Archive for May, 2013

  • Mix Tape

    Several years ago, I met somebody that I consider to be a kindred spirit. Fate threw her in my path, but I only got to enjoy her company for a few short months. She had travelled to England from the United States to study on the Master’s programme on which I was also enrolled, but had to return shortly after the end of the spring semester. When she left, I gave her a few mementoes to take back with her (some pressed flowers, and other ephemera), and she left me a mix tape. Well, I say mix tape, but it was a CD. She had put together some songs for me to listen to: things that she liked and things that she thought I might like. Since that time, I’ve been meaning to return the favour, but haven’t. Life, it seems, has always gotten in the way of all of the things that I need and want to do, and it’s been brewing in my mind for a long time. I started to compile a list of songs about a year ago. I would hear things and think, ‘ah, yes, that needs to go on the mix tape’ and would jot them down so that I remembered when the time came. Time ebbed away, and still no mix tape materialized. But then I thought, ‘why don’t I send Renee a virtual mixtape?’ So, I set to work, sourcing the best quality tracks on YouTube, or perhaps simply the ones that I liked the best, and created a playlist. This is that playlist.

    Track #1 – Aloe Blacc, Miss Fortune

    The first time that I heard this song, I thought to myself, ‘this is about Dick and Nicole Diver’. Literature and music are two of the special passions in my life, and I suppose it’s only natural that I should view them in conversation with one another. We all know Fitzgerald for Gatsby, and those of us who don’t soon will, but it’s that other, longer tale that will always haunt me: the tale about the rich and beautiful woman who falls in love with her handsome psychotherapist who thinks himself invincible and loses everything. It’s to Tender is the Night’s heroine Nicole Diver, ‘Miss Fortune’, that I am indebted for my own name. I don’t know if I ever told you that, Renee? In any case, each time that I hear this song, I re-read the book in my mind. I think about Dick…and where he might be now…

    Track #2 – Ed Sheeran, A Team

    On a basic level, this song is about a crack addict, but it also makes me think of Sunset Boulevard and the tragedy of faded youth. The face ‘crumbling like pastries’ resembles the crumbling mansion at the top of Sunset Boulevard inhabited by Norma Desmond, an old silent movie star who winds up a forgotten recluse. It sends shivers down my spine, and I’m reluctant to empathize, in case I end up with a hole in my back.

    Track #3 – Public Enemy, Harder than you Think

    In August last year, London hosted the Olympic games, and it was a wonderful showcase of all the great things that our small island has to offer in terms of art, culture, and sport. This song became the anthem for the Paralympics, and I was reluctant to add it to the list, because of its subsequent over-popularization, but I think that it still encapsulates the great feeling that that time, and those moments, embody for a South-East Londoner such as myself. And Public Enemy rock. What more can I say?

    Track #4 – Flight of the Conchords, The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room

    An odd choice, you might think? Think again. Before Renee flew back to Michigan to get married and finish the rest of her degree from overseas, we went on a trip to Norfolk, and spent the weekend at my parents’ cottage. We visited the seaside in Southwold and bought lots of tasty deli treats, and walked around the Plantation Garden in Norwich following a delicious lunch in my favourite little bistro. While we were driving around, we were listening to Flight of the Conchords.

    Track #5 – Shakespeare’s Sister, Stay

    It occurred to me as I was putting this mix tape together that there wasn’t really much that spoke to Renee here. So I thought, ‘Renee liked going to The Globe when she was over here: there just has to be some Shakespeare’s Sister!’ So here they are, in all their short-haired, scary, early-nineties glory.

    Track #6 – Sugar Hill Gang, Rapper’s Delight (Long Version)

    Renee knows why. I had no idea that there was a version that was fourteen minutes long though. Yes, that’s right, FOURTEEN MINUTES. It’s partly due to the length of this track that I’ve only included 8 tracks, instead of 10 (I have to imagine that I am creating a real ‘mix tape’, after all). There are some gems in here, notably: ‘Hotel, motel, holiday inn; if your girl starts actin’ up, then you take her friend.’

    Track # 7 – Silvio Rodríguez, Fusil Contra Fusil

    I first heard this song when I went to watch Che: Part One with my dad. Ever since, I have been simply mesmerized by it. One day, I would like to learn how to play guitar like that.

    Track #8 – MC Solaar, La Belle et le Bad Boy

    Because it’s just awesome, and because I think Renee will like it. A lot.


    So, my dear, this is my gift from me to you (via the world). I hope you enjoy it: