Old mix: duckin’ and dodgin’

The summer of 2000 was a time of transitions for me. I had started to broaden my horizons beyond my childhood and young adulthood in Virginia, thanks to trips to Italy, London, Ireland and France with Lisa (ah, the late 1990s and the strong US dollar!). And though I had begun in late 1999 to plan seriously leaving my job at American Management Systems behind, it wasn’t until the spring of 2000 that I committed to the MIT Sloan School of Management and to moving away from my life in Virginia.

You can hear some of the uncertainty of that change in Side B of this mix. The first is still exploring beautiful singalong music. It was the first mix I made after John McLaughlin brought over Justin Rosolino’s self-produced first album; the first after my cousin Greg gave me a copy of The Soft Bulletin one momentous Christmas; the first after I began a dive down the rabbit hole of David Bowie’s collaborations with Brian Eno. There’s a track at the front, not listed on the J-card, that excerpts about two minutes of unaccompanied Gabon pygmy song, another weird rabbit hole I was on the brink of falling into.

It was also the spring I (late to the party as always) discovered Moby. I had previously fallen into a rabbit hole of old blues and folk records, occasioned by the Anthology of American Folk Music, but hearing those works in this transformed context was remarkable—even if my growing familiarity with the source recordings was soon to reveal just how shallow a trick Moby played, particularly on tracks like “Run On.” The remix of decades worth of Steve Reich recordings into a singular “Megamix” was more rewarding.

But Side B: once you get past the throat-clearing of Elvis’s version of “Blueberry Hill,” there’s wistfulness and uncertainty in every track. I kind of wish I could reach out to my old 27-year-old self and reassure him that it was really going to be okay.

The tracklist:

  1. Etudes de jodlsGabon Pygmies (Musique des Pygmées Bibayak/Chantres de l’épopée)
  2. Fool Of MeMe’Shell Ndegeocello (Bitter)
  3. PerfectSmashing Pumpkins (Adore)
  4. HeroesDavid Bowie (“Heroes”)
  5. The Spiderbite SongThe Flaming Lips (The Soft Bulletin)
  6. StatelessU2 (The Million Dollar Hotel)
  7. Pale Blue Eyes (Closet Mix)The Velvet Underground (Peel Slowly and See)
  8. Beautiful WayBeck (Midnite Vultures)
  9. Portland HeadlightJustin Rosolino (“Music” (The Live Recordings))
  10. Run OnMoby (Play)
  11. Megamix (Tranquility Bass)Steve Reich (Reich Remixed)
  12. Blueberry HillElvis Presley (The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Complete 50s Masters)
  13. The Ground Beneath Her FeetU2 (The Million Dollar Hotel)
  14. SouvenirMorphine (The Night)
  15. One Single Thread (Float Away)Justin Rosolino (“Music” (The Live Recordings))
  16. Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds)
  17. Falling At Your FeetBono (Lanois) (The Million Dollar Hotel)
  18. Jesus (Closet Mix)The Velvet Underground (Peel Slowly and See)
  19. EcstasyLou Reed (Ecstasy)
  20. Sister MorphineThe Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers)
  21. IsolationJohn Lennon (Plastic Ono Band)
  22. Via ChicagoWilco (Summerteeth)
  23. Central Reservation (Original Version)Beth Orton (Central Reservation)

If you have Apple Music, you can listen to (most of) the mix here:

Old mix: the bang and the clatter (as an angel runs to ground) (summer 1993)

In the summer of 1993, I was on top of the world. Having finished a great Glee Club season and gotten a literary magazine off the ground, I had just gotten a room on the Lawn and was staying in Charlottesville for the summer as an undergraduate assistant in a physics lab. I had just started listening to the funkier side of James Brown and was starting to discover blues, hip-hop and world music. Plus, I now had wheels, in the form of an incredibly fun but unreliable 1977 MGB.

