September, 2001




I miss making mixtapes. That statement will surprise no one that knows me or anyone that’s been following this blog. I miss making mixtapes, but maybe more, I miss having the gaps of time with nothing to do where I COULD make mixtapes. Where I could just sit at my desk or on the floor, piling CD cases into tracklist order as I listened to the song currently being transferred from disc to tape. I have nowhere near that much free time anymore.

Hours. It would take hours to put a mixtape together. Not just a couple hours, but at least three, sometimes four hours. And you couldn’t watch TV while putting the mix together. You couldn’t read a book between the pressings of “record” and “pause.” That four hour block was only about the music.

For me, the mixtape was often built as I went. I would have a decent idea of the bands I wanted, and usually a few keys songs that HAD to be included, but I was never locked into a sequence of songs. I had a standard method for my mixtape tape creation, which allowed for sampling multiple tracks before deciding on the next best song. And it was always about how the beginning of that next song will sound next to the fade out (or hard stop) of the previous. Transitions were very important to me.

I’m less of a fan of transitions in real life. Especially the big, obvious ones. My transition back to Los Angeles (or really, we could just say “to Los Angeles,” because I never actually established anything there the first time) happened so quickly and was so heavily based on emotion that there was little time to consider if it was the right thing to do. I was in love, so nobody was going to convince me that I was wrong.

But by the end of September, after being there a few months, the exciting newness was fading and September 11th had just happened. The reality of this big change was quickly setting in. I wasn’t reconnecting with any of my old friends, I was unemployed and I didn’t even have a car. The whole world had just made an enormous transition and, yeah, I was starting to freak out.

Thank god I still had plenty of free time to make mixtapes.



  • “The Universal” – Blur
  • “Bastards of Young” – The Replacements
  • “Glowworm” – The Apples in Stereo
  • “Tonight” – Supergrass
  • “The Naughty Villain” – Elf Power (listed as The Minders on the sleeve)
  • “Dumb Dumb Dumb” – Teenage Fanclub
  • “Stop Breaking Down” – The White Stripes
  • “Crossroads” – Dodgy
  • “Distopian Dream Girl” – Built to Spill
  • “Beyond Belief” – Elvis Costello
  • “Way Out” – The La’s
  • “Not the Same” – Ben Folds
  • “Rings Around the World” – Super Furry Animals
  • “The Best of What’s Around” – Dave Matthews Band
  • “Better Things” – The Minders
  • “Dog Gotta Bone” – The Beta Band
  • “She’s Automatic” – Rancid
  • “Greyhound Bus” – The Moldy Peaches


  • “Rollerskate Skinny” – Old 97’s
  • “Cut Your Hair” – Pavement
  • “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” – The Lemonheads
  • “That’s Entertainment” – The Jam
  • “Ballad of the Lonely Argonaut” – Beulah
  • “Dumb Jam” – James
  • “Change in Speak” – De La Soul
  • “Something For Me” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “Barely Legal” – The Strokes
  • “I Want You Back” – The Jackson 5
  • “Paranoid Android” – Radiohead
  • “I Spy” – Guster
  • “Do It All Over Again” – Spirtualized
  • “Yeh Yeh” – They Might Be Giants
  • “Hollow” – Remy Zero
  • “The Charm” – The Cosmic Rough Riders
  • “Safe” – Travis


In a lot of ways, I feel like this is my first L.A. tape. Not the first one I made here, but the first one that is distinctly of Los Angeles. This comes from the songs included here off the albums purchased after the move. As we move forward in time, I imagine we’ll find that all the subsequent tapes become top heavy with, and possibly eventually filled with, post-move albums.

But let’s start with some pre-move music, much like Side A does.

Blur’s “The Universal.” What a fantastic way to open a mix. A slow fade up to some reserved strings and then crooning vocals, all building to a rousing, horns-laden chorus. It’s a song of sheen and pristine. Which makes the roughshod rock of The Replacement’s “Bastards of Young” a perfect follow-up.

Again, this kind of transition/juxtaposition was something I was very conscious of when making my mixes. Especially if the mix was for me. Very rarely would I go from a a ’90s Britpop song to a ’90s Britpop song, or grunge to grunge, or hip-hop to hip-hop. And I believe this will be especially true going forward, as my music collection was expanding and the variety of choices made it easier to do.

There are other “Me Classics” from from the pre-move collection: Rancid, Dave Matthews Band and Built to Spill are all here. And there are quite a few “moments before the move” albums represented here. The Strokes and The White Stripes we’re just starting to make waves in early 2001, and I was jumping on board. This is right at the head of the “garage rock” revolution, or whatever it was called. Which basically means, “The Strokes and The White Stripes had some success, so let’s sign all the other bands that sound vaguely like them. Like we did with grunge!” But, come on. Nobody sounds like The White Stripes.

Ooooh! I want that art on a t-shirt!

Another “moment before the move” album I’ll highlight gives us this mixtape’s namesake. In June of 2001, Travis release their third LP, The Invisible Band. I spent hours lying on my bedroom floor listening to this album. Travis was the band Carrie and I had listened to most often, seeing them live together at least three times in less than a year. They soundtracked our courtship and breakup and long distance relationship. So, of course, now that I was with her in a new city and state, I leaned on Travis to make me feel at home.

FUN FACT: While “Safe” is the song that ends this tape, I often use the song to open Travis mixes I make to introduce the band to someone. Let me know if you want one.

But it’s the Post-Move Music that stands out here, even in its smaller number. This is because when I hear the songs, I can better place the moment in time when it entered my life. I spent a lot of money to make my cross-country  move, on plane tickets and shipping and now new rent. So now, instead of eating meat and purchasing a car, I spent what little money I had on continuing to grow my record collection. So there is a clear starting point for this post-move music.

Though an older album (1996), I bought Lemonheads’ Car Button Cloth in L.A. And the song “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” is a favorite. The melody is sweet and dreamy, while the lyrics nonsensically combine turns of phrase with dark references. But it’s the the chorus that always gets me: “If I could talk, I’d tell you… You are far and away my most imaginary friend.” I don’t know what it means, but it sure does melt the heart.

Sometimes I try to get into a band because I think I have to– they’ve been around for a while, they’re critically acclaimed, everybody’s talking about them. There was a time this was true of They Might Be Giants. I had first heard of them in high school when my friend Jeff was listening to them. But I wasn’t buying a lot of music in high school, and what music I was buying wasn’t anything underground or indie or whatever TMBG was considered at the time.

So when I was perusing the aisles at the Virgin Megastore and saw the band had a new album out, I felt now was the time to make my first They Might Be Giants purchase. It was their eighth official full length, Mink Car, and it was fine enough. I shouldn’t have started with their eighth, but it was on sale. It’s not an album I go back to often, and they’re not a band I have put any retroactive effort into. It says something, I’m sure, that the song of theirs I chose to put on this tape is their cover of someone else’s.


Starting late into the discography again, my first Spiritualized album was Let It Come Down, their fourth album. I remember the aforementioned Virgin Megastore near Carrie’s work was pushing it, with huge posters and a sale price. I think I bought this album and their previous one at the same time. Might have been a buy-one-get-on kind of deal. Space rock, as they are often described, isn’t immediately my kind of thing. But remove that shortcut descriptor and this is just a band making moving music. And that I do like.

Elf Power was a band always mentioned in articles about the Elephant Six Recording Company, which was a collection of musicians that spawned others bands I already enjoyed like Neutral Milk Hotel, The Apples in Stereo and more recently, The Minders. As I often did, I came to Elf Power for the first time late, with their sixth album. They surprised me, because their sound wasn’t what I expected based on the three E6 bands I already knew. It took a little time, but they did grow on me.


As I wrote earlier, about four paragraphs above this, sometimes I try to get into a band because I think I have to. I kept reading a lot about The Moldy Peaches after I moved back to Los Angeles. The music magazines I was reading, especially those from the UK, were hailing them as the next big thing, the start of a new wave of freak-folk. And since I generally pick up multiple albums at a time, their debut, lo-fi disc likely came home alongside the slickly produced Spiritualized and They Might Be Giants albums. So their home-recordings sound didn’t grab me at the time. I ended up selling the CD months later in order to buy something new… probably Oasis. I dig their aesthetic now and wish I had held on to that album.



This week’s pick was also on the last mix, but got beat out by the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” But I knew there would be another chance for it to take the Super Ultra Mega Song spot. And here it is, on the very next tape.

It’s quick return is because I absolutely love this song. I put it on a lot of the tapes I made for my self and others from 2001 to whenever it was I stopped making regular mixtapes. Listening to “Rollerskate Skinny” these past several weeks while driving to and from work, I still got excited every time it came on. This song makes me feel good. This is a song I love to sing along to. It’s in my vocal range, the lyrics are clear and fun, there’s no guilty pleasure. It’s just pleasure. I sing this one loud, windows down.

If you’ve never heard it, here’s your chance for play number one. I hope it leads you into the thousands eventually, too.





September, 2001




September 11th changed America. It changed the world. It changed lives directly and indirectly. My life was already in transition, so I didn’t noticed a big, personal shift. But looking back, it of course had an affect on my little corner of the world.

