Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Lost Art

When I first became interested in music, what are the Top5 albums that I listened to the most? Hmmmmmm.......

Since this Jive is once again going to be about music, I've developed a playlist on my CPU to get me in the mood. "Baby, I Love You" by the Ronettes is playing now and if I can't be inspired by hearing the voice of Ronnie Spector then I need to go do something else. I think I'll stay put.

The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. was a subtle art. I miss the days when we used someone else's poetry for our own artistic expression. To be certain, burning MP3s to a CD and giving it to someone is in no way as meaningful as making them a tape. Nowadays...well actually for the past 10 years, all you have to do is click, drag, and burn. It takes 10 minutes.

I'm hearing Waylon sing "Amanda" now. That's a great song by a great singer.

Anyway, Back in the Day (the 1990's), when you made a person a tape, it meant something. Not only did it mean that you were willing to spend at least 2 hours (not counting the time spent planning) in creating something specifically for their enjoyment, but also that you respected their tastes in music and felt the need to turn them on to something new. A well-informed mix tape with a romantic subtext was a great gift for that special someone. More on that later.

When we made tapes, it seemed as though we had a little something to do with creating the music. After all, it was a creative endeavor that required the utmost care and precision. Anyone who ever made a compilation tape knew that there were rules and guidelines to follow. In one of my Desert Island All-Time Top5 favorite movies, High Fidelity, Rob Gordon (played by John Cusack) lays out his rules to follow. I'm not going to put in the DVD right now to quote him verbatim on what his rules were, but I remember that they were in tune with to speak.

As Crosby, Stills, and Nash sing "Teach Your Children",, I will give you my personal rules to follow when making a great compilation tape.

But before I do, I must say that it would be useless to have followed the guidelines if you allowed for the tape to have a "Glitch" between the songs. This dreaded sound came from trying to record over another track and not rewinding far enough. This horrible sound would ruin the flow of the tape. It was unacceptable.

Anyway, the first song needed to be a recognizable attention-getter. It needed to be something catchy...something snappy. I would usually slow down the pace with the second song. I often found that a movie quote fit well between the second and third track. It was very difficult to record a movie quote back then. You would have to use a hand-held cassette recorder and place it close to the speakers of the T.V. You would have to rewind the tape in the VCR far enough to give you enough time to press record on the cassette player. Now the third song was the one that I considered to be the best tune on the tape. This is the song that inspired you to make the tape in the first place.

It was always necessary to "go out on a limb" and play some unknown songs that fit within the theme of the compilation. Before I go into this, I want to fill you in on the importance having a theme for your tape. The songs did not necessarily have to be within the same genre but they all needed to have a common thread. For example, it would be totally unacceptable to make a tape featuring both "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees and "Paper Planes" by M.I.A.

Anyway, back to "going out on a limb." It was necessary to do this but you had to be careful and not play more than three in a row. A strategically placed "Side 1 Track 1" was needed between them to insure listening enjoyment. If the recipient became bored, your tape failed. It is the same philosophy that I have for bands who are just starting out. They should play a recognizable cover song for every two originals.

The last song on the tape's purpose was to sum up the overall vibe of the previous 117 minutes of music. If that was too difficult to accomplish, I at least wanted to end with a great song that would leave them wanting more.

I forgot that I put "Story of My Life" by Social Distortion on my playlist. I'm a rockin' and a typin'...

I mentioned earlier the effectiveness of a well-informed mix tape with a romantic subtext. This was my favorite kind to make. When I say "well-informed", it means that the tape-maker knew the recipients favorite songs and tried to incorporate them into the compilation. The goal was to smoothly transition their favorites with well-known love songs without straying too far from the overall feel of the tape.

Most of us were never able to be that guy who played guitar and sang "Oh Donna" to his girlfriend from a phonebooth, but making them a tape was the next best thing. When your girlfriend listened to the tape for the first time, she recognized that you had paid attention to her tastes in music and knew what her favorite songs were. She also understood that when she shed a tear after hearing "I Cross My Heart", that it was your thoughts channeled through the pleasing tones of George Strait's voice. Tell me that didn't mean a little somethin'.

