In the age of the iPod, I can't imagine not bringing a music mix with me to the proverbial desert island. In fact, it goes further back than the iPod. I grew up in the golden age of the mix tape. Mixes, not albums, have always meant the most to me. And a mix tape from a boy was a little bit of heaven. But the desert island mix I've chosen does not involve a boy. It involves the absence of boys. Boyfriendless until college, boyfriendless in those formative high school years, I started to keep a list of songs for my future boyfriend. Strange as it might seem, this mix captures everything I thought I wanted at the innocent idealistic age of 15. Just the thing to while away the long desert island days.
So here I present my desert island soundtrack: Songs For My Future Boyfriend. A little desperate, a little tragic, and very much riddled with danceable hope and joy.
"Just Like Heaven", The Cure (1987)
Robert Smith and his band touch me (and on many listless nights I wished he would, literally). I started listening to them to impress a boy -- Jeff -- who consequently turned out to be gay. It took three or four listens of Disintegration to get me going, but once I started I couldn't stop. A rabid Cure fan, I started reading Other Voices, a '90s zine that encouraged pen pals. Through Other Voices I met my future prom date (who turned out to be latent -- sense a theme?).
"Just Like Heaven" from the Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me album ranks as my favorite Cure song of all. I will admit that when I finally did land a boyfriend (in college, long after I'd lost touch with prom date and his boyfriends) and fell in love, I decreed this to be the first dance at our future wedding.
That never happened, but there's no taint to the song. More than anything I hope that I never forget how "Just Like Heaven" made me feel when I first heard it -- alive and free and full of boundless hope and energy. If one day I do marry (after a much-heralded rescue from the desert island), I must dance to this.
"Love Shack", B-52s (1989)
A song that bubbles with joy. I danced to this, danced hard, at every school dance, wedding, and Sweet 16 I've ever attended. I can't imagine never hearing it again, never screaming out, "Tin Roof! Rusted," never hopping up and down, never screaming along, never hearing Fred Schneider tell me that "love rules at the Love Shack." To me, this was a potential make-out song. A song that would make a boy reach for my hand and pull me onto the dance floor. We'd stop, sweaty, red-faced, and out of breath. And then...who knows?
"Eternal Flame," the Bangles (1997)
I'm embarrassed that this song means something to me. It's a light song, a twinkly song, a song lacking in substance and real feeling. Still, I must have cried myself to sleep 1,000 times at the age of 15 listening to it. And it's kind of catchy and sing-a-long-able.
"Pictures of You," The Cure (1989)
Yes, there has to be another Cure song. And yes, it has to be Disintegration's depressing anthem to broken hearts, lost love, and memory. Ouch. It hurts just thinking about it.
"Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want," The Smiths (1986 via the Pretty in Pink soundtrack)
The ultimate longing song. I've cried to this more times than I can count. When Morrissey -- in all his snarky, Oscar Wildean glory -- sang, "For once in my life, let me get what I want, Lord knows it would be the first time," I believed, in the way that only an egocentric 16-year-old can, that he was speaking to me. This song made my longing for a boyfriend, my longing to be thin and cute, my longing to not be sad seem justified. Now I look back and I want to slap myself for being so dramatic. But still I love the song for its sad simplicity.
"Never Tear Us Apart," INXS (1987)
Such a hot and sexy song! It hit me right in my underused teenage loins. This is what sexy meant -- a steady, hard bassline and a long-haired man in tight pants telling me, forcefully, that no one would tear us apart. Yummy.
"(I've Had) The Time of My Life," Bill Medley (1987)
"Nobody puts Baby in a corner." God how I wanted someone to say that to my Dad. This soul-lifting anthem from Dirty Dancing made me long for Patrick Swayze. It also made me long to be small enough for a boy to lift me over his head and throw me around in front of a crowd. This was also another wedding song candidate. Sad but true -- I was hoping my husband-to-be would make me do the lift.
Let me add a note, and another justification for adding this song to the mix. The first concert I ever attended was Dirty Dancing Live at Radio City Music Hall. Another well-worn memory ripe for desert island dreaming.
"On My Own", Les Misérables soundtrack (1985)
During community-theater years when I played a variety of bit parts in middle-school productions of Bye Bye Birdie and Guys and Dolls, I went through a Broadway phase. This song I taped from the radio, and I wore it out from overlistening. This was the ultimate expression of my boyfriendless angst: "So now I'm all alone again, no where to run, no where to turn to." Yeah. While the other girls had real boyfriends -- shaggy-haired, alternative-music listening, baggy-jean-wearing boys -- I was languishing at home. Or maybe working drive-thru at my part-time McDonald's job. All I thought about were boys, all I wanted was one of my own.
But all I had were these songs, and the smallest ray of hope that everything would turn out in the end.
And so my mix comes to a close. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Sarah Vaughn -- brilliant in every way. But I never made out with my pillow while listening to "Like a Rolling Stone."