It’s been a while since I did my last Mix CD Redux post and was trying to think of which one would be a good one to feature this time around. Since I’ve been in kind of an introspective mood the last week or so, I thought I’d pull one out that I made based on a time in my life when I was probably a little too introspective – my sophomore year of high school. High school is a time of high drama for so many people. If only we could realize then that it’s really not all that high nor all that dramatic. I’m fond of saying that teenage angst is most appropriately measured in angstroms because that unit of measure applies quite well to how much it ultimately matters in our life. Whatever – we all did it to some degree. Some of us were just better at it than others.
During my sophomore year of high school, my English teacher required each student to a keep journal. I don’t remember how this applied to the class, but I remember that you had to have so many pages per week. You could turn it in to be read by her or you could just have her count the pages. I think that what it really was was her attempt to get us writing, no matter what the result. I didn’t need any encouragement writing. At first, I stuck to safe topics and turned in my journal dutifully to be read and commented on. Somewhere about mid-year, my focus changed. I started using the journal as an outlet for my own high school drama and I started just letting her count pages. There wasn’t a sharp demarcation between the fun and frivolous and the turn to the serious, and even when I did start writing about more personal things, I still wrote down song lyrics and random observations. The margins are full of doodles and the text, while cringeworthy at times, is very 15 year-old introvert trying to find his way around in a world that frequently didn’t make sense to him.
I remember setting out to make this mix – probably about 12 years ago now. I had already made a 2-CD set of the popular hits from each year of high school, but my sophomore year one was woefully incomplete because in order to really represent the music I was listening to, it had to have a lot of older stuff that I had discovered – most notably Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. They soundtracked a good portion of that school year, and 1987-88 was when I fell under the spell of the Welsh Witch. There are also some other oddballs on here – when you look at the cover, you’ll wonder what the hell? But when I put it together, I looked through the journals and picked songs that I had either referenced, wrote the lyrics down to, or otherwise influenced me pretty significantly. I’ll try to explain these as best I can.
I’m not going to explain the significance of every song on this mix – to do so would require multiple posts and more time than I have at my disposal. A couple things I will say right off the bat – you’ll notice that it’s not all pop and that (as I alluded to before) not all the music is from that time period. It’s also important to know the context of my life at that point. As a 10th grader and a 15 year old, I had my share of the aforementioned drama. I frequently felt lost and depressed because I didn’t fit in with the normal high school cliques. Although I had friends, there was no doubt that I was not one of the popular kids. You can tell by the amount of song lyrics and other ridiculous shit that’s scrawled all over the cover of the journal. I tended toward songs that were idealistic to help counter some of my negative feelings and while undeniably pop, the music was usually highly dramatic and full of double meanings. Despite feeling isolated and lonely during that time, I became friends with a guy a couple years older than me who I really count as being the first guy friend with whom I could talk openly and freely. There was no fear of judgment between us. The friendship was very formative for me and influenced me in many ways. It really helped shape me into the man I am today and has helped me to forge my own definition of masculinity that’s not limited (much) by societal constraints. It was the experience that taught me that men can be “emotionally intimate” (for lack of a better word) with each other and not have it mean “well, they MUST be gay” or that there has to be a romantic and/or sexual component. It’s a rare thing indeed, but it can and does happen. Although we’ve fallen out of touch, I will always be grateful for his friendship at that time in my life because, as I said, it was an early influence that has helped turn me into the Dan you all know and love today. While he frequently teased me about my choice in music, I still feel like he had a healthy respect for my taste, even though he didn’t always agree with it. I still sometimes wonder what he would think of some of the music I listen to today!
On with the music – a few thoughts:
- There are two artists on here that get two songs – Fleetwood Mac and Taylor Dayne. Fleetwood Mac gets two songs for reasons I’ve already mentioned – I fell headlong into their music that year thanks to the release of Tango In The Night – but Taylor Dayne? Her debut album, Tell It To My Heart, came out in 1988 and I’m not ashamed to say that it’s a great album top-to-bottom. I picked it up on cassette on an April trip to Iowa Jazz Championships in Des Moines. I remember listening to it all the way back from Des Moines. I knew the songs “Tell It To My Heart” and “Prove Your Love” but even the album filler is high-quality album filler. The two songs on here “Do You Want It Right Now” and “Where Does That Boy Hang Out” never got to be singles, but I still have a fondness for them today.
- Speaking of Iowa Jazz Championships, the first song on the CD is a 24 year old recording of my high school jazz band performing there. I finally got around to uploading the entire set to SoundCloud last night so that people that were in the band with me could hear them again. I ripped them from an audio cassette which has long since vanished. I don’t have tons of great high school memories, but jazz band that year was one of them. That’s me on the piano solo and it also explains the “Dan Cullinan on the piano!!!” on the cover of my journal. A friend of mine’s parents always said that whenever they saw me.
- There’s no Madonna on here. A-mazing. Although not really because she didn’t release a bit of new music in 1988. I credit that for opening the door for my burgeoning obsession with Stevie Nicks.
- I like 80s Heart more than is socially acceptable. But at least I chose a lesser single for inclusion on here. I don’t think that “I Want You So Bad” even charted! (it did, but did not go top 40.) I think that there’s an “In Defense Of…” post about 80s Heart that I’ll have to write some day. Bad Animals is probably the pinnacle of their “sell-out” period (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
- “Yesterday” by the Beatles was sung by a small group of friends of mine that took the song to district competition. I was their accompanist.
- “Malaguena” was a piano solo that I took the competition. My parents probably still twitch when they hear it – that’s how much I had to practice it. I was glad to have found a copy of this back in the Napster days.
- One of the first things my friend that I mentioned and I did was get together on a Friday night to watch movies. What possessed us to rent the 1973 Steve McQueen movie Papillon is beyond me, but I am glad that we did! That’s how the theme to the movie ended up on the CD. Another Napster find, I’m sure.
- My love for the Eurythmics album Savage is no secret. I was just telling a couple people on Twitter the other night that Savage is probably in my top 3 albums ever. I remember it being hard to pick the song from Savage that would go on this CD, but “You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart” is classic Eurythmics.
- I’m really not sure why Carly Simon’s “Legend In Your Own Time” is on here. I remember getting both her greatest hits and Coming Around Again on cassette in the late summer of 1987, but nothing about “Legend In Your Own Time” stands out enough to really merit its inclusion on this CD. Maybe I just did it because I do like the song quite a bit, even though there are better Carly Simon songs to be sure.
- The Rick Astley song gets included because of an entry I wrote about trying to stay awake one night long enough to see the video for it. Upon hearing it, I dismissed it as “Never Gonna Give You Up” raised a half step, but in the end, I prefer “Together Forever” to its better known musical sibling.
I’m sure there are other stories of significance tied to the music on this CD, but I sure can’t remember all of them. It’s a little musical glimpse into my past, to a different version of me that I’m not always very fond of, but is still a part of me, so I try to treat him with kindness and respect. Listening to this music doesn’t take me back as much as it used to, but it still does a little bit. Reading the journals is almost impossible – the angst! – but I do credit that teacher for giving me the freedom to write about what I wanted and in many ways, her influence on this blog is hard to deny.