Back in November, I briefly mentioned a mix tape I recorded in late 86/early 87 that I included with a letter circulating among my fellow recent college graduates. I noted that it got lost in the mail not too far down the line, and lamented, “I wish I had written down the set list.” Well, guess what I found just before Christmas?
The combo record/8-track/cassette player I had then occupied the top shelf in the closet of my tiny room in Sherman Hall—I ran wire out of the closet and over the top of the entrance into the room so that one speaker could sit on a shelf above my desk. I suspect the other speaker sat on the floor, near the head of my bed. It was not a high-end unit, so the sound quality of the tapes I made were not the best. In particular, the recorder didn’t handle sudden increases in volume well—immediately after a spike it’d often fade out for a second or two, as if to compensate.
Since it turns out there actually is a record of what went on the tape, I may as well review it—we’ll see a few tunes from albums I referenced in the November article, as well as some I’ve featured in previous posts. I’m putting hyperlinks to YouTube videos with each song title, and also including a Spotify playlist at the bottom.
Steely Dan, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”
We lead off with the one song I was certain was there. I think I chose this one because the version on the album I’d bought included a little marimba riff at the beginning. I was unfamiliar with that at the time and thought it was pretty cool.
Outfield, “Say It Isn’t So”
My list only has song titles—no artists—but this can’t be Hall & Oates, since I didn’t have either the single or Rock ‘n Soul Part 1. I had bought Play Deep during my senior year in college, though. I’ve always liked this one more than “Your Love.”
Cars, “It’s All I Can Do”
From the used copy of Candy-O I’d picked up at Cut Corner sometime in the last half of my college years. One of their finer moments.
Utopia, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”
As I mentioned two months ago, this is one of the main reasons I bought their compilation LP Trivia. Still love it.
Fleetwood Mac, “Rhiannon”
I’ve been known to call the songs on my first AT40 chart (6/5/76) “The Original 40.” Here’s one of those, #11 that week.
I had also picked up Fleetwood Mac used in college. I love “Blue Letter” and “Say You Love Me,” but this one just might be its best.
Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On”
From my copy of 25 #1 Hits from 25 Years, a Motown two-disk set, and probably another first-semester-in-Illinois purchase. This is my favorite Gaye piece, and it’s not close. Seemingly random associated memory: I got my driver’s license in April 80 on a weekday afternoon. Took a nap after I got home (which was very unusual), with the radio on. This was playing as I was waking up.
R.E.M., “Begin the Begin”
As I said in November, this and “These Days” form an absolutely awesome opening pair on Lifes Rich Pageant. Turn ‘em both up LOUD.
James was the Yes completist in our dorm room, but I picked up a few of their disks along the way, too: The Yes Album (my favorite), Drama (very good and very underrated), 90125 (plenty slick but incredibly solid), the overdone Tormato (dig it, dig it), plus their classic from 77, Going for the One. “Parallels” meanders a bit before reaching its crisp ending, but the intro is pure magic: Wakeman’s organ, Squire’s incredible bass line, quickly followed by swell entrances from White and Howe. Can’t get enough of that.
Modern English, “I Melt with You”
This would have come from a 45, a re-issue backed with their other minor hit “Hands Across the Sea.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have no clue why this wasn’t a monster pop hit.
Robert Ellis Orrall and Carlene Carter, “I Couldn’t Say No”
Wow, closing out the first side with two of my very favorites from the spring of 83.
There was a small record store about a block north of Cut Corner on Limestone in Lexington, called Bear’s Wax Record Exchange. It occupied one half of the basement. Single proprietor—“Bear”—who largely dealt in re-sales. I bought just a few things there—his stuff always felt a bit pricey to me, given it was mostly used, though I’m sure he was careful about the quality. One I picked up there was Orrall’s EP Special Pain, mostly because it was the first/only place I encountered it. Never listened to much of it outside of the hit (which I know isn’t all that, but I still completely love it).
I’ve written about this one before, too.
Dire Straits, “One World”
Easily my favorite album cut from Brothers in Arms. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the first time I’d put it on a mix tape.
Rickie Lee Jones, “Young Blood”
This song’s one week at #40 on 9/1/79 means we’ll see Rickie Lee featured in a future Two-Hit Wonder post at My Favorite Decade. It doesn’t compare to “Chuck E’s in Love,” but “Young Blood” is still a nice, under-appreciated track.
Steve Winwood, “Freedom Overspill”
I got a little burned out on Back in the High Life back in the day, but the singles, especially “Higher Love,” are still worthy of play.
Juluka, “Scatterlings of Africa”
Profmondo introduced this South African band to James and me in college. Juluka included both black and white musicians and functioned in part as a statement against apartheid. One of the co-leaders, Johnny Clegg, found greater commercial success several years later as part of the band Savuka. Scatterlings, the album from which this comes, is 100% kick-ass. If it’s unfamiliar, I highly recommend seeking it out.
Cock Robin, “When Your Heart Is Weak”
This was all set to be featured in a PastBlast post back in August, but I pulled it in favor of “Freeway of Love” after Aretha’s passing. Another one that had already been included in a personal mix tape previously. It’s plenty creepy in retrospect, but I confess to still like its sound.
Four Tops, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”
Another track pulled from the Motown #1’s album. Can’t complain when a stone cold classic such as this shows up.
Suzanne Vega, “Marlene on the Wall”
This was an early favorite from Suzanne Vega. Excellent songwriting here, great structure and meter: “And I tried so hard to resist/When you held me in your handsome fist/And reminded me of the night we kissed/And of why I should be leaving.”
Al Stewart, “Warren Harding”
Because we all need more steel drums in our lives… I’d forgotten that I picked up Stewart’s 74 release Past, Present and Future along the way, as well as The Early Years, a compilation from his first four albums that was cobbled together after he broke out with Year of the Cat. This is just a darn catchy tune; I need to listen to it more!
I went to college with someone whose first and middle names were Warren and Gamiliel (he went by Buddy, however)—his last initial was even H! It was a family name; I think he had a III or some such appended to its end. Buddy was a CS/math major, a couple of years behind me, funny guy. His parents lived not too far away from mine, and I gave him a ride up to Florence a time or two.
Talking Heads, “People Like Us”
I don’t remember lots from seeing True Stories 32+ years ago, but one scene I do recall is John Goodman performing “People Like Us” in what I think passes for the film’s climax. “We don’t want freedom/We don’t want justice/We just want someone to love.”
And so it ends. Maybe never played once it left my mitts, but here for you today.
I found the list on the back of a piece of notebook paper. On the front, there were a few scratchings from the complex analysis course I’d taken in the fall of 86.
To my college friends: better late than never, I suppose?
Below is a playlist with the songs on the tape, with a couple of exceptions. “I Couldn’t Say No” doesn’t seem to be available on Spotify, so I’ve subbed in a different Carlene Carter song, and “When Your Heart Is Weak” appears only in live form. This’ll have to do…