I wanted to do something I’ve never done before in this space, which is, instead of creating a new playlist for you this month, I’m recreating one that was originally made for me.
The seed of this idea was planted by the ongoing pandemic. COVID-19 has changed all of our lives; for many people, it's been a huge economic hardship, and for most everyone, it's made it harder to see the people we love. Personally, I’ve been very fortunate to have my livelihood pretty much continue on as normal, with the exception of not being able to see my customers in person at live events. I do miss my friends though, and it was this sense of loss that I was mulling over that reminded me of this playlist that I am going to share with you.
Pre-internet era and through the early aughts, making mixtapes for someone was a very personal thing to do for someone: selecting the songs, finding the right order for them, transcribing the song titles and artists. Most often, people made them for themselves, like we do digitally now, for music to listen to in the car, while cooking, or as the soundtrack to a party or wedding. But almost as frequently, people made them for their boyfriends, girlfriends and especially, for their crushes. It was a way to give someone a piece of yourself very inexpensively and with plausible deniability. If your crush thought your songs were too forward, well, they were just reading things into your innocent mix. For just the cost of a tape, you could dub music you already owned or else you could listen to the radio and be ready to pounce as soon as the DJ announced the song you wanted to record. Extra points for crafting good spacing between the songs with no DJ spiel.
I am admittedly a difficult friend to give gifts - even playlists - because I’m highly opinionated. There’s not a lot of middle ground in me – my Yelp reviews are all 5 stars or one. And as with anything, I’ve gotten good mixtapes and bad. (Though one mix I received was so terrible that I threw it out the car window in a parking lot and ran it over.)
The mix that I'm sharing today was a good one though, and it was given to me by an ex-boyfriend. My ex-bf and I had remained friends after breaking up – still talking and meeting up periodically, mostly to see bands. Maybe a year or two after we broke up, he gave me a mixtape (technically a CD) that remains one of my favorites that I’ve ever received. And in fact, I still have the original disc and case; it’s one of the only CDs I own since I got rid of most physical media years ago. The cover was an awful collage he made comprised of butterfly stickers, paper colored with markers, and in the center, a found photograph of a round-faced toddler posed in front of a cut-out of a polar bear dressed as Santa Claus. Despite the inauspicious outer case, the music contained inside was a perfect mix.
Probably because it was from someone so close to me, he managed to hit all the right notes on this playlist. He included a couple of songs I knew, but several more I didn’t know at the time, but loved as soon as I heard. The rhythm of the mix is just perfect too, with an eclectic blend of styles and tempos- a quality that I try to achieve with my playlists as well.
The playlist was titled “Everything’s Going to be Okay." And although the songs included aren't sappy or romantic, they are very comforting, at least to me. One song in particular has always been like a warm blanket to my insides; the lyrics of The Microphones' The Glow Pt. 2, are almost over apt for this September playlist:
I could not get through September without a battle.
I faced death. I went in with my arms swinging
but I heard my own breath
and I had to face that I'm still living.
I'm still flesh. I hold on to awful feelings.
I'm not dead. There's no end. My face is red.
Those words never fail to move me, acknowledging that life can be difficult, really difficult, but I still am here to fight another day. I actually included that song on another playlist (do you remember which one?), but I think it's good enough for another listen (and in my case, another and another).
Other songs included on the playlist are "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," as sung by Bob Dylan; "Here Come the Warm Jets," by Brian Eno and a whole bunch of late nineties/ early-aught indie rock classics from the likes of Holly Golightly, Olivia Tremor Control and The Make-Up. Hopefully, after listening to the playlist, you will also feel that Everything Will Be Okay, at least as long as the songs echo in your head.