Before 9/11, I had just returned to Los Angeles with little footing besides my growing love for Carrie. Yes, old college friends still lived in the area, but I hadn’t stayed in touch with them and they were now four years further along establishing themselves in Hollywood. I was starting over, mostly from scratch. I had no job prospects prior to the move, no car, little savings. It was terrifying, to say the least.

But there was something coming that I thought would help make me feel more at home, and help rebuild my confidence– Tim.

Yes, my Boston roommate was relocating to L.A. just a couple months after I did. This was what I needed. With Tim in town, I wasn’t going to feel as lost. And everything we talked about in college and in Boston– all the creative things we wanted to write and film and perform– we might finally be able to do it. This was a plan we never actually discussed, but to me it felt like the inescapable next step.

With Tim’s move, my old Boston life would be surrounding me again. I was with the woman I loved, and I would still be hanging out with a creative force who could inspire me. I still had no concrete life plans, but the environment that was starting to materialize around me was exciting.

Then 9/11 changed the world– big and small.

Everything became very uncertain in the days and weeks and months after the events of that day. Would the country be going to war? Would it be happening again? Would normalcy ever return to our everyday lives?

Tim had arrived in Los Angeles only a short time before the 11th, already nervous about his decision to move. We had already made plans for some sightseeing with some other friends on the 12th (or maybe it was the 13th) and we found ourselves walking around Old Town Pasadena. It was a solemn walk, filled with deep conversations about the state of our world. Later that week, Tim was crashing in our apartment and he was preparing for his trip back home. The entire world was reeling and that’s simply where he felt he needed to be. And who could blame him? There were too many unknowns in the world to add starting a new life to the list.

Looking back on that now, I wonder how differently our lives could have turned out had he stayed. And would he have stayed if September 11th hadn’t happened? It’s a selfish, stupid thing to think about now, some 16 years later, but since this blog is all about looking back, it’s what has come to mind. Certainly, I could sit here and hypothesize on all sorts of “what if” moments from my life. But this tape has taken me back to September of 2001, to events that I never realized had a direct affect on me.

But perhaps it changed my life more directly than I’ll ever know.



  • “Is This It” – The Strokes
  • “Long Life” – Dodgy
  • “Castaway” – Green Day
  • “Give Me A Letter” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “Sparky’s Dream” – Teenage Fanclub
  • “Hotel Yorba” – The White Stripes
  • “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss” – Built to Spill
  • “The Bandit” – Starlight Mints
  • “Rollerskate Skinny” – Old 97’s
  • “Cornish Town” – Shack
  • “Who Would’ve Thought” – Rancid
  • “The Pain Inside” – Cosmic Rough Riders”
  • “Girlfriend” – Matthew Sweet
  • “Cruel Minor Change” – Beulah
  • “Knives Out” – Radiohead
  • “The Ascent of Stan” – Ben Folds
  • “Killer Queen” – Travis
  • “Photograph” – Weezer


  • “I Want You Back” – The Jackson 5
  • “Play It Cool” – Super Furry Animals
  • “Next Year” – Foo Fighters
  • “Right As Rain” – The Minders
  • “I’m Not Afriad” – Remy Zero
  • “Pump It Up” – Elvis Costello
  • “Freedom of Speak (We Got Three Minutes)” – De La Soul
  • “Tender” – Blur
  • “The Not So Pretty Princess” – Jude
  • “Sitting Up Straight” – Supergrass
  • “Get Off This” – Cracker
  • “Glowworm” – The Apples in Stereo
  • “Higher State” – Toploader
  • “Cut Your Hair” – Pavement
  • “If We Can Land a Man on the Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart” – Beulah
  • “Perfect Sin” – The Amazing Crowns
  • “A Good Flying Bird” – Guided By Voices

With everything changing around me, I still had my music. And while I wasn’t consciously reacting to the terror attacks, there are certain choices here that must have been a subconscious reaction.

The choice of cover and title, for one. The original picture was a stack of CD cases, but I clipped it, turned it on its side and saw a cityscape, a dreamlike skyline of music. Was this a gesture towards replacing the fallen buildings in New York?

And what of some of the song choices here? I open with a New York City band on the rise.  True, this isn’t the first time The Strokes have appeared on a mix, but maybe putting them first was a nod to the greatest city in the world.

Are there other post-9/11, subconscious mini-statements on this mix? “I’m Not Afraid” seems like it could be. This Remy Zero song doesn’t quite fit the mold for what I usually add to personal mixes. I generally want upbeat songs to drive me through my day. So it seems there may have been something more to this song’s inclusion. And if memory serves, I never again add it to another mix.

Pretty song… but all of this is likely stretching things a bit. If anything, I was just hoping to lose myself for a couple hours, trying to go back to something that brought me familiar comfort. And since I had clearly been doing some CD shopping, it was a perfect time to put another mix together.

As I was growing my collection, there was a time I refused to purchase “Best Of” compilations. The completist in me wanted to get the old albums and hear the songs that weren’t radio singles, the hidden gems. But I eventually realized I didn’t have the money or patience for that. And this mix shows the first two compilations I picked up once I had released myself from this self-imposed rule: The Jackson Five and Elvis Costello. And the first tracks to pull from these discs were not hard choices.

I was done writing this portion of the blog– but then Dodgy’s “Long Life” started playing again. (I listen through the mix on iTunes as I write these.) This song is off of their stellar third album, Free Peace Sweet. And it has an opening that sets a sweet tone and saddens me every time I hear. The lyrics start with:

“Jack you’ve been spreading round for so long, now I’m so tired/
The only thing you can go and do is get yourself fired/
And with your paycheck, just like the last one/
When tonight’s through it will be gone and so will I”

Then as the music continues, there’s the digital ring of a phone. A ringing that goes unanswered. It’s a subtle little addition here, but one that puts you directly into the world of this song. I think Dodgy is a woefully under-appreciated band. And I site songs like this when making my argument.


The move to California, as I think I’ve stated, brought with it a surge in CD buying. There was a Virgin Megastore near Carrie’s office, and I would shop there frequently. And I was more actively researching for new and backtracking for old.

Among the “old” were the aforementioned Best Ofs, along with picking up music from more contemparary bands I didn’t get into when they were new. Pavement was one of these bands.

Being late to the Pavement party pushed me to try and stay abreast of newer, breaking bands. In all the reviews of The Minders’ Golden Street, references to the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Apples in Stereo were constantly used. So it was a no-brainer to seek out this album, and I was not let down.

But my favorite find this year was another album released on September 11 (just like the Ben Folds solo debut.) The Coast Is Never Clear was Beulah’s third album. I hadn’t heard of the band before reading a short, little music review in the back of an issue of Entertainment Weekly. Now, usually, I sought out my music reviews in strictly music magazines– Q, NME, Spin. Their reviews were longer, more in depth, and they usually featured bands you wouldn’t normally find in a mainstream, all-things-entertainment magazine like Entertainment Weekly. I honestly don’t know how a band like Beulah got featured in EW. They were quirky unknowns that had no chance of getting played on the radio. But that’s where I first heard of them, and from that review I bought the album.

From the strength of that album, I immediately picked up everything else they had out there. Beulah became my “moved-to-California” band. In that first year, I might have listened to their tunes more than anything else. And now every time I hear them, those memories of moving back to Cali are instantly stirred. Thank you, Entertainment Weekly.


Man, this is actually a pretty fine mixtape. It’s not perfect, but the variety is expanding and that’s very exciting. I mean, I still have 15 to 20 of these to go (I think… they’re across the room and I don’t want to get up to check right now) and song selections like this have me excited for revisiting this era of mixes.

Truth is, I wish I could highlight more above. Like the bonus track from De La Soul’s 3 Feet High & Rising re-release, Shack’s surprising “Cornish Town,” more from The Starlight Mints, and my favorite Old 97’s track. But I can’t put every song from the tape in this blog, so I must now move on to what doesn’t work.

On this one, it’s the Cosmic Rough Riders. I’m finding that their songs haven’t aged well. Their British electric folk pop is fine enough, but sandwiched between Rancid’s fun, driving “Who Would’ve Thought” and Matthew Sweet’s magnificent “Girlfriend,” the shortcomings of the nasally, mid-tempo, woe-is-me of “The Pain Inside” became apparent. Fine enough on its own. Just don’t follow it with a bonafide classic.


Again, there were a few here vying for the top spot– the super ultra mega song of this tape. And many of those in the running will have opportunities pop up again, because these are the songs I would go back to often. I never tire of them.

But I had to go with this song on its first appearance on one of these mixtapes. Its groove cannot be denied. No matter where I am when I hear this song, I suddenly believe I can dance and I bust my moves. And damn if I don’t try singing along with young Michael. I can’t, but I try.

Because we all try. We can’t help ourselves.

Also– “air bass.”

Also– “air drums.”

Ben Folds


September 11, 2001




Carrie would let me sleep while she got ready for work. No TV or noise. Just a shower and a quick breakfast, then she was out the door. And, God bless her, she would listen to a mixtape I made her on the car ride in.

That’s how she got to work without knowing two Boeing 767 aircraft had been hijacked and piloted into the World Trade Center towers. She didn’t know that both buildings had collapsed, killing thousands of people. She didn’t know another plane crashed into the Pentagon, or that a fourth hijacked plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. She didn’t know.

