Listening for Mr. Goodbar

Let's say you're single, and you meet someone interesting and attractive--maybe at a party or on the job, wherever. You have a nice conversation and seem to have common tastes, so you think you'd like to know this person better. But you've had your share of clumsy first dates so you don't ask that person out right away. Instead, you go home and make a tape for them. Since music was a topic that came up when you first met, the other person is probably home making a tape for you, too. You two could end up clicking together like the "play" and "record" buttons.

Welcome to the '90s, where mixed tapes are almost as popular as mixed drinks when it comes to wooing a prospective mate. Programmable CDs have made it exceedingly easy to craft cassettes, and what could be a better calling card than 90 minutes of your heart and soul via your favorite music.

Ideally, the so-called "date tape" contains the 20 or so songs that mean the most to you, thus telling the other person what moves you. But sometimes you don't want to scare them away or come off as a little too strange, so you might put a little more calculation into this tape than if you were just making it for a road trip with your pals.

Just as you may be hesitant to be completely honest in initial conversations, there can be a tendency to choose material that you think the other person would like. If you meet someone at an Irish folk festival, for instance, you might segue a little Clancy Brothers action in between the token rap track and "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

If you meet the person at a certain type of concert--be it punk, country, reggae, or R&B--you'll be sure to stack the tracks in that direction. Meanwhile, it may be your favorite song of all time, but unless you look like Billy Dee Williams and don't have a history of beating up your girlfriends, you'd better not include "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot.

"Unsatisfied" by the Replacements is a sure winner, as it says you like the rock but have a soft side because you're hurt and confused; "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart will get you nothing except unreturned phone calls, even from broke hookers.

Basically, your tape is supposed to tell a near stranger that you're a really cool person, so here are the songs from my sample date tape and what they say about me:

"MUSIC FROM MICHAEL (I met you at Chuck E. Cheese, when we got your pizza by mistake) 445-3607"

1. "Over You" by Roxy Music. I'm romantic and dreamy.

2. "Polk Salad Annie" by Tony Joe White. I'm unpredictable and funky.

3. "CBGB's" by Syd Straw (not yet released). I have connections, and I try to stay

ahead of the pack.

4. "Family Affair" by Sly and the Family Stone. I'm not Wonder bread. I can get down with some cool, old-school jams, know'm'sayin'?

5. "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club. I'm unchallenged by alternative sexuality. (Remind self to pack condoms.)

6. "John Cage Bubblegum" by Stereolab. I can be artsy, just so long as I can hum along.

7. "My Favorite Things" by John Coltrane. I'm cultured. (Hope she doesn't notice that I faded out the track early because, to tell you the truth, it sounded like this guy was just making it up as he went along.)

8. "Let's Pretend We're Married" by Prince. I don't let principles get in the way of a good imagination.

9. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana (rare bootleg version with vocals by Dave Grohl). I have money.

10. "Hell Ain't a Bad Place To Be" by AC/DC. I'm not an intellectual snob. (You'll notice I didn't choose "Whole Lotta Rosie," my favorite AC/DC song. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from songs about sex with fat girls.)

11. "Some Might Say" by Oasis. I love great pop music, even if it's made for 16-year-olds. I'm so secure about my age. In fact, I can name 17 daily pop-music critics that are older than I am.

12. "That's All Right" by Arthur "Big Boy" Cruddup. I'm not swayed by the glitz of pop culture. I give credit to the originator.

13. "Blue Moon of Kentucky" by Elvis Presley. But I'm not some knee-jerk traditionalist who always likes the old, crusty version. There's nothing automatically wrong with progress: Delivery counts for something, too.

14. "Highway Patrolman" by Bruce Springsteen. I'm deep.

15. "That Old Black Magic" by Louis Prima and Keely Smith. But I'm also fun. ("Bloodshot Eyes" by Wynonie Harris can be substituted.)

16. "Don't Believe the Hype" by Public Enemy. Fear of a black planet? Not me.

17. "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. I'm not some sort of egomaniac. Not every song has to make a statement about me. This is just a cool song. And you've gotta remind me to tell you what John Fogerty once told me about how he wrote it.

18. "ABC" by the Jackson 5. Here it is, folks, the greatest single of all time, and I'll stand on my date's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say it. You've gotta love a guy who knows what he likes.

19. "Lucky Guy" by Ricki Lee Jones. Omigod. I forgot to include any female solo artists until now. Maybe I should replace Oasis with "To Sir With Love" by Lulu. I hope this tape doesn't come off, like, saying, "Chicks just don't rock" on a first date.

20. "Blind Willie McTell" by Bob Dylan. Did I mention I was deep?


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