Christina Aguilera’s Bellybutton

DATE:

September 25, 2000

COVER:

IMG_2294

THE LINER NOTES:

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.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

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.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

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.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

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.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

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

DATE:

June, 2000

COVER:

IMG_1779

LINER NOTES:

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.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

SIDE A:

  • “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)

SIDE B:

  • “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.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

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.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

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 SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

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

DATE:

May 30, 2000

COVER:

IMG_1675

THE LINER NOTES:

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.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

SIDE A:

  • “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

SIDE B:

  • “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.”

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

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.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

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.

 

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

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.

Blackout

DATE:

May 1, 2000

COVER:

IMG_1589

THE LINER NOTES:

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.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

SIDE A:

  • “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

SIDE B:

  • “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.

PLEASE TO MEET YOU:

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.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

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.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

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?

Winner.

 

 

Little Help?

DATE:

May 1, 2000

COVER:

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THE LINER NOTES:

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.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

SIDE A:

  • “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

SIDE B:

  • “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.

 

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

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.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

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.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

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.

Headliner

DATE:

March 2000

COVER:

img_1412

THE LINER NOTES:

 

Not everybody liked Oasis. And I guess I can understand that. They came off as pompous pricks much of the time. Their songs were highly influenced by (some believe “stole from”) other, more treasured bands. And everybody is entitled to their opinions.

Me? I loved Oasis. I loved their bravado. I loved their sense of humor. I loved their coming-up-from-the-bottom origin story. And I absolutely loved their songs. Their first two albums played non-stop during my last years of college. And their third was the soundtrack to my transition from Los Angeles to home and back to Boston again. They were a huge part of my life. And whoever was going to be in my life needed to understand my fandom. They should also love the band– but accepting my fandom was usually enough.

Thankfully, Carrie was a fan. A moderate fan, but a fan.  She owned (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and… enjoyed that album. So I didn’t really have to make a case for Oasis as I often did with others. Many, many, many others. Instead, I had the joy of taking her beyond “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova”– opening her ears to their debut album, B-sides, covers, and live tracks!

And with a fourth album released during our courtship, we had a chance to see the band in concert! I had never seen them live before. I missed an opportunity in college when I was in the throes of my love for the band, so I couldn’t pass up this chance… even if it wouldn’t be the Oasis I fell in love with. The last two original members, besides the Gallaghers, left the band during the recording of album four. Still, I had to go. And they had Travis opening for them! (You can read about my love of that band and their accompanying pre-concert mixtape HERE.)

So for me, I was living a perfect musical moment. I was seeing a woman who enjoyed the music I was listening to– or liked me enough to at least fake it really, really well– and I was about to see my two favorite bands of that moment live in concert. What better way to lead up to that once in a lifetime experience than by putting a mix tape together to introduce Carrie to songs Oasis might be playing, other than the (WTS)MG hits?

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

SIDE A:

  • “Fuckin’ in the Bushes”
  • “Supersonic”
  • “Cast No Shadow”
  • “Be Here Now”
  • “Sunday Morning Call”
  • “Roll With It”
  • “Round Are Way (live)”
  • “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”
  • “Gas Panic!”
  • “Shakermaker”
  • “Talk Tonight”
  • “D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman (live)”

SIDE B:

  • “D’You Know What I Mean?”
  • “Bonehead’s Bank Holiday”
  • “Cigarettes and Alcohol”
  • “Little James”
  • “Some Might Say”
  • “The Girl in the Dirty T-Shirt”
  • “It’s Better People”
  • “Who Feels Love?”
  • “Live Forever”
  • “Don’t Look Back in Anger (live snippet)”
  • “Rock and Roll Star”

This has been an interesting tape to be listening to for the last several weeks. It’s rare that I have songs from the band’s first four albums side-by-side. I hardly ever used songs from Standing On the Shoulder of Giants on any of my mixtapes. For me, it’s an incredibly disappointing album, and hearing a few of the tracks again here has not changed that opinion. The songs from SOTSOG that I included here were for Carrie’s benefit, assuming a handful of new tracks would certainly be performed at the concert. So the tape starts with “Fuckin’ in the Bushes,” which opens that album. It’s actually a decent track, for what it is. You can play it above.

Not on this tape is SOTSOG’s first single “Go Let it Out.” It’s the only other song from the album I actually enjoy. And if I’m remembering correctly, it’s a song Carrie had been enjoying with me already at the time, so it wasn’t needed on this mix. Instead, she got “Sunday Morning Call,” and “Gas Panic!”

The first is a Noel-led ballad that is actually a fairly decent song. When played live. Acoustically. There’s a great little tune in there, but the production smothers it in warbly synthesizers and a faux choir, trying to make the song sound bigger than it needs to be. Really, take a listen to it above, and then check out this acoustic version with poor audio quality and then tell me which one is superior.