Carrie spent the first hour and half of September 11 completely oblivious to the horror unfolding across the country.

And I was asleep.

“We’re under attack.” Those were the words that greeted me after the phone woke me up that day. Carrie tried to explain, but ultimately couldn’t find the words. She told me to turn on the TV. And as I did, a tower went down. I thought it was live, but it must have been a replay. I was stunned. Confused. Terrified. I stayed there in bed, glued to the television like the rest of America.

Eventually I found enough awareness to call my mother. I have zero recollection of what we said to each other. I don’t think it was a long call. Just an acknowledgement of being there for each other if we needed it.

Hours passed and all I could do was watch. There was no work being done at Carrie’s office so everyone there was sent home. A coworker of hers, who I had yet to meet, came home with Carrie. He had no roommate and didn’t want to be alone in his apartment at that moment. We welcomed him into ours.

And we sat there watching. Slowly learning new information just as the anchors were learning it on live television. Bewildered. Sad. Scared. Angry. So much unknown.

We sat there watching.

We sat there watching until our friend had to leave. The hugs goodbye were extra strong.

Eventually, Carrie and I made it back to our bed, still watching the unending coverage of the day’s unbelievable events. We were just two people lucky enough not to have been on any of those planes or working in any of those buildings. Like millions of other Americans, all we could was watch.

So we watched.

I laid there, watching. Until I fell asleep.



  • “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces”
  • “Julianne”
  • “Still Fighting It”
  • “Emaline”
  • “Fair”
  • “Magic”
  • “Underground”
  • “Annie Waits”
  • “Kate”
  • “Jackson Cannery”
  • “Lullabye”
  • “Gone”
  • “Tom & Mary”
  • “Uncle Walter”
  • “Battle of Who Could Care Less”
  • “Zak and Sara”


  • “Eddie Walker”
  • “Rockin’ the Suburbs”
  • “Philosophy”
  • “Brick”
  • “Song For the Dumped”
  • “Your Redneck Past”
  • “Best Imitation of Myself”
  • “Evaporated”
  • “The Last Polka:
  • “Army”
  • “Fired”
  • “Steven’s Last Night in Town”
  • “Video”
  • “Bad Idea”
  • “Where’s Summer B?”
  • “Cigarette”

September 11 was a Tuesday. I know this not because the memory of it is etched in my memory, but because new albums were released on Tuesday. And Ben Folds first solo album, Rockin’ The Suburbs, came out September 11.

I believe I received the album early, having pre-ordered it via some newfangled internet everything store. This was an album I was very excited about. I’d been a huge Ben Folds Five fan since seeing them in 1997. (This was the same concert that introduced me to Travis.)

I’m not sure if this was the very first mixtape I made post-9/11, but it was shortly thereafter. It’s between this tape or one of the next two installments. But writing about this mixtape first feels right. Instead of jumping into the probably chaos of multiple bands and multiple sounds, we have single artist compilation. With three band albums, one rarities album and now a solo album, there was enough to choose from for this mix to still have some variety.

I made this one specifically for Carrie. I had already introduced her to Oasis and Travis via mixtape greatest hits (and I’m sure I shared my Gomez comp as well), and Ben Folds Five was my next favorite band on the list. I opened the mix with a clear mission statement song. “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces” starts with Ben banging the keys solo, with Darren Jesse and Robert Sledge soon joining with their throbbing rhythms on drum and bass, respectively. The lyrical tone is also set here, with a snarky, humorous kiss-off song to those who may have dissed the singer in his youth. Typical Ben Folds.

I kept the piano punk going with “Julianne” as track two, but followed these two early tracks with an easy standout off the new solo release. “Still Fighting It” starts off sweet and subdued– a song from a father to a son. It builds slowly to a rousing chorus lamenting the fact that we are all supposed to grow up eventually… but we’re still fighting it.

“Still Fighting It” and “Rockin’ the Suburbs” were easy standouts from the latest release. The previous albums I had lived with for quite awhile, so choosing tracks to add from the latest was all based on first impressions. And, damn, were these some great first impressions. “Gone” is a phenomenal post break-up song. “Annie Waits” is a lovelorn tale of a woman let down by her man. And “Fired” is about, well… being tired of who/where you are in life… I guess. But, man, it’s peppy as hell.

Since I can’t embedded every one of those songs here, I picked one standout I’ve loved since the first time I heard it– “Zak and Sara.” This one is a beautiful, mysterious short story encapsulated in a three-minute song. Musically, it opens with purpose that carries’ through the entire track. Lyrically, it shares a small moment in the lives of the song’s namesakes, but mostly focusing on Sara and her… gift. The song rocks, and it’s an atypical tale being told.

Elsewhere, I of course included the “hits.” And by “hits,” I mean the obvious choices that any Ben Folds Five fan would be remiss to exclude. So we have “Underground,” “Army,” “Battle of Who Could Care Less,” “Kate,” and, yes, the actual hit of the bunch, “Brick.”

But it was most fun to introduce Carrie to some deep cuts and rarities. There are a few tracks included here from the Five’s B-sides and live compilation Naked Baby Photos. Three of these, to me, rate high in the overall Ben Fold’s pantheon. I could highlight any one of them here. I could choose “Eddie Walker” for its slow build confessional, or “Tom & Mary” for its thrilling piano vibe. But I’ll pick “Emaline” for that rare addition to a piano/drum/bass three-piece: an acoustic guitar.


But there is one track from that rarities release that has not withstood the test of time. “Bad Idea” is a slam bang crash of a rock song. And I’d probably love it to this day if not for it’s choral refrain of “You make me feel retarded.” Terrible choice of words here, for a man that usually has a way with words (see the Super Ultra Mega Song below). Honestly, I love the rough and tumble music in this song. It’s just the sentiment I can’t get behind.


I had to double-check that I hadn’t already picked this song, because it’s been a favorite of mine for a while. (“Kate” got the previous honor.) “Best Imitation of Myself” hit me right after college, during a time of major transition. From college to real life. From living on my own to loving back at home. From being in a relationship to suddenly not. Still trying to figure myself out, but not having the foundation to put it all together. (But honestly, I’m still lost.) And this song soundtracked me through it all. It’s a smart, conversational song, with  some of my favorite lines of any Ben Folds song.

(Editor’s Note: I started highlighting a few of the lines and couplets, but realized I had pulled most of the song. So instead, here’s the entire song. Read along as you listen.)

I feel like a quote out of context
Withholding the rest
So I can be free what you want to see
I got the gesture and sound
Got the timing down
It’s uncanny, yeah, you think it was me
Do you think I should take a class
To lose my southern accent
Did I make me up, or make the face till it stuck
I do the best imitation of myself

The “problem with you” speech
You gave me was fine
I liked the theories about my little stage
And I swore I was listening
But I started drifting
Around the part about me acting my age
Now if it’s all the same
I’ve people to entertain
I juggle one handed
Do some magic tricks and
The best imitation of myself

Maybe I’m thinking myself in a hole
Wondering, who I am when I ought to know
Straighten up now time to go
Fool somebody else, fool somebody else

Last night I was east with them
And west within
Trying to be for you what you wanna see
But I can’t help it with you
The good and bad comes through
Don’t want you hanging out with
No one but me
Now if it’s all the same
It comes from the same place
And if my mind’s somewhere else
You won’t be able to tell
I do the best imitation of myself
Yes it’s uncanny to see
You’d really think it was me
The best imitation of myself
The best imitation of myself





April 9, 2001




It’s taken me a while to write this post for a few reasons.

First, my present-day life took an uptick. Things got busy and free time has been hard to come by.

Second, this earlier period of my life has been a bit hard to pin down.

Carrie was gone. After nine months of getting to know her, she left Boston and moved to Los Angeles. It was expected, and if you’ve been following this blog, you know that we had put a plan in place to stay close. Not as boyfriend and girlfriend, but as good friends.

She was gone and I was a bit lost. The job was going well (I had been promoted to a manager), but it wasn’t a job I really wanted. I still had visions of entertaining people, and with Carrie’s encouragement, I tried out for a Cambridge-based comedy troupe. And I made it! I think it helped that very few people actually knew there were tryouts being held. And by “tryouts,” I mean I met with the guy who was forming the troupe, told him I liked Monty Python and he gave me the date and time of the first rehearsal.

So now, with Carrie in California, I was filling my nights with awkward improv with people I didn’t know. It didn’t go well. We had a few good moments here and there, but ultimately we never gelled. And, like my post-college comedy troupe in Los Angeles, I never performed with them publicly.

Before my time with Carrie, I was out there successfully sowing oats. With her now living across the country, I figured I should probably be sowing again. So I flirted and canoodled and went out and threw parties. But none of this went as well as the Pre-Carrie/Basement-Apartment shenanigans of yore. There was doubt and confusion and guilt.

Carrie and I had officially broken up, but it was the “friends-with-benefits” kind of break up. She flew back once. I flew out there once. And we were constantly in touch via phone and email. She reached out to me for support when the unknowns of her big move started to bring her down, and I would reach out to her when I needed to fill my heart with joy and happiness.

Eventually– as much as I was trying to prevent this from happening– eventually I realized why I was feeling so lost, why nothing seemed to be falling into place.

