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Pop Playground
The Ask A Girl Mixtape Winners

a dah! Here they are - the winning Ask A Girl Valentine’s Day Love Mixes. See why it was so hard to decide on a winner? I’ll be publishing the mix that I made for the winner in next Friday’s Ask A Girl, so check it out, but right now I’d like to just tell you all how much I loved this competition. So much so that I might have to make it an annual event.

5) James Ziegenfus

Side A
Aqualung - "Strange and Beautiful"
Big Star - "Thirteen"
Air - "Playground Love"
T. Rex - "Jeepster"
Rocket From the Crypt - "Your Touch"
Depeche Mode - "Just Can't Get Enough"
Daft Punk - "Digital Love"
Roxy Music - "More Than This"
Catherine Wheel - "Backwards Guitar"
Madness - "It Must be Love"
Ken Boothe - "Everything I Own"

Side B
Josh Rouse - "Comeback (Light Therapy)"
Wilco - "I'm the Man Who Loves You"
Spoon - "Paper Tiger"
The Vaselines - "Son of a Gun"
Super Furry Animals - "Touch Sensitive"
Pulp - "Birds in Your Garden"
Stone Roses - "Ten Storey Love Song"
Nick Drake - "Northern Sky"
Beach Boys - "Wouldn't It Be Nice"
Old 97s - "Question"
Nick Cave - "Into My Arms"

While compiling songs for this mix, I realized that some weren't even about love. With that new knowledge, I listened closer and noticed the varying themes abound. So with this, I tried to tell a story through the songs. And I'm sorry, but I do not make CDs - just tapes. Enjoy.

Side A

Aqualung - "Strange and Beautiful" This is a great song about a crush. The protagonist hasn't quite gathered the nerve to talk to her yet, but he's certainly done a lot of thinking on it. I always got the feeling that the main character here was a Dungeons & Dragons fan, especially with so much talk about spells.

Big Star - "Thirteen" This is a brilliant pop song about adolescence's innocence in love. I thought the lyrics were ridiculously simple the first time I heard it - "Won't you let me walk you home from school? / Won't you let me meet you at the pool? / Maybe Friday I can get tickets for the dance / And I'll take you." But then I realized it was from the perspective of a 13-year old boy and it's perfect. That first verse is where our man finally talks to her, then he asks what she thinks of him - "Would you be an outlaw for my love? / If it's so, well, let me know / If it's no, well, I can go / I won't make you." It's really precious.

Air - "Playground Love" I noticed that a friend of mine was teary-eyed while watching "The Virgin Suicides" and I asked what was wrong. She looked at me as if to ask, "Aren't you listening to this?!" She had the soundtrack the next day. This song spectacularly bridges the innocence of playgrounds and young love.

T. Rex - "Jeepster" Boys love girls and cars. I guess that sums up this song.

Rocket From the Crypt - "Your Touch" I once told a girlfriend "I could hold you at arm's length and complain about the distance." She was a bit stunned and asked if I'd just made that up. I said it was from a song I'd been listening to earlier in the day. She smiled and said it was very sweet. A few months later, we'd broken up. I now equate this song more to lust than love, but it's still refreshing.

Depeche Mode - "Just Can't Get Enough" This song reminds me of dancing on summer nights and being surrounded by gorgeous girls. I could be wrong, but I've always felt like it was about one person being way more in love than the other in a relationship. They can't stand a minute without that other person. Even if I sometimes think of it more as infatuation than love, it fits nicely in this spot.

Daft Punk - "Digital Love" Now he's dreaming about her and he just can't get her out of his mind. Everything's going great until the dream suddenly ends - "Before I knew it this dream was all gone."

Roxy Music - "More Than This" I honestly have no idea what Bryan Ferry is saying here. I'd like to think it's very positive, but lyrics like "There was no way of knowing, like dream in the night / Who can say where we´re going?" make me question how positive it really is. I guess the best bet is that this song is about one moment and where we go from there isn't up to us.

Catherine Wheel - "Backwards Guitar" When I was in college, I took a long drive at night with a girl I had a crush on. We flew down the highway with the windows open and the air whistling past us. It's still one of my favorite drives and it's what I think of whenever I hear this - "I'm riding in your car / A hundred miles an hour / Grin from ear to ear / I'm feeling happy here." When she went home for the night, I wasn't sure where we stood though, which leads to a repeated line in the song - "And I wonder if you feel desire." While it's not a typical love song, I have a strong connection to it.

