(image credit zema,my kaleidoscope,tumblr)
‘Where words fail,music speaks’,diceva Hans Christian Andersen. Music is in the air, e tutto intorno è ritmo,armonia e caos; pop un rubinetto che gocciola,rock il tututututu tu tum di un martello contro un chiodo,punk il campanello del citofono,jazz il traffico in strada,blues il cinguettio di un passerotto,funk l’acqua che bolle in pentola.Tutt’intorno è sinfonia,tutt’intorno è caos. Perchè non lo si dica rumore,bisogna saper ascoltare.
Chiunque affezionato a Nick Hornby e Dave Eggers,accanito lettore del Rolling Stone, amerebbe ‘Love is a Mix Tape‘,del giornalista Rob Sheffield,critico rock and pop della famosa rivista musicale.Il libro, a romantic memoir,del 2007,ricorda molto High Fidelity e racconta della vita di Red in musicassette-cimeli vintage risalenti l’Età dell’Adolescenza (inizio anni’70-fine anni’90),ormai fuori commercio,di netto soppiantate nel mercato da CDs e audio files con l’avvento dell’Era Digitale.Ognuna delle musicassette di Rob è legata a un ricordo e i ricordi a una canzone; ognuno dei brani è custode di un tempo stato legato all’adolescenza,all’infanzia,al primo e unico amore,la moglie Renee Crist,DJ,venuta a mancare in giovane età lasciando Rob solo e irrimediabilmente disperato.’Love is a Mix Tape’ piacerebbe anche,e forse soprattutto,agli amanti della musica anni ’90;i Nirvana,Pearl Jam,Pavement,Aerosmith,Yo La Tengo,REM fra le bands più citate.
E’ un libro sentimentale,questo,di dolciastra malinconia,che si legge con stupore adolescenziale,e rimanda al tempo in cui la musica si ascoltava ancora su nastro,le musicassette si compravano in edicola per qualcosa come mille lire(??),esistevano ancora le radio con i lettori incorporati-il tasto play,pause,stop,rec,rew,f.fwd; i pomeriggi a registrare dalla radio le canzoni del cuore,e trascrivere-in bella grafia e con tanto di disegnini colorati-la playlist.Cassette per il mare, da ascoltarsi in viaggio,nel treno,sull’autobus,in vena sentimentale,d’umore basso,da regalare all’amica,il fidanzato,la sorella,il fratello,perdute dentro un cassetto,sotto i sedili della macchina,dimenticate in soffitta,a casa della nonna,a scuola-sotto il banco,dentro lo zaino.
Sotto una parte introduttiva del libro tratta dal primo capitolo-Rumblefish (dal nome della tracks list registrata nella musicassetta)
The playback: late night, Brooklyn, a pot of coffee, and a chair by the window. I’m listening to a mix tape from 1993. Nobody can hear it but me. The neighbors are asleep. The skater kids who sit on my front steps, drink beer, and blast Polish hip-hop– they’re gone for the night. The diner next door is closed, but the air is still full of borscht and kielbasa. This is where I live now. A different town, a different apartment, a different year.
This mix tape is just another piece of useless junk that Renee left behind. A category that I guess tonight includes me.
I should have gone to sleep hours ago. Instead, I was rummaging through old boxes, looking for some random paperwork, and I found this tape with her curly scribble on the label. She never played this one for me. She didn’t write down the songs, so I have no idea what’s in store. But I can already tell it’s going to be a late night. It always is. I pop Rumblefish into my Panasonic RXC36 boombox on the kitchen counter, pour some more coffee, and let the music have its way with me. It’s a date. Just me and Renee and some tunes she picked out.
All these tunes remind me of her now. It’s like that old song, ’88 Lines About 44 Women’. Except it’s 8,844 lines about one woman. We’ve done this before. We get together sometimes, in the dark, share a few songs. It’s the closest we’ll get to hearing each other’s voices tonight.
The first song: Paviment’s “Shoot the singer”. Just a sad California boy, plucking his guitar and singing about a girl he likes. They were Renee’s favorite band. She used to say, “There’s a lot of room in my dress for these guys.”
Renee called this tape Rumblefish. I don’t know why. She recorded it over promo cassette by some band called Drunken Boat, who obviously didn’t make a big impression, because she stuck her own label over their name, put Scotch tape over the punch hole, and made her own mix. She dated it “Ides o’March 1993”. She also wrote this inspirational credo on the label:
“You know what I am doing- just follow along”- Jennie Garth
Ah, the old Jennie Garth workout video, Body in Progress. Some nights you go to the mall with your squeeze, you’re both a little wasted, and you come home with a Jennie Garth workout video. That’s probably buried in one of these boxes, too. Neither of us ever threw anything away. We made a lot of mix tapes while we were together. Tapes for making out, tapes for dancing, tapes for falling asleep,. Tapes for doing the dishes, for walking the dog. I kept them all. I have them piled up on my bookshelves, spilling out of my kitchen cabinets, scattered all over the bedroom floor. I don’t even have pots or pans in my kitchen, just that old boombox on the counter, next to the sink. So many tapes.
I met Renee in Charlottesville, Virginia, when we were both twenty-three. When the bartender at the Eastern Standard put on a tape, Big Star’s Radio City, she was the only other person in the room who perked up. So we drank bourbon and talked about music. We traded stories about the bands we liked, shows we’d seen. Renee loved the Replacements and Alex Chilton and the Meat Puppets. So did I.
