My husband is a musician. He recently decided to brush up on his sight-reading, but was having a hard time finding pieces he’d never seen to practice on. He off-handedly mentioned to me that it would be great if there were a website that would just keep feeding him new, random pieces to sight-read.
“If only there was a website that…” The words that launched 1,000 ships! Needless to say, DLE was on the job and only a few months later we launched New Piece, Please!
My adolescence is punctuated by important mixtapes. One in particular overshadows all the rest, having defined the scope of my music taste for the better part of a decade. It is the mighty “Keg O’ Tunes”.
I have no idea who made this mix. It appeared at some point in my sister’s car during the summer of 1992, presumably having been lifted from the office of the country club she was a lifeguard at.
This post is basically a thank-you note to that unknown mixtape author who introduced my 13-year-old self to the Smiths, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, the English Beat, General Public, and the Replacements. Who would I be now without this mix? There’s just no telling.
Soviet Snow by Shona (misspelled Shana in the notes) Laing
The Celiba Sea by Vigil
What Have I Done To Deserve This by the Pet Shop Boys
I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boom Town Rats
Cut Me Down by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Shell Shock by New Order
No Stars by Figures on a Beach
A Million Things by the Lucy Show
The Game by Echo & the Bunnymen
Girlfriend in a Coma by the Smiths
Mirror in the Bathroom by the English Beat
Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo
Pop Music by M
Don’t Go by Yaz
End of the World as We Know It by REM
Let’s Go To Bed by the Cure
Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads
Phantom Bride by Erasure
Blister in the Sun by the Violent Femmes
Faults & All by General Public
She Drives Me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals
Everyday I Write the Book by Elvis Costello
A New England by Billy Bragg
Can’t Hardly Wait by the Replacements
Superman by REM
I recently recreated Keg O’ Tunes as a playlist in iTunes. It was interesting which tracks I already had as MP3s (Girlfriend in a Coma, Mirror in the Bathroom, Superman) and which ones I had a very hard time tracking down (No Stars, A Million Things). It was also interesting how many nuances of the physical artifact were lost. On the mixtape, Psycho Killer begins abruptly and with some weird tone problems presumably left over from whatever tape was serving as the “master” in this case. And the end of the song gets cut off prematurely. The MP3 can’t be made to behave this way.
Ultimately the recreation process made me think about how much less precious a mix is when it arrives via ZIP file. Even a mix CD fails (and failed, when it first emerged) to stir me the way a mixtape did and does. It used to take hours to make a good tape — first planning what should be on it, then really considering the order for the songs, queuing up each cassette, trying to make the transitions between songs as non-obnoxious as possible (though now I find the click from hitting stop/record really endearing).
My nostalgia doesn’t delude me into thinking there aren’t other things serving the purpose of the mixtape in friendships and romances now, but I don’t think I know what they are. If I was 13 now and had a crush on someone, how would I let them know it?
This mix still rules, so I just turned it into a playlist on YouTube:
The stretch of songs beginning with “How” are an aching, beautiful set, and has me wondering another very human question: Why is “How” so difficult sometimes? It can be even more difficult than “Why”.
How (The Cranberries)
How Can I Tell You (Cat Stevens)
How Deep is Your Love (The Bee Gees)
How Do I Let A Good Man Down? (Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings)
How Do You Sleep? (Evangelicals)
How Do You Sleep? (John Lennon)
How Does It Feel? (Ronettes)
How Does It Feel? (Spacemen 3)
How Long Do I Have To Wait For You? (Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings)
How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths)
How Sweet It is (To Be Loved By You) (Junior Walker & the All Stars)
How Sweet It is (To Be Loved By You) (Marvin Gaye)
How You Been (Certainly, Sir)
How? (John Lennon)
I’ve been listening to all of my songs in alphabetical order by title for a few weeks now (only while at work). Occasionally, a true bit of poetry emerges from what is ultimately a sort of shuffle, and while I mostly comment on this via Twitter, I’m going to start documenting such moments here when they require lengthier explanation. Here’s one now…
“Car” is one of my favorite Built To Spill songs and it has a wonderful line in it: “I want to see movies of my dreams.” “car chase terror!” seems like the audio portion of a movie about someone’s dream and thus seems like a fitting response to that line. It adds a little careful-what-you-wish-for element as well, since this particular dream seems more like a nightmare.