In ninth grade, I had such a crush on this guy named Lee. I used to stare longingly at him during drama class — probably drove him crazy. Not that I would have known what to do with him if I’d gotten him — I didn’t want him, exactly. I just wanted someone to stare at.
So my best friend through this whole crush thing was Carrie. She came up to me one day with a tape (that’s a cassette, for you young’uns. We rolled like that, back then) that had this ugly, swirly cover.
“Try this,” she said, “you’ll love it.”
“‘Mixed Up’?” I said, very dubiously. You may remember from a previous post that I was still at this point coming out of my country music phase and just dipping a toe cautiously into REM. I judged tapes by album covers for some reason. “This doesn’t look very good.”
“But Laura,” said she, very slyly, because Carrie was sly like that, “Lee likes it. He told me in art class that the Cure was his favorite band.”
How could I refute that? She and Lee had art together, and I didn’t. Maybe they had regular conversations about music. So I took “Mixed Up” home, determined that I would like it. But I didn’t even have to try very hard — in fact, my love for Robert Smith lasted a lot longer than my love for Lee.
Carrie had longish, dark-brown curls and a beautiful smile. She was very thin, had brown eyes, and had a wonderful sense of humor. She drew cartoons, and when she wrote me letters, they were always at least ten pages of her intricate writing and her cartoons. She introduced me to Nirvana, to Pulp, to PJ Harvey, to Monty Python. She made beautiful mix tapes with handmade covers and funny titles. You kids today, you don’t know what a mix tape is anymore. Carrie was a mix tape artist. It’s been ten years since I last spoke to her, and I don’t even have a tape player anymore, but I still have some of her tapes packed away, because I can’t bear to throw them out.
Without her, my musical education would have stayed stuck in the ninth grade. We had no indie radio play to speak of (AFN did not count, folks). I was fond of “Kokomo,” Weird Al, and even taped an NKOTB album from another friend. I was a mainstream dweeb, and I probably would have hung around in the pop mainstream and today I’d be a big old Kelly Clarkson fan. And I’d probably be just fine. But Carrie developed my music taste into something outside of radio play, outside of MTV, something that appreciates the fine music that can be traded, ear to ear, on a well made mix tape. Maybe this whole blog thing is just my way of paying it forward.
So thanks, Ms. McNear, wherever you are now. I hope you’re happy. I hope you remember the times that we sat in your basement watching “The Cure In Orange” and writing dark poetry. This one’s for you.
Videos (for songs I don’t own).
[All tracks removed. Please contact me for a copy.]
Tori Amos — Raspberry Swirl (Lip Gloss version)
PJ Harvey — Sheela Na Gig (live at the Forum, London, 5/23/93)
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin — Kill Your Television
The Cure — Subway Song
Victoria Williams — Crazy Mary
Sinead O’Connor — Ode To Billy Joe
50 Foot Wave — Your Ghost
Pet Shop Boys — Go West
The Violent Femmes — Gone Daddy Gone
Cream — White Room
Shakespears Sister — Stay
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — Straight To You