“Gas Panic!” suffers the same, over-produced fate. Again, there might be an okay enough song in there, but the production is overly dramatic, with its repetitive overlays and unnecessary synthesizer tinkering. Put these songs side-by-side with the bona fide classics on this tape and it’s easy to hear the differences. Oasis once described themselves as “five guys in a band with guitars, no effects.” It was their mission statement for a time. Standing On the Shoulder of Giants was everything they didn’t want to be.

The remaining tracks on this mixtape are an interesting assortment of Oasis classics. Surprisingly, though she already owned the album, I threw three songs from (What’s the Story) Morning Glory onto the tape– “Cast No Shadow,” “Roll With It” and “Some Might Say.” Perhaps I just wanted to highlight these outside of “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova.” “Some Might Say” is stellar. And they probably didn’t sing it at the concert we attended since Liam could never remember the words in the correct order.

Five songs represent their debut, Definitely Maybe, on this tape. “Live Forever,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” and “Supersonic” are obvious choices. Less obvious is “Shakermaker,” which, while an early single, generally gets lost among the remainder of that album. I can’t fully recall why I chose this over “Slide Away” here, but I’m going to say that after the faux-importance of the overly produced “Gas Panic!,” I wanted a song that represented the purer sound of Oasis. Five guys in a band with guitars.

Third album Be Here Now gets three tracks, including the title track and lead off single “D’You Know What I Mean.” Also included is “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt” which is a fun, sloppy, rocking love song. On the tape insert, I wrote out the title as “The Girl in the Dirty T-Shirt.” Might have done this as a reference to the T-shirt wearing recipient of this hodgepodge of harmonies. A little nod to her being the girl in my life that could call me anytime she’s seeing double. Or maybe it’s just a dumb mistake. Probably just that.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

The rest of the tape is filled out with B-sides and bootleg tracks. If you’ve been following this blog at all, you will not be surprised that “Bonehead’s Bank Holiday” is here. I also included a great acoustic cover of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” and an equally great live version of a favorite Oasis b-side, “D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman”– both just Noel and his acoustic guitar. But the standout of these– and almost the Super Ultra Mega Song for this entry– is the live version of “Round Are Way.”

Poor grammar aside, this version is an absolute blast. And it’s this exact version that is on the tape. I have it on a bootleg CD that must have pulled the audio from the master recording because it’s pristine. To me, this is an Oasis not enough people have heard. Hopelessly optimistic, while singing about the simple day-to-day drudgeries of life. The horns are a blast, the harmonica is explosive and, damn it, they even throw in a medley with “Up in the Sky.” Had they played this song this way at our concert, I would have absolutely lost it. Alas, they did not.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

When I first heard “Little James,” I liked it a little. It was Liam Gallagher’s first songwriting credit on an Oasis album. And it was a song written to the son of his girlfriend at the time. It was simple and sweet. Except… it wasn’t. The more I listened to it, the more  it represented everything that is wrong with Standing On the Shoulder of Giants. It’s trying too hard.  Trying too hard to be bombastic. Trying too hard to fill a stadium with sing-alongs. And trying to hard to have Liam sing this thing when he clearly has been partying too hard for too long. It’s a terrible recording.

I’m starting to think an all-acoustic version of SOTSOG would have been the better idea.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

It was almost that live version of “Round Are Way.” But “Talk Tonight” is too good.

It’s a B-side. Quickly recorded while on tour. After leaving the band and spending a weekend with a stranger. It’s gorgeous. It melted my heart when I first heard it. It played on repeat for 24-hours after I confessed my love to a college classmate on the steps of the State House in Boston. She turned me down. It’s a near perfect song that only Oasis fans have heard. So if you’ve read this far, and you’ve not heard it already, find a quiet corner, close your eyes and hit play.

Opening Act

DATE:

March, 2000

COVER:

img_1237

THE LINER NOTES:

There was a lot of big talk in the last post about how we would be entering the Silver Age of mixtapes. And how the next mixtape would either prove or dispel that idea based on the song choices. Well… we’re all going to have to wait a few weeks to find out the results, because we’re going to a rock concert instead.

On April 27, 2000, at the Orpheum Theater in Boston, Oasis played in support of their recently released fourth album, Standing On the Shoulder of Giants. Their opening act was a little band called Travis. And I had two tickets and a date.

I started seeing Carrie in October of 1999. Eight days into the relationship, I made her this mixtape. (The “eight days” is a rough estimate.) On that tape, I tried to impress her with my musical taste and stellar sequencing skills. Strangely absent from that mix were a couple of my favorite bands of that moment: Oasis and Travis. Clearly, I had bigger plans for these two musical acts: their very own, dedicated mixtapes! Honestly, I’m surprised it took me until March to make them. Leave it to the impending concert to finally get my butt in gear and my tape heads to recording.

So, Opening Act is a VERY big deal (in my own tiny, little, personal world of musical triviality). Though I’m sure I had Travis playing in the background of every moment we hung out together at my apartment, this tape was the “official” introduction. It would be a collection of songs Carrie could listen to on her own, away from the guy saying, “Check out this Travis song.” I wanted her to have enough familiarity with these songs so that when we were at the concert, it would be more enjoyable than just waiting to hear “Wonderwall” and learning British swear words. As much as I wanted Carrie to like me, I honestly wanted her to like Travis more.

