Kim's Reviews > Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time

Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
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's review
Jan 26, 11

bookshelves: contemporary, mmxi, maurice, for-realz, rubbernecking
Read from January 16 to 25, 2011

This review’s content may be confusing, annoying, trite or downright laughable to persons not born between 1965 and 1978. Hell, it may be all of that and more to just about anyone. Consider yourself warned.

Put your thinking caps on ‘cuz I’ve got some trippin’ down memory lane for you:
Where were you when you first heard ‘A Day in the Life’? What about ‘Wild World’? What did you think when you finally understood the meaning of ‘She Bop’? What does ‘My Heart Will Go On’ mean to you? Do you know where you were when you heard that Kurt Cobain was dead? What about that guy from Alice in Chains who wasn’t found for like days, rotting away in his apartment, do you remember that? What was the song that was playing the first time you slow danced? Does ‘Darling Nikki’ make you blush? What’s the most important song that you’ve ever put on a mix tape?

Okay, enough. You get it. It’s just overkill now. Confession time: I was a groupie. I was. Really. Duran Duran was my group of choice. Those bastard fans in Wham! and Culture Club were pussies compared to us Duranies. We knew how to obsess. There is still a bond among us. Whenever I meet a woman born around 1970, I know that I can slip in a ’Save a Prayer’ reference and our eyes will meet and there will be that conspiratorial nod... We know that we both cried when we saw the ‘Feed the World’ video and that they were robbed (ROBBED!) of air time. Damn Bono.
It wasn’t until I met my future husband that I actually LISTENED to Duran Duran. Those bass lines are awesome! I knew I loved John Taylor for more than his bangs and impeccable fashion sense! I never knew that certain instruments made certain sounds. I was just used to the end product. I’ve been told I’m a sucker for a good ‘bridge’, whatever that means. Maurice was also the first male friend that actually liked Duran Duran and didn’t mock me for my past transgressions. Boys can be so dumb. Don’t you know that we’ll like you more if you admit that you’ve sung along to Rio? Maurice actually brought me to my first Duran Duran show. We sat on the grassy lawn at Great Woods in Mansfield, Mass and rocked to Ordinary World and danced to The Reflex. I was so proud of him. How many boyfriends will do that?

Okay. So, you see where I‘m going with this, right? I mean it’s so obviously clear.
I may have been a groupie, but Maurice was a full out audiophile. To the point of annoyance.. We’d be out walking and he’d hear something from an open window somewhere and say ‘Oh! Zeppelin 4! Awesome! Did you know that Rolling Stone rated it only 66 out of the top 500 albums! What assholes!’ and then a rant would ensue and that would turn into some sort of ‘ultimate band’ fantasy. And so on. He would wake me up in the middle of the night to ask me what I thought about Geddy Lee’s vocals on ‘Caress of Steel’ versus ‘Fly by Night’. He wasn’t embarrassed to go total Wayne’s World when Bohemian Rhapsody came on while we were driving. My favorite was when we would play ‘who should have been on the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane?’

On our first date, Maurice ended it, not with a kiss, but a ‘I’m going to make you a mix tape!’ I was amused. I was concerned. I was somewhat petrified. This guy was a prog rock fan. Hadn’t I spent most of my adolescence mocking Rush and Yes? Is this karma taking a bit ol’ dump on me? He mailed me the tape. I was living in Boston at the time, he was in the boondocks of NH. I held it. I read the songs. I put it on my desk. I went out for ice cream. Around day 3, I finally had the room to myself (living in a boarding house with 40 other woman, that was a feat) and carefully placed it in my boom box. The first song was ‘Sweetness’ by Yes. ’Honey Pie’ by The Beatles, ’She’s a Rainbow’ The Rolling Stones, ’Come up and See Me (Make me smile)’ by Duran Duran, ‘It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl' by Faust, The Musical Box by Genesis:

She's a lady, she's got time,
Brush back your hair, and let me get to know your face.
She's a lady, she is mine.
Brush back your hair, and let me get to know your flesh.

Not. Very. Subtle.