I was utterly, wholly, emphatically in love with Carrie.

Distance be damned.

So at this point, any personal decree of never again returning to California was moot. California was where the love of my life was now living, and California is where I had to be.



  • “Untitled” – Neutral Milk Hotel
  • “Up in the Sky” – Oasis
  • “Big Dipper” – Built to Spill”
  • “Homegrown” – Dodgy
  • “El Scorcho” – Weezer
  • “Twisted” – Sleeper
  • “Mrs. Robinson” – The Lemonheads
  • “Ruby” – The Apples in Stereo
  • “Optimistic” – Radiohead
  • “Hoodoo Voodoo” – Bill Bragg & Wilco
  • “Give Me a Letter” – Ocean Color Scene
  • “Sparky’s Dream” – Teenage Fanclub
  • “Victoria” – The Kinks
  • “Janie Jones” – The Clash
  • “Round the Bend” – The Beta Band
  • “Problem” – Remy Zero
  • “Hit On the Head” – Gomez


  • “All Up” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “Gasface Refill” – KMD
  • “G-Song” – Supergrass
  • “When I’m Feeling Blue (Days of the Week)” – Travis
  • “Try to Remember” – The Apples in Stereo
  • “Hail, Hail” – Pearl Jam
  • “Making the Most Of” – Dodgy
  • “Lost Myself” – Longpigs
  • “Car” – Built to Spill
  • “Password” – Cotton Mather
  • “Get Blown Away” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “Shake Your Rump” – Beastie Boys
  • “The Pain Inside” – Cosmic Rough Riders
  • “Video” – Ben Folds Five
  • “Ripcord” – Radiohead
  • “Lola” – The Kinks

So, clearly, this tape comes at a transitional part of my life. My world was spinning and would definitely, maybe be coming to a stop in Southern California. And while many decisions were left to be made, I still needed music in my headphones.

I had to have a new mixtape and Lola was it. And as you can tell from the lack of cover art or handwritten track listing, I wasn’t putting as much care and effort into the compiling of this mix as I am known to do. I had grown my collection enough to not have to repeat artists, and yet… here’s two from Built to Spill, two from Radiohead, two from Dodgy and others. And we have three songs from Ocean Colour Scene! I mean, I like Ocean Colour Scene, but three?

“Give Me a Letter” was from their most recent release, Mechanical Wonder, and perhaps I was on an OCS kick due to the new album. This song has a decent, mid-tempo groove to it, but it doesn’t quit match the earlier rock charm of “Get Blown Away,” from their 1997 release Marchin’ Already. Melodically and lyrically, it’s the superior song.

The above should be the only Ocean Colour Scene needed for this tape. But I can understand why I tripled up here, and doubled up on so many other bands. As stated, I was growing my collection, loading up on “new-to-me” albums from bands I’d recently discovered. So while my first Built to Spill purchase was their fourth– Keep It Like a Secret— I was backing up trucks of bucks to backtrack their back catalogue. This mixtape comes post my There’s Nothing Wrong With Love purchase, which turned out to be one of my favorite albums of all time. I honestly don’t think there is a song on the album I do not love. “Car” is a classic for all Built to Spill fans, and rightly so.

I’ve also picked up more from Dodgy by this stage. This is another band where I started with a later release (in this case, their 1998 singles and B-sides collection) and was inclined to collect all other known works. Both tracks on this tape come from their second full length, 1994’s Homegrown, and both are chill representations of this band. “Making the Most of…” is the peppier of the two, with soaring vocals and just the right amount of horns. But it’s the laid-back title track that we should all try to emulate. This song doesn’t have a care in the world. I imagine it’s all marijuana related, but I’m naive to that sort of thing. For me, the explicit message of the song works just as well as the implied:

“Step further down the line, carry on, everything’s just taking time/Step further down the line, carry on, everything’s gonna be just fine.”

Also horns.

While I was doubling up on the new, I made sure to fill out the tape with some singular tunes from tried and true favorites. There’s “El Scorcho” from Weezer, “Shake Your Rump,” from the Beastie Boys, and “Up in the Sky” from Oasis. This Oasis choice really pleased me on this tape. From my personal mixtape collection perspective, it is an underutilized Oasis tune, so every time it started in (especially after Neutral Milk Hotel’s far more eclectic instrumental soundscape of “Untitled”) I reacted with surprised excitement. Even after the 12th or 15th play through of this tape in my car.


By the turn of the century, I had gone through enough music and mixtapes to know what I really liked. This made it easier for me to read about a band and be fairly confident I would enjoy them. Plus, I wasn’t too concerned about throwing money at untested bands. So this is way I have the Cosmic Rough Riders in my collection (play song above). The British press hailed them as the second coming of something, their label was Creation Records, they have a song about Glastonbury– I was destined to love them. And I do like them well enough. (Not enough to pick up any of their subsequent albums, but still.)

I was also taking advantage of Q magazine’s quarterly (it seemed quarterly… maybe it was just annual) “100 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Or “British Albums of All Time.” Or “Britpop Albums of the ’90s” and so forth. And one album that was always popping up on those lists was Grand Prix by Teenage Fanclub. Now, I don’t know the root cause of it, but somewhere along the line, before 2001, I had it set in my mind that I couldn’t like Teenage Fanclub. I had likely associated the band name with some other band at one point and moved forward in my life thinking I shouldn’t waste my time with Teenage Fanclub.

But they kept coming up, and this album in particular. So with no pre-listen, and likely on sale at Newbury Comics, I bought the album. Maybe I even found it used at Second Spin. However it came into my possession, I was able to listen and realize how very wrong I had been. The immediate guitar jangling and harmonies of album opener “About You” instantly grabbed me. Then the angular power pop of “Sparky’s Dream” hit. Two songs in and I LOVED Teenage Fanclub.

Grand Prix was their third album of four at the time. I had them all by August.


So, yeah, it’s clear I haphazardly threw this mixtape together, with an emphasis on repeating bands I was really enjoying at the time. And while this isn’t generally how I like my mixtapes, the songs at least play well together and keep things upbeat.

Until you hit the Travis song. “What?! The Travis song? But you love Travis!” Yes, I do. Indeed, I really do. And I really like this Travis song. But its melancholy is poorly timed and poorly placed here. Overall, its a poor fit.

Enjoy it now, won’t you?


We can all agree that The Kinks are great, right?

In my “new music” quest of this era, I rarely went that far back in time. The Beatles were an exception. The Clash, too. And I picked up The Jam based on Noel Gallagher’s fandom. I also knew I had to get The Kinks and I started with a greatest hits collection. (Not sure if it’s the one I still have or not.)

I remember hearing “Lola” for the first time at summer camp, when I was at an age where a song like “Lola” felt dangerous. I remember the older counselors talking about what the song meant (or might have meant) and felt like I was joining a secret club. This was also the year the counselors were sharing bootlegged bits from new comedian Andrew Dice Clay, so it was a very pivotal summer.

But I’m not choosing “Lola” as the Super Ultra Mega Song. No, I doubled up on The Kinks here, too, and I’m going with “Victoria.” While “Lola” has the wink and the groove, “Victoria” taps the toes. The fondness of Queen and country swells, the guitar solo shimmers, the lyrics charm. It’s everything a Kinks song should be.

Christina Aguilera’s Bellybutton


September 25, 2000




The last tape we talked about was Baby’s First L.A. Tape, which was a June 2000 departing gift for my ex-girlfriend Carrie. This entry jumps ahead three months to the fall of that year. And somewhere in that time frame, I moved.

But not to California. I wasn’t going to be doing that. No, Tim and I left our legendary basement bachelor pad in Allston/Brighton and moved into the bottom floor of a three story house in Malden, Massachusetts.

Malden– come for the relatively affordable rents outside of the city, stay for relatively affordable rents outside of the city.

In our new living situation, we were not alone. Our sitcom roommate lifestyle now had a third– Tim’s little sister. Or rather, “younger” sister. She wasn’t five. And since I have not yet reached out for permission to use her real name in this blog, I’m going to call her Ruth. Soon after we moved in, Ruth adopted a cat that she named Lucy (that’s the cat’s real name.) And since we were kind of co-parenting this cat, I went on to name her Lucy McClane. Tim took it a step further and named her Lucy McLean Stevenson. And the world’s greatest sitcom cat was born.

Our life in Malden was fairly similar to whatever it was we left behind, save for the fact that we were further away from the bars and restaurants and the city proper. This meant we had to think long and hard about actually leaving the house. Therefore, in this suburb situation, we did the only reasonable thing– we bought a used ping pong table that just barley fit, taking up two-thirds of the living and two-thirds of the dining room. And the world’s greatest sitcom obstacle was born.

And since we’re continuing with the sitcom analogy, let me say that I was having a pretty decent third season. Like, I said, we brought in a new roommate and a pet, but we also added hilarity to the workplace portion of the show. I was promoted and suddenly found myself responsible for 15 people that, in all honesty, I had no right to be responsible for. At this point in my life, “work” was really just the eight hours we had to endure before drinks and chicken fingers. And since my second season love interest had left the series for her own spin-off, there were suddenly a lot more guest stars dropping by for post-chicken-fingers hijinks.

Life was good. Malden, or not.


