Love Is a Mix Tape

I don’t read that much non-geology literature these days. Heck, I don’t read as much geology literature as I should. But I did manage to finish “Love Is a Mix Tape” by Rob Sheffield last night. I honestly thought I wouldn’t finish this book before I reached my maximum amount of renewals at the county library, but I spent 2:45 am to 5:45 am last night plowing through the last third of this memoir. I didn’t plan on finishing the book last night, but it was hard to put down once I got going. Plus, I slept from 7:45 pm to 2:30 am for some unknown reason.

The premise of this book is simple. Rob Sheffield is an editor at Rolling Stone magazine. Music is his life. He looks back at some of the cassettes he’s dubbed off the radio, from vinyl records and off other mix tapes. Each song choice on those mix tapes in significant to his life during that time. Rob throws in pop culture references left and right, many of which I don’t get. He’s 20 years older than me. He actually remembers the 80s and early 90s. References to Nirvana before they were the biggest band in the world just don’t resonate with me. But, instead of disengaging me, all the pop culture references are intriguing. I want to duplicate all the mix tapes he lists in his book and experience them. Who are all these early 90s indie bands? Belly? Sugar? I’ve never heard of them, but I bet if I was born 20 years earlier I would have gone to their concerts. Or maybe not… I find out about most of the new music I listen to through the internet. I don’t know if I’m intrinsically cool enough to have subscribed to zines, or chatted up the record store employee, or however people learned about new indie bands before the internet.

I don’t make many mix tapes. I’ve always fashioned myself a champion of the album in the age of iTunes, where albums are becoming less and less relevant. Since I bought an aftermarket CD player in 2004, I’ve always burned mp3s of 10 complete albums onto a disc. Rarely, I will make a mix upon request. In the book, Rob says whenever he met someone new he liked he would offer to make a mix tape. Does anyone still do this? I actually tend to make mixes for when people are leaving my life, rather than entering it. I made an all girls mix and a wimpy men/sound like girls mix for a group of friends that visited last month. I gave it to them to listen to on the ride back to Ohio. The last mix I made before that was for my girlfriend who was moving to Denver for a job. It wasn’t really a sappy breakup mix, but I do admit to including “Nobody But You” by Apples in Stereo and “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” by Tears for Fears.

Back to the book. If you like music and are a romantic, you will love it (I’m looking at you, John G.) I almost lost all respect for the author when he said he and his wife go to see his favorite local bar band The Hold Steady every time they play. I do not like The Hold Steady. There aren’t many bands I would actively avoid seeing, but they are one. I will give Rob some slack though. If The Hold Steady were a local band (which I guess they were in 2005 or 2006, whenever he was writing this book) I might be into them. The musicianship is there, they write songs about drinking and sex, I get it. I think the thing that annoys me most about that band is their fans. It’s been my experience that they get wasted and try to fulfill their fantasies of living out Craig Finn’s lyrics. Anyway, that was just a slight annoyance in an otherwise fantastic book.

The semester is almost over. I have a busy summer of work and travel and traveling for work lined up. I will hopefully be able to keep everyone posted on this blog. By the way, I noticed on my WordPress stats that I’ve had a few hits from search engines… people looking for “ben gross missouri” and “benjamin gross geology.” I wonder if they are HR people from internships and jobs I’ve applied to, or possibly my geology lab students? Or maybe they are just people from home I’ve lost touch with. I guess I’ll never know, but it does make me wonder who is reading this blog.