Here are my Top5 albums that I listened to the most after first being introduced to music. I'm not going to exclude Greatist Hits.

5. The Beatles (White Album)
4. Use your Illusion 1 and 2 - Guns N' Roses
3. Nevermind - Nirvana
2. Ramones Mania (greatest hits)- The Ramones
1. Chronicle 1 (greatest hits) - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Shoutout to Metallica's Black Album

Any tape-makers out there?

Until Next Time....
Demand Satisfaction,


kyle said...

Growing up, I used to have a tape in the deck at the perfect position at all times ready to record if a good song came on the radio. Most of my early mixtapes were comprised of the random ordering of the radio.....and the ordering always seemed to work out perfect. I even called into stations to request songs so i could get them recorded.

Also, I recommend you read Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield. You're welcome.

The Franker said...

YES Kyle. I did the same thing to tape off the radio...and still missed numerous intros to songs and had many ruined by the DJ talking over the song.
Once I even "spliced" a song together to complete it (Everyday by Buddy Holly. It actually fit together very well if I remember correctly.

The thing I remember most about this rudimentary recording method was that the sound quality greatly diminished every time you taped over something. And sometimes I had to record a song many times to get rid of glitches.

Christopher said...

Ahhh taping from the radio...I remember it was almost impossible to record the song without missing the opening chords. I recall having to assume that a good song was coming up and if it wasn't good, I would simply rewind and try again. If you were recording songs off of the radio for your own listening pleasure, a tape containing the dreaded "glitch" was forgivable.

Joko said...

there might not be anything as romantic as a mixed tape. really it is a lost art and it is just b/c a tape did take so much time and effort...I think now the cd's I make for people probably aren't as good just because I do rush through it and not get that "good stuff" in there...

Every once in a while though I can put together a good cd...maybe some motivation?

top albums that got me into music:

pj - ten
soundgarden - superunknown
metallica - black album
collective soul - collective soul

The Franker said...

I also think that the whole mix-tape creation process is still alive and well albeit with CDs. Yes, it is much easier, quicker, and it is very easy to rush to churn one out. But if you are in a particular mindset about the kind of album you want to make or just take the time to plan it out, you can still make very meaningful mix-CDs.

BTW, here's the stuff that got me into music (and yes, I was a teenager when I really got into music..for those of you who do the math as to when these albums came out!)

5) Beatles...pretty much everything, although White Album stands out above the rest

4)Spin Doctors - "Pocketfull of Kryptonite" (no joke!)

3)Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Bloodsugarsexmajgik"

2)Metallica -"Black Album"

1)Guns N Roses - "Appetite For Destruction"/"Use Your Illusions I&II" (Appetite had been out a few years but I discovered it about the same time as Illusions.)

**Shout out to the Beach Boys who are the only band I remember listening to when I was little.**

kyle said...

I was thinking about what themes make the best mixtapes:

Love Mix

Seasonal Mix (ex: Summer Mix)

Road Trip Mix (Take a Walk on the Wild Side is a must)

Sleep Mix

Any others?

The Franker said...

Kyle, you're right on the money on the types of mix-tapes to make. But you left one about sad ones?

Actually, not too long ago a made a series of CDs that tried to encapsulate my existential world view.
For a while in the mid-90s, I made many attempts at making a Natural Born Killers-like soundtrack. I still can't put my finger on the mood that that soundtrack captured (and NO, it wasn't all about murder), but I certainly tried to copy it many times.

Also, during the height of my tape making days, I tried to make a soundtrack that would go along with Stephen King's "The Stand".

Damn I am weird!! So has anyone else made tapes that tried to capture a certain mood?

Christopher said...

