When it comes to the holidays or a birthday, we all agonize over what to get that special or not so special someone. I suspect that we all fall back on certain types of gifts. After all, kids buy their dads neckties (definitely NOT a hint), so it should come as no surprise that I would fall back on music. My wife attributes it to a lack of imagination. I’d argue if I could think of something.
For the most part, my friends would never be so presumptuous as to reciprocate. They probably feel that I can be presumptuous enough for the all of us.
On the surface of it, I sincerely think I can find something that the person will enjoy. Of course, if someone tried this on me, I’d be annoyed. I mean, really, how dare they (do exactly what I would do)? We all have delusions about being good at certain things. Mine is that I can impart good music to my poor friends, who in fact, were perfectly happy with their music before I got involved. So a little deeper down, I suspect I’m just trying to show off. (What, I wonder? That I have no taste?)
It’s great when the recipient actually makes an unsolicited positive comment about the gift. Occasionally I’ll get a rave (Graham Parker’s “Heat Treatment”, or Squeeze’s “Singles on 45”) but most often I’ll get the essentially non-committal “It was good” (which means It wasn’t worth the effort of going over to the stereo to smash it into a million pieces.) And sometimes I get no reaction at all, which usually translates to Let’s not speak of this again. This might have been Brian Eno, which is a shame, because that record (“Another Green World”) is still one of my absolute favorites. But maybe you need to know that.
Still further down is a presumption not only about the recipients taste, but about the recipient him or herself. I’m telling them I know you. I know what you like. Therefore, I know what you will like. I’ve got your number. I’ve got you figured out. Who the hell wants to feel like they’ve been figured out?
So I’ve recently hedged my bets a little by moving from pre-recorded CDs to mix CDs. This gives me the chance to mess with the variety and pacing. It also gives the recipient a break in case they totally hate a particular artist. It’s also a little less insulting because it says These are some of the songs I’ve heard recently that I like. You may like some, too, so you take it from there. This is far more modest. And it’s an invitation to let someone figure you out. Hey, whose idea was this, anyway?
On the few occasions I’ve gotten mix CDs, it’s been…problematic. If I was worried about people figuring me out, I’m past it now.
Lately, there’s been the fad of making mix CDs to give out as wedding favors. In theory, this would appear to be pretty sound, but the result is usually a lot of sentimental crap. Who the hell wants to hear a bunch of sappy songs about people in love? It’s almost as bad as having them over for dinner. I’d much prefer that people made such CDs with themes like “What I Happened to Be Listening To While Considering Suicide” or “The Music They Piped in at Rehab”.
As a matter of fact, I will be writing to my congressperson, recommending legislation that says if you gave out a mix CD at your wedding, you are now required by law to make one for your divorce. Now that would be a good CD.
Now playing: Graham Parker & The Rumour - That's What They All Say