Mixtape Memoirs

Dame Margaret’s blessed vacation in England gave Dame Sophie the opportunity to smuggle in her most vintage Internet Ladyfriend & past TBD guest editrix, Karen Corday, for a fun collab talking about two of their favorite things: mixtapes and crying! You can find more of Karen’s excellence HERE and HERE. I particularly recommend checking out her appearance on fellow DamesFav Lucas Brown’s podcast, The Math of You.


BUT FIRST: A Dames Business Announcement!

Thanks to the holiday Thursday, next Friday will truly be black: We Your Dames will be reclining in a turkey coma and therefore sending no newsletter. If you miss us too terribly, don’t fret: you always have our archives!


AND NOW: Mixtape Memoirs!

Sophie: Hiiiiii, Karen!

Karen: Hello, dear Sophie!

S: Let’s just set the scene for our reader-listeners this week: you are my most vintage Internet Ladyfriend, having won your friendship heart all the way back in 1998? Maybe 1999? We both went to library school and have remained chums ever since.

K: I think it was late 1998--we were both bored at our first post-collegiate 9-5 jobs.

S: SO BORED.

K: SO BORED! And we were both regulars on the Bust magazine message boards. We started talking about library school and women’s colleges and then there was lots and lots of talk about music and books and writing and we formed a little mutual appreciation society. You came from Philly to visit me in Boston, and I think we both had to explain to people that we had met on the internet, which was still kind of weird and unusual at that point? Aaaaaaaand here we are 20 years later NO BIG DEAL!

S: Happy anniversary to US! So, the idea for this week’s issue came to me from Dave Holmes’ memoir, Party Of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs, where he uses the title of a song that’s been meaningful to him as the title & theme for each chapter. We both loooooove a mixtape, so we decided to create & swap playlists and interview each other about them. As I was listening to yours, I noticed a theme and then realized that it was running through mine as well: Dancing While Crying.

Robyn isn’t crying yet, but you know she’s just about to.

K: Dancing While Crying is the mood of the decade. This came to mind immediately when I saw your genius pairing of “Oh L’Amour” and “Dancing on my Own”.

S: Awww thank you! I have to give some credit for that pairing to Sarah D. Bunting and Mark Blankenship, who just did an episode of Mark & Sarah Talk About Songs all about “Oh L’Amour”. I love that song but hadn’t listened to it in ages and had to pause the episode to listen to it in full, and realized mid-listen that it’s a grandparent of “Dancing On My Own”. And then of course they talked about exactly that in the episode! Kismet! Honestly, Dancing While Crying is such an important concept. It ought to be a new Grammys category. They should toss out a bunch of stupid, dead categories and create some good new ones.

K: I feel like I might be struck down by the Dark Lord himself for saying this but maybe it’s time to retire the Metal category and replace it with Dancing While Crying. 

S: SO MOVED. You’re welcome, Academy of Recording Artists. We will take payment in the form of cold, hard cash. Our attorney, Bernie will be in touch.

S: Let’s talk about one of our faves, Mr. Tom Petty, of blessed memory. Maybe he’s not the artist people think of first when they’re weeping on the dancefloor, but “Learning to Fly” is a certified bop and its soaring, luscious harmonies sure do make me cry. What made you pick this one?

K: When I was putting these together I was kind of thinking of songs that had personal memories or feelings attached to them. I saw Tom Petty with Jackson Browne as the opener in 2002. It’s one of the only stadium rock shows I’ve ever been to; most of my show-going experience has been confined to shows in clubs and bars, and the occasional festival show, if 90s Lollapaloozas count as “festival shows,” I don’t know. The stadium experience was like super-fancy, in spite of our bad seats, and I went with my parents and sister & then-husband. It was my first experience being in such a huge crowd of mature people quietly freaking out about how psyched they were to see Tom Petty. My mom is a huge Tom Petty fan and it was so fun to see her experiencing “her baby,” as she once called him, live and in person. During “Learning to Fly”, he stopped and let the audience sing the chorus and it was so moving and fun to be in this massive crowd of people singing along, while a tiny Tom Petty so far away on the stage was conducting us all with his little arms and my mom was crying! That slidey guitar solo is really special too and it just socks me in the feels every time.

S: Ugh, saaaame! I also love a stadium show. Marcus had never been to one until we went to see U2 on their Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Tour and it was transcendent. Being a good stadium act is such a skill. Since he died, “Learning to Fly” has become such a melancholic touchstone song for me. I have such regrets that I only saw him when I was in high school, on the Full Moon Fever tour. It was great, but he did so much after that and I missed it.