Carrie and I didn’t have a lot of crossover episodes that year. (And with that, I’m going to stop with the sitcom thing). But we stayed in touch.

During my down time at the job, I was sending hilarious, supportive emails. We would talk on the phone fairly regularly. And I was still making her mixtapes. This one– Christina Aguilera’s Bellybutton– was the first one I ever mailed to her. And as an example of my mixtape geekdom, when she called me to tell me she got it, I made her pop it in to her tape deck so I could listen to her listen to the first song.

Read that again. I made her play the tape, while on the phone, so I could listen to her listen.

Go ahead and play the song above for me. It’s 50 seconds of acoustic guitar intro, and some subtle strings before the first lyrics are sung. “Nice.” she probably said. “No, wait. Listen.” I probably replied. The sweet melody continued. We don’t speak. At around 1 minute, 43 second, I likely said, “Okay, here it comes.” Ten seconds later, tempo change and electric guitars.

Me: “Ah? Right? Yeah?”

Her: “That’s nice.”

Whatever. It was nice. It IS nice. I have no idea what Tim Burgess is actually saying, but I love that song.

In fact, I love ALL THE SONGS on the mix! This mixtape is outstanding. The palette of sounds have expanded. The band choices have expanded. The “Pleased to Meet You” section of this blog has expanded.


On this mix, we welcome not one, not two… but six bands to the record collection.

With my Britpop leanings, I was an early adopter of a little band called Coldplay.  I introduce them to Carrie with this tape. And with that, I created a mega band.

Another British band hitting my mixtapes for the first time here is Doves. One might say they were Coldplay-esque, and there’s some truth to that, though Doves have an edge to them the other band is missing. “Melody Calls” is my favorite off their debut Lost Souls.

Keeping things British, this tape also marks the debut of Badly Drawn Boy. And again, here’s an artist that could fit into that Coldplay camp (though not exactly). I can’t recall if this is true, but I can imagine I read through one issue of Q magazine that featured all three of these bands and subsequently stopped at Newbury Comics to pick up all their import CD’s. There were occasions I would do this and end up wasting my money. But with Coldplay, Doves and Badly Drawn Boy, I got my money’s worth, taxes and all.

But the new hits don’t stop there!

I think this is the first mixtape to feature The Super Furry Animals as well. And if that’s right, I find it strange that I chose to introduce the band to Carrie with their all-Welsh sung “Torra Fy Ngwallt Yn Hir.” Except it makes perfect sense because it’s awesome!

Equally awesome, and finally showing up, are The Apples in Stereo. I had this album long before making this tape. In fact, I remember reading the review of the album sitting in that basement apartment of yore. Only days later, I had the album in my hands, songs still unheard. And then, 23 seconds into the first song, they were one of my favorite bands. “The Bird That You Can’t See” was a go-to for all my shared mixtapes of this era, so of course we were going to find it here. After the two moodier songs that opened the mix, the party needed to start.

The last new band to welcome, is actually an old favorite of mine. I had the Mr. Hood cassette from KMD back when I was in high school. I absolutely loved it then. And I have no idea how I had lost it. But years later, likely lying on the floor with Carrie, naked, listening to The Man Who, I brought up the band and the album and the lost cassette. Carrie listened. And while I was the guy mailing her homemade mixtapes, she was the girl tracking down and ordering this album for me on CD. She was a nice friend to still have.


There’s really not one song on here that’s problematic. Some of you might be leaning towards Kula Shaker, but I like that album and absolutely love the summer sunniness of the “Tattva” verses (chorus?).

But what I really question here is the doubling up of bands. Travis, Ben Folds Five, and Built to Spill each have a song per side. And Gomez and two (2!) on Side B. Two! Generally, I didn’t like to do this. I figured, if someone was actually going to take the time to listen to the mix I’m making, I’m going to use the opportunity to fit in as many bands as possible.

But it’s a minor complaint here, as the songs from each band are fantastic.

I had a CD single from Travis that didn’t always play in my stereo. If it did play, you couldn’t skip forward to the next song because then nothing would play. The third song on this disc was “Whenever She Comes Around.” So if I wanted to add this song to a mix, I would have first get the disc to play, then listen through the first two songs, then be at the ready to release the pause button and start recording at the perfect moment. If I missed the beginning, or caught the end of the previous track, I’d have to start to entire process over again.

Take a listen to the song and let me know if it was worth it.

I’ll highlight a fun little Gomez song here, too.

Less than 90 seconds long, this track will be turning up often to close out many an upcoming mixtape. It’s a silly, odd, bouncy, conga-driven ditty.


Almost every song highlighted so far is a contender for this tape’s Super Ultra Mega Song.   And when it first came on, I really thought it was going to be “The Bird That You Can’t See.” But then I locked on to Ben Folds Five’s “Philosophy,” especially the punk piano thrashing at the song’s end.

But after the last couple weeks of listening through this phenomenal tape, one song kept bringing me the most joy. “The Day We Caught the Train” originally appeared on Ocean Colour Scene’s debut album. It’s a bit of a stomper in it’s original version, upbeat and fun. This acoustic version is off of their collections album “B-Sides, Seasides & Free Rides.” This still a bit of stomp here, but overplayed with a melodic melancholy. I prefer it to the album version.

And as I’m leaving work singing along to “You and I should ride the coast and wind up in our favorite coats just miles away,” you can’t help but want to get away. Riding a tune as wistful as this.

“When you find that things are getting wilder, don’t you want days like these?”

Baby’s First L.A. Tape


June, 2000




I think I mislabeled my tapes.

I did not date these tapes as I made them. Just a title, a random picture and a tracklist. So when I decided to listen through all of them chronologically and write about it, I had to go through every tape and roughly guesstimate when it had been made. I did this using two methods. For the most part, I read through the songs and determined which was the newest on each mix. Then I looked up that song’s release date and could assume this tape was made after that date. I wouldn’t have had the song before that. Then, of course, I had to cross reference the other tapes, comparing those songs’ release dates and put them in order from first to last.

So now, looking at the dates of tapes coming up, I’m realizing there is a giant gap. We jump from June 2000 to September 2000 to April 2001. This doesn’t seem right or realistic. I know I must have made more than just three mixtapes in that 11 month period. So either my guesstimates have been inaccurate, or I’m simply missing a lot of tapes. Overall, though, the general order of what I have is still correct. I probably should have just spread them out a bit more here and there.

The second guide I used in establishing the order of these tapes was far more reliable. Several of these mixes came with obvious markers. The “Christmas Mix” was clearly made in December, the birthday mix was formed in October, and so on. These are the tapes that I can say for certain are the most accurately placed.

Baby’s First L.A. Tape is one of those accurately placed tapes. Carrie left me in June, 2000.

The breakup experiment before her departure seemed to have worked. Sure, we had gotten back together and were hooking up as often as possible prior to her hopping on that plane for Los Angeles, but we were hooking up as just regular friends, not “dating” friends. We were splitting up on good terms. We were going to keep in touch, but we were not going to bother with trying to maintain a cross-country relationship. And I wasn’t going to be following her. I had been to L.A. before and it was a disaster. I was loving Boston too much. Life was good.  I had a good job, great friends, a best friend sitcom roommate and an annual T Pass I wasn’t about to waste.

I didn’t like seeing Carrie go, but it had always been expected. It was one of the first things she told me when we went out for our very first pizza only eight months earlier. “I’m moving to Los Angeles in the summer.” Funny how friendships start.

And since we were going to stay friends, I gifted her several going away presents. I gave her a Boston-themed Monopoly game, a Boston-themed calendar, and a Boston-themed mug filled with Boston-themed baked beans. I also gave her a Los Angeles Thomas Guide and this mixtape. Baby’s First L.A. Tape. A tape containing five different movements. In retrospect, the tape is the only thing I should have given her.

You know, ’cause we were just regular friends.



  • “L.A. Woman” – The Doors
  • “Going to California” – Led Zeppelin
  • “Santa Monica” – Everclear
  • “California” – Gomez
  • “Another Day in L.A.” – Indigo Swing
  • “California Stars” – Wilco
  • “California Sun” – The Ramones
  • “So Long” – Guster
  • “She’s Leaving Home” – The Beatles
  • “Last Goodbye” – Jeff Buckley
  • “Stop Your Crying” – Sleeper
  • “Go” – Pearl Jam
  • “One For the Road” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “Time to Go” – Supergrass
  • (Monty Python)


  • “It’s Your Thing” – The Isley Brothers
  • “Destiny Calling” – James
  • “I’ll Back You Up” – Dave Matthews Band
  • “Your Star Will Shine” – The Stone Roses
  • “I Love You” – Longpigs
  • “Super Rad!” – The Aquabats
  • “Anything, Anything” – Dramarama
  • “Round Kid” – Buck-O-Nine
  • “Garden Grove” – Sublime
  • “Here in Your Bedroom” – Goldfinger
  • “Only a Lad” – Oingo Boingo
  • “Design For Life” – The Manic Street Preachers
  • “Devil’s Haircut” – Beck
  • “Wonderwall” – Oasis
  • “Slide Show” – Travis
  • (Monty Python)

Of course I was going to make her a mixtape. OF COURSE I WAS!