I loved the Smiths. Renee hated the Smiths.
The second song on the tape is “Cemetery Gates” by the Smiths.
The first night we met, I told her the same thing I’ve told every single girl I’ve ever had a crush on : “I’ll make you a tape!”Except this time, with this girl, it worked. When we were planning our wedding a year later, she said that instead of stepping on a glass at the end of the ceremony, she wanted to step on a cassette case, since that’s what she’d been doing ever since she met me.
Falling in love with Renee was not the kind of thing you walk away from in one piece. I had no chance. She put a hitch in my git-along. She would wake up in the middle of the night and say things like “What if Bad Bad Leroy Brown was a girl?” or “Why don’t they have commercials for salt like they do for milk?” Then she would fall back to sleep, while I would lie awake and give thanks for this alien creature whom I rested.
Renee was a real cool hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl. Her favorite song was the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together”. Her favorite album was Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. She rooted for the Atlanta Braves and sewed her own silver vinyl pants. She knew which kind of screwdriver was which. She baked pies, but not very often. She could rap Roxanne Shante’s “Go on Girl”all the way through. She called Eudora Welty “Miss Eudora”. She had an MFA in fiction and never got any stories published, but she kept writing them anyway. She bought too many shoes and dyed her hair red. Her voice was full of the frazzle and crackle of music.
Renee was a country girl, three months older than me. She was born on November 21, 1965, the same day as Bjork, in the Metropolitan Home Park in Northcross, Georgia. She grew up in southwest Virginia, with her parents, Buddy and Nadine, and her little sister. When she was three, Buddy was transferred to the defense plant in Pulaski Country, and so her folks spent a summer building a house there. Renee used to sit in the backyard, feeding grass to the horses next door through the fence. She had glasses, curly brown hair, and a beagle named Snoopy. She went to Fairlawn Baptist Church and Pulaski High School and Hollins College. She got full-immersion baptized in Claytor Lake. The first record she ever owned was KC & the Sunshine Bands’s “Get Down Tonight”. KC was her first love. I was her last.
I was a shy, skinny, Irish Catholic geek from Boston. I’d never met anybody like Renee before. I moved to Charlottesville for grad school, my plans all set: go down South, get my degree, then haul ass to the next town. The South was a scary new world. The first time I saw a possum in my driveway, I shook a bony fist at the sky and cursed this godforsaken rustic hellhole. I am twenty-three! Life is passing me by! My ancestors spent centuries in the hill of County Kerry, waist-deep in sheep shit, getting shot at my English soldiers, and my grandparents crossed the ocean in coffin ships to come to America, just so I could get possum rabies?
Renee had never set foot north of Washington, D.C. For her, Charlottesville was the big bad city. She couldn’t believe her eyes, just because there were sidewalks everywhere. Her ancestors were Appalachian from the hills of West Virginia; both of her grandfather were coal miners. We had nothing in common, except we both loved music. It was the first connection we had, and we depended on it to keep us together. We did a lot of work to meet in the middle. Music brought us together. So now music was stuck with us.
I was lucky I got to be her guy for a while.
I remember this song.L7, punk-rock girls from L.A., the “Shove” single on Sub Pop. Renee did a Spin cover story on them, right after she made this tape. She’d never seen California before. The girls in the band took her shopping and picked out some jeans for her.
When we were married we lived in Charlottesville, in a moldy basement dump that flooded every time it rained. We often drove her creaky 1978 Chrysler Le Baron through the mountains, kicking around junk shops, looking for vinyl records and finding buried treasures on scratched-up 45s for a quarter a pop. She drove me up to the Meadow Muffin on Route 11, our-side Stuarts’s Draft, for the finest banana milkshakes on the planet. Every afternoon, I picked Renee up from work. By night we’d head to Tokyo Rose, the local sushi bar, where bands played in the basement. We went to hear every band that came to town, whether we liked them or not. If we’d waited around for famous, successful, important bands to play Charlottesville, we would have been waiting a long time. Charlottesville was a small town; we had to make our own fun. Renee would primp for the shows, sew herself a new skirt. We knew we would see all of our friends there, including all the rock boys Renee had crushes on. The bassist- always the bassist. I’m six-five, so I would hang in the back with the other tall rock dudes and lean against the wall. Renee was five-two, and she definitely wasn’t the type of gal to hang in the back, so she’d dart up front and run around and wag her tail. She made a scene. She would drive right into the crowd and let me just linger behind her, basking in her glow. Any band that was in town, Renee would invite them to crash at our place, even though there wasn’t even enough room for us.
Belly? Aaaaargh! Renee! Why are you doing this to me? This band blows homeless goats. I can’t believe she liked this song enough to tape it.
I get sentimental over the music of the 90s. Deplorable, really. But I love it all. As far as I am concerned, the 90s was the best era for music ever, even the stuff that I loathed at the time, even the stuff that gave me stomach cramps. Every note from those years is charged with life for me now. For instance, I hated Pearl Jam at the time. I thought they were pompous blowhards. Now, whenever a Pearl Jam song comes on the car radio, I find myself pounding my fist on the dashboard, screaming,” Pearl JAM! Pearl JAM! Now this is rock and roll! Jeremy’s SPO-ken! But he’s still al-LIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!
I don’t recall making the decision to love Pearl Jam. Hating them was a lot more fun.
Taken from ‘Love is a Mix Tape’ by Rob Sheffield-Rumblefish