Mixing It Up

Before the iPod, we had to mix music the hard way.
April 28, 2008
Don't worry...This piece won't be as long as my previous article.

Time has changed me in many ways, some better and some worse. While I wouldn't describe this as a worse way, I really miss doing this.

What is this, you might ask? It's making mix CDs. I'm somewhat stuck in the past when it comes to music, and not just because the great majority of music I listen to comes from before the 00s. It's because I still use a CD player. Everywhere I go, I see people listening to their iPods. Outside of my family members, I haven't seen anybody using a CD player in a long time.

For a period of 2 or so years, I was making lots of mix CDs with the assistance of file-sharing services like Shareaza and Limewire. I primarily looked for songs I could dance to. It didn't matter if it was disco, new wave, freestyle, rap or even rock of various genres...If it had a decent pace to it, I would get dancing.

Herewith is the playlist of my first mix disc.


To start me off, I went with a song by British performer Paul Hardcastle called "Just For Money".

Well, to call it a song wouldn't exactly be true. What it is is sort of a mini-play set to music about a train robbery gone awry. The famed Laurence Olivier is the narrator, while Hardcastle and Bob Hoskins voice the crooks who plan to rob the Royal Mail Train of 2 and a half million pounds. Their interplay works quite well. Hardcastle is good at playing a weak and frightened individual, while Hoskins is swagger and slight psychosis as the man who wants Hardcastle to help him with the job. I wish I could provide names for the men they play, but I'm not familiar enough with the details of this case (The song was based on an actual incident). What gets me dancing to this song is the beat. The way the song sounds is amazing. I especially like the soundscape of synthesizers, gunfire and cash registers. They all combine to illustrate, in instrumental form, the crime that Hardcastle and Hoskins' characters are going to commit.

On a side note: I think that Bob Hoskins was great at playing rough-hewn characters in the 80s.

I mean, look at the guy. Does he look like the sort of person you would want to fuck with? He's always had a sort of tough confidence to the roles he's played. Even when he's playing a good guy like Eddie Valiant in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", there's still an undercurrent of brutality. When you hear him in this song, you know that he could kill you.

On to lighter matters with the second track on my list, the song "All Night Passion" by Alisha.

I had first come across this track on a cassette by her that I had purchased at a flea market in 2000. When I heard this track, I thought that it was the audio equivalent of a stick of dynamite. The spaced-out sythesizers serve as a match while electronic percussion and stuttered cries of "all night" and "pump up the passion" serve as the wire. Alisha's staccato stutter of the word "passion" and burst into the lyrics of the song sets everything off.

The lyrics...Oh, the lyrics. Basically, the song is about living for sex. Listening to the synthesizers is like listening to high-pitched orgasms, and listening to the lyrics is hearing of an all-out romantic wallow. Lyrics like "all night gets me through the day" are repeated until you want to grab your significant other and do all sorts of naughty things with them.

One note before I move on to the next song: Am I the only one who thinks that Alisha and "Flavor Of Love" alumni Buckwild could be sisters?

Onward to the next song, which is a 90s techno favorite called "Better Off Alone" by a singer named Alice Deejay.

I must say that for many years I was apprehensive about techno music. I always associated it with negative things like drug abuse, although at the same time, I was listening to 80s music that was performed by many musicians of all genres who were probably doing drugs as well.

Anyway, I don't know why the sudden change of heart came about. I guess it's because the thoughts I had about the genre came about in high school. I eventually decided that I was wrong to stereotype this kind of music, and thus, this became one of the first techno songs I ever listened to.

The lyrics are very simple. Alice simply alternates between saying "Do you think you're better off alone?" and "talk to me". The lyrics speak of someone trying to convince their lover to stay...Trying to reason with them. The lyrics then move to another female singer singing the lyrics of a character who could be seen as a new lover. The song finally ends with almost 5 minutes of throbbing and pulsing synthesizers and bass. Listening to them, I can imagine the unlucky-in-love person running away down the streets and through abandoned alleyways trying to escape the nightmares inside his head. The song comes to a sudden stop, basically saying that he doesn't make it as his nightmares engulf him.

