In my teens, from the age of about 15 onwards, I was really into music. I was into it the way that these days, I’m into television shows, only about a million times moreso. I used it to define myself, I would talk about it, and it was a pretty significant part of my leisure time. It was also, unsurprisingly, a pretty important aspect of my relationships with other people. With my group of friends, a close friendship was usually cemented by the making of a mixtape. You didn’t just make a tape for an acquaintance – the whole thing was a fairly big deal. Making a tape for someone says “I have thought about the kind of person you are, and here are some things that are important to me that I would like to share with you. ” A lot of time and effort goes into a mixtape – you pick songs that you love, that you think the other person will love as well, you put the songs in an order that works, and then (back in the day) you spend a couple of hours putting them onto a tape in real time. Sometimes they would be copied from CDs, sometimes they would be copied from other tapes. Once, delightfully, I copied something from one of my mum’s Nana Mouskouri records. I would use my parents’ stereo for this time-consuming process, because my shitty little boombox could basically copy a thing from a cd, but nothing else. I went multimedia on my mixtapes. Most of the really important, influential, intimite relationships I had in my late teens were kicked off via mixtape.
There’s always been something very intimite about a mixtape – you’re sharing important parts of yourself, or at least I was, because music was so very important to my sense of self. You also have to think of the person who the tape is intended for – songs you think they’ll like, songs that make you think of them, etc. It’s like chosing a gift for someone (the way I do it, anyway).
The last actual tape I made for anyone was for Tom, back in first year. Yep, 2001. Far! These days, I make mix CDs for my peeps. It’s not quite the same – it’s easier, certainly, but I have to impress on them the point that they have to listen to the entire thing in one sitting, in the order that the songs appear on the CD. None of this “ripping to library” bullshit, oh no. I have created a motherfucking auditory experience, and if you love me, you’ll listen properly. I have a pattern I like to follow, when I make a mixtape with songs of different moods. I start full-on, to jolt you into it, then in the middle I move towards more mellow, contemplative songs, and I like to finish with something that puts the listener into a happy, refreshed mood.
(It’s entirely likely that I take this too seriously, and pretend that I’m a guest programmer on Rage.)
Anyway, dearest AP5 colleagues (and anyone else who might read this), I have created a mixtape, via youtube, for you. The videos don’t matter – the music does. You can watch the videos, or play them in order, or even download each song and listen to it (IN ORDER) for yourself at your leisure. I have also included a brief discussion (annotated bibliography?) of each song, which was a thing I used to do back in the day. I would create mixtape cover inserts, explaining how I felt about each song. It was, in a way, very teenage and very self-involved, but man, it was still pretty awesome. Because of this, I have listed songs from the 90s, that I loved during the 90s.
1. Seether – Veruca Salt
This is the first Veruca Salt song I ever heard, and rather fittingly, it was off The Mixtape That Changed My Life. This was a present from my friend Mel, around the time of my 15th birthday, and it opened my eyes to all sorts of new music. It was also the first mixtape anyone ever made me. I listened to it about a million times and then it disintergrated some time during my HSC, which did not improve my mental state at all. Veruca Salt are one of my favourite bands ever. Girl rock, when girl rock meant girl, and rock, as some kind of wonderful synonymous concept. The mid-90s were a good time for women in alternative rock, oh yes. Veruca Salt sang songs that weren’t just about being in love with boys. They were about being female, they were about women they knew, and they were sometimes about being in love with other girls, but in a very real, accurate way, none of this Katy Perry performance-bisexuality bullshit. Also, they had rocking fat riffs and throbbing basslines which made me feel interesting downstairs, if you know what I mean. I’m putting this up here especially for Tab and Heather, because as a teenage girl it was important for me that there were women making kickarse music. Women are still a minority in actual rock, which is such a total boy’s club.
2. In Bloom – Nirvana
I got into Nirvana after Kurt died, mostly because I was about 12 when that happened, and music was just starting to be a thing for me. There are a lot of Nirvana songs I could’ve put on, but I’ve always loved the baseline from this one, and honestly, it’s both not too depressing, and not so overplayed that you’ve all definitely heard it before. Putting on Smells Like Teen Spirit would’ve been pointless, because who hasn’t heard that? Also, I’m a music snob and when someone says “I love [band] and my favourite song is [band’s most popular song] I explode, and mentally accuse them of not being a real fan at all. Mostly this doesn’t happen IRL, but if a band programs Rage and says “this singer/group was a huge influence” and then plays their most well-known song, I call shenanigans. This is because, invariably, their most well-known song is the most palatable, most mainstream-appropriate song in their repertoire, and that right there is some indie music fan bullshit. (16 year old music fan Julia still lives inside me, and she could probably do with a good slap, but hey, there it is).
3. Zero – Smashing Pumpkins
Zero is a fine example of the Smashing Pumpkin’s heavier stuff. This is from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which was an incredible album. Percy, I think you would really enjoy it – there’s very angry stuff like this, then lots of more mellow things. It’s a good ride. I love the angry guitar in this song.