Live footage from just inside the Pearly Gates.

K: Now that all of our musical heroes are dying, I like to think about comforting things, like Aretha Franklin and George Michael reuniting in the afterlife and immediately launching into “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”. Obviously, Prince and Tom Petty would recreate “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from when George Harrison got inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That clip went around a bunch when Prince died and so many people were like, “Oh, Tom Petty got smoked!” and yeah, he did, but he was happy about it and acknowledged all the time that Prince was The Best, so of course he smoked everyone!

S: That was just the Prince way. Show up, destroy, leave everyone thrilled. If you want to see the face of pure joy, rewatch it & keep your eyes on Dhani Harrison, who is just lit up with delight every second Prince is playing.

K: So, “Do You Wanna Funk?” (originally by Sylvester, currently only available on Spotify as a cover by Stallone, whoever they are) appears on this mix twice, bookending all the mini-families you’ve identified. I love it, but how did that happen?

S: I hate to pull the curtain this far back, but it’s actually a mistake. This entire mix started when I realized that “Do You Wanna Funk? was the musical grandparent of ZZ Top’s “Sharp-Dressed Man” and thought it would be fun to create a mix based on that premise, and things just went from there. But some licensing thing changed and the Sylvester version disappeared from Spotify and I thought I’d deleted it from the top of the mix, only to re-add it at the end when I found the Stallone version.

But since a serendipitous Spotify glitch left a ghost of it there for you to see, I’m going to put the Stallone version in at the top, too, because surprise, surprise, it leads in beautifully to New Order’s “Temptation”, too!  I really feel “Do You Wanna Funk?” is a musical grandparent of so much high-emotion dance music. I think so often, artists aren’t consciously aware of their influences. Can we chalk it up to the collective unconscious? Sometimes it’s obvious that they do know -- whoever wrote the keyboard wash at the beginning of “All That” clearly is trying to invoke the vibe of “Do Me, Baby”, and the overachieving trivia monster in me definitely included it as a clever asshole move. Anyway, you can totally enjoy the Carly Rae song on its own merits, but that keyboard wash is a wayfinding Easter egg for music nerds of a certain vintage. It signals that what you’re about to hear is a contemplative, seductive, electropop gem! Settle in for a journey!

S:Now, let me ask you about Gloria Estefan.

I love her, obviously, but I would have chosen the more obvious and well-known “Conga” if I were in your shoes. What’s the role of “1-2-3” in The Story of Karen?

K: My true love for Gloria started with endless dance routines in my childhood bedroom to “Bad Boys,” “The Rhythm Is Gonna Get Ya,” and my favorite: “1-2-3.” Also, have you watched the video for “1-2-3” lately? It features Gloria at perhaps her most beautiful, flirtatiously galloping around the stage in black leather chaps, glorious mane sailing behind her like the only flag I ever want to salute, a dancing horn section with absurdly enthusiastic saxophone player because literally every song in 1988 featured a saxophone solo, roughly 17 feathered mullets, a man playing a keytar while wearing a pair of suspenders backwards over his bare chest...endless gifts, really. Gloria sings the theme song to the One Day At a Time reboot and will be APPEARING ON SAID SHOW next season! The time is RIPE for this long-overdue New Estefan Era and I for one look forward to saluting her hair again at last.

S: Sorry, I’m never not going to be giggling about “17 feathered mullets”, I can picture them all so perfectly. Why were mullets and saxophones such A THING in the 80s? They’re such a classic pairing that they’re like...a semiotic lichen alerting viewers to some rebellious soulfulness about to be unleashed by a musician who is hypermasculine, yet wailing on a dorky, reed-based brass instrument.

K: Have you seen The Lost Boys?! Hold on, I’m going to send you a clip of the MOST egregious example of this puzzling trope.

S: I have not! Show me!

Truly, the saxiest of all appeals.

K: Feast your eyes and ears! I just found out his name is Timmy Cappello, because of course, and that he toured with TINA TURNER in the 80s and 90s! Tina knew.

S: Tina has always known. WOW. WOW WOW WHAT ON EARTH IS THIS?! It’s not just a mullet and a sax, but a mullet and a sax on a fellow who is...extremely well-oiled? And kind of rage-playing AT the assembled crowd? I didn’t realize there would be so much furious hip-thrusting! Do the vampire boys drain all his blood later? I really don’t know what I would have made of this if my parents had let me watch this movie in my teen years, this is bonkers.

K: It IS bonkers but I don’t remember thinking too much of it when I saw this movie as a kid. In fact, I relayed the plot within my 1988 diary, which I then published on the internet last year; no oiled, thrusting saxophonist mentions.