Pretty heavy stuff, but as not heavy as the next tune on the disc.

I've written about this song before, but 2 years or so have given me a new take on the song. Basically, that stems from watching VH1's Celebreality programming. I've been watching these programs since 2005, and from the moment I saw Janice Dickinson holding a knife to Omarosa's head for a photo shoot on the 5th season of "The Surreal Life":

I was hoping that there could be some semblance of peace on these shows. When I hear lyrics like:

"So we're different colors and we're different breeds
And different people have different needs,
It's obvious you hate me though I've done nothing wrong,
I've never even met you so what could I have done?"

It gets me to thinking about how, although these people have met, I don't see a lot of what they do as wrong. I see them trying to defend themselves from the problems they encounter. Some of the methods may be unorthodox, but who hasn't wanted to curse or scream or spit or moon or throw a punch or throw a shoe or fly half-way across the room or hold a knife to someone's head at one point or another during their lives? Yes, I've seen all of that on Celebreality programming throughout the years

We then recoil at those thoughts and hope that we never get down to that level, hoping that we can achieve some sort of peace with those around us. I just try and get along with the people around me, but that's kind of difficult to do, considering that I'm honest to a fault and as subtle as a whack to the head with a brick. I hope to achieve peace with myself someday. I'm glad I'm seeing a psychologist...She's helping me out.

Okay, onto lighter matters:

The 5th track on the disc is "Eight Arms To Hold You" by Goon Squad.

This is a somewhat obscure track, which I touched on briefly in my article "Don't Call Me A Poser". As stated in that article, the song was conceived by famed producer Arthur Baker for the 80s classic "The Goonies". To be specific, the song would've been used in a scene where the gang faced an octopus (henceforth the name of the song). Unfortunately, the scene was deleted from the theatrical cut. Although the tune was included on the soundtrack, it wouldn't gain a massive listening base until the network TV premiere of the movie.

The song was one of the best tunes from the beginning era of freestyle music. It has a very simple lyric (and I mean small, not stupid) and some very complex beats. I've always enjoyed the synthesizer...It can emulate so many things. As I listen to this piece, I can imagine tentacles whip-sawing around and knocking people down to the depths and up against the walls. It's a very action-packed song for a very action-packed movie.

On a similar tack, the next track on my disc is a song called "I'm Not Scared" by a group called Eighth Wonder.

The lead singer of the group is actress Patsy Kensit, a very 80s babe who I'm most familiar with from her work in the 1989 movie "Lethal Weapon 2". In that movie, she played Rika van den Haas, an Afrikaaner working for the money launderers that Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) are trying to take down. Riggs falls in love with Rika, but when she's killed, he becomes edgier than he had been for most of the movie.

"I'm Not Scared" was featured in this movie, and listening to it sort of mirrors what Riggs could be thinking. I can imagine Riggs trying to assure himself that he's not scared and that this can be handled easily. At the same time, there's a feeling of worry within the song that, to me, is indicative of Riggs' true state of mind. Throughout the movie, we see Riggs smiling and giggling, but at the end of the day, we realize that that will never be who he truly is. That comes out most especially in this lyric:

"If I was you, if I was you, I wouldn't treat me the way you do..."

This man was traumatized many times and he can't take it anymore. At the end, he and Murtaugh are taking on the villains, and I can imagine Riggs thinking "This is what you get when you treat me this way. You get Hell and lots of it!"

Wow, way too heavy. Let's try and lighten things up again, this time with a blast of party-hardy music from the 70s. The song? "Detroit Breakdown" by The J. Geils Band.

The song was first featured on the 1974 album "Nightmares...And Other Tales From The Vinyl Jungle". While I feel that synthesizers are the best instrument for dance music, I also enjoy the organic sounds of songs like this. The song is about one thing and one thing only: PARTYING!

When I listen to the song, I imagine the type of party they're talking about. Everybody's half-naked, booze is flowing and all sorts of things are being smoked, snorted and shot up. I never saw any of those parties growing up, and in all honesty, I don't know if I would ever want to see a party like that first-hand, but it's always a kick to listen to tales of debauchery.
I was reading books like "You'll Never Make Love In This Town Again" and Joe Eszterhas' "American Rhapsody" in high school, and reading all those sordid tales makes me think of this song.