Opening Act was my first attempt.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

Regardless of how I feel about it now, this tape served its purpose. Carrie ended up loving this band.

I’ve written before about how this band and these songs soundtracked our courtship. The Man Who (their second album) was on constant rotation in my bedroom where we would listen while we… quietly… knitted. More than once, we would drunkenly serenade each other at the top of our lungs to “The Line is Fine.” And the timing of this concert/tour likely solidified Travis’ place in our lives.

I opened this tape with the most obvious of songs. In fact, it’s the song I open all my Travis mixtapes with. There have been a few.

“All I Want to Do is Rock.” Pretty simple message. The song has a bombastic start– from absolute silence to a sudden, loud, drawn-out “Heeeeeeeey”– and then it proceeds to thump and crash its way through four minutes of lovelornness. It’s a simple, but damn effective song. It’s the first song on their debut album and it’s the first song here. Mission statement #1.

Mission statement #2 was the first song off their second album. And it’s the second track here. “Writing to Reach You.”

It’s a vastly different song. Deeper lyrically, tunefully melancholy. I needed Carrie to hear these album openers side by side. It was the easiest and best way to introduce her to the two sides of Travis. Plus, both tracks were absolutely going to make it onto the concert’s set list. Not as likely to make it, but still added here, are the great Travis B-sides put out with the singles for these two albums. Again, in 2000, I only had the two albums to work with. And seven or eight singles.

The B-sides were always fantastic, and there are eight of them on this tape. Tragically, not a single one was played at that concert. Not the silly rocker “High as a Kite.” Not the Oasis-sounding “Hazy Shades of Gold.” Not the silly/smart acoustic jam “We Are Monkeys.”

The band also used their B-sides for some fantastic covers. And while their first album was mostly comprised of Britpop-ish rock and roll, the true heart of Travis was in their love of The Band and, most of all, Joni Mitchell. Well… I don’t know if the entire band was inspired by Joni Mitchell, but lead singer and chief songwriter Fran Healey certainly was. So to show this side of the band, I included their covers of “Urge For Going” and “River.” Both are great tracks, but looking back on it now, I wish I had kept it to original songs only on this introduction-to-Travis tape. There were plenty more to choose from, and these two covers slow things down far too much.

All originals would have better. Except for “Be My Baby.” No regrets there. But that’s a story for another time.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

The day of the concert, Travis had a signing and in-store performance at Newbury Comics on Newbury Street. We were there, front of the mob, to hear their acoustic renditions of the hits off The Man Who, and we lined up to get our CD inserts signed. So, yeah, we kind of “met” the band. We didn’t exchange phone numbers or anything, but there was definitely a connection.

I stole a tour poster off the wall on the way out.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

There’s one song that I’ve heard Fran regrets writing. I remember reading about it, in fact, about a year before the time of this tape. It was before The Man Who was released and I was digging for any Travis news I could find. It’s a vague memory, but the article talked about the band’s more mature sound and a new lyrical approach. “There won’t be anymore ‘U16 Girls’,” I remember reading. But this new sound wasn’t exactly new. Several of the songs on the band’s second album were written before the recording of the first. The first album got made, in part, because of the songs that sounded more like Oasis, the biggest band in the world at the time. They were harder, edgier, crunchier. And the one most out of character song for the band as we know them today is “U16 Girls.” Travis’ one and only ode to underage teenage girls.

Probably not the best choice of song when wooing a lady to love a band.

But I still kind of like it.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

To be clear, I absolutely love this band. Yes, they played a huge role in my existence during some major life changing years, and that has obviously influenced my fandom. But they are also a damn fine band. They’re genuine. And consistent. Now eight albums into their career, there’s been little decline in their ability to produce catchy, heartbreaking, inspiring music. So picking one song here that stands out above all the others is a difficult task.

I’ve already added “The Line is Fine” to this category, so that narrows things down to 21 or so other choices. Should I pick the first sign of the sweeter tunes to come with “More Than Us”? Or keep a rocker on this list, like “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” or “Happy”? How about some heartbreak, like “Luv” or “Last Laugh of the Laughter” or “Driftwood”? Honestly, they’re all contenders.

At first, the best I could do was narrow it down to three. I almost went with “Village Man,” which is an answer song of sorts to “All I Want to Do is Rock.” Its opening line: “I don’t want to rock, baby, don’t want to rock.” But then I listened to the amazing B-side “Where Is the Love?” for the one millionth time. And it’s so right for the state of our world today. It’s lyrics ask where the love has gone, and could the answer to our problems be as simple and bold as to find it again. It’s a song more people should hear. And while I’m not making it the official choice for Super Mega Ultra Song from this tape, I am encouraging you to listen to it here.

