Category Archives: Cassetricity

Reviving the lost art of the mixtape

Spooky Choons

I heard – with shut eyes but acute hearing – I heard the eerie music. I heard the chilling sounds of a DJ mixing, and then, on the working of a powerful engine, heard signs of notes and stirring with uneasy beats, cautious blending. Frightful, must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any DJ endeavor to rock the stupendous mechanism of the creator of such a mix.

01. Ghost Town *|* The Specials
02. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) *|* David Bowie
03. Straight To Hell *|* The Clash
04. Dead Man’s Party *|* Oingo Boingo
05. The Blood *|* The Cure
06. Dead *|* Pixies
07. Scooby Doo *|* Hoyt Curtain & Singers
08. Evil Ways *|* Willie Bobo
09. Bad Moon Rising *|* Credence Clearwater Revival
10. Boris The Spider *|* The Who
11. Frankenstein *|* Edgar Winter Group
12. Runnin’ With The Devil *|* Van Halen
13. Highway To Hell *|* AC/DC
14. The Addams Family *|* Vic Mizzy
15. Hell *|* James Brown
16. I Put A Spell On You *|* Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
17. Spooky *|* Dusty Springfield
18. Evil (Is Going On) *|* Howlin’ Wolf
19. Witchcraft *|* Joe Graves & The Diggers
20. The Twilight Zone
21. Demon’s Theme (Part II) *|* LTJ Bukem

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I Want My MTV!

Date: 01 August 1981
Time: 00:01 EST
Place: New York City, NY
Purpose: To play music videos (no, really it was).
Slogan: “I want my MTV!”
VJs: Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, JJ Jackson and Martha Quinn

With the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll”, a crunchy guitar riff and footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing (with the US flag replaced by an MTV flag, of course), MTV was born.

Even though only a few thousand people from a single cable channel system in New Jersey saw the initial transmissions, a revolution was started.

The format when MTV began was modeled after a Top 40 radio station. But instead of DJs (disc jockeys), MTV had VJs (video jockeys). The original five eventually became superstar celebrities and were, collectively, the face of the station.

Most of the early videos were very crude and usually consisted of either promotional footage or concert footage of the band. But that didn’t matter. Now you could SEE the music as well as HEAR the music.

Rock, Alternative and New Wave were the flavour of the day. A lot of the bands that made this kind of music and, indeed, some of the biggest bands of the 1980s can attribute their success directly to the amount of airplay they received on MTV in the early part of the decade. But when the president of CBS Records complained about the lack of black artists being played, especially his heavy hitter Michael Jackson, things began to change.

‘Billie Jean’ was the first video by a black artist to be shown and by the end of 1983, when the 14 minute epic ‘Thriller’ was released the entire format was changed from Rock to Pop and R&B.

For the next five years MTV ruled the airwaves. Everyone had it. Everyone wanted more. And everyone talked about the bands being played. It was a great time to be a kid in the ‘know’ and a music fan.

In 1984 the MTV Video Music Awards started. 1986 saw the introduction of the Alternative show ‘120 Minutes’. ‘Headbangers Ball’ started in 1987 and ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ in 1988.

The early 1990s saw the beginning of other shows such as, ‘MTV News’, ‘Club MTV’, ‘Remote Control’, ‘MTV Unplugged’ and ‘Liquid Television’.

Unfortunately, all of these conventional shows, as good as they were, began to take away from the time that videos could be shown. And the demise of the station began.

By the mid-1990s nearly all of the programming was non-music or reality based. MTV still carries on today but now they have had to start several other channels (MTV2, MTV Tr3s, MTV Hits, MTV Jams and mtvU) in order to show any music at all.

But fear not! I am going to take you all the way back to the beginning. This mix includes some of the songs that were played on MTV on 01 August 1981. I must admit a few tears were shed in compiling and mixing this set and lots of memories came flooding back. I hope that you enjoy listening to it as much as I did creating it.

Shout at the top of your lungs ‘I want my MTV!’ to hear the mix.

