Retro music: Carrie, this one’s for you.

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).

1. Enigma — Sadeness
2. Information Society – Think
3. Bettie Serveert — Something So Wild


[All tracks removed. Please contact me for a copy.]

01. Tori Amos — Raspberry Swirl (Lip Gloss version)
02. PJ Harvey — Sheela Na Gig (live at the Forum, London, 5/23/93)
03. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin — Kill Your Television

04. The Cure — Subway Song
05. Victoria Williams — Crazy Mary
06. Sinead O’Connor — Ode To Billy Joe

07. 50 Foot Wave — Your Ghost
08. Pet Shop Boys — Go West
09. The Violent Femmes — Gone Daddy Gone

10. Cream — White Room
11. Shakespears Sister — Stay
12. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — Straight To You

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  1. James’s avatar

    This one time, at a NAD gig. There was a little intro and then KYTV came on and I felt like I was in a dryer. I couldn’t tell which direction the floor was in, it was dark, stage, dark, stage… everyone was dressed pretty much in solid black. It was awesome. Awesome I tell ya!

    But kudos for lots of cool tracks. They used to play the Femmes “Blister in the Sun” and “Gone Daddy Gone” every night in the Bullring, the now-coffee shop across from my office. Of course, it wasn’t my office then. My friend Dave passed out in a tree on the way back to the dorms, he’s now a noted vinter. Its funny how things change.

  2. zara’s avatar

    Thanks! I’m very happy you like ’em. It’s amazing how music can bring back such specific memories, isn’t it? Like the Cream song, whenever I hear it I think of the track at BYU because I used to listen to that mix whenever I went running. (I can’t listen to it too much anymore :D)

  3. Alex’s avatar

    Oh my god. I was OBSESSED with Shakespear’s Sister in middle school. I never could afford the cd. The video got me hooked, and the fact that it’s the bananarama girls. Thanks, zara!

  4. zara’s avatar

    Alex, you are so so welcome!

  5. Lucas’s avatar

    would love to get a copy of shakespeares sister’s stay – making a 90’s mix and its one of the first that sprang to mind. can’t find it anywhere!!

  6. srah’s avatar

    Any chance you can send me Stay? I need it for a mix, just like Lucas! But this one is for a b’day prezzie.
    Thanks much!

  7. Erin’s avatar

    is there any chance that u cud send me gone daddy gone by violent femmes? i cant find it ANYWHERE!!!
    ty!!! xDD

  8. Carrie McNear’s avatar

    Hey…you really made my week. I never figured anyone would remember me so kindly in writing prior to my obituary. Well, unless you count my resume. I look pretty awesome in my resume. Is there a way I can contact you? I’m not so good with this technology stuff (I did continue making mix tapes until my son was born 4 years ago. Now while I’m not working I try to focus on activities such as eating and sleeping.)

  9. Sean O'Brien’s avatar

    Carrie McNear… from AFCENT? send me an e-mail

  10. Aaron’s avatar

    Zara, would you mind sending me “Stay”? Like other people say, it’s super hard to find. Thanks!

  11. Angelee’s avatar

    I found this note while hunting for your Carrie McNear. I’m looking for her too. Found her yet?

  12. Angelee’s avatar

    Looks like you have! PLEASE help me get in touch with her…. she was an amazing friend and I was not so great at it yet. I’ve been thinking of Carrie for years.

  13. Angelee’s avatar

    Pardon me, I’m sorry for blowing up your comment site. Feel free to erase all these. :) I don’t know if you can see my contact info, and I can’t figure out how to send a message to you, so here is my email: and my name is Angelee. I went to Leavenworth High School with Carrie (and somebody named Lee that every girl stared at… he liked The Cure also). Do I know you as well? Please contact me, I’d love to talk with a former classmate, and as you can tell, I’m dying to get in touch with Carrie. She was so kind to me and I didn’t know how to be thoughtful like her… now it bothers me and I want to tell her how much I appreciated her warmth and love.
    (See why I wanted to send this privately?)
    Anyway, thank you for this. It’s wonderful to get this little glimpse of high school again. :)
    Cheers, Angelee
    PS I think Carrie loaned me that exact tape, Mixed Up. My first exposure to The Cure.

  14. zh’s avatar

    Angelee, I knew her in Germany, & I’ve never set foot in Kansas, so I don’t think we know each other. But I passed your email address to Carrie, so hopefully you will hear from her. She definitely has the Awesome Friend gene, I bet there are lots of people out there who think of her so fondly.

  15. Angelee’s avatar

    Oh, thank you SO MUCH! It means a great deal to me. Funny, isn’t it, the similarities we remember, including the boy named Lee? haha.
    Thanks again, especially for sharing my contact info with her, and for tolerating my torrent of comments. :D

  16. radioraheem’s avatar

    Hey, interesting post, could you please send me ‘Stay’? Tricky to track down!

Comments are now closed.