Soundtracks to life: my version of a Proustian madeleine moment, but with cassettes not cookies

Back when people still listened to tapes, I used to keep a mix tape diary. I’d take a TDK 90-minute tape and record songs that reminded me of places, people, incidents, events or passions happening at the time. It wasn’t necessarily music I always liked, too, but my commitment to the project was so abiding that I would find myself begging my college radio DJ friends to play certain 7-inches during their time slots so I could tape it off the radio, or borrowing unlikely CDs from neighbors in order to record a song I normally never would’ve been interested in listening to again in my life. (Like Live’s “Lightning Crashes,” which was playing during the most illegal thing I’ve ever done in my life. God, how horrid would it have been if I was nabbed while that song was playing?)

I recently found a box of these mix tape diaries, and it was one of those really great moments, where a whole rush of memories whoosh at you. Like a Proustian madeleine moment, only with way more Too Pure bands than I remembered. Looking at those tapes, re-reading the inserts, even glancing at the name of the songs took me right back. It was way better than my paper journals, actually. It kind of warms my heart that a whole record of my wayward adolescence into my late 20s exists in this form.

So I got to thinking that I should do this again, but 21st century stylee. Which means:! My life doesn’t feel nearly as dramatic as it did back then (I keep my drama for the blank page, so to speak), but it may just be nice to look back at all these mixes later on and remember exactly where I was at in terms of life, and what it sounded like when I got there. Of course, this may mean public exposure of evidence that I have put a Sting song on a mix, but I’m willing to endure the mockery for future memory’s sake.

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Pixies, “Hey”
One of those times when the music matches the occasion.

Rihanna, “We Found Love”
Can you believe that this was the first song I heard in 2012?

Katy Perry, “E.T.”
Any song about quasi-alien sex is down with me. This was playing during a particularly goofy moment during my rare carousing occasions lately. It earned its place on the soundtrack.

Metric, “Satellite Mind”
I got really into running to this song on the treadmill. It was also kind of a turning point when I realized my book’s heroine would grow up to become a chick like Emily Haines when she was older.

Depeche Mode, “Personal Jesus”

Nine Inch Nails, “Ruiner”
A song for writing a certain part of my book. Like, the moshpit/slamdancing part. God, I love a good moshpit scene in a book! There just aren’t enough of them!

Fugazi, “Cassavetes”
January marked the month where I finally got Fugazi’s major discography on my iPod.

R.E.M., “Fall on Me”
Another writing soundtrack.

Sting, “Fields of Gold”
This was the soundtrack to a memorable moment in January, but I can’t tell you what it is in public. It is what we call “counterprogramming” in the film industry, though!

Natasha Bedingfield, “Still Here”
This is one of those songs that I found impossible to track down because I was like, who the hell is Natasha Bedingfield? Oh, the “Pocketful of Sunshine” chick. Anyway, I went to yoga a lot and they LOVED playing this song during the hip openers. There was a part where the chorus came on, our arms floated up and it was like we were doing water ballet or something.

Marilyn Manson, “Heart-Shaped Glasses”
Part of me thinks this is impartially a bad song (the chorus is so lame! Where’s the melody?!), but I enjoyed hearing it one night at a bar so I don’t care. Then I got this weird urge to write a scene in my book to it, and it worked, so there you go. MAGIC!

How to Destroy Angels, “Is Your Love Strong Enough?”
Obvs this is very Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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