Two years ago, when I was working on this column’s debut, I wrote about Bruce Springsteen’s “Book of Dreams” and what the song means to Julie and me. During the first month of our courtship I created my first mixtape for her, entitled HEY, HEY, JULIE! On that tape was the Springsteen song, one thatâ€™s grown to have profound meaning in our relationship.
We began dating in August of 1992, and soon thereafter, I threw this tape together in a flurry of inspiration, wanting to give Julie something that came from my heart. I don’t recall the actual minutes spent in my parents’ basement picking the songs or laying them down on a Maxell cassette (my brand of choice), but looking back on the list of songs, Iâ€™m happy to see they still add up to 90 quailty minutes of music.
Before Nick Hornby wonderfully wrote about what makes a good mixtape in High Fidelity, I assembled exactly the right combination of hip, well known and somewhat obscure songs from my small music collection. Combining big hits like “Learning to Fly,” “What I Am,” and “All This Time” with lesser-known songs by popular artists such as “Until the End of the World,” “Shining Star,” and “Getting to Know You,” while tossing in some hard to find (at the time) songs like “Baby Mine” and “Wild Night” made this tape eclectic, but still enjoyable to listen to and quite accessible.
More importantly, the randomness of the songs and the way I tried to make them flow instead of carefully choosing each selection gave it a high spirit; it’s a fun tape. I love these tunes, even though the B-52’s “Dreamland” is extremely long at over seven minutes and Barbara Streisand’s version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” is a little schmaltzy. One of my favorite moments is the transition from James Newton Howardâ€™s powerful theme to Lawrence Kasdanâ€™s L.A. drama, Grand Canyon, going right into Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
Besides this being my first attempt at taking a part of myself and expressing it in some creative form for Julie, this tape is significant because the day I gave it to Julie, I pointed to the Springsteen song and told her to listen to it closely. Although we hadn’t been dating long, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. That song became our song; we danced to it on our wedding night and through the years we have put it on for slow dances in the living room, bedroom and kitchen.
After I wrote that original Basement Songs entry in 2007, my friend John Burland practically demanded that I find this tape and digitize it. I always planned to do so, but it took me time to figure out what to say about it. I soon realized tat there may not be a proper way to define a moment of inspiration. Sometimes things just have to be.
Last Friday, I accompanied Julie and Jacob to his cystic fibrosis check-up at Children’s Hospital; it was a draining and emotional day. I’ve been on a roller coaster since then, finding it difficult to be creative. As the deadline for this weekâ€™s Basement Song approached, I had trouble finding words that had any meaning. Then I found this cassette sitting in our office, collecting dust because we havenâ€™t had a working tape deck in years. Suddenly it felt like the right time to digitize the mix. What better way to lift my spirits than to celebrate the music that Julie and I first bonded over? When it came time to actually explain this weekâ€™s selection, I thought it best not to put too much thought into what I wrote and just let the words flow freely, kind of like the mixtape I put together 17 years ago.
So here it is: HEY, HEY, JULIE! the group of songs that began a long journey that never ceases to thrill me and fill me with hope. Maybe one of these fine selections will find its way onto a mix for your loved one.
Oh, and Julie, when you read this, check your iPod: I finally loaded the songs as a playlist for you.
Until next week,
The B-52’s – “Dreamland”
Bonnie Raitt and Was (Not Was) – “Baby Mine”
The Smithereens – “Too Much Passion”
Melissa Etheridge – “The Angels”
INXS – “Shining Star”
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra -Â “Grand Canyon Fanfare”
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Learning to Fly”
Indigo Girls – “Kid Fears”
Crowded House – “Recurring Dream”
The Replacements – “Within Your Reach”
Ike & Tina Turner – “Proud Mary”
Bruce Springsteen – “Book of Dreams”
Edie Brickell and New Bohemians – “What I Am”
Poi Dog Pondering – “Be the One”
Martha Reeves – “Wild Night”
Colm Wilkinson – “Bring Him Home” (from Les Miserables)
James Taylor – “Getting to Know You”
Suzanne Vega featuringÂ Joe Jackson – “Left of Center”
Sting – “All This Time”
Barbara Streisand – “Send in the Clowns”