We had spent the last eight months in my room talking, making out and listening to music. I would often interrupt the making out to make sure we got to listen to the song that just came on. “Wait. Listen to this.” “Here comes the best part.” “How can you not love this song?”

So, yeah. A tape was inevitable. But it had to be something more than just a random collection of songs I thought she had to hear. It needed to have a deeper meaning. It needed to say something. There needed to be a theme.

My girlfrie… I mean, my “just-a-friend” was moving to Los Angeles. So my first thought was to put together a collection of songs about L.A. and California. But as I was rummaging through my CDs to find such songs, I realized I was gravely short. My British-heavy stack of albums didn’t contain a lot of references to the Golden State. So instead, I made do with what I had and decide to break up the tape into five segments: “California,” “Goodbye,” “Support,” “Sounds of L.A.” and “Nameless Little Bonus Section.”

Of the first movement of tunes, songs 1 through 7 on Side A, three of them are from Tim. In 2000, I had yet to add the Doors, Led Zeppelin or The Ramones to my collection. (Don’t worry, they’re all there now). I know I wanted “L.A. Woman” on this mix, but Tim suggested the other two. The Ramones was an easy add, since I was a fan and the song is fun.  I wasn’t really into Led Zeppelin at the time, but “Going to California” was an easy song to fit in as well. The mood was right, as was the destination.


With California taken care of, it was time to acknowledge Carrie’s physical departure. And I started this with one of the greatest breakup songs ever recorded. In retrospect, this was not a good idea. The lyrical tone of “So Long” is very cold. It’s heartless. It’s a song about being completely done with the woman involved. It opens with, “Yes, I heard all that you had to say/That’s when it all fell apart/Might be hated, but I can’t pretend/I liked you better before.”

It’s a gorgeous tune, yes, but not exactly the message I wanted to give to Carrie. But I included it because I knew she wasn’t going to take every line of dialogue literally. “She’s Leaving Home” has a title that is completely accurate. But lyrically the song has nothing to do with her situation. Pearl Jam’s “Go” might be written about Eddie Veddar’s pickup truck. So, yes, there are some weird, mixed messages in the lyrics all over this tape. But Carrie was leaving home. She had to go and I had to say, “So long.”

Moving to Side B, it was time to remind my friend that I believed in her and I would always be there for her. She had her thing to pursue, and no matter what, I would back her up. Even in our short time together, I knew she was destined for great things. Indeed, her star would shine.


I’m bending the rules a bit for this installment’s “Pleased to Meet You.” Monty Python bits have already been included on previous tapes. In fact, they were a filler track on the tape before this. I can only assume I had just recently purchased their double-disc release The Final Rip Off and I was happily filling in the dead space at the end of my tapes with my favorites from this compilation.

For Carrie’s goodbye mixtape, Monty Python was the perfect pick for some levity and a little bit of torture. At the end of Side A, I gave her “Sit On My Face,” plus my favorite Python song of all-time:

And for torture, I ended this tape (the last one I may ever give her) with a song she despises. Because I’m the kid on the playground throwing acorns at the girl I have a crush on.


With my limited CD collection, I wasn’t able to find anymore inspiring tunes to pad out Side B to reach the closing movement. So to fill in that gap, I opted to give Carrie a taste of Southern California music from bands local to the scene. Again I need Tim’s assistance. I borrowed his Oingo Boingo and Dramarama. (Another mixed message with “Anything Anything.” Shouldn’t have added a song with the line “Marry me, marry me, marry” shouted so passionately.)

I added a few ska punk bands here, a genre I was just getting into in 2000. But I do wish I had more variety at the time of making this tape. I probably would have left off “Garden Grove” if I had had more to choose from. Not that I hate the song, but it slows the groove down a little too much here.


The last four songs might have been the first four songs I knew I wanted to include on this tape.

I think I’ve made this clear, but in case you didn’t know, my brief relationship with Carrie was soundtracked by the band Travis. I played their albums and singles nonstop. We went to every concert and in-store event in the greater Boston area. We triumphantly sang their songs together– drunk and sober. And one of their tracks had this gorgeous refrain: “There is no design for life/There’s no devil’s haircut in my mind/There is not a wonderwall to climb or step around.”

I love songs that reference other songs. I love stories that reference pop culture. And I love (LOVE) Travis’ “Slide Show.” It’s simple perfection.

So when it came time to make this tape, I knew I wanted the referenced songs to play in the reference order, leading up to the closing number. To do this, I had to go out and buy the Manic Street Preachers’ album that contained “Design For Life.”

I never did get into the band, but this is a great song. And one that played often while Fran Healy was strumming his acoustic guitar and writing down the songs that would eventually change my life.

“There is a slide show and it’s so slow, flashing through my mind.”

Seemed an appropriate send off for a woman that I would never forget. Always to be flashing through my mind.

Sgt. Galahad’s


May 30, 2000




So it’s a reset on my social life. Carrie was out, and parties and heavy flirting were in. If this plan to stay friends with Carrie by preemptively breaking up with her was going to work, I figured I’d have to hook up with as many women as possible as quickly as possible. We had to move on from each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. That “love” bond that had been building needed to be broken. I was going to do this through meditation, visualization and making out with friends and strangers.

It was a weirdly awkward time. Not being able to talk to Carrie every day was abnormal by this time. I hated not having our regular Thursday Park Street meet-up for an evening of food, Friends, sex, and ER. (there was no better way to fill the 90-minute abyss between Friends and ER.) It was stranger still to suddenly be actively flirting with other women. With intent. Successfully. This was likely from the confidence boost that being with Carrie had instilled in me.

I went from very limited social interactions with the opposite sex, to a little bit more than very limited. I was able to keep this self-imposed break-up promise and actually see other people. Tim and I threw parties as often as our small paychecks could afford the alcohol. And at each, I was finding someone to end the night with. I owed it to Carrie, after all, and I was certain she was doing the same.

Mind you, not all of those nights actually ended between the sheets. That still wasn’t something I was entirely comfortable jumping into. Heavy petting, sure. Full on dipsy doodling, not so much. Timelines and hook-ups are all very blurred now, so many years on. There was at least one, perhaps two, that I was fortunate enough that have help me stay friends with my now ex-girlfriend. I retroactively thank them for their help. Because Carrie and I did, in fact, remain friends.

About four weeks into our separation, we reunited, Thursday-nighted it and kept it going until she was out of my life for real. Really, actually, undoubtedly, physically moved away.

To California.

For good.



  • “Camp Hill Rail Operator” – Cotton Mather
  • “Driftwood” – Travis
  • “Earman” – Blinker the Star
  • “Airline to Heaven” – Wilco
  • “Hat and Feet” – Fountains of Wayne
  • “Impossible” – The Charlatans
  • “Army” – Ben Folds Five
  • “Getting Better” – The Beatles
  • “Slack Jaw” – The Bluetones
  • “Naomi” – Neutral Milk Hotel
  • “Melanie Davis” – Supergrass
  • “Like You” – Kristen Hersh
  • “Dogs Got a Bone” – The Beta Band
  • “Yesterday Went Too Soon” – Feeder
  • “Lewis (Mistreated)” – Radiohead
  • “I Bet You They Won’t Play this Song on the Radio” – Monty Python


  • “Dear Sally” – Ben and Jason
  • “Wired On” – Echobelly
  • “Center of Attention” – Guster
  • “When I Argue I See Shapes” – Idlewild
  • “Tree” – Sebadoh
  • “Speech Bubble” – Longpigs
  • “Losing Streak” – The Amazing Crowns
  • “Soul Driver” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “Waster” – Gomez
  • “I Know What I’m Here For” – James
  • “Center of the Universe” – Built to Spill
  • “The Elephant” – Dodgy
  • “Pink Moon” – Nick Drake
  • “One Way Road” – Oasis
  • “Beautiful” -Shack

There are a lot of interesting layers to this mix tape. Let’s go back to middle school to start.

In eighth grade, in lieu of paying attention, I liked to doodle. Eventually, those doodle became recurring characters and those characters needed names. I used to draw this penguin character and I name him Galahad. (Actually, I think Jeff Blehar named him Galahad, but it stuck.) Through the years, other characters came and went, but Galahad stuck with me. His appearance and personality evolved, eventually becoming my little cartoon surrogate. I often used him to flirt with Melissa, my high school/college girlfriend. (Learn more about Melissa by reading this blog from the beginning).

Before meeting Carrie, I was still very much in touch with Melissa. I believed we were destined to be together, even if we were states apart and no longer dating. Like everyone else I knew, I was making her mixtapes. And one of those tapes was called Sgt. Galahad’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The cover of that mixtape was a hand-drawn homage to the Beatles’ album cover, with Galahad and other characters in place of that album’s iconic collage.

Or it was going to be. I never finished it. I eventually sent her the tape, but with an alternate cover. I may have even changed the name. But I kept the unfinished artwork and slowly added to it over time. I pulled it out to finish when I started putting this mix together– because this mix was going to be mega and it needed a mega cover.

This Sgt. Galahad’s was going to be a “best of” my collection so far. It’s all the hits.

I can’t recall where my record collection stood at this time. I’m guessing I had around 80 CD’s by now, or closer to 100. And I think this Sgt. Galahad’s does a decent job of collecting the best representative tracks from this era of me.

