Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield

Love Is a Mix Tape

In this stunning memoir, Rob Sheffield, a veteran rock and pop culture critic and staff writer for Rolling Stone magazine, tells the story of his musical coming of age, and how rock music, the first love of his life, led him to his second, a girl named Renee. Rob and Renee's life together - they wed after graduate school, both became music journalists, and were married onl...

Title:Love Is a Mix Tape
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1400083028
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:224 pages

Love Is a Mix Tape Reviews

  • Heather

    Love Is A Mix Tape just absolutely knocked my socks off.

    I devoured this book in one weekend and enjoyed every single page, heartily. This is ostensibly a book about mix tapes, and looking back at a life spent seeing the world in a series of 45-minute vignettes (then, of course, you flip the tape over). Rob Sheffield has penned an honest (yet wildly entertaining) book that affected me more deeply than any book I've read in recent memory, woven throughout with a genuine and bleeding love for music

    Love Is A Mix Tape just absolutely knocked my socks off.

    I devoured this book in one weekend and enjoyed every single page, heartily. This is ostensibly a book about mix tapes, and looking back at a life spent seeing the world in a series of 45-minute vignettes (then, of course, you flip the tape over). Rob Sheffield has penned an honest (yet wildly entertaining) book that affected me more deeply than any book I've read in recent memory, woven throughout with a genuine and bleeding love for music. It's electric.

    The meta-theme of the book is great love, great loss, and the soundtrack: his relationship and marriage to Renee, a girl who he says was "in the middle of everything, living her big, messy, epic life, and none of us who loved her will ever catch up with her." Rob loved Renee, and chronicles that here beautifully from their first meeting to her sudden death at 31.

    Parts of the book are evisceratingly intimate. Sometimes I felt almost too close to his darkest and most intimate moments, and it's hard to phrase this right but -- because I knew so much of the music that weaves throughout their stories, I almost felt like I had a personal stake. I kept thinking that it was surprising to find a story so real and honest and intimate when I initially picked this up because, duh, it's about mix tapes.

    If you don't like reading about other people's love stories, you should still 100% read this book. Renee was his muse, but his passion (and hers) is thoroughly and unabashedly music -- and there is some absolutely fantastic stuff in here. He writes of their relationship, "We had nothing in common, except we both loved music. It was the first connection we had, and we depended on it to keep us together. We did a lot of work to meet in the middle. Music brought us together." They were both music writers and radio DJs, they fell in love hard and married young. They made lots and lots of fabulous mix tapes, and each chapter begins with a reprinted tracklist from one cassette from that era in their lives.

    This is a man after my own heart. How could I do anything but love a man who starts chapter 14 with: "Every time I have a crush on a woman, I have the same fantasy: I imagine the two of us as a synth-pop duo." He goes on to elaborate how she is in the front ("tossing her hair, a saucy little firecracker"), stealing the show and he is hidden in the back behind his Roland JP8000 keyboard, "lavishing all my computer blue love on her."He even lists all the best band names he's come up with for their synth-pop duo: Metropolitan Floors, Indulgence, Angela Dust.

    And you should hear him wax poetic about mix tapes. Be still my heart. Rob writes, "There are all kinds of mix tapes. There is always a reason to make one." He then gives his examples:

    The Party Tape

    I Want You

    We're Doing It? Awesome!

    You Like Music, I Like Music, I Can Tell We're Going To Be Friends

    You Broke My Heart And Made Me Cry and Here Are Twenty or Thirty Songs About It

    The Road Trip

    Good Songs From Bad Albums I Never Want To Play Again

    . . . and many more. "There are millions of songs in the world," he writes, "and millions of ways to connect them into mixes. Making the connections is part of the fun of being a fan." The book starts with Sheffield pulling out a box of old tapes and all throughout the book --from his childhood school dance recollections, to the first mixes he can remember making for Renee, to the ones that accompanied him in the dark days and months following her death-- the mix tapes and the songs are as much characters in this story as the actual people are.

    Since each of us have our own completely sovereign and self-focused memories surrounding our favorite bands and favorite songs (the unique feelings, smells, companions, activities associated with them), there is something that I just find so ebullient about "seeing" all these bands and songs through the unique rubric of their lives. A MUST-READ.