This mixtape, accordingly, was shaped by all these factors, perhaps not least of all by the last. Most of the selections on this mix were chosen because they sounded great in the MGB with the top down. That was certainly true of “Ocean Size,” the opening track. After ignoring Jane’s Addiction for many years, I finally got into them about two years after they had broken up. This was a version of Los Angeles rock I could get behind—something like heavy metal for art students. And the lead-in to Hubert Sumlin’s slashing guitar on the great “Killing Floor” remains a potent link from the first song to the second. I had first picked up the Chess blues sound from a phenomenal box set of Willie Dixon recordings, and then this 1965 Chess anthology of Howlin’ Wolf’s work, which had just been reissued on CD. (It’s with no shame that I note that my first exposure to the title of this track was in William Gibson’s short story “Johnny Mnemonic,” where he borrows the phrase and puts it to an entirely different purpose.)

On the strength of Peter Gabriel’s early Real World compilation Passion Sources, I started to branch out and find other artists on the label. The African artists on the label, such as Geoffrey Oryema and Ayub Ogada. Oryema’s “Piri Wango Iya” is a great introduction to the Ugandan’s sound, featuring only his voice and the traditional Ugandan lukeme (a gourd with plucked resonating metal strips).

I was still working my way through Suzanne Vega’s phenomenal 99.9 Fº, and “Blood Makes Noise” was just the sort of twitchy dance that I could get behind. Likewise PJ Harvey’s “Sheela-Na-Gig,” which even then struck me as a striking reversal of traditional gender politics, with Harvey’s narrator confidently offering herself sexually to a man who flatly rejects her as an exhibitionist and is terrified of being dirtied by her. We hadn’t explicitly covered Freud’s take on what would now be called the Madonna-whore complex when I read him in my first year, but it was a pretty clear illustration.

Then follows, for some reason, “Englishman in New York,” a track which I love by itself but which doesn’t flow very well here. Then “North Dakota.” I never had listened to much country music, but a friend who came to visit that summer left me with an aching heart, and a mixtape featuring this phenomenal Lyle Lovett song. “If you love me, say I love you” sounds like the loneliest thing ever, and it resonates at the heart of this tape once you peel back everything else.

I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to acknowledge or linger in my feelings, but I was more than capable of irony, and PJ Harvey was always there to help, as was the gently mocking narrator of Laurie Anderson’s “Language is a Virus.” Self-mockery always made me feel better, so it was a good transition from there into “What Goes On” and “Numb,” which may have been the first U2 song that made me laugh. Ditto the over-the-top apocalyptic Western of Nick Cave’s track from Until the End of the World, another third-year frequent rotation CD that I was still digesting.

The end of this summer, when I was starting to put this mix together, was a rough one physically, and I was starting to feel ragged and tired around the edges. When I came home at the end of the summer for a few weeks before school started, I realized why — I had contracted mononucleosis, probably as a consequence of the close living quarters in the student apartment that was my home for the summer. (While I was dating someone that summer, we only spent a few days together as she was off doing her own things, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t get the “kissing disease” the fun way.) “Run That Body Down” accordingly became my theme song. It’s a good thing I didn’t know then how rundown a body could actually get…

More feelings avoidance, more loud rock! I still love “Ain’t No Right,” though not as much as I love the downtempo shift that follows it. I listened to For the Beauty of Wynona for the first time with a good friend and neighbor who had good taste in music and confused my feelings (a common theme of my college years). And Lanois’ country-infused guitar had a natural connection, at least in my mind, to the freaked-out electric blues that Miles and his band pulled from thin air on “Honky Tonk.”

My immature late teenage feelings (okay, I was actually 20) loved getting lost in Elvis Costello’s Brodsky Quartet collaboration, and on no track was this more true than on “Who Do You Think You Are?,” a paean for those with a more active imagination than love life. And again, any time I felt actual feelings getting close to the surface, it was time for a shift of gears. I have always loved “Le Bien, Le Mal” ever since borrowing Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 (and the first Digable Planets album) from a neighbor in that crowded college apartment (thanks, Patrick!), but the name of the transition technique between the Elvis Costello track and this is called “discontinuity.” Once I found that groove, though, it was a logical connection to James Brown, whose “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine” had soundtracked a memorable party a few months prior in an apartment full of physics students, quality porter and stout, and someone’s incredible record collection (including, oddly, Speak No Evil).

