Monday, March 3, 2014

Mixtape Mondays

My first experience with a mix tape was when I was 11 years old during a weekend stay at my brother Bill's bachelor pad during his fraternity days at San Jose State. It was 1982 and my brother was a full-blown new waver and record collecting nut, consuming new release vinyl the second it hit the shelves at Tower Records. This was one of the most exciting times in musical history, the late 70's and early 80's music scene was dynamic and outrageous, new bands were coming out of nowhere with imagery and sounds projecting both style and substance in a revolutionary pop art punk fashion causing an overthrow of  the classic rock anthems and cheesy novelty disco acts dominating the radio airwaves. Bill's tastes were my guide map, he was finely tuned to the cream of the New Wave crop, and my eyes and ears were wide open and fixated on discovering this good weird stuff too. Sitting on his floor flipping through his records that weekend was like browsing an outrageous miniature art collection that seemed to come from another planet...
My little mind was blown!
What resulted from that session was a mix tape my brother dubbed 'Tyke's Tunes' featuring bands like The Vibrators, Madness, Devo, B-52's, Missing Persons, Adam & The Ants, Dead Kennedys, Human League, The Ramones, The Pretenders, The English Beat, The Residents and so many others...the best of the best. That 90 minute tape was like gold to me and ultimately changed my life. New wave and punk became my soundtrack, 'Tyke's Tunes' was like a prolific trend setting transmission beamed down from outer space to my world of little classmates who were happy settling with The Eagles and The Carpenters. I would play the mix tape everyday, learning all the words to the songs, cautiously adhering to the promise I'd made to Bill to not play 'Too Drunk To Fuck' if mom or dad were in the room.

Not too long after my life changing weekend with Bill, I remember feeling inspired and cramming a cheapo 60 minute Radio Shack cassette into my parents hi-fi after school one day. Already dialed in to Dr. Don Rose on KFRC, I was ready to groove out to the new hot sounds of 1983. The cassette ran the whole time as I sat and watched the tape on the tiny wheels dwindle down... hoping they wouldn't run out in the middle of Rockwell's 'Somebody's Watchin' Me'. The resulting mix and the songs I'd grabbed were less than great, complete with commercials and Don's knack of talking over the intro of every song... but still I loved it. Dude. I made my own mix!
...although this time on the more socially acceptable tip of popular music, the tape featured hits like Steve Miller's 'Abracadabra', 'Designer Music' by Lipps Inc, 'Rumors' by Timex Social Club, and 'Man Eater' by Hall And Oates. It kept me occupied for the moment, but I counted the days until I could have another opportunity to travel to Bill's pad again for another freakout session to listen to the 'good' bands, often calling him to ask about new records he had bought.

I never looked back from those early days and by 1990 I was fully equipped with two turntables, a crappy Realistic mixer and a kick-ass Nakamichi tape deck thanks to Bill. Forever my mentor, my bro helped me get everything dialed in, teaching me about grounding wires, recording levels, recording time, needle wear, record handling, fade outs and segues. In the 90's, my reputation for my record collection and my mix tapes defined me. Those who know me understand what I'm talking about.... for those who don't... stay tuned... that'll have to be another blog post.

Flash forward to 2014. While technology has surpassed the physical presence of a cassette tape, the idea of making and trading mixes is still fresh in my mind. My preferred online resource for making a playlist is Spotify, and while not completely comprehensive for obscure and rare tracks or contemporary music that was released before the 70s, the Spotify library is relatively complete and does the job for me. The interface is simple and efficient, the streaming solid and fast, click and go and before long you've made a mix and are able to share the link for anyone with an internet connection to listen to anywhere.

BUT... My big problem with this scenario is it doesn't completely capture the mix tape experience. Everyone whose created or been given a mix knows that half the fun of a good mix is the artwork! The anonymous personalization capacity of Spotify beyond a profile picture is something to be addressed, so for now I create my own artwork in Photoshop while I am compiling a playlist, cutting and pasting and free-transforming while I am simultaneously clicking away tracks online. Takes me right back to the fun process of designing a tape cover, an even better experience in many aspects. The new style of the artwork production has replaced the tactile procedure of arranging clippys and text with gummy spray adhesive thumbs and a xacto blade... and is not limited to the restrictive cassette cover size!

So... here are a few modern 'mixtapes' for your listening enjoyment.
If you'd like to keep up with my playlists, you can find me here: fred eagle on spotify
I'd love to hear yours too, cheers!