So, after a lot of back and forth within the confines of my own nostalgic brain, I’m picking “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” This was the song that really broke Travis… in England, anyway. It’s a soulful lament about nothing ever going your way, with an underlying beat that gets you hopping, especially when performed live. For me, it’s opening cello tones will forever trigger a sense memory back to cold Boston nights, holding the hand of a woman who I would gladly walk through the rain with.

Until the summer. When she’d be moving away.

is Everything

DATE:

February 28, 2000

COVER:

img_1181

THE LINER NOTES:

The history of comic books is divided into different Ages. The Golden Age of Comics began in the 1930s, with the introduction of Superman. Soon to follow were Batman, Wonder Woman and many of the familiar tropes of comic book storytelling. These are characters and ideas that are still with us today. The Golden Age laid the groundwork for what comics would become. It was the humble beginning.

1999 was my Golden Age of Mixtapes.

My cast of characters was limited (Oasis, Huey Lewis, Ben Folds, Travis, Gomez), but I was learning how to put a good story together. Loud, quiet, British, woman, hip-hop, repeat. I was working out where the spaces could go, and where they shouldn’t. The audience was a factor. As was the time of year. The tapes would reflect all these things. And as I think about how this era was my mixtape Golden Age, I’m wondering where is Everything fits in. Are we still in the midst of the first era of mixtapes, or does this tape and the new year signal an end to the illustrious Golden Age?

My personal life, too, was in its own Golden Age. 1999 saw many new things falling into place. The cross-country trip earlier in the year was my Golden Age’s Superman. From that point on, nothing would be the same. The groundwork was being laid for the next phase. My cast of characters was growing. Tim was my Batman. And Carrie was my Wonder Woman. Life was exciting and new and I would be taking all of these experiences with me when it was time to move into my Silver Age. And in a lot of ways, that Silver Age my have began on New Year’s Eve, 1999.

It was supposed to be the party to end all parties. Prince had told us so. It was New Year’s Eve, 1999. A year earlier, I had been at an actual party at a friend’s apartment in Allston. At this party, I drank heavily, flirted heavily and actually, you know, partied. Heavily. My night ended on second base and I had no complaints. But 1999 was better. There was no party. It was just Carrie, Tim and I, hanging out in our basement pad in Brighton. Probably watching movies. Probably eating Chinese food. Certainly drinking. Reluctantly, because we felt we had to do something on this momentous date, we headed into Boston and walked around with the crowds celebrating the flipping of the calendar. We were probably looking for a bit of communal joy, but honestly we didn’t need a crowd. At least I didn’t. I was happy just hanging around with the two of them at the turn of the century.

I had lived through my Golden Age, a time of new people and new ideas. But I was ready to settle into my Silver Age, where I could take what I had learned and grow it to new heights. And all I needed was Carrie.

And Batman.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

SIDE A:

  • “The Only One I Know” – The Charlatans
  • “Worry Rock” – Green Day
  • “Sun Hits the Sky” – Supergrass
  • “Naomi” – Neutral Milk Hotel
  • “Twisted” – Sleeper
  • “Prove Yourself” – Radiohead
  • “Center of Attention” – Guster
  • “Gimme Stitches” – Foo Fighters
  • “On Days Like Yours” – Ben and Jason
  • “Rick James” – Jude
  • “Why Bother?” – Weezer
  • “Lovely Rita” – The Beatles
  • “Village Man” – Travis
  • “Battle of Who Could Care Less” – Ben Folds Five
  • “Foxy’s Folk Faced” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “Elizabeth My Dear” – Stone Roses

SIDE B:

  • “Natalie’s Party” – Shack
  • “Buggin'” – The Flaming Lips
  • “Dog Got a Bone” – The Beta Band
  • “Sometimes” – James
  • “Temporarily Blind” – Built to Spill
  • “Straight to the Man” – Stone Roses
  • “Carry On” – Spacehog
  • “Rhythm and Blues Alibi (Pre-Mellotron Version)” – Gomez
  • “Great Things” – Echobelly
  • “Who Feels Love?” – Oasis
  • “Radiation Vibe” – Fountains of Wayne
  • “Anaesthetic” – Feeder
  • “Start All Over” – Kula Shaker

This tape knocked me out. As I’ve written before, and as I’ll remind you here, I don’t look at the track list before popping in the tape. I just push play and go. And song after song after song on this one completely fit.

But it was more than just songs sounding good together. It was the variety, the new bands, the deep cuts. There have been some stellar tapes before this one, but something about is Everything sounds different. I’m not retreading familiar territory here. I’m reaching for something more, even if, in many cases, I’m reaching backwards.

There are a few examples, and “Naomi” stands out as one. I had recently been introduced to Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by a coworker at my night job. It’s a great, lo-fi indie album (as any hipster list maker might tell you) and I was playing it a lot. Newly focused on expanding my music collection, I sought out more from the band. This track is from their first record. Horizons expanded.