  • Rory

    I didn't like this as much as others have seemed to. And what I liked most was probably what others discarded--I liked hearing about the signifcance of all the songs and mixes and bands. But the love story? Sap-tastic and hit-me-over-the-head-repetitive.

    Every tenth line of the first long chapter is heavy foreshadowing mixed with hipster melodrama--you know, "That music changed my life. But Renee was my life. And then my life went away." Then something like "Love isn't like a cassingle. It's lik

    I didn't like this as much as others have seemed to. And what I liked most was probably what others discarded--I liked hearing about the signifcance of all the songs and mixes and bands. But the love story? Sap-tastic and hit-me-over-the-head-repetitive.

    Every tenth line of the first long chapter is heavy foreshadowing mixed with hipster melodrama--you know, "That music changed my life. But Renee was my life. And then my life went away." Then something like "Love isn't like a cassingle. It's like a mixed CD. And my and Renee's hearts were mixed with an A and a B side. And then she broke." Or WHATEVER.

    A lot of cutesy little details are repeated throughout the book, too, and I wondered if the book had originally been published as a series of columns (it wasn't, as far as I can tell).

    Finally, just to be a real grouch, the author seems to have a type--he describes all his girlfriends and his beloved (dead? did you hear?) wife the same: from the South, pie-baking, punk-riot, energetic, dyed-red hair, music-loving, extrovert. So I never quite got why Renee stuck out so much.

  • Kim

    Put your thinking caps on ‘cuz I’ve got some trippin’ down memory lane for you:

    Where were you when you first heard ‘A Day in the Life’? What about ‘Wild World’? What did you think when you finally understood the meaning of

    ? What does ‘My Heart Will Go On’ mean to you? Do you know whe

    Put your thinking caps on ‘cuz I’ve got some trippin’ down memory lane for you:

    Where were you when you first heard ‘A Day in the Life’? What about ‘Wild World’? What did you think when you finally understood the meaning of

    ? What does ‘My Heart Will Go On’ mean to you? Do you know where you were when you heard that Kurt Cobain was dead? What about that

    from Alice in Chains who wasn’t found for like days, rotting away in his apartment, do you remember that? What was the song that was playing the first time you slow danced? Does ‘Darling Nikki’ make you blush? What’s the most important song that you’ve ever put on a mix tape?

    Okay, enough. You get it. It’s just

    now. Confession time: I was a groupie. I was. Really. Duran Duran was my group of choice. Those bastard fans in Wham! and Culture Club were pussies compared to us Duranies. We knew how to obsess. There is still a bond among us. Whenever I meet a woman born around 1970, I know that I can slip in a

    reference and our eyes will meet and there will be that conspiratorial nod... We know that we both cried when we saw the ‘Feed the World’ video and that they were robbed (ROBBED!) of air time. Damn Bono.

    It wasn’t until I met my future husband that I actually LISTENED to Duran Duran. Those bass lines are awesome! I knew I loved John Taylor for more than his bangs and impeccable fashion sense! I never knew that certain instruments made certain sounds. I was just used to the end product. I’ve been told I’m a sucker for a good ‘bridge’, whatever that means. Maurice was also the first male friend that actually liked Duran Duran and didn’t mock me for my past transgressions. Boys can be so dumb. Don’t you know that we’ll like you more if you admit that you’ve sung along to Rio? Maurice actually brought me to my first Duran Duran show. We sat on the grassy lawn at Great Woods in Mansfield, Mass and rocked to Ordinary World and danced to The Reflex. I was so proud of him. How many boyfriends will do that?

    Okay. So, you see where I‘m going with this, right? I mean it’s so obviously

    .

    I may have been a groupie, but Maurice was a full out audiophile. To the point of annoyance.. We’d be out walking and he’d hear something from an open window somewhere and say ‘Oh! Zeppelin 4! Awesome! Did you know that

    rated it only 66 out of the top 500 albums! What assholes!’ and then a rant would ensue and that would turn into some sort of ‘ultimate band’ fantasy. And so on. He would wake me up in the middle of the night to ask me what I thought about Geddy Lee’s vocals on ‘Caress of Steel’ versus ‘Fly by Night’. He wasn’t embarrassed to go total

    when Bohemian Rhapsody came on while we were driving. My favorite was when we would play ‘who should have been on the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane?’

