In our teens and 20s it would be the subject of much anxiety, preparation and could, in some cases, make the evening a success or a failure.
I just remember that, when I was young and had more spare time, I always had a handful of reliable options up my sleeve and would feel much more confident about it than I do now.
The right choice of ‘make out’ music can be a massive deal. What I hadn’t realised until recently, in middle age and still fumbling about with love and sex, that it was still a massive deal to me. Until Lighthouse Family spewed forth from his speakers. Yes, the easy listening R&B duo are harmless and inoffensive enough, but to me they are the epitome of bland cheesiness; in their 90s hey day they were one of those bands my peers and I would joke about, as they were so far removed from anything we liked at the time. I think my mum also liked them, which in my youth was another reason they were so not-cool.
So, even though the poor guy was trying to create a relaxed, romantic mood, I could not help but let out a small snigger. I feel bad about it now, but at least it wasn’t a loud belly laugh and he didn’t take offence, just said: “Well, it’s better than loud banging music.” For the rest of the album (as I quickly realised it was a complete Lighthouse Family CD and not just a mixed compilation), I managed to zone out enough to carry on in the manner we were both ‘carrying on’.
But it does beg the question – what is good ‘make out’ music? I don’t have the means to carry out some kind of scientific, psychological/neurological experiment, clearly, and the whole thing is extremely subjective, like what is art or what tastes good? But it’s pretty important that the music is something you can both tolerate without laughing or running out of the room with both fingers rammed into your ears.
Nowadays, I really struggle with this, as having a crazy-hectic life in which listening to, never mind purchasing, music is way down my list, somewhere below cleaning the cooker hood, but above reorganising my sock drawer. So usually I go for ‘classics’ (again a highly subjective term) such as Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ album, Suzanne Vega or some 90s chillout music. If I’m trying to impress with a more up to date repertoire, I may plump for First Aid Kit or Kings of Leon, but even then my music collection is woefully in need of a refresh and other newer stuff I own not ‘make out’ friendly – Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters…?
Buying/downloading more music is on my to-do list, but like most of us, it’s more about listening for enjoyment than making someone relax and want to get smoochy.
In the old days, the faithful friend I could always lay my hands on, when slightly tipsy after a night out, would be Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’ – in fact I am certain it was a popular choice in the late 1990s. I wonder how many children were conceived to the trip-hop sounds of this still highly listenable album?
And if ‘Mezzanine’, which was usually near my CD player, had dropped down the back of the shelf, there was always Portishead and their sad, but reflective and laid back sounds or the Gallic ambience of Air. In fact in that era, I always had five or six options to put us at ease. Perhaps that just comes with being at a time of life when I had more time for music.
I imagine (and forgive me for sounding like a Luddite) that today the younger folk have downloaded playlists for ‘make out’ time which they can just play continuously, without having to shuffle across the floor, trousers round ankles to change the CD or flip over the cassette or record.