Anyway, this book. This could be Maurice and me. I know that some people dismiss Rob Sheffield and I don’t know enough about him to say that that’s okay. Maurice would probably know… he knew all the rock critics. But, this story… these mix tapes. They spoke to me in a completely sappy selfish way. I see a lot of Maurice in Rob. Another confession: I don’t read the blurbs about books before I start them. If I like the title or the cover or someone said ’You should read this’, I will go with that. I had no idea that this was a sad love story. (Yeah, I know… the title is ‘Love is a Mix Tape: Life and loss, one song at a time’ --I didn’t really catch the loss part. There’s Rob. Then there’s Rob and Renee and then there’s RobinRenee and then there’s just Rob again. There’s a part where he’s talking about just being Rob again: “I now get scared of forgetting anything about Renee, even the tiniest detail, even the bands on this tape I can’t stand--if she touched them, I want to hear her fingerprints.“

I wonder if Maurice ever thought things like “I suddenly realized how much being a husband was about fear: fear of not being able to keep somebody safe, of not being able to protect somebody from all the bad stuff you want to protect them from. Knowing they have more tears in them than you will be able to keep them from crying.” I know that I did.

Rob relates almost everything through music. He reminds me a lot of Rob Fleming from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. The guy that always has headphones on, that totally judges you by your cd collection, that has a song for everything. Maurice was always gently forcing me to like his music. I’m a whiny guitar alternadude type of gal. Play me some REM or Blind Melon or Polyphonic Spree. I would get in the car and find a cd in the player and suddenly I’m listening to Argent’s ‘Hold your Head Up’ or ‘Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Pt, 1 & 2’ by ELP. This went on for TWENTY years…. He never tired of it. I have milk crates full of Maurice creations. I can identify with these people. I would strike back with some of my own and we would argue during long car rides what was neutral ground. ELP was out. Genesis was neutral. Poi Dog Pondering was out. INXS was neutral and so on…
I guess that what I’m trying to say is that this book might not be for every one. The minute gestures and pop culture commentary might annoy people. They may not laugh where I laughed or cried when I cried. That’s okay. There are other books. I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to read this one. I feel less alone and that’s a biggie for me.

“They always end with our favorite song “Killer Parties” and sometimes I think, man, all the people I get to hear this song with, we’re going to miss each other when we die. When we die, we will turn into songs, and we will hear each other and remember each other.”

I can’t think of a truer sentiment. Maurice is the Smashing Pumpkins ‘1979’ when I’m driving on a warm spring night with the windows down. He’s Nanci Griffith’s ‘Late Night Grande Hotel’ when I’m having a good cry in the tub. He’s Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name Of’ when I’m annoyed with hipsters. It sounds corny, but he gave me this gift and I’m so proud of him and so thankful.
I miss you, Maurice.
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Quotes Kim Liked

Rob Sheffield
“When we die, we will turn into songs, and we will hear each other and remember each other.”
Rob Sheffield, Love Is a Mix Tape

Rob Sheffield
“I was helpless in trying to return people's kindness, but also helpless to resist it. Kindness is a scarier force than cruelty, that's for sure. Cruelty isn't that hard to understand. I had no trouble comprehending why the phone company wanted to screw me over; they just wanted to steal some money, it was nothing personal. That's the way of the world. It made me mad, but it didn't make me feel stupid. If anything, it flattered my intelligence. Accepting all that kindness, though, made me feel stupid.

Human benevolence is totally unfair. We don't live in a kind or generous world, yet we are kind and generous. We know the universe is out to burn us, and it gets us all the way it got Renee, but we don't burn each other, not always. We are kind people in an unkind world, to paraphrase Wallace Stevens. How do you pretend you don't know about it, after you see it? How do you go back to acting like you don't need it? How do you even the score and walk off a free man? You can't. I found myself forced to let go of all sorts of independence I thought I had, independence I had spent years trying to cultivate. That world was all gone, and now I was a supplicant, dependent on the mercy of other people's psychic hearts.”
Rob Sheffield, Love Is a Mix Tape

Reading Progress

01/23/2011 page 15
6.0% "Holy Crap. I think this was a mistake but I can't put it down. Not now. Fuck"
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 70) (70 new)

JSou I think this is my all-time favorite review from you, Kim.

message 2: by Kim (last edited Jan 26, 2011 03:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Thanks, Jessica! I had a hell of a time with the links, though. And I had to listen to Argent again. That's called suffering for your art...

message 3: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim But, you didn't answer my questions...

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I've been waiting for this review since you mentioned reading it the other day. I knew it would be a killer.


I would make you a mix tape but it would suck a lot. I know my limitations...

JSou I will make a list, and come back with answers to all ten questions.

message 6: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Beautiful. Wow. Just amazing.

message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Sarah, I've been WAITING for you to make me a mix tape. You haven't let me down yet!