    On our first date, Maurice ended it, not with a kiss, but a ‘I’m going to make you a mix tape!’ I was amused. I was concerned. I was somewhat petrified. This guy was a prog rock fan. Hadn’t I spent most of my adolescence mocking Rush and Yes? Is this karma taking a bit ol’ dump on me? He mailed me the tape. I was living in Boston at the time, he was in the boondocks of NH. I held it. I read the songs. I put it on my desk. I went out for ice cream. Around day 3, I finally had the room to myself (living in a boarding house with 40 other woman, that was a feat) and carefully placed it in my boom box. The first song was ‘Sweetness’ by Yes. ’Honey Pie’ by The Beatles, ’She’s a Rainbow’ The Rolling Stones, ’Come up and See Me (Make me smile)’ by Duran Duran,

    by Faust, The Musical Box by Genesis:

    Not. Very. Subtle.

    Anyway, this book. This could be Maurice and me. I know that some people dismiss Rob Sheffield and I don’t know enough about him to say that that’s okay. Maurice would probably know… he knew all the rock critics. But, this story… these mix tapes. They spoke to me in a completely sappy selfish way. I see a lot of Maurice in Rob. Another confession: I don’t read the blurbs about books before I start them. If I like the title or the cover or someone said ’You should read this’, I will go with that. I had no idea that this was a sad love story. (Yeah, I know… the title is ‘Love is a Mix Tape: Life and loss, one song at a time’ --I didn’t really catch the loss part. There’s Rob. Then there’s Rob and Renee and then there’s RobinRenee and then there’s just Rob again. There’s a part where he’s talking about just being Rob again:

    I wonder if Maurice ever thought things like

    I know that I did.

    Rob relates almost everything through music. He reminds me a lot of Rob Fleming from Nick Hornby’s

    . The guy that always has headphones on, that totally judges you by your cd collection, that has a song for everything. Maurice was always gently forcing me to like his music. I’m a whiny guitar alternadude type of gal. Play me some REM or Blind Melon or Polyphonic Spree. I would get in the car and find a cd in the player and suddenly I’m listening to Argent’s

    or ‘Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Pt, 1 & 2’ by ELP. This went on for TWENTY years…. He never tired of it. I have milk crates full of Maurice creations. I can identify with these people. I would strike back with some of my own and we would argue during long car rides what was neutral ground. ELP was out. Genesis was neutral. Poi Dog Pondering was out. INXS was neutral and so on…

    I guess that what I’m trying to say is that this book might not be for every one. The minute gestures and pop culture commentary might annoy people. They may not laugh where I laughed or cried when I cried. That’s okay. There are other books. I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to read this one. I feel less alone and that’s a biggie for me.

    I can’t think of a truer sentiment. Maurice is the Smashing Pumpkins ‘1979’ when I’m driving on a warm spring night with the windows down. He’s Nanci Griffith’s

    when I’m having a good cry in the tub. He’s Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name Of’ when I’m annoyed with hipsters. It sounds corny, but he gave me this gift and I’m so proud of him and so thankful.

    I miss you, Maurice.

  • Diane

    I fell head-over-heels in love with this book, just as Rob Sheffield fell hard and fast when he met Renee. The book is their love story, but it's also a love story about music. Each chapter opens with the song list from a mix tape Rob either made or received. It was fun to skim the titles, looking for tracks I had used in my own mix tapes.

    One of my favorite chapters was when Rob got picked to play the music at his junior high dance. He screwed up big time. He filled his tape with power anthems,

    I fell head-over-heels in love with this book, just as Rob Sheffield fell hard and fast when he met Renee. The book is their love story, but it's also a love story about music. Each chapter opens with the song list from a mix tape Rob either made or received. It was fun to skim the titles, looking for tracks I had used in my own mix tapes.

    One of my favorite chapters was when Rob got picked to play the music at his junior high dance. He screwed up big time. He filled his tape with power anthems, which the boys loved, but the girls hated them and wouldn't dance. He said he still had a lot to learn about women.