I was really doing a lot of backwards sound seeking. In 1999, I was listening to recent albums from Radiohead, The Charlatans and James. And apparently in the early months of the year 2000, I making a point of recalling (or, more likely, hearing anew) their songs from years earlier. The Charlatans “The Only One I Know” is a fantasitc opener to Side A.

“Prove Yourself” is a nice deep cut off Radiohead’s debut, Pablo Honey. I hadn’t purchased that album until well after I had worn out the welcome of The Bends and OK Computer. While a decent track, it’s nowhere near as timeless as James’ “Sometimes.” This song is unrelenting with its sound and imagery. Though I had heard their hit “Laid” before, I didn’t pick up a James album until 1997’s Whiplash. My musical palette was growing.  In reverse, but growing.

Man, that is a powerful song.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

So where does is Everything sit in the history of my mixtape? Honestly, it’s hard to say without yet having the full picture, but I’m going to venture a guess anyway. It’s my blog. Who’s going to stop me?

I say that is Everything is the first tape of the Silver Age. And the song that tips it in that direction is “Dog Got A Bone” by The Beta Band. More than anything else here, it points towards the future. I had been expanding my back catalogue, listening and learning from the previous albums of bands I already enjoyed. With The Beta Band, I was taking a giant step forward. Not only was it a contemporary group, it was a contemporary sound, mixing samples and scratching in with its Brit folk groove. It was a more spaced out Gomez. And it was a new band to me. It was the unfamiliar. I wasn’t testing it at a listening station or hearing it from Tim. I had simply read about them in Q and sought out their collection of EP’s at Newbury Comics. And I was taken back when I heard its opening notes on this mixtape. For some reason, I thought I had several more tapes to go through before reaching this turning point. This song was exciting to hear because I know what comes next. The floodgates to new music opens.

Or so that’s how I’m remembering it. Do I actually keep it up? Does the next mix expand on my expansions? Or do I retreat to the familiar again? Guess we’ll know for sure in about another week.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

Here’s where you’re going to have to humor me while I talk about Oasis for a while.

Again.

It seems the popular opinion is that Oasis’ third album, Be Here Now, is where the band dropped a turd on the world. I disagree. While not as fantastic as their first two albums, Be Here Now is a solid album and worthy of repeated listens.  Is it overproduced and overlong? Absolutely. But that’s part of its charm. No, the real Oasis downfall came with their next album, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants. This album is overproduced and sounds like crap. It’s a homogenous mess. Guigsy and Bonehead left the band during recording, and Noel ended up playing all their parts. Vocals are over layered, or replaced by synths where backup singers should be. Same goes for orchestration– instead of strings, we get synths set to strings. Lyrically it’s a waste. Melodically it’s a waste. Reading through the track list now as I write this I can’t think of how most of these songs go.

But, it was Oasis. So I bought it the day it came out. The singles, too. And I tried to find the reasons why it might be the greatest album released in the year 2000. I thought, perhaps, “Who Feels Love?” could be one of those reasons. But it wasn’t. Not even close.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

For this tape, it simply has to be “Dog Got a Bone.”

Video above. Play it again.

Holy Moly

DATE:

November, 1999

COVER:

img_1144

THE LINER NOTES:

When I’m in a funk, I retreat to music.

And our 2016 presidential election has put me into a funk. It’s depressing. It’s depressing that a human being so clearly vile as Donald Trump will now be the leader of our great country. He’s a bully. A narcissist. A jerk. And these are the nicer things one can say about the guy.

As I drove home from work on election night, I turned off my tape deck and turned on the radio to listen to the news, eager to hear those early poll results. They were not in favor of human decency. When I walked into my home, my wife was stunned and scared. “I’m sick to my stomach” was uttered more than once that evening.

That night, we went to sleep anticipating the inevitable, and awoke to its confirmation. It was a rough morning. Our daughters, excited to see a woman president, now had to try to comprehend how a bully– a person who represents everything we’re tried to teach them not to be– had been chosen to be president. As dramatic as it sounds, it was difficult to do anything that morning. Still, with all these what if’s and why’s weighing me down, I got into my car to head back to work. The news radio was now trying to explain what happened  and hypothesize about what will happen next. I couldn’t handle any more.

I had to turn my music back on. I pressed “tape” and this was the song that played first. I shit you not.

(NOTE: it was the Beatles version, not McCartney solo, but YouTube didn’t have a straight version. Anyway…)

I chuckled to myself when it played. No, it was not getting better. True, it can’t get much worse, but it’s nowhere near getting better. These were my initial thoughts. Oh, the frickin’ irony! I scoffed. I shook my head. And it kept playing.

And by the end, my foot foot was tapping. And then this:

“The Elephant” is one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s one of those songs where the music, the actual sounds of the instruments, sinks into my body and lifts me up from the very center of my being. “I can’t stop loving you/So I won’t/So I’ll do it.” Those lyrics might be about a woman. But in that moment, that morning, to me… it was about my country. And then the ending refrain comes floating in: “All that’s left of peace and love is a Saturday night and a little white dove” repeated over and over and over. It’s a bit of poetic gibberish that hit me hard upon this listen– quite likely the 4,865th time I’ve heard the song. My eyes watered. It was a joyful song playing during a moment of fear and anguish. Then the vocals layered “Oohs” over “Heys” over “Nah-nah-nahs” and the question of “Where are you now?” again on repeat.

