In this stunning memoir, Rob Sheffield, a veteran rock and pop culture critic and staff writer for Rolling Stone magazine, tells the story of his musical coming of age, and how rock music, the first love of his life, led him to his second, a girl named Renee. Rob and Renee's life together - they wed after graduate school, both became music journalists, and were married only five years when Renee died suddenly on Mother's Day, 1997 - is shared through the window of the mix tapes they obsessively compiled. There are mixes to court each other, mixes for road trips, mixes for doing the dishes, mixes for sleeping - and, eventually, mixes to mourn Rob's greatest loss. The tunes were among the great musical output of the early 1990s - Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Pavement, Yo La Tengo, REM, Weezer - as well as classics by The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Aretha Franklin and more. Mixing the skilful, tragic punch of Dave Eggers and the romantic honesty of Nick Hornby, LOVE IS A MIX TAPE is a story of lost love and the kick-you-in-the-gut energy of great pop music. (from Goodreads)
Part One: Flo's Review
I'd actually checked out Turn Around Bright Eyes from the library just because it sounded cool, but when I did a little research into it I discovered the existence of Love Is a Mix Tape. I decided to read this one first, since it came first.
This was a cute book, even as I write that thinking, "I'm guessing Rob Sheffield would not want his book described as cute." It was fun to listen to (I listened on audiobook) because every so often I knew the songs in the playlist and remembered the period of time he was describing. He references 90s music and pop culture a lot, and that was when I was growing up -- so good times and good memories! Rob tends to go off on tangents which were good when I liked them (the depth of Nirvana lyrics) but just kinda "Meh" when I didn't really care (Jackie O.). I also felt like this book was a little too long. I realize that is partly because I was listening to it on audio and that makes all books longer. But I also kind of feel like some of the mix tapes and stories could have been condensed or taken out. A cute, fresh concept can be beaten to death and the length of this one almost threatened to do just that. But then Rob would say something that made me laugh or share some deep song-related insight that left me completely floored, and I was back to loving it. Also, this is one of the first audiobooks I've listened to in a long time that was read by the author -- I felt like this added an authenticity to it, because I knew for sure that he was emphasizing the parts he wanted emphasized and reading it like he meant it to be read. Pretty much everyone who I told that I was reading this one said it sounded interesting and seemed to want to pick it up -- I would recommend it.
Part Two: Flo's Mix Tape
One of the things this book had me doing throughout was remembering the numerous mix tapes I made when I was growing up. We're talking cassette tape: recorded songs one by one from the radio which you had to start and stop as quickly as possible so you wouldn't get too much of the DJ talking. Cassette tapes that you to create using your boom box with the two tape decks. Those tapes.
I thought it would be fun to share what was on one of the many mix tapes I made in the 90s, with a brief story surrounding the tape. This is after the jump, so if you're interested, click on the "Read More." :)
"Peace, Love, and Happiness"
You and Me Song by The Wannadies
Fire Water Burn by The Bloodhound Gang
Long December by Counting Crows
Ain't That A Shame by Fats Domino
Good Lovin' by The Young Rascals
Jingle Bell Rock by (I forget which version it was)
Bread and Butter by The Newbeats
Happy Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn
Wannabe by Spice Girls
Da Dip by Freak Nasty
I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly
For You I Will by Monica
Everyday is a Winding Road by Sheryl Crow
The Living Years by Mike + the Mechanics
"Romeo & Juliet"
#1 Crush by Garbage
Local God by Everclear
Angel by Gavin Friday
Pretty Piece of Flesh by One Inch Punch
Kissing You by Des'ree
Whatever (I Had a Dream) by Butthole Surfers
Lovefool by the Cardigans
Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Stanton
Everybody's Free (To Feel Good) by Rozalla
To You I Bestow by Mundy
Talk Show Host by Radiohead
Little Star by Stina Nordenstam
You and Me Song by the Wannadies
It looks like this tape has the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack on it, so that would place this around 1996. I was obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio because that was the period when he was playing a lot of swoon-worthy roles like Romeo, of course, and Jack in Titanic. I was actually a little obsessed with the Titanic during that time, too. I did a report on it for my high school U.S. history class. I played the "My Heart Will Go On" over and over and over. On Side 1 I have "Walking in Memphis (end)." I don't think I was able to record the whole song, so there's just a little bit on there. I was also really into oldies during high school, as you can tell from the Fats Domino and The Young Rascals. But this is around the time I was really getting into The Beatles. I did a report for my world history class on whole "Paul is Dead" phenomena. I gave my heart to Sir Paul McCartney, especially when I heard him sing, "Yesterday." Finally -- the Spice Girls. While all my other favorite 90s groups are currently reuniting, I'm still patiently waiting for the Spice Girls reunion.