01. Video Killed The Radio Star – The Buggles
02. You Better Run – Pat Benatar
03. You Better You Bet – The Who
04. We Don’t Talk Anymore – Cliff Richard
05. Brass In Pocket – The Pretenders
06. Take It On The Run – REO Speedwagon
07. Just Between You & Me – April Wine
08. In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins
09. I Wanna Be A Lifeguard – Blotto
10. Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello
11. Tusk – Fleetwood Mac
12. Rapture – Blondie
13. Ashes To Ashes – David Bowie
14. Once In A Lifetime – Talking Heads
15. Cruel To Be Kind – Nick Lowe
16. Kiss On My List – Hall & Oates
17. Da Ya Think I’m Sexy – Rod Stewart
18. While You See A Chance – Steve Winwood

Le Tour

To some (including me), July can mean only one thing – the Tour de France. This year’s edition is the 97th and is important for a couple of reasons.

First, it is the last-ever Tour de France for Lance Armstrong. This is his 13th Tour and it is proving to be an unlucky number for him. Despite being included amongst the favourites at the start, some initial bad luck and a prevailing lack of interest have led to what will be his poorest placing ever. He doesn’t seem to mind though and is, apparently, enjoying his last trek around France.

Second, it is the 100th anniversary of the inclusion of the Pyrenees in the race. The first seven years did not feature any large mountain passes, but in 1910 the organizer, Henri Desgrange, decided to include the Pyrenees. Legend has it that upon hearing the news, 26 of the 136 entrants immediately dropped out and most thought that Desgrange was being ‘dangerous’ and ‘bizarre’. The tenth stage of  the race included the Tourmalet and the Aubisque, both of them considered Hors Categorie in modern racing parlance. The organizers placed cars at the top of both of the climbs to watch for riders and record their placings at the summit. Most of them could barely turn the pedals as they approached the top of the climbs and hurled abuse at the race directors for being so inhumane.

Fast-forward to this year’s race, which features four long days in the Pyrenees. This year’s race is proving to be a two-man duel between Andy Schleck (Saxo-Bank) and Alberto Contador (Astana) with about half a dozen other riders fighting for the final place on the podium. The French are enjoying a resurgence at the front of this year’s race with five stage victories to-date. For years, the French complained that they were unable to win stages or produce a podium placing because of the rampant drug use by all the other nations represented in the Tour. Whether that is true or not, this Tour has been heralded as the cleanest in years and (so far) there have not been any positive results.

To pay homage to the greatest bicycle race in the world, I have compiled and mixed a podcast called ‘Le Tour’. Click here to listen to 14 songs about bikes. Viva le Tour!

Michael Jack5on

It is already one year, since Michael Jackson passed away in a whirlwind of controversy and surprise. To mark this anniversary, Billboard magazine published a special issue entitled, ‘Rediscovering Michael Jackson’.

One of the things that struck my curiosity was their list of Jackson’s top-performing singles throughout his career on the Billboard charts. A seemingly complicated system was used to weigh the performance of each single he released, during his four decade career. The system took into account, the number of weeks at Number 1, the weeks spent in the Hot 100, the weeks in the Top 10, Top 20 and Top 40. The resulting Number 1 song was a surprise. The legend’s best-charting song was not ‘Billie Jean’, but the second duet, ‘Say Say Say’, recorded with Paul McCartney. The Top 5 songs were (in reverse order):

05. Rock With You
04. Beat It
03. I’ll Be There
02. Billie Jean
01. Say Say Say

‘Say Say Say’ was recorded at the end of 1982 and appeared on McCartney’s second solo LP, ‘Pipes Of Peace’ in 1983. The song was the second time that Mac and Jack worked together, after McCartney appeared on ‘The Girl Is Mine’ from Jackson’s seminal album ‘Thriller’. The song quickly shot to Number 1, became Jackson’s seventh Top 10 hit within a year and the video, featuring the duo as vaudeville performers who peddle a ‘miracle potion’, received a lot of airplay on MTV.

Follow this link to play play play a mix of Jackson’s five top-performing songs.

Closer

“The past is now part of my future. The present is well out of hand.”
– Ian Curtis

It was on May 18th thirty years ago that Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, took his own life.  It was on the eve of a trip to the States that could have introduced the band to American audiences and brought them closer to the international success they had been working for four years to attain.

In March 1980, the band temporarily re-located to London to begin recording their second album titled ‘Closer’.  The band’s popularity was building across the UK, while Ian’s personal life was falling apart.  No one in the band even noticed.

