Re-evaluating a twenty year-old mixtape
Twenty years ago I was in the midst of a decade-long slog to tape every song I liked for posterity. Back then I didn’t know that one day you’d be able to obtain songs from the ether, just as I failed to anticipate that there would come a time when shiny Puma tracksuits would go out of fashion. You live, you learn.
The result of hours and hours of taping the charts (and in later years, The Evening Session and Mark Radcliffe) off the radio, I have dozens of tapes that quite effectively illustrate how my music taste (d)evolved through my teens and early twenties.
I thought it would be interesting – and humiliating – to go back to one of these tapes and take a look at what I could learn about the me I used to be.
My key findings were:
1. I had no clue how to create a running order.
2. I adhered to a music policy that bordered on the deranged.
3. I possessed very, very small handwriting (thanks to my primary school teacher Mr. Davies, whose strange, pathological hatred of anything larger than what you can squint at in the above image had done its damage).
So join me as we see how, within the space of one TDK D-90 – which covers, by the looks of it, late 1991 to early 1992 – one teenager’s taste managed to veer from Mariah Carey to Senseless Things; from Julia Fordham (??) to The Prodigy; from Ride to Shanice. This is the alluringly-titled Compilation 17.
1. “Goodnight Girl” – Wet Wet Wet
A poor start that illustrates the bravery it takes to go through one’s old mixtapes, and acts as a mere hint of the embarrassments to come. What’s worse is that I clearly recall defending this song to some Fila-sporting friends who maintained that the only thing worth listening to was The Prodigy. I had yet to see the value in much of that rave nonsense.
I’m willing to admit, here and now, a mere twenty years later – they were right, I was wrong. I stand by Popped In, Souled Out, though.
2. “God Gave Rock N’Roll To You II” – Kiss
From the soundtrack of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Adventure, this remains one of the finger-waggiest music videos I’ve ever seen.
3. “Can’t Let Go” – Mariah Carey
I had no memory of this one until I looked it up on YouTube. It’s fairly standard early-90s Mimi, complete with a brief ultrasonic moment near the end. Obviously, this could only be followed by…
4. “Waterfall” – The Stone Roses
This tape was made when I was still in my Smash Hits days (the NME period was a year or more away yet). Despite the Roses appearing in the pages of ver Hits many times, I never really got past the fact that they walked in a manner that suggested – as my Dad might put it – “as if they’d pooped themselves”.
As much as I’d like to say that The Stone Roses had an instant effect on me, “Waterfall” was actually the first song of theirs I liked. And I think Happy Mondays’ “Step On” beat them to my affections by about a year or so.
5. “Old Red Eyes” – The Beautiful South
The Beautiful South were never cool, but I genuinely think this is one of the best songs about alcoholism ever written. Shame the video’s a bit rubbish.
6. “Pride” – Clivilles & Cole
The C&C Music Factory folk. Why they released this under their full names is unclear.
7. “Hit” – The Sugarcubes
Mad Bjork and Mad Einar, being mad about falling madly in love. All in all, a bit mad – and still utterly brilliant. “I said ‘ouch’! This really hurts!”
8. “Easy To Smile” – The Senseless Things
Honestly, you can’t understand a single word they’re singing.
You know how these days everyone and their Mum goes to music festivals? Back then the only people who went to Glastonbury looked like this and smelled like your dishcloth.
9. “Feel So High” – Des’Ree
You know, it only just occurred to me that the “high”/”touching your sky” motif is probably a Jimi Hendrix reference. Des’Ree – she just keeps on giving.
But that doesn’t mean you should try ripping her off.
10. “Everybody In The Place” – The Prodigy
Clearly, in the space of a week or two, I’d changed my earlier stated opinion on The Prodigy. I still love this, and yes, I do remember attempting to replicate Leeroy’s dancing in my brand spanking new Air Jordans. Dear God.
11. “Twilight Zone” – 2 Unlimited
“No Limits” is always held up as the exemplar of 2 Unlimited’s perfection of substance-free dance music, but “Twilight Zone” just about matches it I reckon. And anyway, are either of them any less nonsensical than “Everybody In The Place”? Hmm?
