Hard News: Friday Music: The mixtape and me
see you at Laneways Russell – hopefully near a bar or a tree to share. Think I will start off with Car Seat Headrest and move on from there. I would like to see in person.
and…and…and.. got quite nostalgic reading about cassette mixtapes. Spent many an arvo doing it – and real love was receiving an especially special crafted one from THAT person.
I liked how as a tape degraded the songs on a mixtape would blur and merge into one another...
quietly obsessed with getting the right flow of music... with the right amount of flow coupled with the perfect number of flow killers (floor clearers if in the dance)
Yeah, we got form here….
Being an early adopter of portable music (owning a WM2 blew my mind). I wanted music my way and started mixing tapes. Then I wanted to be a DJ and started investing hard in Disx and Dex in the early 80’s. Check out the dance charts for the time and one of us clearly wasn’t ready for the other. My mantra was anything but Radio one, my biggest problem was not really hearing or indeed grasping what people wanted to dance to. I remember some very bleak evenings trying to DJ in the Lounge at the local Pub or Social Club. Okay, I really was a bit shit at it. However, rather oddly, people would steal my workout mixtapes from the sport centre where I trained. Having found out that some of the thieves were class instructors; I briefly ended up being paid more as a workout tape curator than I ever made as a DJ. The years have come and gone but I still train and still curate playlists for myself and others to train to (I use Windows Media Player BTW.). At my local gym I still get a kick out of being Shazammed. Some high points:
The cueing arm on my record player broke and the matchstick I was using gave way when it was set to auto-return and I was recording a tape I still have. You can hear Smash it Up by the Damned come to an end the thud of my feet before a flying leap - just as you hear the Ziiiiip of the stylus across by beautiful Red vinyl edition. I left the sound of the stylus in and followed it with Motörhead’s Bomber on Blue vinyl-only my clothes had to be Black.
Managing to create a “business time” mixtape that contained The Coasters - Along Came Jones.
The IMHO quite beautiful sleeve notes (inspired by Joy Division’s “Closer”) which I created for a CD called “Plumbum”, given to the beautiful lady who still agrees to be my wife.
But, the highest honour went to a tape that wasn’t made by me, instead by my friend Mark Esper - a collage of David Sylvian Secrets/Ambient stuff and soundbites from art movies such as Wim Wender’s “Wings of Desire”. To my great regret, I lost that one never to be recovered or reproduced.
Yeah we all have form here.
The first mixtapes I heard were made by dad. Things got real for me at Christmas ‘88 when I received a double deck Hitachi. Being a kid at that time there was absolutely no doubt what the second deck was for, no one I knew referred it as a piracy, we were just sharing the sounds – at high speed no less – while tech companies like Sony made a pretty penny in the process. Ready access to this technology meant it was better to buy music no one owned – for the collective.
I love tape, even when it broke down and you needed a Popsicle stick to spool it back in, or when it was super mangled and you’d need to unscrew the cassette itself or when it snapped from overuse and you’d need to splice it back together using sellotape – so tactile. The compression and artifacts are still never quite matched by emulator plugins.
One thing that I like to imagine formed a lot of opinions in that era was when, upon the release of GnR’s Use Your Illusion albums, Duff McKagen was quoted as telling kids – who couldn’t afford to fork out that much money – to simply dub our friends’.
I searched for this quote last year but all reference to that incident seems to have vanished from the net in keeping with McKagan’s new stance on piracy.
Oh, crikey, memories. Thanks RB. Great post.
Inneresting to see some of the roots of FL's infatuation with mainstream culture.
The Bats 'practise gig' at Space Academy in Chchch last night was pretty darn fine - any readers in Sydney or Melbourne this weekend would be well advised to catch them if possible...
The new album The Deep Set is released today
A C90 cassette could hold a whole LP album on each side... and as an Album lover, most of the cassettes in my car (50+) were whole albums... But some artists were not up to the 3 or 4 good songs on an album that I required to keep the whole lot of them on such a cassette... So if you could only manage 1 or 2 decent tunes on your album, you were relegated to my mix tapes...
So for me, my mix tapes were not necessarily my very favourite tunes, or the best of the best... they were not meant for sharing... They were just the one-or-two hit wonders... (but some of them were very good indeed)... that I wanted to hear without bearing through the other +30 mins of their drudge....