Madness - "It Must be Love" The boy realizes that he actually is in love with her - that it's not just lust - "As soon as I wake up / Every night, every day / I know that it's you I need / To take the blues away." I'd usually not include covers in a mix like this, but Madness slays this.

Ken Boothe - "Everything I Own" This is really where the madness of not being able to be with someone sets in - "I would give anything I own / Just to have you back again / Just to talk to you, words again / Just to hold you, once again." This is a prime reason why I love Ken Boothe. He nails it; I cannot fathom it being done better. (I cannot believe that Bread did it originally.)

Side B

Josh Rouse - "Comeback (Light Therapy)" This is actually about being on tour in Norway during the winter when the sun is rather absent, but it also works here with "I've been waiting for the longest time / I want you to come back / Maybe if the sun would shine / It would bring my happy back." So even if it's about the sun, it's a great song about wishing that someone (or something) will return because they're so vital. As the first song on the B-side, it begins a new chapter where the boy really figures out what he wants from her.

Wilco - "I'm the Man Who Loves You" I like this song because it's encouraging. There's a lot of confidence in it - "But if I could you know I would / Just hold your hand and you'd understand." He's letting her know he's always going to be there.

Spoon - "Paper Tiger" There's no pressure here. Like in a few other songs, the lyrics give the object of affection the chance to make a decision. They're saying it's okay either way, but they also reinforce that they can be trusted.

The Vaselines - "Son of a Gun" I used to always get caught in rainstorms with an old friend, so whenever I hear lyrics comparing rain to absence or depression, I smile because some of our favorite moments were in the rain. The only appropriate lyrics here are some of my favorite on this mix - "The sun shines in the bedroom when you play / And the raining always starts when you go away." Even if it doesn't make sense for her, it makes sense for many of the other girls I've known. I still think of her when I hear this song though.

Super Furry Animals - "Touch Sensitive" I like to drop instrumentals into every mix at seemingly appropriate times. And this just seemed to be the perfect place. The erotic video is kinda why I threw it on. Even though it's very sexual, it's also rather nice and calm.

Pulp - "Birds in Your Garden" There aren't too many Pulp songs that I'd put on a love songs mix. Most just don't fit in, but this does. It just screams of a good morning waking up next to the one you love. It's rather sweet. Well, at least it's sweeter than the typical Pulp song.

The Stone Roses - "Ten Storey Love Song" "Who can take you any higher than twin peak mountain blue?" I really like this chorus. There's just something about the song that feels very real.

Nick Drake - "Northern Sky" I guess this is the obvious pick. It never did much for me until it hit me like a hammer one day. I was just like, "Oh my, this is gorgeous." I don't know what else to say about it.

The Beach Boys - "Wouldn't It Be Nice" Here's another great pop song that would make an ideal soundtrack for a day out with your partner. I've never not smiled while listening to it. It's fantastic. Beulah - "If We Can Land a Man on the Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart" I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to throw this on the mix just because of the title. I'm always a little sceptical of songs with great titles because I want the actual song to be good too. It's really upbeat and hopeful though, and it fits in nicely after the Beach Boys.

Old 97s - "Question" The girl wakes up with a headache, they take a walk, he pops the question ("Some day somebody's gonna ask you / A question that you should say yes to / Once in your life / Maybe tonight I've got a question for you"), she cries, and they take a long walk home. I like the simplicity of this - just Rhett and his guitar. It's brilliant.

Nick Cave - "Into My Arms" To end this tape, I've picked one of my favorite Nick Cave songs. I didn't want this to end on an ambiguous note at all. He questions his faith, but reaffirms his love throughout ("And I don't believe in the existence of angels / But looking at you I wonder if that's true"). Every aspect of it is ace.

