To me, making a tape is like writing a letter — there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again.

This is Will (Yes, he is ridiculously good-looking, but let’s get past that, shall we?) and he is one of my favorite people ever. Primarily because of the fact that dude is an amazing conversationalist.

Our conversations, be they in person or via instant messenger, are sagacious epics covering topics as wide and varied as politics, religion, internet memes, philosophy, sexuality, movies, music and pop culture.

Recently, we has the following discussion:

Will: I have a homework assignment for you over the next couple weeks that I really want you to consider.
Will: I was putting a CD together over the weekend, and having trouble find track worthy songs. I know CDs are cheap, but you can’t just put anything on a playlist that can’t be edited.
Will: It made me wonder what songs I would put on a CD if I were stuck on a desert island. The one and only media that contained the 15-19 songs that you would have to listen to for the rest of your days.
Will: It was too tall a task for me to tackle since my song choice depends on my mood and what’s going on in my life, but what songs would you have to have?
Me: I love this question. I want to marry this question and have little bastard children with it!
Me: Well, eclecticism is key
Me: You have to span genres like Colossus span the globe
Me: And they have to have meaning. Nothing new and catchy
Me: Solid, dependable tracks that have seen you through eras
Me: As you can tell, I’m putting entirely too much thought into this
Will: Heh, you have no idea what I was going through.
Will: I was going through by memory, then just clicking around through my library and seeing what songs I think I could listen to over and over again.
Will: Then I started thinking about all the classical music I don’t have that I really enjoy, but it’s rough.

See why I think the world of this guy?

Anyway, his assignment got me thinking.

I’m with Rob Fleming when it comes to mixtapes. They are serious business and a good one takes thought, introspection and constant rewriting and erasing. Especially if you’re making a desert island disc of the last fifteen songs you’ll ever hear.

What would you include? Favored songs from childhood? Tracks that reminded you of the people you loved? Perhaps you’d forgo personal connections and pick songs that exemplified the best music had to offer — the technical virtuosity of Steve Vai, the operatic tenor of Luciano Pavarotti and the heart-wrenching lyrical genius of Tom Waits or the Notorious B.I.G?

After much deliberation, here’s what I came up with. I chose fifteen songs whose loss would devastate me. Fifteen songs I feel are ingrained into the very fiber of who I am. And holy holy, was it hard.

Lyin’ Eyes by The Eagles not only reminds me of my childhood but also opened my eyes to the fact that songs could be stories. But, will I perish if I never hear it again? Probably not.

Gett Off by Prince is so slick, sleazy and sexy that I feel as if I need a serious course of antibiotics after every listening (that’s  supposed to be a compliment), but would my life really be lacking if I didn’t hear it from this point forward? Actually, you know what? Let me get back to you on that one.

Anyway, here are the tracks I picked. Fifteen songs in no particular order. The loss of which would leave me devastated and whose presence would help retain my sanity in the highly unlikely event that I ever end up marooned on a desert island.

Welcome To Wild Monkey Island: Jaime’s Marooned Mix

1. My Hero (Live in Hyde Park) by the Foo Fighters. This song makes my stomach clench and my pulse race. It makes me bite my lip and dig my nails into the closest firm surface. Very few things in this world have that kind of effect on the human body and when you find one of them that isn’t food poisoning, you crank it to 11.

2. Will Work For Food by Dramarama — I know, this is a new one (in my world, anyway) and that totally goes against my whole rule about songs that have seen you through the eras, but I really, really dig power pop, OK? (Cue some dude saying, ‘Well, why didn’t you pick a Big Star song then, asshole?’ Because dickbag, this is my list, OK? And while I really like Big Star and think Thirteen is pretty much the paragon of  a perfect pop song, I think Dramarama is criminally underrated and totally deserve some play. End imaginary argument).

3. Beach Song by Hans Zimmer — Obvious puns aside, this is the prettiest piece of music ever composed. Couple that with the track’s affiliation with True Romance and honestly, what more could a girl ask for?

4. Wild Horses (Acoustic) by The Rolling Stones — Read this. She does a much better job of explaining why this song is on my desert island disc than I ever could.

5. Life Without You (Live) by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Musicians are fascinating. They take these inanimate objects — guitars, drums, pianos, saxophones — and breathe life into them. Only in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s case, I think the relationship may be a little more symbiotic. Both the guitar and the man needed the other to feel alive and you can definitely tell that’s the case throughout the course of this song. The best reason for creation is because you must. Because you can’t not. It’s a compulsion, both a sickness and a cure and the only respectable way to really consider yourself an artist. Anything else and you’re just a bullshitter wearing the wrong shoes. Luckily for the world, Stevie Ray Vaughan was a true artist.

6. Heartspark Dollarsign by Everclear. This is the first and quite possibly the only band I have ever truly loved. Real love — the kind that will have you writing paeans and fracturing your ankle to meet the band. Art Alexakis’ voice feels like home to me and the knowledge that I’m, “possessed with a power bigger than the pain” pretty much got me through high school.

7. Atlantic City (Live) by Bruce Springsteen. Do you have any idea how hard it is to pick one Springsteen song? The man’s catalog includes Thunder Road, Rosalita, Born to Run, Thundercrack and Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. It’s a damn near impossible task, but then you hear it — “Everything dies. Baby, that’s a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back. Put your makeup on. Fix your hair up pretty. And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.” As I’ve said before, it may be fraught with peril (“Well I’m tired of comin’ out on the losin’ end/So honey last night I met this guy and I’m gonna do a little favor for him” — an obvious reference to Atlantic City’s shady criminal underworld), but if you’re willing to take the chance and get on that Coast City bus to the place where the sand’s turning into gold — well, you’ve got a shot. At a better life. At a bigger dream. At rebirth and reinvention.