I took it all in and felt a calm and a peace that only music could provide in that moment. Because: music. No matter what, there will always be music.

And I’ve got to believe it’s getting better. It can’t get no worse.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

SIDE A:

  • “Impossible” – The Charlatans UK
  • “Stacked Actors” – Foo Fighters
  • “I Know What I’m Here For” – James
  • “Close the Door” – Idlewild
  • “What You Wish For” – Guster
  • “T-Shirt Sun Tan” – Stereophonics
  • “Buena” – Morphine
  • “Getting Better” – The Beatles
  • “The Elephant” – Dodgy
  • “Super Bon Bon” – Soul Coughing
  • “Headache” – Longpigs
  • “Here Comes Your Man” – Pixies
  • “Pumping on Your Stereo” – Supergrass
  • “Beautiful” – Shack

SIDE B:

  • “My Name is Jonas” – Weezer
  • “Top of the World” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “I’m Alright” – Owsley
  • “Waiting For Changes” – Feeder
  • “Eddie Walker” – Ben Folds Five
  • “So What’cha Want” – Beastie Boys
  • “Dear Sally” – Ben and Jason
  • “This Lonely Place” – Goldfinger
  • “We Are Monkeys” – Travis
  • “It Must Be Summer” – Fountains of Wayne
  • “Let Down” – Radiohead
  • “Center of the Universe” – Built to Spill
  • “Tracy Jacks” – Blur
  • “Cruel to be Kind” – Spacehog
  • “Low Light” – Pearl Jam

This tape sounds like me. Today’s me.

Not entirely, but closer than ever before. There are still a few bands represented here that are very much “1999,” but this is still a pretty solid representation of the kind of music I still enjoy today.

It opens gorgeously with The Charlatans’ “Impossible.” Like “The Elephant,” it has the power to transport me from the real world and onto the floating clouds of sound it produces. It’s Bob Dylan by way of Britpop and it’s a song I added to every mixtape I made for others that year. And probably the year after that, too.

As I’m looking at the track list, there are signs here that I was really making an effort to pick up more than just a band’s official albums. There’s a track each from rarities collections by Ocean Colour Scene and Ben Folds Five. There’s an early Travis b-side, “We Are Monkeys.” And also a rare b-side from the band Longpigs. I say “rare” because how many of us were actually buying singles from the band Longpigs? (I was! I was!) This song is fantastic. It’s got a bouncy lovelornness that I often find irresistible in music. And it’s soundtrack music. It’s music you want playing on your headphones as you make you’re way through Boston streets, to work or to play, lost in your own thoughts and dreams. And that’s what I was doing with my mixtapes from this era. I was soundtracking my travels. “Headaches” was perfect for this. Now let it soundtrack your completion of this blog.

Speaking of soundtracks, I want to highlight Idlewild’s “Close the Door.” If you’re familiar with Idlewild, then you know their first album had a rougher, punkier leaning than their subsequent balladry. I loved the images that “Close the Door” would bring to mind, not from its lyrics, but from the sloppy bass groove that opens the track. I always felt it would be a great “cut from black, close-up on wobbly shopping cart wheel” scene opener for a youth-gone-wild indie comedy. Which is probably more detailed than it needs to be, but it’s what I was thinking at the time.

(this video is for the song only)

As I listened through this tape, I was reminded of the effort I would put into timing out songs so there would be no gap at the end of each side. I didn’t like dead air. I wanted the last song to finish exactly as the length of tape ended, so my walkman would click over to the other side and we’d start all over again. No gaps. I did it to perfection on this tape. Side B ends with Pearl Jam’s somber “Low Light,” which runs nearly four minutes. As the song ends, the tape ends. Perfection! Of course, I often had spots at the end of tapes that were a minute or so short from the end. For those times, I had a handful of songs and snippets I would use to fill that dead space. One of my favorites turns up here to close out Side A.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

I’ll be honest. Since it’s been a year since I was actively writing this blog, I’ve sort of lost track of who we’ve met and who we haven’t yet. I’ve scanned back through and got a sense of things, but only by way of seeing who was featured in the “Pleased to Meet You” segment. I didn’t look song by song to see who else may have already been introduced. So with that said, forgive me if we’ve already met today’s band– or any others in the near future.

But I do know it was around this time I bought my first Built to Spill album. And I’m 86% sure it was after listening to snippets of songs from Keep It Like A Secret at a Tower Records listening station. “Center of the Universe” is the second song off that album, and I have a vague memory of wearing the sweat-covered communal headphones, hearing this song and being immediately sold. It’s one of their most straightforward pop songs, so one might complain that it’s not very representative of their sound as a whole, but damn it– I’m a sucker for a great, straightforward pop song.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?