4) Andrew Unterberger

[To note: Andrew didn’t need comments due to the way this is laid out. It’s obvious why the songs were chosen]

Part 1, Pursuance (Disc 1)

01. "Happy Valentine's Day"-OutKast
02. "Pillow"-Capitol K
03. "She is Beyond Good and Evil"-The Pop Group
04. "Only You"-Portishead
05. "Another Girl, Another Planet"-The Only Ones
06. "Along Comes Mary"-The Association
07. "Computer Love"-Kraftwerk
08. "Nothing Can Stop Us"-St. Etienne
09. "She is Beautiful"-Andrew W.K.
10. "A Girl Like You"-Edwyn Collins
11. "Josie"-Blink 182
12. "So Alive"-Love and Rockets

Disc 2:

01. "Such Great Heights"-The Postal Service
02. "Crazy in Love"-Beyoncé f/ Jay-Z
03. "Be My Baby"-The Ronettes
04. "Teenage Kicks"-The Undertones
05. "Genius of Love"-Tom Tom Club
06. "Alison"-Slowdive
07. "Are You Gonna Be My Girl?"-Jet
08. "Head On"-The Jesus and Mary Chain
09. "A Love From Outer Space"-A.R. Kane
10. "#1 Crush"-Garbage
11. "Ginger"-Lilys

Part 2, Acknowledgement (Disc 1):

01. "The Mess Inside"-The Mountain Goats
02. "She's Gone"-Hall & Oats
03. "I'm Still in Love With You"-Sean Paul f/ Sasha
04. "Falling and Laughing"-Orange Juice
05. "Good Woman"-Cat Power
06. "She Sends Kisses"-The Wrens
07. "Dalliance"-The Wedding Present
08. "Do You Love Me Now?"-The Breeders
09. "Pale Blue Eyes"-The Velvet Underground
10. "Damaged Goods"-Gang of Four
11. "Apistat Commander"-Xiu Xiu
12. "Stay"-Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories

Disc 2:

01. "The Last Time I Saw Richard"-Joni Mitchell
02. "Don't You Want Me"-Human League
03. "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need to Get By"-Method Man f/ Mary J. Blige
04. "R U Still In 2 It?"-Mogwai
05. "Good Luck"-Basement Jaxx
06. "Hold Me Now"-The Thompson Twins
07. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"-Cowboy Junkies
08. "Nothing in This World Can Stop Me Worrying 'Bout That Girl"-The Kinks
09. "Hammer"-Kitchens of Distinction
10. "Broken Heart"-Spiritualized
11. "Starry Eyes"-The Records

Part 3, Resolution (Disc 1):

01. "I Believe in a Thing Called Love"-The Darkness
02. "Waiting for Somebody"-Paul Westerberg
03. "Angel of Mine"-Monica
04. "Hey Jealousy"-Gin Blossoms
05. "Fade Into You"-Mazzy Star
06. "Real Love"-Mary J. Blige
07. "Loveblind"-Secret Shine
08. "I'm Not in Love"-10cc
09. "Love is the Drug"-Roxy Music
10. "The Mayor of Simpleton"-XTC
11. "Lovers' Spit"-Broken Social Scene
12. "I Luv U (Sharky Remix f/ Wiley and Major)"-Dizzee Rascal

Disc 2:

01. "Here Comes the Night"-Destroyer
02. "Savory"-Jawbox
03. "Kiss"-Prince
04. "The Moon (Song Islands Version)"-The Mircophones
05. "Tenderness"-General Public
06. "Your Life on Magnetic Tape"-Russian Futurists
07. "Vapour Trail"-Ride
08. "Wonderful World"-Sam Cooke
09. "Maps"-Yeah Yeah Yeahs
10. "Step in the Name of Love (Remix)"-R. Kelly
11. "Name"-Goo Goo Dolls

3) Jim Hart’s Mix

Cinerama – “Love”
Luna – “Lovedust”
The Dream Syndicate – “When You Smile”
Doleful Lions – “The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here!”
Tiger Trap – “Puzzle Pieces”
David Bowie – “‘Heroes’”
The Zombies – “Friends of Mine”
The Modern Lovers – “Girlfriend”
Sebadoh – “Brand New Love”
Wilco – “I’m Always in Love”
Big Star – “I’m in Love with a Girl”
Roxy Music – “Avalon”
New Order – “Bizarre Love Triangle”
The Pixies – “La La Love You”

There’s too many love songs out there to begin making a comp without some kind of rationale, so like was my dissertation or something I feel the need to include a “methodology section.” Here’s a little bit about my selection criteria and how I made the project manageable, cohesive, and somewhat “complete”.