These tapes (whole albums, and mix tapes) got played again and again and again... both in my car, or in a walkman on the bus.
To this day, there are VAST tracts of 80's/90's music where I know the tunes, but cannot name them (because I couldn't be bothered hand-writing liner notes for the cassettes)... but if you play the end of any tune, I can sing/hum the start of the one that follows...
For famous artist's albums, this is "common knowledge" and not particularly exceptional... but my mix-tapes are one of a kind... and no-one else in the world has any understanding of why I associate the end of one "one-hit-wonder" with the start of another.... :)
Andrew Dubber, in reply to
I hear about this so often (and am very familiar with it myself). There has to be a name for this phenomenon of hearing the next song in your head even if the context is different - or if there isn't one we need to invent it. Kind of a musical ghost limb.
There's a similar phenomenon - and I don't know how common this is - where I've heard tapes of records with scratches in them so often that the song sounds wrong without the click or the skip where I'm expecting it to be.
Andrew Dubber, in reply to
That GnR 'dub your friends' comment is worth hunting down. Cheers for that - I'll see what I can dig up...
Posters on Trade Me for anyone interested
just check my other listings as well for these
Billy & the Blue Flames
and some mid ’60s Eagle comics
(Dan Dare and the Mekon!!)
And the Mixtape still lives on ...
[ [url/https://daily.bandcamp.com/2017/01/30/the-month-in-mixtapes-january-2017/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_content=Month%20in%20Mixtapes] ]
I like the quote in Andrew’s blogpost about the mixtape being the most widely practised artform in America. I sense that was probably a moment in time but I guess that also depends on how you define a mixtape – I feel a degree of effort is needed to qualify, and as such (for me) an itunes playlist doesn’t really count.
In my teenage years the key to making mixtapes was the mini sound system with built in double tape deck – what a marvel they were. A few years later I graduated to the minidisc platform, and was even known to plug that into the computer through the line in port to create CD’s. I later purchased a portable mp3 recorder but that was bit of a dud really, and since then – somewhat paradoxically – I’ve been without the capability to make mixtapes despite having a bigger collection than ever. (Haven’t gone the serato route, so no recording via that and the whizz band Apogee Duet unit (at ~$900) is still on the wish list).
At the risk of stating the obvious, mixtapes are a super broad subject area and when overlaid with personal anecdotes the number of possible permutations would seem almost infinite.
One thought I had on the ‘what track next’ aspect was the close parallel to djing. Indeed Russell alludes to trying to influence the mood of his gatherings through his playlist music selections – that’s quite a bit of djing in a nutshell really, and whats key – in different measures, in different settings – are the skills in the mix and the depth (or quality) of selections. A good amateur/enthusiast should know their limits (or perhaps I should say strengths) and work to them accordingly – when you get it ‘right’ it’s a wonderful feeling/thrill. In the mixtape context, clean segues through to a catchy riff or punchy beat are probably the main elements of things that prick my ears and stay in the memory.
Another line of thought on ‘memorable tracks/mixtape moments’ was to think about whats stuck with me over time, and why. Off the top of my head (and some of these I haven’t listened to for years) were:
Dj Vadim’s Conquest of the Irrational tape (late 90’s) – first time I heard Placebo’s Balek, and also featured Skitz’ Fingerprints of the Gods
Coldcuts Journeys by DJ mix, from 95 – seminal really, and perhaps birthed solid steel
Headspin’s Rakim mix, where he mixes the OG’s with Rakim’s verses we know so well
Brainfreeze – I can recall hearing about this when it came out late 1990’s, and the idea of owning a copy was completely beyond the realm of possibility. Hey Joyce and more, and perhaps a strong appearance by the number song (can’t quite remember, its been a while)
There more, but that’s probably enough for now, suffice to say I still listen to (and download) a lot of mixes ...
ma2ice beatz, in reply to
Memories indeed, funny how there is actually nothing new, well technology, but I mean the mixtape term. Now suddenly a thing, but the actual act has existed from time.
With streaming now, I do not even bother to make a playlist anymore.
Sort of related, I have been spending this evening playing with this playlist generator toy
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