Review of a Mix Tape I Found While Cleaning Out My Car Last Week, Exact Date Unknown (Circa 1994)
My fondness for mix tapes dates back to my days at overnight camp when they were absolutely crucial for a good summer. I just couldnt bring all my tapes with me to camp so I made a mix with all my favorites of the moment and spun the hell out of it over the course of the summer. Eventually mix tapes took on more of a vital and important role in my music oeuvre as I used them to literally push my musical tastes on people whether they liked it or not. Mix tapes for birthdays. Mix tapes for going away presents. It was my trademark and I took serious pride in them, often times inserting random bits of dialogue or snippets of songs (unlisted, of course) to keep things interesting. The order was super important, it should feature an array of moods, but I doubt any of my listeners ever really noticed or cared about the time I put into the tapes. Which brings me to this unmarked relic that I found under the passenger seat in my car. It asks many questions Who is this for?, What was I thinking? and the answers, my friends, are in the music.
Im not surprised that I chose Misirlou by Dick Dale from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack to open this tape. I was infatuated when I heard this song for the first time (when I saw Pulp Fiction for the first of at least ten times in the theaters). Opening a mix tape with it was my way of paying tribute to Tarantinos brilliance of opening his film with this masterpiece. Ahh, but what comes next? Normally Id follow this with something less abrasive and in this case I did with Creedence Clearwaters Susie Q. Not bad, but a conservative choice. John Fogertys ominous yet unthreatening treatment of this classic was sure to stimulate the interest of the listener to this tape. At this point Im still not sure what the deal is with this mix. Im pretty sure I didnt make it for me but the next song only further complicates things. Hobo Humpin Slobo Babe by Whale. Whoa. You may remember the video which featured a scantily-clad girl with braces sucking on a lollipop and singing the inane lyrics to this songs. But somehow, it rocked. Listening to it now for the first time in at least six years and it sounds even cooler than it did then. What happened to these guys? Anyway, I now know this mix tape is definitely not for me because I wouldnt have really wanted to listen to that song, but I would have enjoyed the thought of the recipient listening to it and gauging their reaction. I never said my brain didnt work in strange ways.
Next up, a return to normalcy with Brain Damage and Eclipse from Dark Side of the Moon. What would have fit much better at the end of the side is smack dab in the middle. Perhaps it was my attempt at conjuring up Syd Barretts unpredictable spirit then again, maybe not. Two classics that should never be separated. Another safe play on my part. The Smashing Pumpkins Frail and Bedazzled is up next and its quite a turn around from the sonic intoxication of Pink Floyd (to quote the recent commercial for Floyds best of disc Echoes). The Pumpkins were always one of my favorite bands until Billy Corgan freaked us all out with that bowling ball on his neck. This song, from their B-side and unreleased collection Pisces Iscariot always worked for me. This not-so-commercial song by a very commercial band typified how I chose songs for these tapes it was my way of trying to get my friends to do more than just listen to what they radio told them to. But I have a sense of humor too. This isnt all about the education; a mix tape needs to be fun, maybe even chuckle out loud while gripping your headphones, and hopefully that happened when the next track started. Gerardo. Rico Suave. I was being ironic and I hadnt even started listening to indie-rock yet. Thankfully this song cuts after the first verse. Liz Phairs Supernova is next, a song by a girl who has failed to really re-surface since she was the next big thing back around this time. This still is a great song with a really cool guitar riff. Liz, if youre out there, lay off the Gap commercials and pick up your guitar again.
Next up, Maze by Phish. I didnt see my first concert until 1995 and before that happened I was addicted to Rift. I knew the album inside and out and was slowly learning what the whole Phish thing was all about. A few months after exploring Rift a friend gave me a tape of Gamehendge and all studio albums gathered dust over the course of the next few years. Not sure this song needed to be on this tape, but you cant really blame me, I was young and na. The first side ends with Lets Stay Together by Al Green again from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Was this my way of begging the listener to stick around for side two? Probably, but its still not enough to make this reviewer flip the tape over.
This was an interesting glimpse into my teen-age psyche but I dont foresee myself making up any ground on the second side. Sadly my mix tape making days have turned into mix CD making days now. Mix CDs just arent as fun. Im not quite sure why I think that, but maybe it has to do with the fact that its much more difficult to skip songs on tape as opposed to CD, and fast forwarding is definitely not fair in this game. Napster has also changed the rules of the game as its now just easier to send someone an email with a list of songs to download as I have been doing for quite some time with a friend out East. But hopefully I will continue to stumble upon random mix tapes from my younger days, and hopefully they will be better than this flawed, yet noble effort. Grade: B-.