First of all, I only selected songs from my collection, ones I could immediately place onto a provisional mix and test out. There are a lot of great love songs out there, and no once can own them all. If I were to allow iTunes downloads or something to compile this mix, it would very quickly become some kind of attempt at an objective “best” love songs ever mix, as opposed to one that is relatively personalized to my tastes.

Secondly, I didn’t want to dip too heavily into the dark side of love songs – lost love, heartbreak, all that. Instead I wanted an impressionistic view of feelings that love provides when it’s going well or when it’s idealized. A down side is hinted at, but never fully explored here – a Valentines Day mix should look at love at it’s brightest and purest, and neither be dark or overtly sexualised.

This is also all highly impressionistic – based on evoked ideas and likely frequent misreading of songs (in at least one case a deliberate misreading of a song…)

Cinerama, “Love”: Open with over-the-top synth and the first part of the song sung in French, and you can already feel the romance dripping from this track. A duet with David Gedge and Sally Murrell, the two trade adoring compliments of one another and proclamations of permanence until they blur into one another and their individual identities are lost – at the point when then harmonize “Please, just believe me, when I say ‘Don't ever leave me,’” it is clear that they’ve fully merged from two individuals into one collective. In fact, that each singer has his/her own part is inconsequential – there’s no reason Gedge couldn’t be singing Murrell’s or vice-versa. (4:05)

Luna, “Lovedust”: I’ll follow romantic with romantic, and this is Luna at its lushest and dreamiest. It’s dimly lit, tropical, and breezy, and like the “lovedust” that’s got Dean Wareham seeing all those stars, a little bit euphoric. (4:00)

The Dream Syndicate, “When You Smile” (The Days of Wine and Roses version): There’s a need to punctuate two songs of drippy romance with something kind of dense and slightly more complicated. The quiet screech of feedback that opens the song makes you slightly unsettled, and that feeling remains throughout the song – it’s the confusion that love brings. Steve Wynn wants to see that smile that’s so important to him, but it leaves him totally undone. He ends with “it seems like the end of the world when you smile.” Is that good or not? (4:15)

Doleful Lions, “The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here!”: This is kind of a dark horse candidate for a love-song comp, sure. I mean, a lot of love songs end badly, but few end this badly. It’s the “end of the world” that Wynn looked to in the last song, and to backdrop of the apocalypse, Jonathan Scott proclaims love to the capital “E” end. Love may not triumph over anything here, but at least it outlasts just about everything else, except perhaps horror movie clichés. (4:17)

Tiger Trap, “Puzzle Pieces”: While we’re on the subject of everlasting love, how can you not be touched by the sweetness of the lyric “you and me /are just like puzzle pieces / till the end of time”? Plus after four well-paced songs, we need some pep. Love ain’t all slow dances and warm evenings, though there’s plenty of that here. (2:30)

David Bowie, “‘Heroes’”: I hope I can be forgiven by putting one of Bowie’s masterpieces right after a fun, if inconsequential, twee-pop track. But it fits the vibe. And we’re still on the subject of loves that last, that aren’t stopped by tragedy or geo-political systems. Its love that trumps what we usually think is important; it’s love that makes you think that nothing else even exists, at least for a few moments, and it’s the kind of love that reminds other people why love is around in the first place. (6:10)

The Zombies, “Friends of Mine”: It’s that kind of expansive love that is testified to “Friends of Mine,” which isn’t a love song per se, but a song about love, and that’s enough. The key to “‘Heroes’” was that love didn’t have to be just about the lovers themselves, though they were all that mattered to each other. Here that’s somewhat inverted, and there’s a whole nexus of friends who are all in love (and so perkily named), so it doesn’t matter if Colin Blunstone is himself single, because there’s proof all around him that love works. (2:17)

The Modern Lovers, “Girlfriend”: Of course, “Friends of Mine” is ultimately a crock, but we’re staying positive on this disc, so I’m not going to go into that. I’ll just let Jonathan Richman remind the listener that, sure, love abstracted from your direct feelings is all well and good, but, hey, what would be best is actually feeling it. There’s understanding, companionship, and apparently a loss of spelling ability. It may be almost childish in its naiveté, but at the same time, kinda sweet, and leaves you feeling good. (3:54)