Every tape I ever made tried to capture some sort of mood. Sad ones...definately...I love to make those. "Chris Chamberlain's Tavern of Broken Hearts" featuring such downers as "Whiskey Trip" by Gary Stewart, "Cryin" by Roy Orbison and K.D. Lange, "Can't You See" by The Marshal Tucker Band... just to name a few.

B.J. Stewart said...

I agree with Frank that the art is not dead, you just can't rush. I made many great mixed CD's in high school but I noticed that if I rushed I didn't like the results. If I took my time and thought it out, as I usually did, I got a crowd pleaser. Also in reference to the order of songs, Chris, I agree with you except that I always alterated each song. I would have an more party type song then a more mellow song and so on and so forth.That was how I kept the listener hooked. As far as my starting out albums, well, let's see.....

Hank Williams Sr. 20 Greatest Hits
Johnny Horton's 16 Best
The Beatles Greatest Hits
Charlie Daniels The Roots Remain (box set)
Chris Ledoux's 20 Greatest hits

and a shout out to AC DC that I listened to with my best friend every time we were in his truck.

B.J. said...

Sorry guys, Alternate.

kyle said...

Yes, how could i forget the Sad Mix...i guess because for me the Sad and Love Mix are so closely related.....

Brent said...

I'm not sure that the good ole days made for better mixes. Obviously, the recorded mix tape has the nostalgia factor working for it. And I'm a huge fan of nostalgia. But really thats about it.

With the advent of the computer, internet, mp3, ect, the ante of making a mix has been upped. Better Quality. Ease and convenience. And most importantly, the huge mass of songs now to pull from. Hell, just check out the Franketeria...dont tell me that all those songs at the tip of your finger doesnt make for a better mix.

In fact, the ease at which to make mixes hasn't made me lazy...quite the opposite. I have 3 mixes in the works right now...each going on at least 2 months. The convenience of the Itunes playlist function allows for this.

Easy Come, Easy Go


kyle said...

Ok, my top 5 in chronological order:

1)Born in the USA--Bruce Springsteen: Age 12: Opened the door for my love of "The Boss"

2)This Time--Dwight Yoakam: Age Junior High: Country Music defined my junior high years and he was my favorite.

3)Throwing Copper--Live: Age 15: The album that transitioned me from country to alternative

4)August and Everything After--Counting Crows: See above

5) Tooth and Nail Samper CD: Age 17: My first introduction to "indie music." A move-in to PC gave me and brent this cd and we wore it out.

The Franker said...

Brent, you are totally right about technology totally making mix-tapes much easier and even much better than back in the day. I also don't think that the mp3 era has made me lazier when it comes to recording a mix...but having so many songs makes it a lot harder for me to narrow a mix down to 20 or so songs. So its more of an undertaking to put one least for me anyway.

Here's a HUGE stumbling block for me when making a mixtape (then & now both.) I have always wanted to put obscure songs instead of popular/hit songs on a CD/tape. Call it elitism, the urge to be different, or just having odd tastes in music...but finding the right mix between popular/unknown is ALWAYS pretty difficult.

Note: this is why I would make a sorry wedding DJ!
Just curious, Dawson bros...what artists were on that Tooth & Nail sampler that Kyle mentioned?

Lyle said...

No mention has been named on the expressiveness and importance involved in "titling" the mix tape. I always enjoyed Frank and Chris's creative naming of their compilations. It made for easy identification of the type of music to expect on the mix. There could be no confusion between what to expect from "Chamberlain Street Serenade" or likewise "Frank Goes to Hell".

kyle said...

starflyer 59
pedro the lion
joy electric
morella's forest
ghoti hook

the sampler turned me on to two of my favorite bands of all time--starflyer and pedro.

The Franker said...

Well thank ya Lyle...naming the tape is a lot of fun. I always try and take a classic album title and "personalize" it.

ex: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" can easily be turned into "Sgt. FRANKER'S...."

"Dark Side Of The Moon" = "Dark Side Of The FRANK"

I think it's cleaver anyway!

Christopher said...

Thanks for the shoutout to the Chamberlain Street Serenade...that was my opus.