12. “A Little More Time” – Kylie Minogue
I suspect that the presence of an almost permanently-visible Wonderbra in the video may have had something to do with this song making an impression on my teenage mind.
13. “Love Is Everywhere” – Cicero
Cicero was a Scottish guy who the Pet Shop Boys signed to their label and helped out with production on a few songs. Just in case you don’t pick up the Scots vibe from his accent, some bagpipers join him on stage halfway through. Amazing.
Don’t you think he looks more like a footballer than a synth-pop artist?
1. “Loves Moves In Mysterious Ways” – Julia Fordham
This is the one song on the tape that, even after listening to it again, I have no memory of whatsoever. It’s from a film called The Butcher’s Wife, which might mean something if I didn’t have no memory whatsoever of that either.
2. “Take Me Away” – Cappella
Between 1991 and 1993, it seemed like there was never not a song in the charts called “Take Me Away”. This one samples “Love Sensation”, the same song Black Box used for “Ride On Time”.
As ecstatic exhortations of the time go – take me away, lift me up, let me go, open your mind, and so on – this is a dated but nonetheless pleasing example. With a completely shit video.
3. “Born Of Frustration” – James
Always preferred this to “Sit Down”, if only for Tim Booth’s hooting. Utter nonsense, of course, but a good tune.
4. “Can You Feel The Passion” – Blue Pearl
I think this is the first time I’ve heard this song in twenty years – and I can instantly recognise that it is BRILLIANT. Honestly. It barrels along like a brooding techno-goth kind of thing, and then the ravey chorus kicks in. It is utterly glorious. Listen to it.
5. “Stay” – Shakespears Sister
I liked Cher Lloyd’s version on The X Factor, but it definitely lacked the camp qualities of the original. The video remains amusing to this day – I love the bit where Siobhan Fahey rolls her eyes at the end, as her proto-Russell Brand devil-woman loses out to Marcella Detroit’s shrieking nutbag.
6. “You Love Us” – Manic Street Preachers
Bubbles, fireworks and scissor kicks. This is what people fell in love with when it came to the Manics.
Incidentally, it’s always intrigued me that the chosen shortening of their name was “the Manics” rather than “the Preachers”. It’s a bit like people called the Stones “the Rollings”, isn’t it?
7. “Movin’ On Up” – Primal Scream
Disappointingly, their performance of this song from Top Of The Pops isn’t on YouTube – shame, because I remember Bobby Gillespie leaping about in a shaggy coat and Adidas trainers pretty vividly. Here’s a lousy quality version from The Word instead.
8. “I’m Doing Fine Now” – The Pasadenas
You think this is funny? The Pasadenas were the first band I saw live.
9. “Crucified” – Army Of Lovers
This group apparently sold over seven million albums. Almost all of them in mainland Europe, you understand.
10. “Leave Them All Behind” – Ride
Gather round, kids, and try and figure out why bands like Ride were tagged with the label “shoegazers”.
Ride became so synonymous with the term that hip n’cool comedy show The Mary Whitehouse Experience did a sketch about it. And if you’d like to see how ridiculous people looked when dancing to this song, check out this performance on The Word.
11. “I Love Your Smile” – Shanice
I remember genuinely loving this song, which is a bit confusing because I’m sure this is around the same time Nirvana came into my life. It was probably Nirvana for dinner and Shanice for dessert, or something.
I’ve only just realised that the second half of this video is rather creepy – witness the guy hiding in the trees taking photos of Shanice and her extremely young friends…
12. “Remember The Time” – Michael Jackson
He’d sprained his ankle, the silly sausage, which is why he’s sitting down in this performance.
13. “Back Door Man” – Little Angels
An album track, I seem to remember – so this is “Boneyard” instead. It gives you a good idea of their oevre, and why the oncoming grunge juggernaut kind of swept them away.
So there we are, ninety bemusingly eclectic minutes from my teenagehood. I think I’d stand by about ten of the songs here, which isn’t too bad really. Julia Fordham isn’t one of them.
I think the stand out rediscovery for me in this exercise was Blue Pearl’s “(Can You) Feel The Passion”, which I am almost certainly about to listen to another five times. I would recommend you do the same.