The Shapiro Files

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Art of the Mix Tape

I've recently read an article about a new book by Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore called Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture and I was inspired to write a blog reflection on my own love affair with the mix tape. Prior to the digital age, anyone of my generation who had a cassette recorder and any reasonably sized record collection most likely made a mix tape or two in their lives. Like so many of my contemporaries, I made countless mix tapes for friends, significant others, and of course, for my own enjoyment. Of all the tapes I made, my all time favorite was a little something I made in August 1987 called Almost Mellow. This was a collection of songs that were exactly as the title implied: songs on the verge of being mellow. There's quite a bit of 1970's rock stuff there that I was really into at the time (still am, actually) and a couple of now-embarrassing cheesy ballads. It wasn't a perfect collection, but it always proved popular at social gatherings when I wanted to mellow things out.

So warts and all (please remember this was the 80's and I was considerably younger), here's Almost Mellow:

Side 1:
1. "Amanda" - Boston
2. "If You Leave Me Now" - Chicago
3. "Still...You Turn Me On" - Emerson Lake and Palmer
4. "Every Little Thing" - The Beatles
5. "Comfortable Numb" - Pink Floyd
6. "Behind Blue Eyes" - The Who
7. "Be My Number Two" - Joe Jackson
8. "Ten Years Gone" - Led Zeppelin
9. "Maybe I'm Amazed" - Paul McCartney
10. "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman" - Aretha Franklin
11. "Out Here On My Own" - Irene Cara

Side 2:
1. "Sea of Love" - The Honeydrippers
2. "And I Love Her" - The Beatles
3. "A Man I'll Never Be" - Boston
4. "Snowblind" - Genesis
5. "For No One" - The Beatles
6. "Romeo and Juliet" - Dire Straits
7. "Haven't We Been Here Before" - Styx
8. "Dear Mr. Fantasy" - Traffic
9. "Thank You" - Led Zeppelin
10. "The Night is Still Young" - Billy Joel


Like any good thing, Almost Mellow spawned two sequels, Almost Almost Mellow (how could I resist?) and Almost Almost Almost Mellow (taking the joke a little far that time). But no other mix tape was ever quite so special to me as the original Almost Mellow. Here's to you, old friend.

5 Comments:

  • That sounds great. Do you still mix tapes? Which songs did you put on the other two?

    By Blogger Irina Tsukerman, at 7/14/2005 7:58 PM  

  • Ever since the digital age, I haven't made any mix tapes. But I do plenty of custom playlists on my iPod and I occasionally burn mix CDs--mainly collections of my favorite musicians. My two favorites are a 2-disc Randy Newman collection and a 2-disc Elton John one (focusing almost entirely of his earlier, more orchestrated/melodic stuff).

    As for the Almost Mellow sequels, the first, Almost Almost Mellow (as in it's almost the original Almost Mellow tape, since it's the exact same formula) was even more flawed than the first. I was especially unhappy with the last part of side two. But for what it's worth, here it is:

    Side 1
    1. "Waiting for a Girl Like You" - Foreigner
    2. "From the Beginning" - Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
    3. "The Long and Winding Road" - The Beatles
    4. "Onward" - Yes
    5. "The Rain Song" - Led Zeppelin
    6. "Lola" - The Kinks
    7. "Somebody" - Depeche Mode
    8. "Love, Reign, O'er Me" - The Who
    9. "A Whiter Shade of Pale" - Procol Harum
    10. "Is it Okay if I Call You Mine?" - Paul McCrane

    Side 2
    1. "Photograph" - Ringo Starr
    2. "Femme Fatale" - Dramarama
    3. "Fat Old Sun" - Pink Floyd
    4. "All of My Love" - Led Zeppelin
    5. "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)" - John Lennon
    6. "Reflection" - George Winston
    7. "Hey You" - Pink Floyd
    8. "No Face, No Name, and No Number" - Traffic
    9. "Living on a Thin Line" - The Kinks
    10. "Stand By Me" - John Lennon

    As for the final sequel, it wasn't actually a sequel, as much as a remake of the first sequel--thus the name Almost Almost Almost Mellow. It was made on my friend Tim's DJ mixing equipment, which meant I was able to cross-fade between songs. The result was actually pretty cool. I was also able to fix the end and make a couple of other tweaks. Here it is:

    Side 1
    1. "Waiting for a Girl Like You" - Foreigner
    2. "From the Beginning" - Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
    3. "Let it Be" - The Beatles
    4. "Onward" - Yes
    5. "The Rain Song" - Led Zeppelin
    6. "Lola" - The Kinks
    7. "Somebody" - Depeche Mode
    8. "Love, Reign, O'er Me" - The Who
    9. "A Whiter Shade of Pale" - Procol Harum
    10. "Is it Okay if I Call You Mine?" - Paul McCrane

    Side 2
    1. "Photograph" - Ringo Starr
    2. "Femme Fatale" - Dramarama
    3. "Fat Old Sun" - Pink Floyd
    4. "All My Love" - Led Zeppelin
    5. "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)" - John Lennon
    6. "Reflection" - George Winston
    7. "Stay" - Pink Floyd
    8. "(A) Face in the Crowd" - The Kinks
    9. "No Face, No Name, and No Number" - Traffic
    10. "I've Loved These Days" (Live) - Billy Joel

    So there you have it!

    By Blogger Steve Shapiro, at 7/15/2005 11:45 PM  

  • That sounds pretty fun! But why are you so unhappy with the second side of the second tape?

    By Blogger Irina Tsukerman, at 7/18/2005 8:05 PM  

  • I never liked the flow beginning with "Hey You" and especially ending with "Stand By Me." As much as I like those songs independently, they just didn't flow right. On the other hand, in my reworking of Almost Almost Mellow, the transition from "No Face, No Name, and No Number" to "I've Loved These Days" worked much better.

    All this stuff is very instinctive and I really have no great way to articulate why something works or doesn't. I just know it when I hear it!

    By Blogger Steve Shapiro, at 7/21/2005 4:33 PM  

  • Steve,

    All you NEED is a few Hairband songs. May I suggest the Scorps, or a little DLR Van Halen!!!

    :) Marty

    By Blogger HAIRBAND FAN, at 7/25/2005 1:04 PM  

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