    Both Rob and Renee were radio DJs and music writers, and he admits the only thing they had in common was music. Rob even wooed Renee by making her a mix tape, which is included in one of the chapters.

    I expected this book to be sad because Rob warns us early that his wife died of a pulmonary embolism after only five years of marriage, but the book is very funny and sweet, with only one chapter that was a real tearjerker.

    By the end, I wished I could have met Renee, who sounds like a firecracker of a Southern gal. But at least I got to hear about her favorite music, which is as close to meeting someone as you can get.

    Sheffield has a new book out about his life after his wife died, and it reminded me how much I had loved this memoir. I was glad I gave it five stars when I first read it because I remember it so fondly that I would have been forced to increase it if it wasn't already there. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves music, memoirs or love stories.

  • JSou

    I didn't really know what this book was about until I started flipping through it last night. I bought it as a last minute, bargain priced add-on from Barnes & Noble, pretty much just to bump up my total to $25 so I could get free shipping. The title caught my eye since making mixtapes took up a lot of time during my teenage years. Seriously, when the iPod was first introduced, I thought it was the greatest invention since the automobile.

    Anyway, I was expecting this to be a humorous, dick-li

    I didn't really know what this book was about until I started flipping through it last night. I bought it as a last minute, bargain priced add-on from Barnes & Noble, pretty much just to bump up my total to $25 so I could get free shipping. The title caught my eye since making mixtapes took up a lot of time during my teenage years. Seriously, when the iPod was first introduced, I thought it was the greatest invention since the automobile.

    Anyway, I was expecting this to be a humorous, dick-lit type novel, having no idea that Sheffield wrote this memoir after his wife of only 5 years passed away. I read the first page, just to get a feel for it, and didn't put it down until I finished. It was a very quick read, but I loved it. There were parts that I had stinging eyes and a lump in my throat, but was laughing out loud at the same time. The references to nineties music, even the whole nineties era were hilarious, and the chapter on Nirvana was some of the best writing on Kurt Cobain's life and death that I've ever read.

    I love how Sheffield pointed out how strong an effect music can have on us, especially when dealing with losing someone you love. There's the times when even a favorite song is ruined because hearing it is just too painful...it just makes the situation too

    . Other times, it's hearing a new song that you know that person would totally flip for, but knowing they'll never be able to hear it.

    I think anyone who loves music, lived through the nineties, or has ever lost someone would really enjoy this. I know it was well worth the whopping $3.99 I paid for it.

  • Ron

    They met when they were both twenty-three. Rob told Renee,

    the same thing he’d told every girl he had a crush on. Except this time, it worked and Rob fell hard. Later, they planned to step on a cassette tape at their wedding ceremony, instead of a glass. Between them, they had a love for music, bound by a love for one another. Or maybe it was the other way around.

    They met when they were both twenty-three. Rob told Renee,

    the same thing he’d told every girl he had a crush on. Except this time, it worked and Rob fell hard. Later, they planned to step on a cassette tape at their wedding ceremony, instead of a glass. Between them, they had a love for music, bound by a love for one another. Or maybe it was the other way around.

    Even though I knew Rob would lose Renee, my heart was broken by page five. Just read that final line in the quote above. Renee was a country girl. Rob was from the city.

    Each chapter in this book begins with the name of a mix tape, and its song list. I remember making mix tapes for my high-school girlfriend (followed immediately by a copy for myself – because damn I just put some fine music on there). Making mix tapes is an expression. They say, "Here’s what I like". Party tapes. Sad tapes. Road tapes. Music for the occasion. Reading this book was like reading a ballad to the music of the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s, and all the music worthy of being put on a tape together. It’s also a love song to this girl who entered Rob’s life, and then his heart, and will always remain there.

    At times this memoir gets off-track from the relationship. I wanted it to stay with Renee. But it’s wholly sentimental, and that’s the way I like ‘em. Plus, it reminds me of those people that come along and change our lives, no matter how short our time with them. At one point I thought of those songs that evoke past memories. The ones when we were young, or young-at-heart, singing at the top of our lungs in the car with the windows rolled down.

    PS. The following song wasn’t included in the play list. It’s too recent for that. But I got hung up on playing it while finishing Love is a Mix Tape, and the words sort of resonate.


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