4. Hey Man, Nice Shot – Filter
I’ll admit to not having heard a bunch of Filter, and it’s not always my cup of tea, but I did love this song (yes, read aforementioned musical rant and now point the finger at me). However! In my defence, I first heard it on D.P.O., one of my favourite episodes of The X-Files. I loved it, but I missed the bit in the credits where they listed the songs, and for ages I had no idea what the song was, until I heard it playing at a party and I was all “oh, I love this song!” (In related news, how awesome is the internet? If I hear a song, I can go right to youtube and find it. Fucking awesome. I can get track listings from IMDB and Wiki. That information is available, right there). Another Filter song which I love, but haven’t put up here, is their combined effort with the Crystal Method from the Spawn movie, “Can’t You Trip Like I Do”. Seek it out, it’s pretty fantastic. I think Dan and Percy will particularly get a kick out of it.
5. Man That You Fear – Marilyn Manson
It was hard to pick which Manson song to put on this, because I was a serious Manson fan for several years (and then Mechanical Animals was released and it absolutely sucked and broke my heart). This is, however, my favourite song from my favourite album. Antichrist Superstar was a story album, heavily influenced by The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, which was the most awesome, original Bowie album ever. Antichrist Superstar has an unearthly antihero (like Ziggy), who gains a huge following and then is ruined by his own fame (like Ziggy). Okay, let’s face it, the whole album is basically Ziggy Stardust with more hints of faux-satanism and less androgynistic aliens. But if you have to ape another singer and another album, Ziggy Stardust is pretty much the one to pick. I’m not going to put any Bowie here, because Bowie basically deserves a whole tape for himself.
6. Aurora -Veruca Salt
Okay, so, normally I wouldn’t put two songs by the same group on a mixtape, unless I was making a genre tape. But I had to put on Seether, of course, due to history, but this is probably my favourite VS song, and it’s kind of my favourite song right now (Tom is probably quite sick of hearing it). This post very nearly became a Veruca Salt playlist. But yes! This was on the Tank Girl soundtrack, which also had ladies being kind of kickarse and awesome and possibly a bit gay (this was a fairly important element of my teen years), and I just think it’s so beautiful. Man, I really miss the way people played guitars in the 90s.
7. Between The Bars – Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith was another person who I wanted to basically put ALL the songs on. But this one is pretty beautiful, and it was one of the first ones I heard. Elliott Smith songs were pretty much the soundtrack for me aged 17, which was a fairly tumultuous year, with some pretty high highs and some pretty low lows. I kind of spent large portions of it crying, hating myself, being convinced I was totally in love, being convinced that no one in the whole world knew what was going on in my mind, and mostly, listening to Elliott Smith. I listened to so much Elliott Smith that even these days, I need to have it in very small, infrequent doses or it makes me crazy. But this song is beautiful. This song came to me on a tape from a boy who I spent year 12 thinking I was in love with, and I remember lying in my room with the lights off, listening to it, and feeling like this song was making me become a new person.
8. Disarm – Smashing Pumpkins
Disarm is from Siamese Dream, the album that kind of made them famous. Siamese Dream is maybe one of my favourite albums ever, because I like every single song on it, and that rarely happens. But this is a good example of the softer side of the Pumpkins, and it has some fairly delicious guitar work going on. And strings! Shit yeah, break out the motherfucking cellos.
9. Blow Up The Pokies – The Whitlams
Towards the end of my HSC year, when things disintegrated with the aforementioned boy, and I began to feel more claustrophobic in Millthorpe and Orange than ever, I spent a lot of time listening to the Whitlams’ album Love This City. It was, for me, a tiny beacon of inner-west Sydney hope. I was pretty focused on finishing my HSC and getting out of the central west, back to Newtown where I’d grown up, back to Sydney Uni where I’d played when I was little. The album cover for Love This City had pictures of Camperdown Cemetary, the heritage-listed graveyard where I’d had birthday parties when I was young. The song “God Drinks At the Sando” was about the Sandringham Hotel, which was only a few blocks from where I’d lived until I was 9. Most of the songs mentioned the Sydney I was familiar with, and listening to them made me homesick, a good kind of homesick, because I could see that I was going to return soon. This song is one of the prettiest, and it’s a protest song, about a distinctly Sydneyish issue.
10. Hey Jealousy – Gin Blossoms
This was the big breakthrough song for the Gin Blossoms, who were a fairly rad band in the 90s. I didn’t listen to them much in my goth years, because they were sometimes TOO HAPPY and we can’t be having with that, but I remember seeing this song on Rage when I was about 11 or 12 and thinking “whoa, this is awesome”.
11. No Rain – Blind Melon
I am the bumblebee girl. Sydney is my group of bumblebee people. This should explain things sufficiently. (No furry).
12. Here Comes Your Man – The Pixies
Oh, the Pixies. Once again, this is a band for whom I could’ve put up about a million songs, but I’ve chosen this because it’s fun, and upbeat, while still being totally rocking. For goths, the Pixies are the band you’re allowed to be happy to. I loved the Pixies when I was a teenager, and they were, for some reason, a band almost no one else had heard of, so I got lots of indie cred. When my male friends dragged me along to see Fight Club in year 11, the most exciting thing for me was when they played “Where Is My Mind” at the end of the film. Heather, I think you’d like some of the Pixies stuff – particularly songs like this.
So, there you go! A mixtape for you. I hope there’s stuff all of you will enjoy, I hope there’s stuff you haven’t heard before and have now been exposed to, and I hope you enjoyed the interlude into my teenage brain. I hope that if you like a song, you’ll listen to other stuff by that band – one of the wonderful things about doing the mixtape this way is that you’ll be at youtube, with links to the band’s other works right there.