Sebadoh, “Brand New Love” (Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock version): The simplicity of the last few tracks, though, demands some complication, whether it is feedback-laden lo-fi production or a lyrical confusion about the actual possibility of love. It’s never clear what Lou Barlow thinks here – he wants to be incredibly positive, but doesn’t forget that “any hope for love can be killed.” However, the song is entirely about the openness of possibility, and Barlow wrestles with the tension at the end of the song as the music unravels and screeches to a halt. It’s a complicated view of love, but by no means a negative one. (4:03)

Wilco, “I’m Always in Love”: I could swear the note that Sebadoh’s track screeched out on is the same note that opens this track. It makes a good segue, at least. Here’s another complicated view of love, one that highlights the mixed feelings that it can evoke. The elation that the song begins with (“I’m bragging / I’m always in love”) abruptly changes at the height of the song to, what, trepidation? Caution? Anxiety? (“I’m worried / I’m always in love”). It’s our ability to hold two conflicting notions in our heads at once, and it’s the absolute surety that any feelings of love are going to evoke both joy and fear, along with a whole host of other messy feelings. (3:41)

Big Star, “I’m in Love with a Girl”: How could this track not go on a long-song comp? In less than two minutes, Alex Chilton evokes every daydreamy love we’ve ever had, from the moment at which we realized we were capable of love. Each and every time it feels like nothing else before, and we’re always caught off guard. It is such a simple song that you almost feel it couldn’t have been written; the song has to have existed as long as love itself has. (1:48)

Roxy Music, “Avalon”: If love doesn’t always make us wax euphoric as it does Chilton, how about it bringing us into a dreamy state imagining resting with our love in some kind of paradise. Shot in soft focus and featuring a great climactic dance scene, Bryan Ferry evokes intimacy and romance while everything else melts away. It’s got to be what the lovers in “‘Heroes’” were listening to while everyone else around them was avoiding the guards at the wall. (4:17)

New Order, “Bizarre Love Triangle”: The transition from “Avalon” to this track is the ultimate rack focus – the slow fuzzy feeling of Ferry’s romance is immediately crystallized by the rapid-fire beat that opens New Order’s tale of love and anxiety. The pull from Roxy Music’s dream-state to reality makes the song that much more unsettling, and heightens the tension of the song. It’s not a hopeless tension though – notices the tranquility of the outro. It almost wants to lead directly back into “Avalon” to create a loop of fear and trust, more of those emotional inconsistencies that love gives us. (3:51)

The Pixies, “La La Love You”: Of course, I won’t let the song lead back to ‘Avalon’, but to the decidedly odd paradise of a Pixies song. And, I admit straight up I’m intentionally ignoring the irony in the song. Because if you read the song straight, from first wolf-whistle to the last “pretty baby,” feeling Kim Deal’s vaguely sensual bass along the way, you’ve just got love sitting out there in front of you. It’s easy – no tensions or complications – and it even seems like a lot of fun. (2:43)

2) Jeff West

Lois - "Valentine" (2:22)
Swingin' Medallions - "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" (2:18)
The Rutles - "With A Girl Like You" (1:53)
Big Star - "Kangaroo" (3:46)
Al Green - "Simply Beautiful" (4:09)
James Carr - "You've Got My Mind Messed Up" (2:27)
James Brown - "I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me), Pt. 1" (3:29)
Prince - "Delirious" (4:00)
Sisters Love - "Give Me Your Love (Danny Krivit Edit)" (8:05)
My Bloody Valentine - "Soon" (6:58)
Marine Girls - "Fever" (2:14)
Julie London - "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" (2:15)
Otis Redding - "I've Been Loving You Too Long" (3:15)
Sam Cooke - "Bring It On Home To Me (live @ Harlem Sq Club)" (5:42)
Gino Washington - "Baby Be Mine" (1:55)
The Replacements - "Kiss Me On The Bus" (2:48)
The Blasters - "I'm Shakin'" (2:22)
Pere Ubu - "Heaven" (3:04)
John Prine & Iris DeMent - "In Spite Of Ourselves" (3:33)
Velvet Underground - "I'm Sticking With You" (2:28)
The Shaggs - "I'm So Happy When You're Near" (2:12)
Daniel Johnston - "True Love Will Find You In The End" (1:51)

Lois - "Valentine" (2:22) A pretty clear statement of intent. Why waste any time dancing around the topic? Definitely on the cutesy side, where I don't want to hover for too long for fear of being confused as emo, but also shows I am not afraid to be a girl, which I am not and which is apparently something chicks dig.