PS: If you need a little inspiration for your next mix tape artwork, have a look at my brother's incredible photography. He's still got it. ; ) - misterbigidea on flickr

'Swizzle Sticks' is my latest mix, a compilation of  audio cocktails and sonic bar snacks suitable for a perfect evening out and about or cozy soiree buzzing around about at home. The cocktail genre has always been my forte, but seeing as many of my cocktail genre mixtape staples in the easy listening/incredibly strange/go-go vein are unavailable on Spotify, I've opted to create a less predictable and less retro mix. This playlist still includes some googie-era favorites and some go-goers, but features a few modern groovers you may not be familiar with, and also a shot of pop & soul classics tossed in for good measure. The resulting mix pours out crisp and clean, a bubbly concoction of past and future grooves to soundtrack the ultimate vibe at your favorite hole in the wall or patch of outer space. The now sound of the space-age bachelor pad at chez fred eagle.

On my most recent trip to Paris, I spent 2 weeks at the home of my friend Thierry, a professor and historian who lives in an apartment in the 13th arrondissement with his incredible collection of books and records. Thierry lives in the building which was the former location of the Atlantic Records recording studio, known most famously as the home of several Serge Gainsbourg's recordings and the place Louis Armstrong layed down his first Paris sessions in the early 1950's. Thierry's apartment is on the first floor, directly above the basement that housed the original studio. There are obviously some old souls seeping through the floorboards there... Thierry and I couldn't stop playing records the entire time I was there... transitioning between punk and jazz, britpop and french music seamlessly. It was raining hard throughout my stay and we would stay up into the wee hours with the windows wide open trading stories and flipping discs of our favorites while we enjoyed some nice bottles of wine and cheese. This mix takes me right back to that happy place... listening to the rain, rocking out, feeling sentimental, feeling old and feeling young at the same time.

Widely recognized among my friends as one of the greatest wedding receptions we've ever experienced, my good friends Jon and Karen pulled out all the stops for their celebration of marriage. This reception was like a homecoming and a family reunion, Karen and Jon have a beautiful collection of artistic friends and we all know each other in some way... catching up with everyone was so so cool. The soundtrack for the event was especially perfect, delivered by an ace deejay panel.... difficult to go wrong with the lineup of supreme music afficionados Carrie Swing, Carlos Perez, Otto von Stroheim, Dean Curtis, Alec Palao, Sean Cavanaugh and Michael Beller behind the decks. We danced and danced, we laughed, we cried, we hugged.. we ate and drank until the place shut down to the sound of all of these tunes. I will never forget that day, I love Jon & Karen and their union means the world to me too ... and to everyone in attendance, a special time for all of us to share. I held the distinction of being Karen's 'something blue' and had dyed my hair Tiffany Blue to coordinate with the theme, quel honneur! This mix tape was my gift to the happy couple to thank them and commemorate the event, albeit with minor apologies to the deejays as some of their cool songs were unavailable on Spotify...  

A compilation for my girl Alberta, my musical soul mate... We've shared 22 years of musical discovery and obsessive vinyl collecting together... making analog mix tapes with perfect transitions and DJing parties were some of our favorite leisure activities back in the olden times before computers. 'Bertie's Bag' will be an ongoing series, this particular mix is jam packed with a batch of  60 of her all-time 'hot hits'. This mix features songs you know and love, and the songs you don't know are surely soon to be favorites too. An ultimate party soundtrack... also great for cleaning, vacuuming, doing the dishes and walking the dog... which all of them I better do soon or I'm going to be listening to 'Bertie's Nag'

If you are feeling thirsty by now, Alberta is one of the top mixologists around and has been at the forefront of cocktail culture for many years... have a look at cocktails on the fly and freshen up your hi-ball with new flavors to complement your listening experience.

Inside the music mind state of master sailor Loick Peyron. What exactly does Loick listen to at sea?  I spent some time with him dissecting this question resulting in the Spotify playlist 'loick's offshore mix' featuring a tune Loick listened to on board during many of the races throughout his career. Always a purveyor of fine taste, Loick's musical interests are diverse and in the pocket. Everything you need is here, music from some of his favorites: The Who, JJ Cale, The Police, Serge Gainsbourg, The Doors... soundtracks he digs: Game Of Thrones, Red Dead Redemption, Star Wars... hip tracks by The Black Keys and Air.. and many more. Loick's taste in music is sophisticated but mischievous not unlike the man himself. His playlist sets a idyllic ambiance for your next maxi-trimaran trip around the world, or your next session at the breakfast table with a p'ti cafe and a smoke ...while you plan your current top-secret strategic attack on the water.
loick peyron's offshore mixtape

Until next time, happy listening...

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