Mix-Tapes, Not Mistakes
Last week I talked about my personal mix-tape rules and regulations – now that the casual reader is up to speed: I made a mix to illustrate those points. I wanted to challenge myself too, so I did something I’ve never done before. I made a chronological mix of my taste in music.
1. Sam Cooke – Chain Gang (from Live at the Harlem Square Ball, 1963)
Speaking of swagger! Well, I haven’t, but I definitely mentioned it when I wrote about rap. Sam Cooke was the father of soul, but I also look at him as the all-time king of swagger. Such a profoundly touching voice, and the classiest band behind him.
2. The Zombies – This Will Be Our Year (from Odessey and Oracle, 1968)
As far as 60’s sunshine pop, the Zombies are my band. No diss to Pet Sounds, but Odessey and Oracle is my summer day jam. Fantastic production and harmonies, this is just a pleasant record.
3. Elvis Presley – Only the Strong Survive (from From Elvis in Memphis, 1969)
After growing tired of his film career and cyclical release path, Elvis went back to his roots and recorded in Memphis for the first time in 13 years. The result, From Elvis in Memphis, is one of Elvis’ most complete records – accentuated by gorgeous harmonies and his fantastic ad-lib banter.
4. David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things (from Hunky Dory, 1971)
I’m not sure if it makes sense, but early 70’s pop music (specifically this, Velvet Underground’s Loaded and Harry Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up“) is my favorite music to wake up to. This song has a perfect chorus.
5. Bruce Springsteen – Spirit in the Night (from Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. 1973)
Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. is Springsteen’s hyper-literate, Dylanesque debut. Where Born to Run typifies the gang’s struggle to escape the shadow of their home-town, Greetings revels in the simultaneous seediness and glory of high-school parties. “Spirit in the Night” is the best example of this, and also the best song on the record.
(From Live at the Hammersmith Odeon, 1975. Best Springsteen show)
6. Lou Reed – Caroline Says II (from Berlin, 1975)
As I said last week: mixes can’t be all rise, and this is the first downer here. In the print version I also allude to how the Velvet Underground are inexplicably missing. Lou Reed deserves his dues, and I have a very personal relationship to this song (first name basis).
7. Bob Dylan – Idiot Wind (from Blood on the Tracks, 1975)
This is my break-up song.
8. Iggy Pop – Sixteen (from Lust for Life, 1977)
Iggy and Bowie’s working relationship in the 70’s is probably in the top 10 things rock fans should be grateful for. This record has fantastic guitar work.
9. Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Blank Generation (from Blank Generation, 1977)
This song is going to have to cover Television’s “Marquee Moon” and Johnny Thunders’ out-put as well. As punk broke in the mid/late 70’s, those groups made it okay to keep liking guitar-based rock n’ roll.
10. Joy Division – Day of the Lords (from Unknown Pleasures, 1979)
Ian Curtis is the proto-goth, and also the patron saint of kids who love Interpol too much. And yet, he’s still cool. I don’t get it either. This is one of my favorite guitar parts – slowly plucked, but still so manic.
(Audio only, but awesome version)
11. The Feelies – Moscow Nights (from Crazy Rhythms, 1980)
Crazy Rhythms, the Feelies’ debut record is a guitar-driven jangle-pop album. Somehow they predicted indie’s pre-occupation with mixing over-serious solos and noise parts with goofy lyrics and disposition.
12. The Replacements – More Cigarettes (from Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, 1981)
Every good mix has a standard song about drinking or cigarettes. This is one of my rules, anyway. The Replacements also stand for my (new-ish) pre-occupation with mid-80’s punk, as provoked by Michael Azerrad’s “Our Band Could Be Your Life”.
13. Minutemen – History Lesson, Part 2 (from Double Nickels on the Dime, 1984)
This song succeeds at making me feel nostalgic for something I was no part of. Maybe it’s tragic because of D. Boon’s untimely death two years later, but he spits these lyrics like each one is an exclamatory – like he’s pleading for your attention.
14. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Just Like Honey (from Psychocandy, 1985)
The Mary Chain took the Velvets’ oft-cited influence and ripped it apart on their debut, Psychocandy. Rife with distorted guitars and fringe-culture lyrics, the Mary Chain brought noise-rock to the mainstream.
15. The Wedding Present – This Boy Can Wait (A Bit Longer!) (from C86, 1986)
C86 (a SPIN magazine compilation) was once called “the most indie thing ever,” and that sounds stupid today, but in ’86 the term actually had bits and scraps of meaning left. The Wedding Present satiate my jangle-pop and twee fixation.
16. Beastie Boys – High Plains Drifter (from Paul’s Boutique, 1989)
Originally a punk band, the Beasties somehow flipped rap upside down when Rick Rubin turned them in to the seminal speak/shout crew they became. This song exemplifies their gangster attitude, while maintaining their incredibly detailed and literate lyricism.
17. Uncle Tupelo – Whiskey Bottle (from No Depression, 1990)
Whether or not they were the fathers of alt-country, Uncle Tupelo’s debut is the perfect combination of country-tinged rock. Their songs were sparse, but their instruments were always atmospheric and affecting.
18. Pavement – Gold Soundz (from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, 1994)
Upon release, “Gold Soundz” was simply a testament to the past – a bright star of nostalgia. However, the further we move from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’s release, the more it transcends that nostalgia, and exemplifies it. How “meta”!
19. GZA – 4th Chamber (from Liquid Swords, 1995)
Wu-Tang never really seemed comfortable going over beats that weren’t ice cold. On Liquid Swords, GZA teams Wu-Tang’s rigid reproach with his articulate and word-jammed verses. Lauded as one of the Clan’s best solo albums.
20. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Madeleine Mary (from I See A Darkness, 1999)
Will Oldham’s music is dark and melodramatic, but somehow his warbly voice is more endearing than off-putting. From Palace Music to his split-LP’s he’s remained one of the most remarkably consistent figures in music.
There’s no good videos for “The Bad Arts” by Destroyer, so instead I’m going to post my favorite White Stripes video, cause it’s fucking word. L8r.