Monday, August 22, 2005

Cindy tells me.

It will be no surprise to readers of this blog that I spend too much time thinking about pop music. Or that I have spent too much money on same.

But now that I have hooked into one of the vast ethereal jukeboxes, and I am deep in the midst of digitally reconstructing many of the wonderful mixtapes that I have received from friends over the years, and that are only a play or two away from self-destruction, I want to pay tribute to those friends.

I'll start with Cindy, because there are more of her tapes on my shelves than anyone else's.

Only Cindy would give me a tape titled "More Music You Probably Already Have or Couldn't Care Less About Anyway." She gave me that tape in 1988, and it may single-handedly have been responsible for setting me on the path of alternative music. Maybe even though you know me well, you don't know her well enough to know that I did not already have any of the tracks on there, and that I have listened to the tape so many times that those tracks have etched their way into my brain. Those are the lyrics that pop into my head to help me understand confusing behavior on the part of colleagues, boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, parents. I am talking about Boomtown Rats, James Brown, Dead Milkmen, OMD, Cheap Trick, Monty Python.

I may owe Cindy a huge debt for building my camp sensibility. I am thinking here about "Better than K-tel, it's HITS OF THE 70s" and "Cindy's 70s Favorites, vol. 2." Mind you, she made these tapes before disco was cool again. Wait, was disco ever cool again? Regardless, thanks to Cindy, "Ring My Bell" is one of my all-time favs, and the first song I wanted to hear after I decided to get married was "Wedding Bell Blues." Not to mention that stupid melting cake in "MacArthur Park" and the sheer oddness of Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy," when you think about it.

I have some fabulous birthday tapes from Cindy, the first of which was "Oh, You're Going to Hate Me for This One," whose homemade jacket featured a clipped out picture of the Rocky Horror cast asking me not to look at the track listing until I had listened to the thing. Side One was Sex & Violence (several years before the Talking Heads tune) and Side Two "Love and Other Silly Stuff." Iggy Pop, Love and Rockets, Kate Bush, Squeeze, Oingo Boingo, with a little David Lee Roth and Cyndi Lauper thrown in for grins.

Cindy introduced me to early-90s dance music before I had any idea it was there--Black Box, Deeee-Lite, Monie Love, mixed in with King Missile for contrast.

Cindy and I went to about a million concerts together. We were sure that Michael Hutchence was singing to us, and very amused with ourselves for being such idiots. We edged our way to the front of B-52s and Indigo Girls shows, danced like crazy during They Might Be Giants and Dead Milkmen shows, and generally acted like idiots for the Tom Tom Club.

Thinking about Cindy convinces me that all those people who say only boys were into making mixtapes and coming up with lists of theme songs had no idea what was going on. But who cares, ultimately. I can thank Cindy for much of the best music in my life (and the worst--heh).

After a while Cindy and I fell out of touch. Then a few years later she wrote to me, from out of the blue, and sent me an mp3 of "Free Me From My Freedom," a song that had featured highly in a million jokes, although I don't remember how any of that started. I wrote to her, because I was thrilled to hear from her, but then I dropped the e-ball. I feel like a shmuck for that.

So I suppose in this post I am working up my nerve to write to her again.


Tim said...

It's funny seeing your encomium to the mix tapes of Cindy (is this Cindy F, btw?), because I could write a similar post about some mix tapes entitled "Invitation to Sleep" and "Whatever a moon has always meant."

I think that mix tapes create a network of influence and obligation. The better the mix tape, the greater the chance it will change your life.

Brumaire said...

I must admit that everytime I hear "Ring My Bell" I picture a mixed tape with your tiny handwriting on it. I had to pack my stereo for storage a year or so ago and what I miss about it most is being able to listen to tapes like "The Birthday Tape."