Swingin' Medallions - "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" (2:18)

The Rutles - "With A Girl Like You" (1:53) These two keep the sentiment schmaltzy, but definitely up the energy. I mean, with the Swingin' Medallions you've got the whole freakin' band singing to you in unison.

Big Star - "Kangaroo" (3:46) Situated here as sort of bridge - I mean, Alex Chilton always wished he were a soul singer. I always think the noisy, somewhat falling apart arrangement could be disastrous to the wrong girl... but it's a chance we'll have to take.

Al Green - "Simply Beautiful" (4:09) Any valentine mix that doesn't include some semblance of Al + Otis should be immediately junked, in my opinion. Anyway, my favorite Al Green song, and this is the mix's early stealth track. I also love the way this sounds after the more unstructured Big Star track, sort of grabs your attention the way it should. Boom. Chik. Ba boom chik ta chik. Boom chik. Badunkadunk. Moods have obviously changed.

James Carr - "You've Got My Mind Messed Up" (2:27)

James Brown - "I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me), Pt. 1" (3:29)

Prince - "Delirious" (4:00) So, this sequence is a building intensity of hot & bothered-ness spring boarding from Al. Sort of like: be gone with this K records crap! You messed up my mind and I can't stand it. I'm gettin' delirious, just...

Sisters Love - "Give Me Your Love (Danny Krivit Edit)" (8:05)

My Bloody Valentine - "Soon" (6:58) ...give me your love!! The hot + heavy section. First up a disco-y rework of the Curtis Mayfield song. This song is so smokin'. The slow, restrained beat. The killer extended breaks. The surprisingly un-embarassing moans & murmurs of the Sister Love...which blurs it's way into MBV. Hott. Obviously some homework was done on the selection of this track, but any valentine mix without a little investigative content isn't a worthy contender.

Marine Girls - "Fever" (2:14)

Julie London - "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" (2:15) Steamy & sultry seemed the only way to go after "Soon". I'm always a sucker for any version of "Fever", but the Marine Girls sounded good next to MBV. Julie is so coy it hurts.

Otis Redding - "I've Been Loving You Too Long" (3:15) It's, y'know, Otis.

Sam Cooke - "Bring It On Home To Me (live @ Harlem Sq Club)" (5:42)

Gino Washington - "Baby Be Mine" (1:55) These two are basically to build the tempo back up for the end run. This version of “Bring It On Home To Me” is by far my favorite....that long build-up intro w/Sam just pleading into the mic. And the way the band just slides into the song instead of exploding into it is just killer. Gino Washington has got a voice like Wilson Pickett and the frenzy of Chuck Berry, an obvious bridge to...

The Replacements - "Kiss Me On The Bus" (2:48)

The Blasters - "I'm Shakin'" (2:22) Basically, we're quickly back to another fevered pitch: a rock n' roll plea for some PDA and breakin' out in nervous cold sweats. And, hey, two Little Willie John covers on one mix now.

Pere Ubu - "Heaven" (3:04) I've never been convinced this is an actual love song - probably about a nuclear winter or something, but since it sounds so good, I will gullibly believe it. This sets the stage for the sugary end...

John Prine & Iris DeMent - "In Spite Of Ourselves" (3:33)

Velvet Underground - "I'm Sticking With You" (2:28)

The Shaggs - "I'm So Happy When You're Near" (2:12)

Daniel Johnston - "True Love Will Find You In The End" (1:51)

Since this is a mix that will most likely be listened to outside of your presence, I don't think it's ever a good idea to end on hot & heavier moments. For me, sugary, sappy songs always leave a smile on the face and wanting to hit "play" again, as opposed to wanting to jump the person on the train next to me. So, here are some silly little love songs to bring things home. Iris & John are pretty dang cute, and the song even has a verse about "sniffing undies". Plus, we get to include the cred-worthy VU (while not really have to deal with Lou and his baggage) *and* The Shaggs and not come off like a pretentious snob. Daniel is the perfect end, and segues well with Lois on the repeat. Multi-functional!!