Lyrics like:

"Music is blasting, we're having a ball, everybody's doing it right in the hall..."

mirror my memories of reading about Sylvester Stallone's peculiar fetishes in the former book and the Lewinsky scandal from the perspective of Bill Clinton's dick in the latter.

As I listen to "Detroit Breakdown", although I didn't hear the song until I graduated, the song somehow takes me back to a time when books on entertainment industry scandals provided me with another avenue of escape in my high school years (the first avenue being, of course, 80s culture).

Now it's time for us to head from the 70s to the 90s and the next track on the disc, which is "Crush" by Jennifer Paige.

While I'll always enjoy 80s music, I've come around to appreciating some 90s music, mainly that you can dance to, and this is one of the most danceable pieces of the decade. I first heard it in the late 90s, and it was one of the few tunes from that decade that I enjoyed.

The song is about Paige telling a guy to hold up. The guy is wanting to date her, but she's basically saying that the relationship is one-sided...

"It's just a little crush.
Not like I faint every time we touch.
It's just some little thing.
Not like everything I do depends on you".

I can relate to those lyrics, because I've had an on-again, off-again friendship with a woman who used to hang out with me in my younger days. I called this person a lot and one day they said that they were annoyed with my frequent calling and that they had a lot to do.

There was never any romance between us, but I didn't mean to be that annoying. I've just always been lacking in the friends department, and I want to talk to whatever people I can. I need friends...It's difficult to be spending time alone.

That leads me to the next track on the disc, a song called "Talking Back To The Night", as performed by Joe Cocker.

The track made its' debut on the 1982 album "Sheffield Steel". I had thought that Steve Winwood was the first to perform this song, but Cocker actually beat him to it by several months.

The song is about fighting against the elements in the urban jungle. In it, Cocker tells of lonely people of all times, from poor to rich. It's a little sad to listen to. The song is set in New York, but I could easily imagine it being set in any other big city.

As I listen to it, I can only hope that I don't become one of these people. I mean, I'm not that good with money and I do have a tendency to be extremely honest. One thing or the other could end up getting me in trouble. All I can do is try and temper both. The money thing would be easier to curb, though.

I listen to the lyrics and I also hear of loneliness. When I saw a commercial for the Disney movie "Enchanted", this song came to mind. It is like talking back to the night when dealing with fans of this movie. The movie isn't something new for Disney...It's "Shrek" with less bite, and besides, Disney had made fun of themselves many times before "Enchanted". Despite this, damn near every Disney fan thinks this movie is better than the 7 decades of animated titles that preceded it, and if you say you hate the movie, then they laugh at you. I'm sick of trying to be respected, but I know it's a battle I must continue waging, if only so I can eventually successfully deal with the night, the night that encroaches upon people who don't go with popular opinion.

A final note: Cocker and Winwood each sing the song differently. Cocker sounds jaded and depressed...He almost sounds like he's one of the people he's singing about. Winwood, on the other hand, sounds cocky and confident, almost singing in an egotistical manner. Each version represents a different perspective on the urban experience, and I think that both versions are well-done.

The next song on the disc is "Thief Of Hearts" by Melissa Manchester.

Sorry the picture is so small. It's the best one I could find. Anyway, the track comes from the 1984 movie of the same name. It's about a woman named Mickey Davis (Barbara Williams) who uses a diary as an escape from a loveless wedded life. A thief named Scott Muller (Steven Bauer) breaks into her house and finds many things, including her diary. He makes it his mission to fulfill her desires to the point where he puts her life in jeopardy.

The song reflects the sentiments of the movie quite well. It's like Manchester is serving as the voice inside Mickey's head. I hear the lyrics and I imagine both ladies acting on lustful impulses, straining to break free of the sterile doldrums of their everyday lives. The song has a passion to it, a combined sense of erotica and disturbance, stoked by Giorgio Moroder's producing skills.