Good girl, Jessica.

message 8: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim I just realized that this review is its very own mix tape! I'm slow like that.

message 9: by J (new) - added it

J I love that about it, Kim!

message 10: by Michelle (last edited Jan 26, 2011 04:09PM) (new)

Michelle 1. I don't know if I've ever heard it.
2. No clue.
3. Probably 'Oh.'
4. Nothing. I have no idea what it is.
5. Nope.
6. Nope.
7. No clue.
8. No.
9. Can't think of one.

message 11: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Sad face.

message 12: by Michelle (last edited Jan 26, 2011 04:15PM) (new)

Michelle This book probably isn't for me.

I do fondly remember Maurice going all Wayne's World during 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' though. I'm pretty sure I did it, too. Miss him.

message 13: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Probably not. I'm going to read his other one Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut

But, not right away.

message 14: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I was born the end of 1979 but I can do some of these! I'll be back.

message 15: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim If I remember correctly, so were you... :) I remember you picking us up in Salem and you were blasting 'Carry on, my wayward son' and Maurice looked at me and said 'She's so cool.'

message 16: by Michelle (new)

Michelle I miss him. I loved your review, Kim♥

message 17: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Thanks, Elizabeth. I'm particularly proud of this one. It gives me warm fuzzies. I was a mix tape nerd. I even made mix video tapes. Where I would connect two VCRs and tape parts of movies and videos and stuff. I was hardcore

message 18: by Michelle (last edited Jan 27, 2011 08:00AM) (new)

Michelle One time (early 90s) when I was really depressed Kim made me a mix tape. It was called 'Get Happy' or something like that, and it had all these great, upbeat, new wavey songs on it. It used to cheer me up. I wish I still had it.

message 19: by JSou (new) - rated it 4 stars

JSou 1.) A Day in the Life- at my aunt's house where I always loved spending the night and never wanted to go home

2.) Wild World-riding in my dad's truck when I was a little girl

3.) She Bop-honestly, I don't remember ever even hearing this song before. (?)

4.) My Heart Will Go On-change the radio station, quick.

5.) Kurt Cobain-in my room, after school, drinking a Dr. Pepper

6.) Guy from Alice in Chains-yes

7.) First slow dance-When I See You Smile by Bad English

8.) Darling Nikki-no, but I would always hurriedly turn it off if my mom was in hearing-distance.

9.) Most important mixtape song? Uhhh......

*5 minutes later* Uh........

message 20: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I have mixed tapes from freaking ages ago saved. And I know that friends have saved mine from freaking ages ago. My best friend and I used to make our own covers for them. We went all out. She just sent me one for Christmas for nostalgia's sake. Good times.

1. Where were you when you first heard ‘A Day in the Life’?
I remember being mad as hell my mom skipped it to listen to Twist and Shout. I so hated that she only liked the earliest of The Beatles and nothing later period. I was probably in the kitchen moaning "You aren't allowed to listen to that! Put it back!"

2. What about ‘Wild World’?
I didn't listen to any cat stevens until my teen years when I saw Harold and Maude.

3. What did you think when you finally understood the meaning of ‘She Bop’?
I argued with my sister over this one. "nuh uh!"
"if you like this you are a masturbator!"

4. What does ‘My Heart Will Go On’ mean to you?
It means getting lost after a trip to my aunts in the sticks. Wow a lot of my early music listening seems to be tied in with my mom... She told me I was a sociopath because Titanic didn't make me cry.

5. Do you know where you were when you heard that Kurt Cobain was dead?
I was in middle school science class. The German exchange student cried.

6. What about that guy from Alice in Chains who wasn’t found for like days, rotting away in his apartment, do you remember that?
Yes and I was creeped out even though I didn't listen to alice in chains.

7. What was the song that was playing the first time you slow danced?
Dear lord this one was bad. Whitney Houston's I will always love you.

8. Does ‘Darling Nikki’ make you blush?
I didn't like the foo fighters. I thought they were overplayed. I was too busy being cool listening to my goth stuff.

9. What’s the most important song that you’ve ever put on a mix tape?

I know it was a PJ Harvey song but I don't want to go down that memory lane relationship road.

message 21: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Awesome, Jessica... thanks for sharing!

message 22: by Kim (last edited Jan 26, 2011 04:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim That's great, Mariel! Did you know that Prince did 'Darling Nikki' before The Foo Fighters did?