1) T. Christian Hutton

[To note: My winner’s commentary has been edited down for personal reasons]

Side 1:

The Damned – “Love Song”
Orange Juice – “Lovesick”
Teenage Fanclub – “Norman 3”
Blossom Dearie – “Like Someone In Love”
The Who – “Dogs”
The Pretenders – “Message Of Love”
Dusty Springfield – “The Look Of Love”
The Blow Monkeys – “Aeroplane City Lovesong”

Side 2:

Biff Bang Pow! – “Love's Going Out Of Fashion”
Billy Bragg – “Walk Away Renee”
The Turtles – “Too Young To Be One”
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – “The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage”
Otis Redding – “That's How Strong My Love Is”
Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris – “Love Hurts” (live)
Gang Of Four – “Anthrax”
Al Green – “I'm Still In Love With You”
Herb Alpert – “This Guy's In Love With You”
Mrs. Miller – “My Love” (excerpt)

Side 1:

The Damned – “Love Song” I just thought this was a perfect opener, and I love the Damned and I don’t care what anyone says, they piss all over the Sex Pistols and even a lot of early Clash stuff (yes, really), at least on the first three albums. And this is just the ultimate dumb-ass punk rock love song. Plus, a nice chap greeting you at the beginning of the tape, and the sentiment that it’s “just for you.” I thought that worked rather nicely.

Orange Juice – “Lovesick” Because what would a love tape be without Orange Juice? This song just sort of perfectly illustrates that confused, fucked up feeling you get when you first fall in love.

Teenage Fanclub – “Norman 3” I think this song is just this totally simple expression of love and it just goes on and on and is just so bloody basic that it really says it all, you know? I mean, “Hey, I’m in love with you,” and when you feel that way, it’s like you wish there were more words to describe how you feel and the greatness of it all and there just aren’t, they don’t exist.

Blossom Dearie – “Like Someone In Love” This is far and away my absolute favorite “standard” there is, and Blossom Dearie is my favorite singer by far as well. She’s a fucking proper musician (she plays her own piano on all of her records) and she founded her own label in the mid-70s (huh? That’s fucking AMAZING!) And her voice just has that most exquisite quality to it – it sounds like she is your lover, whispering in your ear. She’s just so REAL, you know? The sentiment of the song, that whole dreaminess of not knowing and caring what day it is because you just have that one thing on your mind.

The Who – “Dogs” This song, believe it or not, was the Who’s non-LP single that they released between The Who Sell Out (which was brilliant but sold disappointingly) and Tommy (which was disappointing and sold brilliantly). As such, “Dogs” is sort of an oddball, a Who single that most Who fans (American ones certainly) have never heard and likely don’t even know exists. And as far as near-career enders go, this is a pretty good and fucking strange one. Hell, Blur saw fit to rip off the entire concept for Parklife, and no one even blinked. I think it is a fascinating, brave sort of a tune myself (a chart single about going to the dog track and a chorus that says, “There was nothing in my life bigger than beer”? Come on, you have to love it!) and it’s ostensibly about dogs as well, so that rates in my book. To me anyway, it’s about finding love even when you aren’t expecting it, in the least likely places. Even the dog track.

The Pretenders – “Message Of Love” I don’t particularly care for any Pretenders material beyond the original line-up, and this has always been my favorite song of theirs. It’s got this fantastic attitude to it, you know? It’s very positive and uplifting without being cheesy, and it mentions Brigitte Bardot for fuck’s sake. Plus, it rocks like hell and sounds great in headphones. What’s not to love here? The coda at the end when the guitars all flood the mix and the “oooooooooh” backing vocals start to soar in earnest (and the shot of the four of them in the studio around the big old microphone recording them in the video for this song is one of the indelible images of my youth, a cherished image to me for some reason), and of course Chrissie whispering, “Talk to me, darling” – it is utterly perfect—I wish it could go on forever, just those last 30 seconds. Everything, from the picture sleeve of the single on down to the count-in and the whole rest of it is just magic. They never did better.

Dusty Springfield – “The Look Of Love” Well, I just had to, didn’t I? And it fits like a glove as well. Oh, Dusty. Sigh. . .