As I’ve been tunefully traveling through time, every mixtape I’ve sampled so far has had one or two “of the moment” bands included that I no longer own or listen to today. Did I really like the songs at the time? Or was I just sampling the music with my (seemingly) expendable income? Some of these bands stuck around for a while. Others were immediately sold for a loss.  Two such bands are included here.

Both Feeder and Stereophonics were riding the coattails of Oasis, playing heavier versions of Britpop. Their lead singers’ gravelly voices were facsimiles of Liam Gallagher’s, so young Brits (and I, in Boston) were instantly smitten.  Until you realize Liam was actually more talented and had some range. Anyway, neither band stayed in my collection for long. And since I’ve featured Stereophonics in previous posts, here’s Feeder.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

It might not be that rare track that meant so much to me during this time of my life, but sometimes The Super Ultra Mega Song transcends my little world. Sometimes it’s just a stone-cold classic that cannot be bettered by memories or meaning. Sometimes, it’s just the Beastie Boys. Yeah, you can’t front on that.

 

Gomez

DATE:

November, 1999

COVER:

img_1026

THE LINER NOTES:

This tape has been playing in my car on and off for about a year because I hadn’t found the inspiration to write about it until today.

So let me catch you up on the past year.

I’ve been going through some stuff. Had a bit of a mental breakdown. This was brought on mostly by exhaustion, but also by the sudden realization that I didn’t turn out to be the man I was supposed to become. This led to paranoia, anxiety and depression– you know, all the fun stuff you’re not supposed to talk about or admit to. My family right now, if they’re reading this, are CRINGING at the fact that I’m sharing this information. “It’s not the kind of thing we need to be putting out there on the internet for everyone to read about. It’s there forever. You’re children will be reading this some day!” Well, my children lived through it, so giving them a chance to read about it after the fact is an opportunity I’m happy to give to them.

Besides, it’s not like I’m going to get into every gory, emotional detail. Not on this blog, anyway. This blog is about music and my old mixtapes and my old life. And this particular entry is about Gomez. And I’ve often felt that Gomez didn’t turn out to be the band they were supposed to become.

Gomez was full of potential in 1999. Their first album, Bring It On, was released a year earlier and had won Britain’s coveted Mercury Music Prize. A year later, Liquid Skin was released to glowing reviews and the band was headlining Glastonbury.  And I was happily along for the ride. I was having a fantastic couple of years myself, with an endless road of possibilities opening up before me. My post-college life was starting to take shape. I had a new girlfriend, a decent job and was living in a city with countless options for creativity.

To save all of you from reading (or rereading) the previous 22 entries, I’ll summarize some key points for you. I graduated from an arts college in 1997 with the hopes of becoming a creator. A creator of characters. A creator of stories. A creator of entertainment. I moved to Los Angeles and co-founded a comedy troupe. I moved back home for a stint and started writing a comedy pilot. I bounced ideas around with old friends for a local access sketch comedy show. I headed back to Boston and lived with my old college roommate Tim. We would constantly knock ideas around– tv shows, movies, we even began talking about how I could perform the stand-up comedy Tim was writing. There was so much opportunity and I was ready for it all. And Gomez was the perfect soundtrack for this stage of my life.

Though labeled as indie rock, Gomez’s sound was a mixture of traditional rock, blues, folk, psychedelia and dashes of other genres as the mood suited them. They were five musicians, four songwriters, three lead singers. From song to song, you weren’t sure what you would hear next– what style, whose voice. Even within the confines of one song, Gomez would take you on a musical journey of twists, trumpets and tempo changes. “Here Comes the Breeze,” off their first album, is a perfect example. The acoustic opening hints to a gentle folk ballad, but then Ben Ottewell’s gruff vocals bring in a bluesy vibe. Psychedelia floats over the whole thing, with its layered guitars and vocal harmonies. Then, three minutes in, everything stops — and picks up again with countrified twang that gives way to hints of electronica before closing out with mini jam session.

This band could go anywhere, in any direction, and so could I. And this is why I listened to them as much as I did during the second half of 1999. They were inspiring and I wanted to be inspired. I was ready to write, perform, produce and create.  Anything. Everything. I was the physical manifestation of a Gomez album!

But… time moves on. 17 years later, I still listen to Gomez. I’ve kept up with the band and have all their albums. And whatever it was I thought they would become, they have not. They are not the global superstars I felt they could be– should be. They are not currently writing epic rock operas based on the movies that were inspired by their music videos. Instead, they are writing standard, regular-sounding songs– how they start is how they end. No surprises. Compared to ’99, a lot of these later songs are just… boring. Forgettable. They blend in with everything else around them. You wouldn’t know it was a Gomez song if you heard it. And now I’m starting to depress myself again. All the potential I once had and here I am blending in with everyone else around me. The threat (real or not) of losing my job last year had me thinking about what I could possibly do next. And unlike 1999, my options were now limited. Older and unaccomplished. Nothing to show for the years and years and years and years that have passed without me living up to any of the expectations I once had.