I didn’t always know how to end mix tapes then, so there’s no real through line for the last few tracks. But “En Mana Kuoyo” is a fine closer, a brightly percolating groove from Kenya that transported me to another place. I hope it does the same for you.

Full track listing below:

  1. Ocean SizeJane’s Addiction (Nothing’s Shocking)
  2. Killing FloorHowlin’ Wolf (The Real Folk Blues)
  3. Piri Wango IyaGeoffrey Oryema (Exile)
  4. Blood Makes NoiseSuzanne Vega (99.9 F°)
  5. Sheela-Na-GigPJ Harvey (Dry)
  6. Englishman in New YorkSting (Nothing Like The Sun)
  7. North DakotaLyle Lovett (Joshua Judges Ruth)
  8. Rub ‘Til It BleedsPJ Harvey (Rid Of Me)
  9. Language Is A VirusLaurie Anderson (Home Of The Brave)
  10. What Goes On (Closet Mix)The Velvet Underground (Peel Slowly and See)
  11. NumbU2 (Zooropa)
  12. (I’ll Love You) Till The End Of The WorldNick Cave And The Bad Seeds (Until The End Of The World)
  13. Run That Body DownPaul Simon (Paul Simon)
  14. Ain’t No RightJane’s Addiction (Ritual De Lo Habitual)
  15. Still Learning How To CrawlDaniel Lanois (For The Beauty Of Wynona)
  16. Honky TonkMiles Davis (Get Up With It)
  17. Who Do You Think You Are?Elvis Costello And The Brodsky Quartet (The Juliet Letters)
  18. Le Bien, Le MalGuru Featuring Mc Solaar (Jazzmatazz Volume 1)
  19. Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex MachineJames Brown (Funk Power 1970: Brand New Thang)
  20. I’ve Been TiredThe Pixies (Come On Pilgrim)
  21. Jane SaysJane’s Addiction (Nothing’s Shocking)
  22. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)U2 (Faraway So Close)
  23. Every Time I Go Around HereFrank Black (Frank Black)
  24. En Mana KuoyoAyub Ogada (En Mana Kuoyo)

You can listen to (most of) the mix on Apple Music:

Old mix: We have no heads

Sometimes my early mixes are what might charitably be described as “all over the place.” (Heck, sometimes my late mixes are too.) This one, which was assembled sometime around May of 1993, definitely fits that description.

There comes a time in every young music head’s life when they discover Tom Waits. For me, that was clearly happening right about the time this mix was made. It was fortuitous that Apollo 18 by They Might Be Giants had come out about six months previously, as the frenetic energy of the opening track plays nicely with “Goin’ Out West.” (Side note: because I bought a lot of my CDs through music clubs at this stage in my life, I was almost always late to the party when a new album was released. If I recall correctly, it could be a few months before a new release was available in the mail order catalog. —And yes, mail order catalog, because this was right before the Internet began to eat that business model.)

Between those two tracks is “Frelon Brun,” from Filles de Kilimanjaro. I had just picked up this CD, having fallen in love with the title track, which appeared on Miles’ The Columbia Years anthology (another box set I snagged at a discount). “Frelon Brun” is probably the most rock-oriented of the performances on that album; for one, it’s the only track that is under 6 minutes long. It’s funky and powerful and fun. On this album it punctuates the ferocious energy of the tracks on either side.

Side 2 opens with Ayub Ogada’s “Obiero,” a track that appears in slightly different forms on both his own En Mana Kuoyo and Peter Gabriel’s Plus from Us anthology; it’s the latter that appears here (and coincidentally helps to date the mix, since Plus from Us was released on May 16, 1993). That’s followed by “Rain” by An Emotional Fish, which was on the Spew 2 promotional compilation (which I’ve since lost), alongside King Missile’s dryly hilarious “Detachable Penis” (which also appears on this mixtape). And then comes “Traditional Irish Folk Song,” from Denis Leary’s comedy album No Cure for Cancer. Like I said, charitably described as all over the place.

