THE LINER NOTES:
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.
THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:
- “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.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU:
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.
WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:
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.
THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:
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.”