The Connells – Try
Oh, you are glad you were not with me in the car today for Tape Deck Tuesday. As is probably obvious, most of my tapes are from the 80s and early 90s. These are my high school, college, and early adult years. Highly angst-ridden times.
Today I pulled out a Maxell XLII 90-minute tape, created on 1/18/89 (after several days of deciding, rearranging, and adding up minutes, no doubt), which puts it at the very beginning of my final semester of college. The title is “Anguish, Fear, Lamenting”* so you already know you’re in trouble. I spent a great deal of time drifting from one of those emotions to the next. I had one semester left and I was hoping to get somewhere by the end of it. The guy I’d had my sights set on was the main source of frustration but life in general left a lot to be desired and none of it was matching up with my vision of where I was supposed to be, at 21 and nearly done with school.
Choosing this tape this morning, I knew it was full of songs about anguish, fear, and lamenting, but actually listening to the songs, in order, put me right back in that dorm room. As each song came on, I could immediately remember what it was about that song that earned it a place, and its particular place, in the mix. I was always very particular about the flow from one song to the next. From my much more objective position, 25 years later, there are a couple songs I would probably encourage my younger self to replace but that’s mostly because Sting doesn’t age well and In Your Eyes took on mythical proportions later that year when Say Anything hit movie theaters. I was first! I want credit for having it on my tape months before the movie came out and Lloyd Dobler set all of our hopes too high. But back then, the spot each song had was purposeful and as I listened in the car, I remembered exactly why for each one.
Side A – Anguish, Fear
Troy – Sinéad O’Connor
Scorpio Rising – 10,000 Maniacs
The One I Love – R.E.M
9–9 – R.E.M.
Altitude – Pylon
Be Still My Beating Heart – Sting
Red Rain – Peter Gabriel
Temptation – New Order
O My God – The Police
Crazy – Pylon
When you start a tape with Sinéad O’Connor’s Troy, that’s some seriously pissed off shit right there. It should be mentioned that this was a tape I meant to torture myself with and never give to someone else. I’m sure I never listened to it unless I was alone. Scorpio Rising picks up that angry mantle and gets in little digs at that guy. The version of The One I Love is a live version from an old bootleg, before it was released on a studio album, because it’s still really raw. If you heard this version first, there would have been no chance you would have mistaken this for a love song.
So we have our anguish off to a good start, then we start bringing in the fear with 9–9. Conversation fear. Check. Altitude. “I’ve been watching so long I’m afraid to move.” Yup, that would have been accurate. And on it goes, wrapping up the first side with the album version of Crazy, with the overdub of Vanessa singing “I’m not crazy” at the end. Had I not been driving, I’d likely have hurt myself trying to dance like 25 years hadn’t passed. What was I afraid of? That I would say the wrong thing. That I wasn’t cool enough. That things wouldn’t work out the way I wanted them to, or that they would. Honestly, I was pretty ill-equipped to deal with either one.
Side B – Lamenting
Does Everyone Stare – The Police
Androgynous – The Replacements
Scotty’s Lament – The Connells
That Voice Again – Peter Gabriel
Cotton Alley – 10,000 Maniacs
Maps and Legends (live at McCabe’s guitar shop) – R.E.M.
In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
Try – The Connells
I Will Dare – The Replacements
Age of Consent – New Order
Kiss Me on the Bus – The Replacements
Side B keeps the good times rolling with songs that seem practically tailor-made for me and this untouchable guy. Does Everyone Stare, Androgynous, Scotty’s Lament. Ha! Subtle as a brick. It’s really remarkable the power that music has to bring moments from the past into clear view. I’m certain I haven’t heard that Police song in decades but there I was, singing along, picturing events on my college campus like it was just last semester.
Some of these songs are so deeply entwined with my life in college that they don’t just bring back the memories, they bring the emotions back up too. Especially when they are stitched together in this way. Of course, that was the intention at the time. What’s that? You’re not a reeling mess yet? Ok, let’s see if this one will push you over the edge. I needed a cathartic release and sometimes the only way out was the hard way. “Nothing can hurt you, unless you want it to.” Part of me definitely wanted it to. 25 years later I’m not dialing those emotions up to 11 like I would have in college but singing along, alone in the car, I still felt a little red in the face here, faint butterflies in my stomach there.
I’d backed it off toward the end there, going for songs that had a hint of hope to them. I hadn’t totally given up, I was just, cautious. Wary. Life sucked, and it was maddening to always get thiiiiis close to my dreams. Maybe, just maybe that last semester would hold some surprises. A girl has to try, right?
*”Anguish, fear, lamenting” is a line from a 10,000 Maniacs song that’s really about nuclear war but at the time it seemed too good to pass up.