This mixtape also memorializes the beginning of my interest in PJ Harvey, having picked up Dry based on word of mouth from the crew in the basement of Peabody Hall, i.e. the publications staffs of the Declaration and The Yellow Journal. I was still digesting the Talking Heads, having picked up the Sand in the Vaseline compilation earlier that year. And, having bought Neneh Cherry’s great Homebrew on a whim earlier that spring, I discovered the seductive pleasures of “Peace in Mind” by blasting the album out my Monroe Hill window one Sunday afternoon as we played an impromptu volleyball game.

  1. Dig My GraveThey Might Be Giants (Apollo 18)
  2. Frelon Brun (Brown Hornet)Miles Davis (Filles De Kilimanjaro)
  3. Goin’ Out WestTom Waits (Bone Machine)
  4. Ten PercenterFrank Black (Frank Black)
  5. The Unbreakable ChainDaniel Lanois (For The Beauty Of Wynona)
  6. Cain & AbelBranford Marsalis Trio (The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born)
  7. I Want To LiveTalking Heads (Sand In The Vaseline Popular Favorites 1976-1992)
  8. Plants And RagsPJ Harvey (Dry)
  9. Summertime RollsJane’s Addiction (Nothing’s Shocking)
  10. Don’t Worry About the GovernmentTalking Heads (Talking Heads: 77)
  11. Heavy Cloud No RainSting (Ten Summoner’s Tales)
  12. TroutNeneh Cherry (Homebrew)
  13. ObieroAyub Ogada (Plus From Us)
  14. ButterfliesToad the Wet Sprocket (Fear)
  15. Traditional Irish Folk SongDenis Leary (No Cure For Cancer)
  16. RainAn Emotional Fish (Junk Puppets)
  17. I Wish You Wouldn’t Say ThatTalking Heads (Talking Heads: 77)
  18. Who Are YouTom Waits (Bone Machine)
  19. PetsPorno For Pyros (Porno for Pyros)
  20. Detachable PenisKing Missile (Happy Hour)
  21. Brackish BoyFrank Black (Frank Black)
  22. Happy And BleedingPJ Harvey (Dry)
  23. I Don’t Wanna Grow UpTom Waits (Bone Machine)
  24. Peace In MindNeneh Cherry (Homebrew)
  25. Epilogue (Nothing ‘Bout Me)Sting (Ten Summoner’s Tales)

You can listen to (most of) the mix via Apple Music here:

Old mix: faith and blues

When I got to the University of Virginia, I started buying much more music. Plan 9 (the original one on the Corner) was within walking distance, I had the mail order music clubs, I had neighbors with their own CD collections, and I started checking out different musical directions.

One of the directions that was new to me at the time was the blues. There had started to be some serious efforts to reissue and preserve old delta blues recordings, starting with the complete works of Robert Johnson and a series of box sets of artists on Chess Records. I found both available on the various CD clubs (probably Columbia, in this case) for a fraction of the list price, and started digesting the music by putting it alongside other blues that I understood better, namely jazz, the Rolling Stones, and folk music.

I might have been on to something. The Child Ballads that Dylan rifled for “Seven Curses” have a straight through-line to the blues. So does every single Leonard Cohen song. And the themes of death, guilt, and murder that snake through most of the rest of the tracks are all steeped in the blues. The outlier might be David Byrne’s “Make Believe Mambo,” but it works well melodically with the songs that surround it, and some blues are for dancing.

I note in passing that I made this mix in the late spring of 1992, long before Jeff Buckley covered the version of “Hallelujah” that appears on this mix as performed by John Cale and made it immortal. I always liked Cale.