It was kind of a shitty year.

(Now play this song. It fits perfectly.)

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

SIDE A:

  • “Get Miles”
  • “Hangover”
  • “The Best in Town”
  • “Love is Better Than a Warm Trombone”
  • “Get Myself Arrested”
  • “Bring It On”
  • “M57”
  • “Whippin’ Piccadilly”
  • “Fill My Cup”
  • “Free to Run”
  • “California”
  • “Rhythm and Blues Alibi (Pre-Mellotron Version)
  • “Chicken Bones”

SIDE B:

  • “Pick Up the Pieces”
  • “Dire Tribe”
  • “Revolutionary Kind”
  • “Who’s Gonna Go the Bar”
  • “So”
  • “Here Comes the Breeze”
  • “Las Vegas Dealer”
  • “We Haven’t Turned Around”
  • “78 Stone Wobble”
  • “Rosalita”
  • “Old School Shirt”
  • “Devil Will Ride”

This Gomez mix is comprised of tracks from their first two albums and the singles that went with them. I was lucky to be living in Boston where Newbury Comics made it a habit of selling the single releases for all my favorite British bands. Singles, by nature, generally have the main song and one or two toss-offs. But there were three bands I loved whose singles always contained songs just as good (if not better) than their albums. Gomez was one of them.

So once I felt I had enough variety of tracks to choose from, I put this mix together. I opened with “Get Miles” for a couple reasons. First, it’s the first song off the first album so… first. But it also has that slow-burn groove that has what I love about an opening track. It’s an introduction. It’s not everything you’re going to get from the band, but it’s a dramatic opening statement.

Track two here is another highlight, but “Hangover” also has a bit of a slow building opening, where the music fades up over an indistinct conversation before eventually fully kicking in. I love the song, but it’s poorly placed here. We had a nice opener, and then we just tried to open things again. So, really, we’re going nowhere.

Since I was pulling this mix together from a finite number of songs, there are quite a few here that I’ve never really gone back to after subsequent albums were released. “The Best in Town” is one. “M57,” “Chicken Bones,” and “So” are a few of the others. They aren’t bad songs, it’s just that better ones followed. For all their potential, there were still some underwhelming moments in those first couple of years.

Surprisingly, along with the clunkers above, there’s another category of songs on this mix that have been equally lost to history. Not because they were bad, but because what followed was better. Songs like “Who’s Gonna Go the Bar,” “Fill My Cup,” and “Las Vegas Dealer” I can now consider forgotten gems. These were songs I clearly loved at the time that have since been overshadowed by later albums. Albums that clearly are not as much of a letdown as I first indicated. For all my complaining about Gomez not becoming the band I thought they could be, that doesn’t actually change the fact that they have been a consistently good band.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?

Through the last 17 years of listening to Gomez, there is one song– just the one– that I actually kind of hate. I find no joy in listening to it. I always skip it. It bugs me. Something about its balladry just rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps it’s the heavy string arrangement, or maybe it’s because Ottewell’s vocals don’t seem to be the right fit. Maybe because it’s nearly seven minutes of these things. Whatever the reason, you can listen to it here if you’d like.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG

There are a lot of songs off this mix that I feel I could put here as the highlight. “Whippin’ Piccadilly” has been featured previously, so that leaves the space open to other obvious choices like “78 Stone Wobble” and “Rhythm and Blues Alibi (Pre-Mellotron Version).” Or, good gravy, listen to “Pick Up the Pieces” again, for crying out loud! While those might be the standouts, I keep getting drawn back to “Revolutionary Kind,” from album number two. It’s another one of those hidden gems that got lost under newer, more immediate material. But now, it resonates. It’s got a simple, bouncy opening hook that grows fuller with each additional instrument and vocal part. And its sentiment is one I can relate to: “Keep on twisting turning/Staring down the sun/Keep on dancing dancing, dance with everyone/You’re not the revolutionary kind.” Essentially, keep on talking big and acting dangerous, but I’m not worried you’ll do anything crazy. You’re not the revolutionary kind. Yeah, that’s me. Add in some great musical looping and a cadre of acoustic guitars, and this is the song that sticks.

Listening to this tape now, with the experience of five more albums, numerous singles and live releases to reflect on, I realize it doesn’t do justice to the band as a whole. It’s not anywhere close to being a perfect representation of who Gomez is. They are so much more now than what they were in 1999. And you can’t fairly judge a band or a person wholly on such a singular, brief period of time.

In reality, the more recent, “boring” Gomez is just another unexpected turn. A career that started one way, but is ending in a completely unexpected direction. I’m sure they don’t look back on 1999 and think about what could have been. Because look at where they are. Look at where I am. My breakdown wasn’t fun, but it helped me realize that this journey isn’t over. The only way that can happen is if I stop it. And there’s simply too much to live for. I’m not who I was in 1999, and I won’t be who I am today in another ten years. I cannot complain, I can only keep going.

I want to hear the next new album, no matter what it sounds like.