K: Relatedly, I'd really like to ask/talk about “I'm Too Sexy” and “Sexy And I Know It”. It struck me that “I'm Too Sexy” is from the point of view of a woman and Right Said Fred is sort of mocking that/playing with it in the video (they pose and take their shirts off, etc.) but “Sexy and I Know It” is from the point of view of a man. Is that progress? What are your thoughts on this evolution of "sexy" novelty dance hits?!

S: In my mind these Dancing While Laughing songs aren’t even two sides of the same coin, they’re a coin with the same face on both sides! Like, somehow they’re twins gestated 15-ish years apart? I just rewatched the video for “I’m Too Sexy” after not seeing it in years, and I wish I could remember what my high school self thought about it, because now all I can see is the queer male aesthetic & gaze. “Sexy and I Know It” is the product of a cheeky (literally & figuratively!) younger sibling who has very specifically rejected Fred’s swoleness as an aesthetic. I feel like Right Said Fred would be so disappointed in his baby brother: “do you even lift, bro?” he would very earnestly inquire. What unites them is their exuberance & positivity about, if not all bodies, certainly their own bodies, which, considering how narrowly masculinity is so often defined, is a little bit of progress. At the end of “Sexy and I Know It”, the intergenerational, interracial, and very diverse body types dance-off is a real celebration! Let’s be real, too -- I’ll always make room on a mixtape for a crowd-pleasing bop.

K: Hear, hear! Speaking of crowd-pleasing bops, please fill me in on the connection between “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Single Ladies”.

Wham!— Just a Motown girl group in Beach Boys drag.

S: Ok, so, like the Estefan-aissance we were just talking about, this is kind of the sonic opposite of all the crying on the dancefloor we’ve been wallowing in. The connection here is mostly about the twinship of the joyful “yes, this is my JAM! Let me hop up and dance with my girlfriends, whooooooo!”-type vibe both songs embody. It really should be a triplet -- I need to decide which Motown girl group single is the mother of “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” to make the lineage a bit clearer. Wham! were really a Motown girl group, weren’t they? The thing that was “innovative” about them was their long, feathered hair and neon short-shorts, but all of those British boy bands from the Beatles on were Motown fans.

K: Ok, I have a recommendation for the mother song: “Tell Him” by the Exciters.

S: Yes! Oh, my god, that’s perfect [adds song immediately]. Speaking of classics, I have to ask you about your Aretha selection, “Another Night”, which also strikes me as very much of a piece with our Dancing While Crying motif.

K: I can’t quite believe I’m going to say this but “Another Night” is probably my favorite Aretha song. I love 80s Aretha Franklin! Tween Karen loved the title track off her quintessential 80s album Who’s Zoomin’ Who?. It was on a tape that came free in a box of Life cereal called Life’s Greatest Hits that my family always listened to in the car, a completely random assortment of songs, which included “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?”, as well as “The Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart, which is also on my mix. This is how we learned about music pre-internet, I guess--free with purchase tapes from cereal boxes. ANYWAY, of course I was aware of Aretha’s earlier, more famous, and ok, better work, but there’s just something about the glamorous, knowing, kind of older vibe of Who’s Zoomin’ Who? as a whole that I really liked. At some point in my 20s I acquired the album on vinyl. “Another Night” was a single and I dimly remembered it, but once I owned it it really sucked me in; I probably listen to it about once a week to this day and played it NONSTOP for days when she died. It’s definitely in the dancing while crying vein. In fact, the plot of the video for “Another Night” is very close to the plot of “Dancing On My Own”; she’s performing in a nightclub, and her ex is in the audience with his new lady and she starts pointing at and singing directly to him. Please do note the way she sings “..and the people are LA-HA-HA-HAAAAAAAAPHIN’!” It’s the best. It all ends on a high note, though; by the end Aretha prevails and is entirely over his nonsense. She’s done dancing while crying and is just dancing.

S: Aretha, triumphant is the only correct way for that video to end.

K: Speaking of triumph, let’s get into your boys. This mix made me start to GET One Direction for the first time, so thank you for that! I was amazed at how smoothly and respectfully they incorporated so many classic styles into their catalog. I’ve always had a soft spot for “Baba O’Riley”--talk about dancing while crying, I will THROW DOWN to that song and then promptly burst into tears EVERY TIME I get to “let’s get together before we get much older.” When THE “Baba O’Riley” keys & guitar kicked off “Best Song Ever”, I got so psyched! My other favorite was “What A Feeling”, which literally sounds like every soft rock song ever...AND I LOVE IT!