Giorgio Moroder is one of the best producers of the past several decades. His musical skills are indescribable, but I'll try to describe them. His music has always had a sensual quality to it, and I'm not just talking about sex. I'm talking about all sorts of senses, from fear and pressure ("The Chase" from the "Midnight Express" soundtrack) to confidence and speed (Irene Cara's song "Flashdance...What A Feeling") to the rapturous hold of a great romance ("Take My Breath Away" by Berlin).

Moroder's music gives me a sense of comfort and stability. Unfortunately, many of the artists he's produced have wanted to get past the music he did for them. Whether it's Cara trying to escape the success of "Flashdance" or Berlin covering Marilyn Manson, once again, I feel like I enjoy this music more than the artists themselves do.

Now, it's onward to the 11th track on the disc. It's another 90s song...To be specific, the song is "Show Me Love" by Robyn.

Despite the cover, Robyn was probably one of the few late-90s female teen pop singers who wasn't dressed scantily. I'm trying to figure out why I like this song and loathe people like Britney Spears. Robyn grew up, but never went off the deep end like Spears did. She kept a cool head and a steady demeanor. I like stability, if only because I've had so little of it in my own life.

I guess one of the reasons why I like Robyn is because she was never hyped to the moon like Britney Spears was. This song seems a little more stable compared to Spears' first big hit. Robyn's song was about wanting to see that her boyfriend's affections are really, while Spears' first big song "Hit Me, Baby, One More Time" is about her wanting to be beat up by her boyfriend.

I often criticized the way many late-90s teen pop singers looked. I used some rather vindictive words, but in my own way, I was worried about the welfare of these singers. Even in my youth, I was reading of how the entertainment industry chewed up and spat out younger entertainers, and I was worried that the way these talents dressed would lead to rather disturbing things that could cause these people to end up in the obituaries. I only wish that I was able to cogitate my feelings in a more polite manner growing up.

The next track on the disc is "Heart Attack" by Olivia Newton-John.

This is another one of those tracks that combines sex and death. I've always wondered why songwriters combine the two. I think it's because each one carries an element of trouble to it.

The trouble with sex is that, despite the pleasure and the fun of it, you never know which partners are carrying what and where they might have been. This was another one of those songs that debuted during the early years of AIDS, and heart attacks could be bought on by AIDS.

The trouble with death is that it impacts everyone around you. Most people can be saddened by it, but occasionally, you have a misfortune hunter who can be amused by the fatalities surrounding them. There are also some who stand in the middle.

I could be classified as the person in the middle. I would miss some people I knew if they died (family members and friends), but if a school bully or a co-worker who treated me like the shit under their shoes were to die, I'd feel pretty good. Hey, I'm just being honest.

Okay, I may be reading too much into the song, but that's the wonderful thing about music. Songs can be left up to your own interpretation. Even those songs with "concrete" definitions can make you think about whether the person singing the lyrics believes what they're saying.

We've dealt with a lot of heavy stuff on this disc, so let's cap it off with a funny song. The song? "Girls Just Want To Have Lunch" by "Weird" Al Yankovic.

This track, featured on the pictured album "Dare To Be Stupid", was one of the first "Weird" Al parodies I ever heard. When I was younger, I didn't necessarily pick up on the lyrics. The song just had a funny sound to it. As I grew older, I was able to understand the lyrics and I found them hilarious.

To me, it isn't really about women, so much as it is anybody with a big appetite. Lyrics like "She eats like she's got a hole in her neck and I'm the one who always gets stuck with the check" can, with a little modification, be about a guy as well.

Somehow, I'm not offended by this song. It's strange, considering that humor in general is basically something that offends me. I guess if you can relate to a song, then it doesn't hurt so much. Still, I often wonder: Does this make me a hypocrite or just a regular person?

Wow, it did end up being a heavy song as well (forgive the unintentional pun).


I'm a rather serious person, and although the music I like is danceable, I feel that there is a sense of darkness to really any piece I listen to. Whether that darkness is in violent, sexual or chemical form, music is basically about keeping the wolves at bay. Music is one of the few things many of us have to keep us from going off the deep end, and I'm glad that it's around. I couldn't imagine a world without music, for better or for worse.

So, do any of you still make mix discs?
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