Thumbing through old records at a used record store may not be the most romantic way for a couple to meet, but for Fred and Victoria, it was perfect.
Both in their late 40s, they were definitely old school. While they also used modern music delivery methods, they were vinyl devotees who loved the rich, full sound it possessed that digital albums did not.
After eight months of dating, Fred decided it was time to ratchet it up a little bit. He made Victoria a mixtape. While the word mixtape is still used to describe CDs that are carefully thought out assortments of songs, Fred used an actual cassette tape. There were reasons for that.
First, like an artist crafting their vision onto a canvas, the “limitations” of a cassette created challenges and opportunities. With a tape, you had to fit the songs into a certain time segment and, by using the A and B sides, sculpt it into two complete acts. Song selection and placement was crucial.
CDs lacked the feature of two acts and a digital playlist? Please.
Fred carefully crafted his labor of love and presented it to Victoria, who listened to it that evening in her favorite chair with headphones on. Fred, knowing she was a fellow audiophile, expected that. He didn’t expect their conversation the next evening.
“So I listened to the whole thing, Fred, you are so sweet,” Victoria said. “I have a few comments.”
“C-comments?” Fred thought, but didn’t say.
“I loved that you started it off with Heatwave’s ‘Always and Forever’ – I’ve loved that song since Steve Hendrickson and I danced to it in eighth grade,” Victoria said. “You . . . uh . . . didn’t have the original six-minute version though, I see . . . well, no biggie.”
Fred’s heart sank a bit, but he brightened when she told him that “Silly Love Songs” by Wings was also a fave. She then said that Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” was a nice juxtaposition and choosing Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet” instead of the more obvious “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” or “I Just Called to Say I Love You” was perfect.
“But I, uh, do have some . . . well, questions about some of your selections, honey,” Victoria said.
Fred was stunned at first, but Victoria was just being true to the nature of their relationship. They critiqued music together all the time.
“To start, on Side A I loved that you followed Bruno Mars’ ‘Just the Way You Are’ with the Billy Joel song of the same title. Very clever and cute,” Victoria said. “But then on Side B you did the same thing by following John Legend’s ‘You and I’ with the old Rick James song. And the latter just sounds dated and out of place. It made the Side A thing seem like a gimmick.”
Fred knew what was coming next.
“I know you love your heavy metal, but no self-respecting headbanger listened to Dokken, Fred,” Victoria said. “’Burning Like a Flame’ was a . . . misstep.”
Fred fumed. First, he hated how she labeled anything with a loud guitar as “heavy metal” and second, he chose that song over Scorpions’ “No One Like You” because he thought it was more palatable.
“Also, I love Carole King’s ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman’ and prefer her version even though most people look at Aretha’s as the definitive one,” Victoria said. “But that should be a song that I put on a mixtape, not you.”
Victoria then went on to say that while she loved the inclusion of the sweet instrumental Stevie Ray Vaughan composed for his wife, “Lenny,” its position, in the middle of Side A, was “not optimal.”
Fred then could not stop himself and angrily told her to return the tape and he would erase it and record the songs she wanted.
“Honey, you misunderstand me,” Victoria said. “This tape, with its perfect imperfections, reflects what I love about you. I even broke the plastic tabs off the top so it can’t be recorded on again.”
While they both knew that applying scotch tape to the top would again make it recordable, Fred and Victoria, the analog lovers, kissed passionately.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].