The last real mixtape I ever received was titled “It’s O.K.” I say real, because people don’t make actual mixtapes anymore; they make Spotify playlists or send their friends bundles of MP3s, and might name the folder ‘Mixtape’ for sentimental or ironic reasons. The cassette, for the most part, is a dead format, but the mix lives on in a less personal way than it did when we were faced with listening to the songs we wanted on the tape as they recorded, then writing down all the artist names in a legible fashion, and finally coming up with a somewhat clever title before delivering the final product to the intended receiver as a gift. You didn’t likely make any of the music on the mixtape (unless you really thought your band deserved to be on there), but you filled the tape with music that you felt was really important and that needed to be heard.
“It’s OK” was curated and recorded by a friend who knew that I was going through a tough time. It was sent by mail even though we lived within the same zipcode, and was an unexpected and necessary gift during a time when I needed some sort of sign that things would get better sooner rather than later.
Opening up the tape was the Dead Moon song the cassette was named after, and to be honest, it’s the only song on the entire tape that I recall ever listening to, because I would listen to it once then rewind it to hear it again – something I did over and over until the tape was totally worn out and I was forced to leave my house and seek out the actual album. The song, probably the most popular of all the tracks recorded by the legendary garage band over fourteen LPs put out between 1987-2006, hit me hard with its simple chorus of:
“It’s OK, we’ve all seen better days
It’s OK, you don’t have to run and hide away
It’s OK, yeah we love you anyway”
I’m a reader first, a music lover second; yet a certain lyric, a guitar chord, one note in the right place, those things can reduce me to tears like no other piece of art can. The first time I heard Fred Cole sing those words, at that precise moment, l started dragging myself back up from the minor pit life had thrown me into. I really felt like things would be OK, because this crude and beautiful song sent to me by a friend said it would be.
Sometimes when I feel like unloading what people might consider a heap of flaming claptrap, I’ll say that Dead Moon were the end all, be all of rock and roll; that they were the last great rock band, that they had principals, and their DIY ethos made their music some of the purest, and best I’ve ever heard in my life. Those things might not necessarily be true, but somehow whenever I find myself troubled, when the world around me looks like it’s crumbling for reasons I can’t totally understand, I think about that song. I think about all the times I’ve told somebody that “Everything will be OK,” and the times somebody had to tell me that exact same thing. It’s a truly hollow, pithy phrase, but while it might not be transcendent or genuine, it just might make the dark clouds go away for a moment or two.
Tragedy is always around the corner, it sneaks up on people when they least expect it, and that’s a hard fact to deal with. And even though the world can feel like it’s breaking down around you, sometimes a simple phrase can help you to see the light at the end of the tunnel a little better; I realized that by listening to Dead Moon telling me “For in those reckless moments. When doubt is creeping in your head, feeling like you’ve lost your youth, and the dreams you had are cold and dead,” that it’s OK. Everything will eventually be OK, and things will get better sooner or later. It isn’t always the easiest thing to believe when you say the words yourself, and it might not even be totally true, but sometimes it’s really the only thing you can do.