Five young men celebrating their harvest of yet another Antique Female Heart.

S: It makes me so happy that you love it! Those are some golden Laurel Canyon-esque grooves & harmonies right there. One of the the things I think is so interesting about 1D’s last two albums, Four and Made in the A.M. (celebrating the third anniversary of its release this week) is that they’re classic rock albums. It’s them coming in to their own as music nerds and Trojan horsing Dad Rock into Boybandlandia. All of their songs are written by committee with their producers and studio musicians, and many of those guys are our contemporaries, so it makes perfect sense that the classic rock they grew up on— Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles— would turn up in 1D songs. The boys have long-term relationships with their production team, and there’s a level of trust that makes Harry Styles open to listening to Rhythm of the Saints and then embedding a little kernel of it in “Walking In The Wind”, which is this beautiful, soaring song about a friendship dying and maybe someone literally dying, and my God, it’s just drenched in saudade, which is the Brazilian Crying On the Dancefloor aesthetic. That’s my jam!

K: I didn’t expect them to have such range and seeing the way they collaborated with their producers is really the grand tradition of olds teaching youngs music. My friend Alli’s older brother Todd always had amazing musical taste and introduced her to Fuzagi, Dinosaur, Jr., Guided By Voices and on and on and on and she passed that along to me. There’s often an older mentor-type figure there passing along their knowledge and influence. I’m sure people have commented negatively about that kind of influence, but who comes out of the womb knowing Fleetwood Mac and Paul Simon? It takes time to absorb all that and figure out how to put your own spin on it. No music nerd is an island.

S: Exactly! Everyone needs a mentor. To bring it all home, I want to talk a little bit about the trio of songs that round out your mix, because I love the juxtapositions here. We’ve got the ultra high-speed thrash of Anthrax, followed by the stately romance of Ella Fitzgerald, and then a song by an artist I hadn’t heard of previously wrapping it all up with a song that sounds like something Ann Jillian’s character in It’s A Living would have loved.

Ella bringing it full circle with just plain crying while singing.

K: That Patsy Gallant song is the only one of hers I know, and I think I found it on some music blog in like 2003. That song is what I dreamed being an adult would be like when I was a kid: I’m a bicoastal star, in my life there’s no place for the man that I love because she’s living her life to sing and be free - it’s just the platonic ideal of what I thought it would be like. Or I’d be a glamorous cocktail waitress cracking wise with a bunch of other glamorous cocktail waitresses It’s A Living style, whatever.

K: My paternal grandparents had a few jazz records, including a weird bootleg version of what I’ve since learned is Ella and Louis Again, which I remember listening to at their place as a little girl, lying on their orange shag carpet and staring at the album cover. It now belongs to me and is the only record in my collection inherited from a grandparent, speaking of your musical grandbabies theme! ::pause for tearing up:: HOWEVER, I really got into Ella Fitzgerald because of a jazz show on the local college radio station that I listened to in high school, which was another way I learned a lot about music back in those pre-internet days. Bless college radio forever. My favorites were and are Ella, Sarah Vaughan, and Nina Simone, and Ella singing Gershwin songs is probably #1 on my desert island discs list. The way she sings “our romance won’t end on a sorrowful note” at the beginning of this song is just so beautiful.

K: Moving on from the sublime to...the also sublime, frankly! This version of “Bring The Noise” was probably my first introduction to Public Enemy AND speed metal, and it’s a song that was way ahead of its time. It was followed two years later by the infamous Judgement Night soundtrack and of course in the late 90s rap-rock really happened and was entirely inescapable. Run-DMC and Aerosmith were more famous for their “Walk This Way” collaboration and that’s generally credited as the first rap-rock song, but I think Anthrax’s cover of “Bring the Noise” is more in keeping with the overall spirit of rap-rock. Now that I’m saying this I’m wondering if the “Bring The Noise” duet is responsible for Limp Bizkit and I’m a little horrified. BUT, fun fact, Anthrax and Public Enemy went on to tour together and would perform this song at the end of the shows. CAN YOU IMAGINE?! It gives me such joy to think of Anthrax and Public Enemy fans attending a concert together. All dancing, no crying. I still have a lot of love for both metal and hip-hop and I think this song is the origin of that affection.

S: I really can’t think of a better note to wrap this up on. Thank you so much for indulging my whimsical idea and taking it both seriously & hilariously. I’m so glad we had this conversation! I love you! Let’s do this again next year!

K: I love you, too! Thanks for having me; I’m always beyond honored to be a Guest Dame!

S: <infinite string of heart-eyes emoji>

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