It opens with “Camp Hill Rail Operator,” off of Cotton Mather’s Kontiki, an album I felt like I alone discovered. It was one of those musical discoveries I never had in high school, where no one else I was around even knew the band existed. They were my secret treasure that I wanted to share with the entire world. And “Camp Hill Rail Operator” is a fine encapsulation of what their album is.

Full disclosure, I discovered Cotton Mather after Noel Gallagher told me to.

In fact, a lot of the bands represented here fall into the “more recent discoveries” category. The music of my youth and my earlier mixtapes– Huey Lewis, Harry Connick, Hetters to Cleo– have given way to new-to-me bands like Built to Spill, The Beta Band and The Bluetones. And my mixtapes were better for it. The Bluetones “Slack Jaw” gets highlighted again here, and the song continues to floor me. The Beta Band’s “Dogs Got a Bone” has been on the last five or six tapes– basically every tape I made since buying the album. I’m actually kind of tiring of it now.  So here’s Guster instead.

This “best of” is also showing signs of my tastes taking a turn for the mellow. The just-mentioned “Dogs Got a Bone” has that mid-tempo groove. As does the earlier-embedded “Impossible” from the Charlatans. Elsewhere on the tape, Sebadoh’s “Tree” makes another zen-like appearance, while Fountains of Wayne lament a crushing surprise with “Hat and Feet.”


But none are as solemn as Nick Drake.

I didn’t discover Nick Drake until Noel Gallagher told me… I mean, until Volkswagen told me to. As a sort of unwritten rule, I wasn’t going very far backwards in my record collecting. It was rare for me to pick up a decades old album. I was more excited to hear new bands (or new-ish bands), than to go back to try to pick through the classics. My focus was generally on next week’s releases, as discussed and graded in Q. But when I heard “Pink Moon” in that Cabrio commercial, I fell in love with it. I assumed it was new because it sounded so modern. Turns out the sound I was hearing would better be described as timeless.


There’s really not much to explain away on this mix, as I was consciously trying to fill it with the best tracks of my last year or so of collecting. Feeder’s “Yesterday Went Too Soon” stands out as the one band here that never really took hold. The album would soon be sold to an indie shop or CD Spins in order to have some extra cash to buy another album. But, yet again, Oasis gets the video clip here. Because if I’m making a “best of” tape that includes an Oasis track, it should never have been an Standing On the Shoulder of Giants-era track.



This wasn’t easy to decide.

The tape was designed to have some of my favorite songs from some of my favorite bands. As I listen in the car to and from work over the last couple weeks, each new song was going to be “the one.” Ben Folds Five’s “Army”? Yes, of course! “Center of the Universe” by Built to Spill? This is it! “Driftwood”? By Travis? Absolutely!!

But still, I settled on a not-so-obvious choice: “Melanie Davis” by Supergrass. This song might not stand out as quickly as the others, but it was a staple of this time in Boston for me. I’m sure it’s going to pop up on several more tapes in the near future. And sticking with the theme of discovery, I “found” this song as a B-side on one of the few Supergrass singles I purchased. Even among all these other great songs, I couldn’t imagine not having “Melanie Davis” on my Super Ultra Mega Mix.



May 1, 2000




I was subconsciously in love in the spring of 2000.

I was saying “I love you” to Carrie pretty early on, but I didn’t realize I was actually in love with her. It was just something you said to the person you were dating. Like, “I’ll be there for you,” “Don’t have a cow, man,”or “The truth is out there.” It was a 90’s thing.

So, yeah, I didn’t realize I was actually in love. But I did realize that I absolutely loved having Carrie in my life. We both loved it. We clicked a hundred times over. She got my jokes, I got her references, we both… had… toes. We weren’t just dating, we were becoming amazing, toe-having friends. But in a few months from now (August), she was moving to California.

Whenever we talked about this fact, no matter what options we may have discussed, it would always come back to us agreeing that we wanted to stay in each other’s lives. Forever. I had done the long-distance relationship thing. I did it all through college. I did it just out of college. I even tried to extend a summer romance further than it could actually go. And at that point in my life, I was no longer in touch with any of those women.

And that fact terrified me. I really wanted to stay in touch with Carrie. With her, I felt like I had a friend for life. I couldn’t do a long distance relationship with Carrie because I didn’t want it to end like all the other long distance relationships– broken up and out of touch. We talked about this together at length, and we both agreed we didn’t want to lose our friendship. To us, the only possible way for us to remain friends was to break up now and stop spending time together. If we ended the romantic relationship before we became too entangled, we could continue our friendship later and then forever.

So it was agreed. We were no longer a couple. And we wouldn’t speak for a month. Or was it two? Whatever it was, it was a great plan. A fantastic plan. A never-not-NOT-going-to work plan. We would reconnect again before she moved and we would remain close for the rest of our lives, even with the entire contiguous United States between us.

It was a stellar plan.



  • “Machismo” – Gomez
  • “So Long” – Guster
  • “Big Star” – Letters to Cleo
  • “Sabotage” – Beastie Boys
  • “California Stars” – Wilco
  • “High as a Kite” – Travis
  • “Principal’s Office” – Young MC
  • “She’s Got a Way” – Billy Joel
  • “When I Come Around” – Green Day
  • “Weird” – Sebadoh
  • “Swallow” – Sleeper
  • “Thin Air” – Pearl Jam
  • “Debris Road” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “It’s Your Thing” – The Isley Brothers
  • “Aurora Bori Alice” – Cotton Mather
  • “I Would Hurt a Fly” – Built to Spill
  • “Fight Song” – Aqua Bats


  • “Sunday Morning Call” – Oasis
  • “Satellite” – Dave Matthews Band
  • “Bye, Bye Badman” – Stone Roses
  • “The Good Life” – Weezer
  • “Dozen Wicked Ways” – Longpigs
  • “May Day Cafe” – The Neilds
  • “Lock, Step & Gone” – Rancid
  • “Removables” – Manic Street Preachers
  • “What I Meant to Say” – Ben & Jason
  • “Waster” – Gomez
  • “Let Forever Be” – Chemical Brothers
  • “Best Imitation of Myself” – Ben Folds Five
  • “Autumn’s Birds” – Cotton Mather
  • “Paranoid Android” – Radiohead
  • “I’ll Follow the Sun” – Beatles

Upon the first re-listening of this tape, I thought I still had last entry’s Little Help? in my car. It shares 12 artists and five songs, including the same two Gomez songs. It’s almost as if Blackout was deliberately a companion tape to the previous one. (At the very least, it’s a self-aware mix whose name tags back to 1999’s Whiteout.) Because of the similarities, this tape doesn’t have a lot of surprises. Add to that an unexpected melancholy tone, and this has been a tape I wanted to get over with quick to get on to the next one.

Usually on my tapes, I try to keep things up beat. I was making them to listen to while going to and from work, which took an hour-plus, if I’m remembering correctly. As you’re riding the T through Allston/Brighton, Back Bay and downtown, then jumping on a shuttle bus to take you to the harbor, you generally want to be listening to something that will keep you alert and awake. The Beasties Boys could do that with “Sabotage,” Green Day could always be counted on, and Rancid was typically up tempo, if not lyrically sunny.

But a majority of this tape finds the songs plodding along at mid tempo or slower. Some of these are sad songs, some are sweet songs, but it’s a greater number of these types of songs than my mixtapes usually tally– unless that was the point of the mixtape. For instance, what was my goal for including Pearl Jam’s “Thin Air” during my daily commute. Was I challenging myself to stay awake? “Thin Air” is like anti-coffee in the morning. And I already don’t drink coffee.

There’s a lot of mid-tempo gems on Blackout. Wilco’s “California Stars” is a given. As is Guster’s “So Long.” (one of the best break-up songs ever recorded). Cotton Mather gives us the great “Aurora Bori Alice,” a quirky little song that peters out abruptly just as it was building up steam. Honestly, the examples on this tape are many– Billy Joel, Beatles, Built to Spill, to name a few “B”s– so let me highlight just two.

There’s something aurally I absolutely love about Ocean Colour Scene’s “Debris Road.” There’s probably a defined musical phenomenon that occurs when given chords are played in tandem with a given melody along the “y” axis of a given bass line, all in quarter time. And if there is, it’s happening here.

The other great mid-tempo treat from Blackout is Longpigs’ “Dozen Wicked Words.” This band’s debut album, The Sun is Often Out, doesn’t get enough credit. That album’s most popular song, “On and On” (a #17 hit on the U.S. Modern Rock charts of 1996), is fairly indicative of the album as a whole, in that it’s got plenty of ernest lovelorn crooning. Though “On and On” is probably the album’s most straightforward ballad. The other songs are closer to “Dozen Wicked Words,” where the balladry meets a slightly heavier edge, with strained vocals and hauntingly shimmering guitars. The falsetto near the songs end always gets me. And, oh, look. The song is about finding the wicked words that should end a great relationship before it starts so they can start again sometime.

I was subconsciously making tapes about Carrie in the spring of 2000.


Have we met The Nields? I feel like we must have, but a quick scan through the blog’s back posts yields no results. So… hi. Meet The Nields.