I think this is the better version.

'Benny and the Jets' always reminds me of my Mom. That and 'Band on the Run' and 'Rubber Band Man'

message 23: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim That Captain and Tennile song is the first song I ever played on a jukebox.

message 24: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I can't listen to Journey without thinking of my mom yelling at me when I did something bad (which was a lot).

I don't think I ever heard the Prince version. For some reason I didn't hear any Prince (apart from some of the Purple Rain hits) until later.

I've got a theory that older siblings increase ones listening net a little bit. The kids who had brothers and sisters seemed to know more than the only childs. Unfortunately, my big sis was all about INXS and nothing else for a good long while.

message 25: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim I just put a link in my post above...

I was the oldest, I didn't have role models. :(
I do consider myself a late music bloomer.

message 26: by JSou (new) - rated it 4 stars

JSou 10.) How many boyfriends would do that? Not many, I'm sure. Definitely none that I've had. I'd be proud, too.

He sounds like he was an amazing guy. Your writing and being able to share so much of your life together is just beautiful.

message 27: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I'm listening to it now. *blushes*

message 28: by Kim (last edited Jan 26, 2011 04:47PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Man, Prince had moves. Too bad he was so short.

message 29: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Thanks, Jessica. He could also be one hell of a bastard. :)

message 30: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I was thinking about him this morning. This book The War for the Oaks made two references to him being a cutie (from 1987). I was like, "What?!" He was a great dancer but my mind is too caught up with that diamonds and pearls video to remember him younger. That video was just wrong. I had problems watching Buffy too. The most beautiful girl in the world video starred Jenny Calendar (she was Prince's hairdresser before doing Buffy). "Giles you don't want Prince's sloppy seconds!" I cried.

message 31: by Mariel (last edited Jan 26, 2011 04:52PM) (new)

Mariel Elizabeth, I did that to my brother too. Luckily he later became as obsessed with The Smiths as Lauren (my twin) and I were. But he did make fun of us. We changed his musical tastes with one mixed tape of Radiohead in 1998. He listened to it nonstop on a bus trip to Las Vegas. Before that he was all rap, all the time. Mixed tapes have powers.

We made up lyrics to Suzanne Vega songs. Man, almost all my good memories are about music.

message 32: by Shelly (new)

Shelly I love this review so much, Kim. It's exactly what's so great about GR.

message 33: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim See? Group hug.

message 34: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Thanks, Shelly!

message 35: by smetchie (new)

smetchie I love this review!

message 36: by smetchie (last edited Jan 26, 2011 06:05PM) (new)

smetchie What was the song that was playing the first time you slow danced?
Can't Fight This Feeling - REO Speedwagon.
God help me I still actually can't listen to that song without thinking of dancing with Tim Noonan at my first boy-girl party in 5th grade. Fuck that dick!

What’s the most important song that you’ve ever put on a mix tape?
Trouble Me - Natalie Merchant

Does ‘Darling Nikki’ make you blush?
Not anymore but I surely thought I was a badass for listening to that song when it came out. My BFF's older brother saw Prince in concert in Frankfurt that summer and we were sooooo jealous.

Mix tapes are a bit creepy for me because I dated a guy who did a lot of them and he later committed suicide. Lots of songs I can't really listen to because he put them on mix tapes.
You Were Always On My Mind - Pet Shop Boys version
Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover - Sophie B Hawkins
There are more but I feel sick just coming up with those two.

My across-the-street friends were obsessed with music, had cable (MTV) and introduced me to, what? not pop, but music for my generation I guess. Before that, I just listened to my mom's hippie music and my Dad's country. The older sister loved Duran Duran and Siouxie and the Banshees. The younger sister loved Ratt and Black Sabbath. I lost touch with them. Even with facebook, I've never found them again. :(

message 37: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Mine was 'You are so Beautiful(To Me)': John Deshaies 7th Grade.

message 38: by smetchie (new)

smetchie Why do we remember their names? I can't remember the names of people who were much more important in my life! But that dick, Tim Noonan, is burned in my brain because when I told my friend to tell his friend that I liked him, his friend told my friend to tell me that he only danced with me to be nice and he didn't like me like that. He wasn't even that cute. Stupid freckles.

message 39: by smetchie (new)

smetchie Man this really does have me tripping. I edited my whole post to answer more questions and now I can't stop thinking of Culture Club.