Special shouts out in this mix to my upstairs neighbor in Harrison Portal at Monroe Hill for lending me the Rolling Stones compilation; to Greg for introducing me to Reckoning and Camper Van Beethoven in our first year; and to now-Bishop Poulson Reed for suggesting that we visit Preservation Hall on our visit to New Orleans while on the Tour of the South in 1992, where I heard the band play and picked up New Orleans – Vol. 4.

  1. “Sweet Home Chicago” – Robert Johnson (The Complete Recordings)
  2. “Sympathy for the Devil” – The Rolling Stones (Beggars Banquet)
  3. “Seven Curses” – Bob Dylan (The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1–3: Rare and Unreleased)
  4. “Carolyn’s Fingers” – Cocteau Twins (Blue Bell Knoll)
  5. “Suzanne” – Geoffrey Oryema (I’m Your Fan — The Songs of Leonard Cohen)
  6. “Nigh Eve” – Marcus Roberts (As Serenity Approaches)
  7. “Peace Like a River” – Paul Simon (Paul Simon)
  8. “St. James Infirmary” – Preservation Hall Jazz Band (New Orleans – Vol. IV)
  9. “So. Central Rain” – R.E.M. (Reckoning)
  10. “Eye of Fatima, Pt. 1 & 2” – Camper Van Beethoven (Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart)
  11. “Halo” – Depeche Mode (Violator)
  12. “Preaching Blues (Up Jumped the Devil)” – Robert Johnson (The Complete Recordings)
  13. “Hallelujah” – John Cale (I’m Your Fan — The Songs of Leonard Cohen)
  14. “Kindhearted Woman Blues” – Robert Johnson (The Complete Recordings)
  15. “Make Believe Mambo” – David Byrne (Rei Momo)
  16. “Creole Blues” – Marcus Roberts (As Serenity Approaches)
  17. “Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones (Let It Bleed)
  18. “She Divines Water” – Camper Van Beethoven (Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart)
  19. “Blues in the Evening” – Marcus Roberts (As Serenity Approaches)
  20. “From Four Till Late” – Robert Johnson (The Complete Recordings)
  21. “7 Chinese Bros.” – R.E.M. (Reckoning)
  22. “Who By Fire” – The House of Love (I’m Your Fan — The Songs of Leonard Cohen)
  23. “Death’s Door” – Depeche Mode (Until the End of the World Soundtrack)
  24. “Armistice Day” –Paul Simon (Paul Simon)
  25. “Come On In My Kitchen” – Robert Johnson (The Complete Recordings)
  26. “Walkin’ After Midnight” – Cowboy Junkies (The Trinity Session)

You can listen to (most of) the mix on Apple Music:

Old mix: the blue groove of twilight

One of the things that happened when I got to the University of Virginia was that I began to branch out in my musical tastes—or, maybe more precisely, I began to explore each of the branches I had already grown to like. In this case, it was jazz, and while I had made mix tapes containing jazz music before, this was the first to be (almost) entirely devoted to jazz.

I found my way into jazz from Sting, whose band in the mid to late 1980s was made up of jazz musicians; from summer concerts at Fort Monroe; and from my mom’s record collection. She had some Ahmad Jamal and Dave Brubeck and Ramsey Lewis—nothing too outré but enough to convince me that I wanted to listen to more. I also knew, from U2, that I ought to listen to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. I didn’t really know anyone else who listened to jazz, so I had to find my own way in.

Because I liked to read liner notes, I found myself drawn to the Original Jazz Classics reissue series of classic jazz albums on CD when I was at UVA. There was so much context on the back of those albums! You could see who the players were, read reviews, and more without even opening the album. That’s how I started to dig back into some of the great ’50s and ’60s recordings. I also picked up the threads of Sting’s band, listening to Branford, then Wynton, then Wynton’s band and Kenny Kirkland.

Because I have never been able to focus exclusively, a couple of jazz-adjacent tracks snuck onto this mix. Most notably, “Escalay” from the Kronos Quartet Pieces of Africa appears. While this is nominally a classical or world music track, it has enough in common with the works around it—a strong rhythmic foundation, a modal scale, an improvised solo—to fit in nicely. The other, Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain,” was added to provide an anchor point for some of the other explorations of blues through the jazz idiom on Side 2. And I couldn’t figure out how to end the mix, so I dropped some Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo in; it fits better than you’d think because of the vocal improvisation and the general mood.

