It’s only August, but just the other night I got a hint of a scent in the air that was unmistakable to me as Autumn. I don’t know how to describe it other than wet and earthy. It’s a smell that reminds me of October and all of the Americana that goes along with it: changing leaves, costumes, Halloween in a Normal Rockwell kind of way, and the best parts of my adolescence.
There are certain smells that just go with things. Football players talk about the smell of the field before a game. I remember that smell, there really is nothing else like it. It almost smells as if the field is sweating before the game begins. The other day at a rehearsal for “Rope” I caught the scent of a very specific hairspray in the dressing room, a hairspray that I’ve smelled in dressing rooms for decades and with that one contact I was suddenly reminded of all of those shows. The Autumn smell works the exact same way and triggers some of the strongest nostalgia I feel during any given year.
Every year, usually later than now, when the air starts to change and the nostalgia comes on I find myself searching though my music to make a playlist appropriate to the season. I started doing this back when I was a teenager, making mix tapes on my dual cassette/CD stereo system. There was more of an art to it back then. People had tape lengths that they liked to work in (I was a Memorex 90 minute man, myself) and you’d have to plan out your songs and hope that they would fit each side perfectly. I became very good with the Play/Pause button and mastered the length of the tape lead before it started recording. I could do it by feel, no counting required. Somewhere, deep in boxes that probably haven’t seen the light of day in at least a decade, there are dozens of mix tapes made from my music library circa 1990-1996. These tapes were with me during car rides with my friends when we first felt the “freedom” of being teenagers with cars. They were there for early relationships and the break-ups that went along with them. They were there for my first cigarette and for my first sips of Boones Farm Strawberry Hill. They were the soundtrack to my coming of age and represent all the songs that meant something to me at the time. They were also a pretty good representation of alternative hits and underground bands of the time.
My friends did it too, across the board. We’d listen to what each other made, finding new songs that we liked and new bands. My friend Jeff introduced to me to Oingo Boingo, Voice of the Beehive and October Project this way. I discovered that my friend Dan and I had a mutual love of The Cars and The Police this way. And my friend Scott exposed me to the power of Bad Religion and Pennywise this way. Entire backyard parties were powered by these tapes. They were teenage sorcery that could help bend the mood of entire rooms full of hormone fueled basket cases.
Technology changed and iTunes and iPods made it very easy to generate playlists based on whatever mood you were in at that second. Gone was the finesse of tape creation; instead you could just slam together song after song on a whim. I remember sitting at the computer for hours at a time, days in a row plugging songs into the playlists where I felt they belonged. I had the perfect list for whatever mood I was in. It was pretty awesome… until the crash of 2007 when iTunes and all of my playlists crashed and burned. That killed a lot of the fire I had for digital playlists. So much time was spent creating things that were wiped away in, literally, a moment. After that it took until I discovered Spotify before I felt that a digital playlist would be worth creating again. I haven’t created as many playlists as I did before 2007, but I do find that the ones I curate now get a lot more play.
I started a new playlist for autumn 2015 on Spotify. It’s the start of something that will probably get bigger as the days get shorter and the air gets crisper. I’m sharing this because I selfishly want you to share your playlists with me. Back in the day we would swap tapes and CD’s, but now we can toss entire playlists around digitally. This playlist is full of songs that take me back to being sixteen-and-angry, ready to rage against the world… as soon as I finish my journal entry about no one understanding me. It’s what I would want to listen to on a rainy day, hence the name. Check it out and let me know what you think, but more importantly share your playlists with me. Drop them in the comments and show me something new. I want to try and capture that feeling of sharing music again from back in the day. Whether it’s a favorite album from your favorite band or a playlist of your own creation, pop it in the comments and let’s hear something new.