The Blow Monkeys – “Aeroplane City Lovesong” Don’t know if you have ever listened much to the Blow Monkeys, but the album this comes from (Animal Magic) is one of my favorite obscurities of the era, and this tune closes the first side of that, and hence it’s position here. The horn riff is awesome. He is calling for his lover to run away with him, to choose him over everything and anything else and he’ll do the same and they’ll fly away and be together forever.

Side 2:

Biff Bang Pow! – “Love's Going Out Of Fashion” Anyway, this is by far my favorite Biff Bang Pow! track, as it is bittersweet in all the right ways and just so totally accurate. “Is it over or are we just testing each other now?” “When she looks at other men, she breaks my heart” “Is this what love is, nothing but humiliation?” God, how utterly brilliant. Not exactly typically Valentine’s material, but love isn’t always hearts and flowers, is it? Sort of a theme song for this side of the tape, actually.

Billy Bragg – “Walk Away Renee” The moral of this story is that love is a fleeting thing, subject to fickle whims and the like—though likely the point here is that he only thought he was in love with her, and he discovered later it was something else entirely. Either that or don’t cut your hair, I can’t decide. Anyway, I have always loved this melody; I think its pretty fucking great. Plus Johnny Marr plays guitar on it.

The Turtles – “Too Young To Be One” On the surface, it’s a swooning teenage 60s pop tune about the girl stuck in my mind and all that, but then it suddenly heads straight for the ditch. “We’ve let it go too far” is not exactly happy sunny flower power love sentiment, you know? I just love the fact that this totally gorgeous record is essentially about the guy realizing that the pair of them are too young to full commit to each other properly and that the best thing to do is to just stay single—I find that to be a remarkably mature statement for the time frame. Love typically doesn’t last forever, but it usually does in 60s pop songs, and this one stands out to me for its boldness, as well as for the gorgeous song writing.

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – “The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage” Oh, this is just heartbreaking, and any story of love typically involves deception of some sort, and so must this Topical Tape. Poor Smokey got burned here, but the silky smooth nature of it all makes it go down like the proverbial spoonful of sugar. Unrequited love sucks a whole lot.

Otis Redding – “That's How Strong My Love Is” A sublime expression of strength by the strongest one there is, and a devastating one at that. How could any woman doubt Otis after a spiel like this?

Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris – “Love Hurts” (live) God, this song just makes me well up every time, you know, especially this version, which has an extra verse at the end that’s not on the studio recording. I think I usually start to get the lump in my throat around the line “Love is like a stove/it burns you when it’s hot” and I’m usually fighting them back in earnest when the finally let rip with the whole “Some fools fool themselves, I guess/But they’re not fooling me/I know it isn’t true, know it isn’t true/Love is just a lie, made to make you blue.” God, that is some heavy, depressing shit. Sure, love hurts, but it can also be the greatest thing in the world if you let it, and if you want to hit the highest peaks, you’ve got to be prepared to fall, no matter what. You just have to trust in it to take you where you should be. You can’t fight love, though you can curse its name.

Gang Of Four – “Anthrax” A more aggressive cautionary tale, but no less effective for it. Here, the hatred of love is expressed on every conceivable level of the song – the sung lyrics, the spoken passages about why Gang Of Four don’t do love songs, and the music, which is about as far from “love song”- like as you can get. Brilliant. Some days, I do feel like a beetle on its back.

Al Green – “I'm Still In Love With You” Because even after all the trauma and drama, that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. Coming back to the center and knowing that it is all worth it, despite the drama can be the most comforting thing in the world sometimes.

Herb Alpert – “This Guy's In Love With You” OK, this is my favourite Bacharach tune. It’s just such a great soaring sound, and Herb really expresses those vocals. The lyrics are just magic in their conversational simplicity (“You see this guy…”), a bold expression of a love that can no longer contain itself and is looking hopefully, optimistically, and perhaps foolishly for it to be returned (if not, he’ll just die, after all.) But still, he has to scream it from the mountaintops, to the oceans and back, come what may because it may just be his last chance.

Mrs. Miller – “My Love” (excerpt) It ends early on purpose. Love is about accepting a person, flaws and all, and I think Mrs. Miller illustrates that concept better than I could ever hope to.

By: Lisa Oliver

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