For the actual jazz tracks, there’s a pretty good range of stuff. Of course we touch on Kind of Blue, but there’s also Coltrane’s Sound and Ellington Indigos. I really like the tracks from Marcus Roberts, the pianist and composer who was the nucleus of Wynton Marsalis’s late-1980s/early-1990s band. And there are a couple of nice sets on the second side, with the early jazz workouts of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins contrasting with the more abstract work of Branford Marsalis, Ornette Coleman and Kenny Kirkland.

  1. Brother VealWynton Marsalis Septet (Blue Interlude)
  2. NebuchadnezzarMarcus Roberts (Deep In The Shed)
  3. Central Park WestJohn Coltrane (Coltrane’s Sound)
  4. EscalayKronos Quartet (Pieces of Africa)
  5. All BluesMiles Davis (Kind of Blue)
  6. All the Things You AreDuke Ellington (Ellington Indigos)
  7. As Serenity ApproachesMarcus Roberts (As Serenity Approaches)
  8. The Jitterbug WaltzMarcus Roberts (As Serenity Approaches)
  9. Love In Vain Blues (Alternate Take)Robert Johnson (The Complete Recordings)
  10. Perdido Street BluesLouis Armstrong (Louis Armstrong Of New Orleans)
  11. My Melancholy Baby [Alternate Take]Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker (Bird And Diz (+3))
  12. ParadoxSonny Rollins (Worktime)
  13. Willow Weep For MeDuke Ellington (Ellington Indigos)
  14. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet BornBranford Marsalis Trio (The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born)
  15. Simpatico – MisteriosoHoward Shore/Ornette Coleman (Naked Lunch)
  16. ChanceKenny Kirkland (Kenny Kirkland)
  17. Big Trouble In the Easy (Pedro Pops Up)Wynton Marsalis (Tune In Tomorrow… The Original Soundtrack)
  18. Crepuscule With Nellie (Take 6)Thelonious Monk (Monk’s Music)
  19. Amazing GraceLadysmith Black Mambazo with Paul Simon (Journey Of Dreams)

If you are an Apple Music subscriber, you can listen to (most of) the mix here:

Old mix: An angel being blown backwards into the future

Prodded by yesterday’s post about Pieces of Africa and the mixes it inspired, I was inspired to post about a few of them. These were mix tapes—made well before the advent of Rip.Mix.Burn—and they reflected whatever was going through my brain at the time.

This mix was made early in the summer of 1993. I had just finished my third year at the University of Virginia and was interning in a physics lab, and slowly coming to the painful conclusion that I would not be going on to graduate study in my field. But it was sunny, and I was reasonably happy! So this was made to play in my car with the top down.

Like so many of the mixes I made (and still make), this was a way for me to digest all the CDs I had bought and listened to, whether from Plan 9 or in the BMG music club, which sold classical and other CDs at a substantial discount if you didn’t mind the occasionally blurry reproductions of album art and liner notes they suspiciously sported…

But summer of 1993 was still a pretty good time. Frank Black had just changed his name and released his first solo album; Sting’s latest showed he still had songwriting chops. I had met a singer from a woman’s chorus on a Glee Club tour who moved me deeply, to the tune of a Suzanne Vega song. Peter Gabriel’s Real World was still introducing me to new voices like Sheila Chandra. My friends in the New Dominions had just recorded their first CD, for which I did the jacket and disc design, working around a brilliant illustration by Deepak Raghu. I had heard Tori Amos for the first time in concert at Old Cabell Hall, being lucky enough to score tickets after a Glee Club rehearsal. I was starting to explore jazz beyond Coltrane and Miles and Wynton and Branford. Good times indeed.