The Nields’ album If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now is one of a handful of albums I bought based solely on the album cover. This was a very inviting cover to me. The cartoon nature of the map was quaint and cute. The greens massively appealing and soothing. The “The” in the band name was a plus. And, chances are it was on sale for $5.99 at Newbury Comics, so it was practically being thrown into my bag. I don’t own the album today, and I’m okay with that. I like this song, though.


Hey. It’s “Sunday Morning Call” from Oasis’ crap fourth album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants. I’m not going to bother with a clip.

I imagine this album is going to take up the “Wait. What? Why?” section for a few more tapes. My apologies.


OK Computer was a breakthrough album for Radiohead, and “Paranoid Android” was the debut single off the album which ushered in the dawn of Radiohead’s transformation. It’s a sonic travelogue through a collapsing mind. Maybe. Perhaps. It rocks, is all.

And I wouldn’t be wrong to make this the Super Ultra Mega Song of this tape.

But “Best Imitation of Myself” is really putting in a good fight for the crown. I mean, how can it not be the winner with such lyrical ease as this: “‘The problem with you’ speech you gave me was fine/I like the theories about my little stage/And you saw I was listening, but I started drifting/Around the part about me acting my age/Now, if it’s all the same, I’ve people to entertain.”? I mean, come on!

Oh, wait… did “Paranoid Android” just enter it’s fourth mind-blowing mini movement?




Little Help?


May 1, 2000




Carrie was the most comfortable person I had ever been with up to this point in my life. She was so easy to be around. I didn’t have to fake anything. Not that I was necessarily prone to faking or pretending to be someone I wasn’t, but I’ve always felt the need to try a little harder with other people to come off as a little better than I am actually am. Because what I actually am is a giant dork.

The summer before this, I fell for a woman named Kirsten. And, holy shit, she kinda fell for me. And I was nervous as hell, for a lot of reasons. But my life was changing, and I wanted to see where things might go. I tried to be a better, cooler me around her. It worked for a little while. But it wasn’t me.

At work the rest of that year, I was slowly moving up the ranks. Where I started as a financial customer service rep, I was now close to becoming manager of the department’s Help Desk. All day, it was stocks and mutual funds and industrial averages. I was good at it and I even enjoyed puzzling through the numbers and calculations of monthly statements of earnings and losses. But it wasn’t me.

Before meeting Carrie, I was flirting my way through as many women as I came in contact with. At work, at parties, on the T, I was trying hard to be the adorable funny guy that women would be drawn to and undress around. And I was fairly successful at it, compared to all the years prior to this. And, let’s face it, I am adorable and funny. But I was overthinking the effort to the point where it was all more of an act than it was actually me.

Even with my roommate Tim, the one other person in my life who I was probably the most “me”around, there was still a bit of an act. We wanted to be the Chandler and Chandler of Selkirk Ave. (Neither one of us could be the Joey). So we always tried to be a little “more” than we were. Yes, we were ourselves, but often as a performance of our best selves– always trying to be just a little funnier, a little cooler, a little more confident than we actually were.

But with Carrie, I wasn’t trying to be anything. I was just me. My actual, true, annoying dorky self. We didn’t go on a lot of “dates.” We just kind of started hanging out with each other. We’d rent movies, watch TV, take turns playing Tetris on one of her roommate’s Gameboys. Occasionally we would even look at each other and talk. And when we did, it was silly, fun and honest. There was no pretense with Carrie. In either direction. I could be my true self because she I was being her true self… I think. I assumed she was. Every moment with Carrie was simple joy.

Kissing her was also fantastic. And all the other stuff, too. By which I mean the sex. And I only bring up carnal facts to use the following as an example of how at ease we were with each other– we laughed a lot during sex. We laughed a lot together in general, but when we made love, we laughed. A lot. No one had ever made me feel so good. So happy. So at peace.

Which is why, in the spring of 2000, we started talking about breaking up.



  • “Camp Hill Rail Operator” – Cotton Mather
  • “I Would Hurt a Fly” – Built to Spill
  • “I Know What I’m Here For” – James
  • “Close the Door” – Idlewild
  • “Like You” – Kristen Hersh
  • “Circles” – Soul Coughing
  • “Song 2” – Blur
  • “Airline to Heaven” – Wilco
  • “You Can See Me” – Supergrass
  • “Dog Got a Bone” – The Beta Band
  • “Bust a Move” – Young MC
  • “Waster” – Gomez
  • “July” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “High and Dry” – Radiohead
  • “Snake Face” – Throwing Muses
  • “I Am the Very Model of a Cartoon Individual” – The Animaniacs


  • “The Only One I Know” – The Charlatans UK
  • “Weird” – Sebadoh
  • “One Way Road” – Oasis
  • “Ruby Soho” – Rancid
  • “Swallow” – Sleeper
  • “Naomi” – Neutral Milk Hotel
  • “Machismo” – Gomez
  • “All in the Groove” – Blue Traveler
  • “Why Bother?” – Weezer
  • “Rock in the Rain” – Money Mark
  • “Center of Attention” – Guster
  • “Slack Jaw” – The Bluetones
  • “Line Up” – Elastica
  • “Leave the Biker” – Fountains of Wayne
  • “Rude Can’t Fail” – The Clash
  • “She Said” – Longpigs
  • “Yakko’s World” – The Animaniacs

As this tape played through its sequence, I was having a hard time recalling it. Most of these tapes have had at least a transition or two that I remembered– where one song ends and I can instinctively hear the next song starting before it actually does. A sense memory– a flash of a moment on the T or walking through the snow while a certain set of songs played. But with Little Help? that wasn’t happening. And then it hit me. When the Animaniacs came on, it hit me.

This was a tape I had made for Carrie. The Animaniacs were the giveaway. I never would have needed to add any comical cartoon filler to a tape I was making for myself. This was a tape for Carrie and I had wanted to show her the silly side of me. I was comfortable enough to show her the silly side. I was, after all, a 25-year-old man who should have thought twice about acknowledging my ownership of a now cancelled cartoon series’ soundtrack. Except with Carrie, that was perfectly okay.

Another giveaway– and fitting to our theme of comfort– is that this is a very sloppy mixtape. It’s all over the map musically, with no definitive theme or purpose. It doesn’t sound well thought out, which was unlike me at the time. Side A opens with a great track from Cotton Mather, but it’s the second song here, Built to Spill’s “I Would Hurt a Fly,” that would have been the better lead off– what with it’s slow, brooding build-up to a cacophony of driving guitar.

Yes, the opening tracks stumble over themselves, but it didn’t matter. This was for Carrie. We were cool. I didn’t have go all music snob on her and piece together the perfect introductory soundscape in some auditory attempt to define the season of Spring. Nah– I was just throwing some shit together for a person who was slowly becoming my best friend. So my usual mixtape rules seem to have been thrown out the window for Little Help? Which explains why I could play a solo Kristen Hersh track…

…and follow it up nine tracks later with a not-solo Throwing Muses song.

This just wasn’t something I would normally do. I mean, they’re on the same goddamn side of the tape! I’m breaking my unwritten laws of mixtape making and then giving it to somebody as proof of said lawlessness. Gomez shows up twice as well. And they’re both songs from the same E.P. that came as a bonus disc with the B-sides collection.  Hell, at least I split these two between Sides A and B.

As strangely thrown together as this mix feels, it’s not without its charms. Clearly The Beta Band was fast becoming a favorite as I included “Dog Got a Bone” for a second time. Classics from The Charlatans, Blur and Sleeper represent my Britpop side, while Rancid, Sebadoh and Weezer keep my American rock cred intact. It was a little strange to hear Blues Traveler’s “All in the Groove” from out of nowhere, but then again, this was a delightful hodgepodge.

The was a perfect tape from me to Carrie at this stage in our relationship. I had nothing to prove. We were great together– relaxed, at ease, and longing to simply be around each other. So, yeah, we broke up.



I feel like I must have had a song from The Bluetones on one of these mixtapes before this, but as I’m scanning back through the previously published entires, I’m not finding any. Maybe it’s because they sound so classic, I feel like they’ve just always been around. But, no. Nothing.

So it must have been around this time I picked up my first The Bluetones album, their third–Science & Nature. I remember I picked up this album at Newbury Comics, songs unheard. I had only read about them in Q, but I felt I could take a chance on another British band. And I was right. I absolutely fell in love with this album and would soon be collecting their previous releases. This song, “Slack Jaw,” was an easy standout. It’s pop perfection, in my book. A short song without a chorus, telling a love story a hundred years old. It’s a song as gentle as it is biting. Sad and uplifting. And, for my money, it’s a song horrifically underheard.


I had just given Carrie an all-Oasis mix, so there really was no need to add the band to this post-concert mix. But, since I was still buying the singles, I had a sweet B-side I could share. It bears the same fate of all the Standing On the Shoulder of Giants-era tracks, being overproduced and underdone. I have a feeling the next several tapes are going to dipping into the SOTSOG‘s well, perhaps trying to convince myself it was worth listening to.


Since this was a comfortable hodgepodge of tracks for my lady, it turned to out have a decent amount a classic “me” tunes on the tracklist. Quiet a few are contenders for the Super Ultra Mega Song here, including the previously mentioned “Slack Jaw.” There’s a couple classics from Radiohead and The Clash on here, plus favorites from Fountains of Wayne and Rancid. But of all these, only one makes me feel like dancing.