The lads decamped to Britannia Rows Studio in Islington for three weeks and, between listening to David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Kraftwerk records, they wrote and recorded ‘Closer’.  They were on a 1.50 per day subsistence, shared two flats and recorded most of the album at night.  But the band were in great spirits and believed they were on the cusp of ‘making it’.  During their time in London, Curtis was turned on to Frank Sinatra when the band’s management suggested he listen to ‘Old Blue Eyes’ because his lyrics had become much darker and depressing.  He agreed and enjoyed listening to Sinatra records throughout the entire recording of ‘Closer’.  The band reckon that he purposely sang like Frank on ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ just to annoy them all.

Curtis suffered from epilepsy for many years and his condition began to worsen when Joy Division toured with the Buzzcocks in the Autumn of 1979.  He was on medication but the rigorous touring and recording schedule started to take its toll on his frail health.  In April, following their stint in London, the group embarked on a small UK tour to promote the release of ‘Closer’, while it was being mixed.  Curtis’s seizures grew worse between shows and he even suffered several grand mal fits.  However, the band carried on.  Curtis refused to stop pushing himself because he really believed in Joy Divison and wanted them to be successful.  With the album ready for release, the single ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ in the charts and the flights to America booked, Curtis took his life on May 18, 1980.  The band cancelled the trip and postponed the album release.  Their would be no more Joy Division.  The three remaining members (Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris) changed their name to New Order and, eventually, achieved the success and recognition that Curtis had hoped for.

As a tribute to Ian, I have recorded a little mix of some Joy Division songs, along with a few of their influences during the recording of Closer.  I hope you enjoy it.

RIP Ian.

Studio 54

‘In fifteen minutes everybody will be famous’.
– Andy Warhol

In the 1960’s Andy Warhol famously once said that everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes.  After partying in Studio 54, he confessed that he was bored with his original quote and changed it to state that everyone (presumably in Studio 54) will be famous in fifteen minutes.

Studio 54 opened it’s doors on April 26, 1977 at 254 West 54th Street in Manhattan.  The site was originally a broadway theatre and then a television studio.  But after this day 33 years ago, it would become the most famous nightclub in the world.  Albeit the party was very short-lived because Studio 54 closed it’s doors exactly three years later on April 26, 1980.

But during those three years, Studio was the king of discotheques.  The club was opened by Steve Rubell and Ian Shrager and became infamously known for it’s over-the-top hedonism and infuriating door policies.  Apparently the two owners would stand outside the club and hand-pick the people they wanted to see inside, which usually consisted of a healthy mix of glamorous celebrities and nobodies.  However, being famous never meant guaranteed entry.  In fact, there are dozens of stories of some of the most famous people in the world being told to ‘f*ck off’.

The resident DJ, who oversaw the proceedings for the decadent three years was Richie Kaczor.  He was from New Jersey and considered by most to be a very technically gifted DJ, who could not only segue music impeccably but could beat-match while mixing as well.  With his DJ skills, an attentive crowd, a legendary sound system and the biggest discotheque in the world, he soon developed the power to ‘make’ a record just by playing it in Studio.  The most famous example of this was ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor, which started out as a B-side to her single ‘Substitue’.  After Kaczor got his hands on it and championed it, the song soon became the Studio 54 theme.

As a small tribute to Richie and the Studio, I have mixed a podcast of some of the Studio’s anthems.  From the opening song, ‘Devil’s Train’, which was the first song Richie every played in Studio 54, to ‘I Will Survive’, every chosen track was anthemic and an essential part of the disco magic that was captured within Studio’s walls in the late 1970s.

1970

Like the guy whose feet are too big for the bed, nothin’s worrying me… Or you if you click here

01. Little Green Bag – The George Baker Selection
02. And When I Die – Blood Sweat & Tears
03. Give Me Just A Little More Time – Chairmen Of The Board
04. For You Blue – The Beatles
05. American Woman – The Guess Who
06. Vehicle – Ides Of March
07. The Seeker – The Who
08. Mississippi Queen – Mountain
09. Victoria – The Kinks
10. Who Loves The Sun – The Velvet Underground
11. Spill The Wine – War
12. Ain’t It Funky Now – James Brown
13. Does Anybody Know What Time It Is? – Chicago
14. Viva Torado – El Chicano
15. We Gotta Get You A Woman – Todd Rundgren
16. Only Love Can Break Your Heart – Neil Young
17. Make It With You – Bread
18. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head – BJ Thomas