You're the very best reviewer, Kim. The most very best.

message 40: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim :)

That sucks about your friend. I would get concerned when I'd get a tape where every third song was Joy Division and The Smiths or Christian Death. You always read a story into them...

Culture Club. Meh. Poseurs.

message 41: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Aww, beautiful review.

message 42: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim I KNOW that I put 'Trouble Me' on one of Maurice's tapes. 10000 Maniacs was the first show that we saw together. Date 3.

message 43: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "I once got a mixed tape from a guy I refused to date as an apology for (him) being a jerk. It had "I am an innocent man" and "king of pain" and the star wars theme on it."


message 44: by Kirk (new)

Kirk This review’s content may be confusing, annoying, trite or downright laughable to persons not born between 1965 and 1978

Kimmers, I'll forget for a moment that you're making fun of me (again) with this opening line just because I was born in 1979. But this is a beautiful review. It reminds me of how much fun it was to fall in love and share the things you're passionate about. Here's the dirty little secret about men: we want to love. It ain't easy bc it seems like a chick thing. You know, feelings and stuff. So mix tapes are a way of saying, "Here's all the emotion I'm capable of." I know, I know: plenty of women make mix tapes too. I wish Taylor Swift would quit sending me hers. But if you're a guy and you're awkward/scared/excessively pimply and yet still craving to connect instead of going all Charlie Sheen/Tucker Max on your ladycakes ... well, to quote a great philosopher, that's why God gave you rock'n'roll. I think Wittgenstein was that philosopher.

I used to laugh sometimes when Maurice would email back and forth in 08 in the Mini-Am days (I first typed Mimi-Am---whoopa!). And I always used to think, I know if I met that guy I'd be in for about four hours of Rush. Which would be cool bc I would subject him to about four hours of (redacted so as not to sacrifice the last wisps of cool in my grasp). And it would have been a cool thing because we'd have been connecting, especially if I knew about his antipathy to Poi Dong Pondering. Because seriously, after that first album, they sucked. But anyway, I can so totally see him calling upon "She's a Rainbow." Because I have been that guy, too. I suppose we're all Rob Sheffield in a way. I'm guessing it's better than being Rob Thomas.

Anyway, the long and short is this review made me think of how hours I've spent yammering in somebody's ear about how it was never the same after Automatic for the People (Christ, I know, I know: it was NEVER really the same after Document) or how In Utero is REALLY better than Nevermind because frat dudes liked Nevermind. I even remember the girl nearly thirty years ago who blew pink champagne all over my parents' car when a cork when awry somewhere along the third song of Blood on the Tracks (No, it was not a metaphor, and, yes, I was three). I have no doubt Maurice knew all those things about fear and safety. And I have no doubt he's smiling feeling secure knowing you haven't forgotten ELP. I'm sure he's hearing Duran Duran and thinking, "Damn, Andy Taylor was a much better guitar player than he ever got credit for." And some night when you're asleep his spirit will wrap you in an embrace and say, "Thanks for remembering. And, seriously ... what about those vocals on 'Caress of Steel'?"....

Thanks for sharing your memories. Rob Sheffield should use you as a blurb.

message 45: by Mariel (new)

Mariel "I once got a mixed tape from a guy I refused to date as an apology for (him) being a jerk. It had "I am an innocent man" and "king of pain" and the star wars theme on it."
That is the best thing I have read all night. And reminds me way too much of guys who have hit on me.

Brian, afraid so. I was a Nirvana fan. It took me a while to get into New Order too.

message 46: by smetchie (last edited Jan 26, 2011 06:58PM) (new)

smetchie BRIAN! Alphaville's "Forever Young" is another of the songs from my ex-boyfriend-who-committed-suicide's mix tapes that I can't listen to anymore!


message 47: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Oh Kirk.... the sun, yada yada yada (YOU MADE ME CRY)

Seriously... Out of Time sucked! The neighbors above us played that EVERY NIGHT when we first lived together in Boston and we'd lie on our futon mimicking Stipe. I can't hear any songs from that album without thinking of warm nights on the C line in Brighton.

message 48: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Maurice used to make theme tapes. Like one had the word 'hair' in every song....

message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

This is incredible. I'm now thinking back to all the bf mix tapes I got over the years. My sister is the only one I know who still makes them, and I love getting them in the mail to this day.

message 50: by Ben (new)

Ben Oh, Kim -- powerful, beautiful. Can't wait for February.

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