  1. Fu ManchuFrank Black (Frank Black)
  2. 99.9 F°Suzanne Vega (99.9 F°)
  3. Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)Sting (Ten Summoner’s Tales)
  4. Before You Were BornToad the Wet Sprocket (Fear)
  5. Ever So Lonely/Eyes/The OceanSheila Chandra (Weaving My Ancestors’ Voices)
  6. AvaDavid Byrne (The Forest)
  7. Tin ManNew Dominions (Salamander!)
  8. TilliboyoKronos Quartet (Pieces of Africa)
  9. Road To NowhereTalking Heads (Sand In The Vaseline Popular Favorites 1976-1992)
  10. Precious ThingsTori Amos (Little Earthquakes)
  11. The Dream BeforeLaurie Anderson (Strange Angels)
  12. Seven DaysSting (Ten Summoner’s Tales)
  13. Drawing Room BluesJoe Henderson (Lush Life – The Music of Billy Strayhorn)
  14. SassyNeneh Cherry (Homebrew)
  15. Ed Is DeadThe Pixies (Come On Pilgrim)
  16. Warning SignTalking Heads (More Songs About Buildings And Food)
  17. As Girls GoSuzanne Vega (99.9 F°)
  18. Dirt In The GroundTom Waits (Bone Machine)
  19. Death Of A TrainDaniel Lanois (For The Beauty Of Wynona)
  20. Washing Of The WaterPeter Gabriel (Us)
  21. Motorway To RoswellThe Pixies (Trompe Le Monde)

If you have Apple Music, you can listen to the mix here, though it doesn’t include all the tracks… 🙁

Errata: Although “Upside Down” is in the track listing on the j-card for the tape, it wouldn’t fit on the end of Side 1. So I saved it for another mix.

Also noting: I added a page to the blog to track all the articles about mixes.

New (old) mix: the unapologetic liberal psychosis blues

A new mix minifeature kicks off today, inspired by the recent loss of my iTunes library. I was able to rebuild some mixes from Art of the Mix, but had to go back to j-cards from the original tapes for many of my playlists. At that point I decided that it was time to stop being embarrassed about my old mixes and just go ahead and post them, if for no other reason than so that I would have a back-up record of them later—but also so that I could transcribe some of my memories about what was going on at the time.

I started with my first self-consciously titled mix: the unapologetic liberal psychosis blues. The mix dates from my second year in college—in fact, if my rare handwritten date on the j-card is to be trusted, from right after Thanksgiving break, November 25, 1991. I was, if the playlist is any indication, knee deep in my contemporaneous love affair with the Pixies, just discovering Bauhaus and Joy Division, and working out from under the influence of U2’s Achtung Baby. I was still buying discs from the music services, including the Bob Dylan Bootleg set and the Jesus and Mary Chain. I was also digesting a stack of CDs that I had bought during the summer from the independent music shop in Patrick Henry Mall in Newport News, including a two-disc Hendrix compilation and a House of Love rarities disc.

In fact, for all its aggression and noise, this disc has my hometown written all over it. In addition to the stuff from the mall, I had been turned onto Nine Inch Nails and the Jesus and Mary Chain by a kid a year younger than me who used to go to my high school. I was trading tapes with friends, and my sister’s friends, and getting feedback about the Pixies from people who had seen U2’s show at the Hampton Coliseum where the Pixies opened for them.

But the tone of this mix was so much darker than anything I had made before. What brought that darkness? Maybe it was the second year of college. In fact, almost certainly it was—I was taking a more than full course load, 20 hours compared to the original 15, and I was freaking out. I was also, I feared, in danger of failing my first math course—I was in a math for physics majors course with third years and in way over my head. I was also being distracted by things that were much more interesting—literature, music, philosophy—and didn’t know what was going on. Didn’t I want to be a physicist?

I’m just now, 14 years later, realizing how confused I was and how much anger I had stirring in me as a result of what I was fearing was a waste of time, years spent as a science student, years not spent learning how to be a kid. I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up, in a way, ever since.

But none of that changes the fact that this is damned good music. It’s funny how the distance from those events actually makes the music that much better.