Tags: Ancient Astronauts, Beverly Hillbillies, Charlottesville, China Doll, D&C, Died Pretty, Greensboro, Hollins, HoneyPoison, Julian Cope, Love is a Mix Tape, Michael Stipe, Miracle Legion, mix tapes, Pop Candy, Pulaski, R.E.M., Renee Crist, Roanoke, Rob Sheffield, Talk about the Clampetts, Talk about the Passion, Towering Inferno, University of Virginia, Whitney Matheson, You're the One Lee, ZenLauda
I found out about this book from Pop Candy, my favorite pop culture blog written by Whitney Matheson. As soon as I found out what this memoir was about, I had to buy it.. It tells the story of a man’s life and, more specifically, his love life, through his mix tapes. Rob Sheffield sounded just like my husband to me. I bought it for Danny, but I knew that I would eventually read it myself. So, when I found myself without a book I had to read, I plucked this off of the bookshelf having no idea what type of impact it would have on me.
A little background…
I “met” my husband in 1995 on Dreamscape, an Internet talker that required users to enter commands to do or say anything to anyone else. At that time I was obsessed – there is no other word for it as much as I care to deny it – with Michael Stipe. As ZenLauda, I would go on and see how fast I could get everyone to say something – anything – about Stipe. Of course, if someone said something nasty, I excommunicated that person from my persona. One time I brought Stipe up and HoneyPoison said, “Stipe is unripe.” I nearly axed HP, but then I didn’t and I don’t know why. I’d banished others for less. This started a long conversation about R.E.M. and music in general (Danny was in a band called “Ancient Astronauts” in 1989) that continues on to this day. I fell in love with him at an R.E.M. concert in Greensboro in 1995 and I moved to southwest Virginia 8 months later. The rest is history.
The first thing I remember Danny giving me was a mix tape entitled 24 in honor of my 24th birthday. Most of the music on it was new to me and stuff that I still love today – Julian Cope‘s “China Doll,” Died Pretty‘s “D.C.,” and Miracle Legion‘s “You’re The One Lee” were my favorites, but the rest was great. Reading this book made me very nostalgic for that tape. Sheffield’s descriptions of the time and energy he puts into his mixes rings true to this woman made to another mixer. You know that you mean something to a man or woman like that when they make you a mix tape. In fact, one of the first things Danny thought to do after meeting our oldest daughter’s birth mother was to make her a mix tape for when we saw her after Emma was born. Knowing all of what goes into a mix, it’s one of the saddest things ever when a person being gifted with a mix tape doesn’t understand the significance.
Back to the book…
Sheffield grew up in Boston in a world of his own where all outside stimuli filtered into him through music. He loved music like nothing and no one else. From school to Catholic summer camp he tried to impress his peers with his mix tapes or, when necessary, he escaped into them. It wasn’t until he was in college that he made himself break out of his shell. And it is in grad school at the University of Virginia that he met Renee Crist, an Appalachian girl who stole his heart from the very beginning.
When you live in southwest Virginia, it’s not every day that you pick up a book and it starts talking about places you’ve been or places you live. Renee was born in Georgia, but she grew up in Pulaski and attended Hollins College (now University) where I earned my Master’s degree. She lived in Roanoke for a time before heading to Charlottesville, where she met and feel in love with Rob. As he describes when he fell in love with her, the connection to Danny grew even stronger than I ever could have expected:
I squeezed into a booth next to her and we talked about music. She told me that you can sing the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme to the tune of R.E.M.’s “Talk about the Passion.” That was it, basically; as soon as she started to sing “Talk about the Clampetts,” any thought I had of not falling in love with her went down in some serious “Towering Inferno” flames. It was over. I was over.
While in Roanoke, Renee met Danny and hung around in the same circles with him. At one point, she was roommates with Claudia, the wife of Danny’s good friend from high school. While in Roanoke, Renee heard the Ancient Astronauts play “Talk about the Clampetts,” a song Danny, the lead singer, mashed up himself. Danny is responsible for Rob and Renee getting together and, therefore, responsible for this book being written!
Click here to listen to a live performance of “Talk about the Clampetts” performed by the Ancient Astronauts in 1989:
When we figured out that this book was about Renee Crist (at midnight on a work night – I didn’t end up getting much sleep), Danny went into his closet and pulled out his shoe box of pictures. In that box he found a picture of her with Jimm (with two Ms), the same person who was seeing when she moved to Charlottesville.
After seeing the picture of her at a New Year’s Eve party, this book came alive to me in a way I’ve never experienced before. Not only was it a reminder of the time when I first fell in love with my husband, my reading of Love is a Mix Tape became a couple’s project. It set us off on a mini archaeological dig of Danny’s musical past, and I’ve always wanted to be an archaeologist.
Reading Sheffield’s memoir made me feel very happy to be alive in a world of music and mix tapes. If you love music and have ever made a mix tape – even if you ever just taped songs off of the radio, you will enjoy this book.
To buy this book, click here.
Tags: ARC, Barnes & Noble, Cerak, Charlottesville, Dateline NBC, Early Reviewers, First Look Book Club, Grand Rapids, it's a small world, LibraryThing, Love is a Mix Tape, Love Marriage, Mistaken Identity, Nan, Renee Crist, Roanoke, Rob Sheffield, Songs for the Missing, spring rain, Stewart O, Taylor University car accident, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Van Ryn
For the past week it seems as though all it’s done is rain, and I’m without an ARC. Please don’t read that as a complaint, though. I have two on the way: Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan through LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewers for April and Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan through Barnes & Nobles’ First Look Book Club. Even if those books weren’t somewhere in the mail, I am still happy to be without an ARC. While I absolutely love getting to read free books (who wouldn’t), there is a special commitment made to read and review them in a timely manner. From the moment they arrive in the mail, they become my first in line to be read. Books I’ve actually purchased sit gathering dust on my bookshelf. So, right now, I feel pretty foot loose and fancy free – and my current choices are proving to be very interesting and very personal.
Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield – I bought this book at some point last year for my husband. At that time I bought the book, I knew nothing about the author. I had no idea that the author lived in Charlottesville around the same time as my husband. Last night, after midnight, Danny and I discovered that he knew Sheffield’s wife when she lived in Roanoke!!!! I won’t reveal any more here, because it will be repeated in my review. Suffice to say that I kept saying, “It’s a small f*#!ing world!” over and over again. I’m really excited to write my post about this memoir. It’s going to be a lot of fun!
Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope by the Van Ryn and Cerak families. I remember when the story about this tragically deadly car accident hit the news. At the time, I must have registered that the Van Ryn family was from Grand Rapids, but I was surprised again to hear that familiar accent when I happened upon their interview on Dateline NBC at the end of March. The story was as beautiful as it was heart wrenching. This isn’t typically the type of book I would buy or read, but the hometown connection and the goodness of these people made it impossible for me not to buy.
So, I’m not fretting how long it’s taking Love Marriage to arrive. I’m basking in the glow of my own choices right now.