Despite the elegiac tragedy just waiting to befall the our hero, Atlantic City is a song of promise. Our hero may never win the big money jackpot. He might not ever be a high roller but he’s throwing the dice. He’s taking a shot and as long as he does that — well, he’s living the American Dream.

8. Whole Lotta Love (from How The West Was Won) by Led Zeppelin. I am so cheating with the inclusion of this track because it’s actually 23 minute medley starting with a kick-ass version of Whole Lotta Love and meandering on over to John Lee Hooker’s Boogie Chillun, Elvis Presley’s Let’s Have A Party, Ricky Nelson’s Hello, Marylou and Howling Wolf’s Goin’ Down Slow. But you know what? I’m stuck on an effing desert Island sans Sawyer, Jack, Boone and Charlie. Cut a girl a break.

9. Let’s Stay Together by Al Green. This is what falling in love sounds like — the consummate, unmitigated joy you feel when you find the right person. Let’s Stay Together is the equivalent of flinging open doors in a dark room and letting the sun shine in. Preach on, Reverend. Preach on.

10. Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against The Machine — For the most part, I’m a pretty lo-fi kinda girl.  Laid back and totally copacetic. But everyone’s got a dark side and mine happens to appreciate the tar black cynicism of Bill Hicks and the political fury of Rage Against The Machine. The guitars sound like the pre-show to Armageddon and as for the lyrical content? Simple, concise, repetitious and very effective. The band uses the word, ‘fuck’ in the best way possible. Every expletive, a baited cobra – lashing out venomously and striking its target with a deadly accuracy. The song could spark a revolution, change an attitude or simple provide five minutes of the most blistering rock music created in decades.

11. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door by Guns ‘N Roses — I know, I know. Picking a cover over the original, especially when the original is by Bob Dylan, is reason enough to be excommunicated from civilized society but here’s the thing — this cover is so much greater than the sum of its parts. You have Axl, howling like a wounded banshee, Slash pulling noises out of his guitar that most men wish they could pull out of women and to top it all off, you’ve got a gospel choir in the background. Combine this with Dylan’s lyrical genius and you’ve got something that exemplifies why people listen to music in the first place.

12. Medicine by Orbit — This was a minor radio hit in 1997 and probably should have been washed away with all the other flotsam and jetsam floating around in my mind, but it stayed, played, replayed and I fell in love with it. It reminds me of my teenage years – the warm glow of lamp light on walls the color of a tennis ball, moonlight dappling on the lake outside of my window, music down low while the rest of the house sleeps and fingers furiously skating over college-ruled paper in blue ball-point pen, trying to make sense of the world.

13.  The Back To The Future Overture by Alan Silvestri — Sorry nerds, but you’re wrong. Yes, there is only one trilogy but it ain’t Star Wars (not technically a trilogy at this point) nor is it Lord of the Rings. It’s Back To The Future and if you disagree with me? Well, you’re probably in the majority. This seems like a bit of an odd choice, but I’m never more comfortable than I am while watching Back To The Future. The film was a huge part of my childhood, a huge part of my relationship with Augs and probably the only film I’ve seen over fifty times (seeing all three on June 19 and I am so stoked!). I figure if I can’t bring the trilogy with me, I’ll bring the music with me.

14. Thirteen by Big Star — What? I said it was the paragon of a perfect pop song and you know what? I think I really would be heartbroken if I never got to hear it again.

15. Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles — How could a girl who loves pretty power pop possibly preclude this piece? Songs like this one exemplify why they were the biggest band in the world.

There are so many songs that didn’t make the cut — Tangerine by Led Zeppelin, California Stars by Billy Bragg and Wilco, Juicy by The Notorious B.I.G, Into The Groove by Madonna, Mack The Knife by Bobby Darin, Stars by Hum, Nessun Dorma by Luciano Pavarotti, Velocity by Extended F@mm — but hey, I only had room for fifteen.

Looking over the  track list, I realize that, with the exception of a few select tracks, there’s an overarching theme for the disc and by proxy, for my life. Almost every song has a sense of optimism woven between the bars. Hope dies last, I guess and if you’re marooned on a desert island, that’s not a bad thing to remember.

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4 thoughts on “To me, making a tape is like writing a letter — there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again.

  1. Dude, I am thinking all the wrong things! I keep fixating on the desert island part and not on the “songs I’ve loved forever part.” Like, most of the songs that move me are kind of depressing, but I don’t think I’d want depressing if I was stuck on an island forever. And Heartspark Dollarsign is so short, wouldn’t you want LOOOONG songs if you could only get 15? Don’t listen to me. 😉 I agree with you though, you really gotta span the genres. Like I would have to put one awesome Irish jam session on there. And probably Everything to Everyone. And something Vivaldi. But I don’t know about the rest.

    • No – definitely nothing depressing because you know what? Being alone on a deserted island is enough of a bummer. You don’t need wrist-slittingly bad music to serve as the soundtrack.

      While Heartspark is a short song, it’s so damn good! I mean, “you’re possessed with a power bigger than the pain?” That’s so goddamn optimistic and fills you with a such a sense of hope! Also, I’m a big advocate of interracial relationships (for obvious reasons), so I guess that’s a soft spot too.

      Good choice with Vivaldi, by the way! Picking a classical track was entirely too difficult for me, but a piece by Vivaldi is definitely a good choice!

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