega Song included on this mix, which goes to show I was clearly loading this tape up with my favorite tracks. It really was more about “here’s what I like” than, “here’s something I want to tell you.” Because, really, what could I have been trying to tell anyone with a song like “Super Bon Bon”?
The inclusion of “Put A Lid On It” is easy to figure out. My need for symmetry meant I had to have a jazzy counterpart to Side A’s “Cadillac Boogie,” and since I also needed another female voice to even things out, it came to this. And, you know, good song, too.
Here’s that Feeder track. Which sounds kind of like that Stereophonics’ track.
And then comes Hendrix. Although, really, I’m surprised I have Jimi Hendrix on this mix. “Red House” is a great song, but this whole tape skews modern, which makes this track feel very out of place. Perhaps, at the time, I was considering this to be the symmetric partner to The Clash, counting them both as “classic rock.” An inaccurate comparison, but the kind of thing the 1999 me would probably do.
I close out the tape with a few British bands, because, after all, I am me. Idlewild’s “When I Argue I See Shapes” was a favorite at the time– punky and poppy. And Ocean Colour Scene always has an effortless, classic sound. Then I went with the very British sounding “Bank Holiday” from Blur. I won’t link to them all here, so I’m picking “Debris Road.” Ocean Colour Scene never seemed to get any respect during that Britpop craze. Critics labeled them as Dad Rock, not cool enough for the room. But I absolutely love their early albums. This one is off their third album, Marchin’ Already.
There was still a little space left on the tape, so I squeezed in the short De La Soul ditty, “A Little Bit of Soap.” A comedic space filler about a guy who stinks, I thought it might bring a chuckle. Instead, it brought an inquiry about what I thought of her odor. I assured her, I thought she smelled just fine. I wasn’t trying to drop in any secret messages with these tracks. Nothing beyond, “Check it out! I’m into some bands you may not know about. I hope this impresses you. Let’s make out.”
WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:
Overall, this mixtape was a decent introduction to the musical me of late 1999. But an incomplete one. While a lot of my tastes were represented, there are some HUGE gaps here. No Travis. No Ben Folds Five. No Harry Connick, Jr. No Huey Lewis. No Oasis. I could have filled out this mix with those bands, but why do that when I could make an entire Travis tape, an entire Oasis tape and so on?
So I didn’t. Because I would be.
THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:
For the sense memories alone, it’s “Speech Bubble.”
I implore you– follow the link.