Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mixtape Madness

I used to make a lot of mixtapes. Of course, back in the early 80's they weren't called mixtapes. We called 'em compilations. Or compilation tapes. 

When my friend Phil played me a tape made for him by our mutual friend Nick, I was blown away. Instead of just track after track, Nick had done the unthinkable and chopped and changed and cut and spliced and inserted and made the tape almost like a work of art. It was seamless - music flowed from one track to another, then random sounds were inserted, bits were repeated, the chord progression of The Cure's "Bananafishbones" was interrupted by weird noises... it was like listening to an episode of Max Headroom through headphones. It was art on tape. It was then I resolved to not only have a go myself but for all my subsequent tapes to push the artistic envelope. No longer would I be bound by the constraints of the vinyl's grooves or the tape's revolutions - if nothing else, I would make tapes that arrested the aural orifice and kept the listener on tenterhooks.

My first attempt was made using two boomboxes connected by DIN plugs - remember those? I remember one part where the song "Hit It Run" by Run DMC stopped, so I put in a different song, one that was as totally unlike rap or hip-hop that i could think of. Then later in the tape, I played the rest of the track.

The very wonderful Sony XO-550W.
I had a good job at the time and so I bought a lovely Sony stack system, the XO-550W. The nicest thing about the system was the mic mix feature, that enabled me to mix sounds from another source while recording from record or cassette. Thus I could hook up the headphone jack of my boombox and mix in the sounds from that over the top. So Sparks' "Beat The Clock" had some clips of Fawlty Towers thrown in. Holger Czukay could be heard speaking over The Stranglers, and some short-wave radio broadcasts filtering in above The Smiths' Asleep. In one memorable tape one could hear me putting a cassette into a Walkman (with the headphone resting over the mic of the boombox), the tinny sound of Mark King's version of Cream's I Feel Free beginning and then cutting that to the stereo version... ah, those were the days. I gave the tapes odd titles too. One had the football commentary and results off the radio mixed in and out, and was titled Home Side and Away Side. One tape that was full of not-very-dancey tracks was called Dancefloor Burner. One was full of house and hip-hop tracks entitled Get Up Off Your Fat Little Ass And Dance, B***h!. Another that was full of oddball album tracks mixed with my own songs in demo form was called The Scourge Of Cassette Deck Fascists!*(This is not a party tape at all, so sod off and play your Bon Jovi somewhere else). One that was made up of tracks purely from tapes was called Cassettes Go Ape Crazy! and yet another was called Psychic Disturbances, which had a 7" side and a 12" side. My favourite was called You're A Really Lucky Bugger, taken from one of the tracks that was included, The Boomtown Rats' Watch Out For The Normal People.

*By the way, a "cassette deck fascist" is one of those people that would bring their own tapes to a party and put them on when everyone was good and drunk and didn't know what they were listening to. Usually a Siouxsie And The Banshees live bootleg or some other "Not-very-party-like" doomy music.

Here is a track listing of what I can remember from Bugger. It's been a few years (24) since I made the tape, and a while since I've listened to it (yes, it still exists).

Side 1
Everybody's Happy Nowadays - The Buzzcocks

Psycho Killer - Talking Heads

(Watch Out For The) Normal People - Boomtown Rats

Guilty - Classix Nouveaux

Mr. No - John Foxx

Thirteen - The Human League

Milkman of Human Kindness - Billy Bragg

Does Everyone Stare - The Police

Into The Valley - The Skids

Side 1 finishes with a sound clip of German producer Zeus B. Held saying "Well, we all liked that - we were leaping around like good'uns".

Side 2

Coyote - Joni Mitchell

What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend - The Special AKA

This Earth That You Walk Upon (b-side to "Love Song") - Simple Minds

I know that somewhere here is a clip of Canadian comedian Rick Ducommun saying "Montreal, I love it here. I love the traffic here. I love the way you can stop, slow down, turn, or go on a red, yellow, or green light."

Speed Your Love To Me - Simple Minds

Cemetry Gates - The Smiths

Party Fears Two - The Associates

Loved One's An Angel - Blue Zoo

There are more tracks on the tape, but those are the ones I can recall at the moment.
During the entire thing are sound clips from Paul Merton, Ben Elton, Nigel Planer and others.

As anyone who has ever heard the CDs I burned can attest (i.e. anyone who worked with me at LensCrafters), my eclecticism when it comes to music has not waned in the slightest. And I think that's a good thing. There are very few music styles that I cannot listen to, and I think that makes me a very well-rounded person, at least musically.

There was just something about making a mixtape that was good for the soul... taking records that you cared about and bringing them together in one 90-minute celebration of their goodness. Putting them on was like saying... "this is who I am.. listen and understand." I want to make a tape right now!

1 comment:

  1. What a great post! I also made a ton of mixed tapes back in the day. I'll bet you were an excellent mixed-tape-maker! And eclectic is good -- that's one of my favorite things about you :)

    And you know you had me at Cemetry Gates... :)


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