The catastrophe of my first college experience resulted in a crater that took me some time to climb out of. During the first half of 1987 I was back at home, working at McKenzie’s bakery, and without any kind of plan for the future. During my crash I had alienated a lot of my friends and was now trying to clean the mess up.
I had started dating Charlyn, but it didn’t last. I think she was uncomfortable with dating her best friend’s ex- boyfriend. I’m not sure how much further that would have gone anyway. Then, shortly after that came a bizarre relationship with a girl called (not named) Angel. It started as a physical-only thing but got strained when I think she wanted it to be more and I just wasn’t that interested. I think we may still have been “dating” when this tape was made.
Merlin’s technique was to isolate his victim from others, and after he was done with me, he had moved on to Rob. He had now moved on again, and Rob and I became friends again, now that we had something new in common. (Rob also had had a semester at Loyola that was very similar to my experience at UNO.) This tape was created at Rob’s house, and is probably the first one to feature music from compact disks (I still didn’t own a CD player, but he did.)
The tale has a happy ending, though! Eventually I broke up with Angel over the phone (because I’m such a classy, suave guy) and spent that night with Katie! It’s okay, though, because Angel spent the same night with Rob! Ha ha!
Okay, brace yourself, because this is a weird ride. Just when you thought I was finally developing some real musical taste, this one is going to throw you some very strange curves. However, I have to say, it all somehow works, and for a long time I considered this tape to be one of the best.
In addition to being the first tape to feature CD music, this is also the first one in which every band or artist gets only a single entry.
- The The – Infected
I believe Stephen got me into The The, or possibly our mutual friend Dave M. Most people consider Soul Mining to be their (yes, his) best work, and I like that one, but Infected has always appealed to me more, probably because of when I first encountered it. Both albums involve a long dark night of the soul, but Infected ends with “The Mercy Beat”, in which Matt Johnson is no longer contented to lie around moping and instead swears to track down the devil and have a little knife-fight with him. That boost was something that appealed to me, and we’ll see it again soon.
- Pseudo Echo – Living In a Dream
It’s a shame these guys are only known for their cover of “Funkytown”, because this song is…well, it’s pretty overblown, but a lot of fun in its own way.
- Alphaville – A Victory of Love
- Touchtones – Dancing in the Rain
- Love and Rockets – All in My Mind
More album mining here. Once again, the Touchtones song is unmistakably dubbed from an old cassette.
- The Church – The Unguarded Moment
- Propaganda – P-Machinery
- The Bolshoi – Books on the Bonfire
- XTC – Dear God
These songs definitely came from Dave M. He had made me a mix tape (which I may still have somewhere around here) that had these songs on it, and I loved them. “Books on the Bonfire” contains the immortal and thematically appropriate line, “you can beat my brains, but don’t kiss me again.” And although I had not yet figured out I was an atheist, “Dear God” was a song that probably helped put me on that track.
- Peter Gabriel (f. Kate Bush) – Don’t Give Up
When you’re depressed and everything around you has fallen apart, you dream of (and write stories about) some wonderful girl holding you and saving your life. You could do worse than to have her be Kate Bush.
- The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
I got into The Cure later than most, so here I’m catching up.
- Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hangin’ On
- Paul Simon – The Boy In The Bubble
- Billy Joel – Running on Ice
- Electric Light Orchestra – Twilight
- The F.B.I. (Don Henley) – The Boys of Summer
Okay, let’s talk about these five songs. I mentioned that I made this tape at Rob’s house, and it’s here that his influence shows. These five songs probably wouldn’t be on the tape if it weren’t for him. I’m not trying to blame them on him, just explain why they’re here, when they seem like odd choices.
While it’s certainly true that there is no reason to listen to the Kim Wilde cover over the original, I’ll not have anyone talking bad about Kim. So she’s excused. Similarly, this Paul Simon song is pretty good, and had a video that I liked, so it also got in more or less on its own merits.
And then there’s Billy Joel. I know how Billy Joel is regarded now, but I’m not ashamed of being a Billy Joel fan back in the day. Rob was an even bigger one, and we saw him in concert somewhere around this time. This song’s not bad, but actually I like “A Matter of Trust” more and don’t know why that one didn’t get on here instead.
Rob was also a huge E.L.O. fan, and I suppose I was looking to fill up space, so I put on “Twilight” from their Time album, which had come out in…1981. It’s probably the biggest anomaly here, and although I like the song, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s on here instead of, say, “You Trip Me Up” or “My Little Underground” by The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Finally, there’s “The Boys of Summer” which is something of a joke, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing some eye-rolling. Rob and I had come up with an imaginary band called The F.B.I. (the main personages thereof being himself and I) and had decided on a bunch of songs that “they” had done. This was one of them. So yes, it’s on here as representative of “The F.B.I.” instead of Don Henley, but we still dug the song enough to swipe it as “our” own.
Look, I know there’s some garbage on these tapes, and I’m not going to defend it, though I’ll try to explain it. I have no problem pointing out something truly regretful, but I don’t plan on apologizing for much.
- Shriekback – Malaria
I had had as much luck in getting Rob into Shriekback as he had had back in high school trying to get me into Pink Floyd. Years later he would talk about how much he liked this song and had never realized how good it was.
- Eric Kolb – All the Way In
While Rob was in the Loyola dorms, he met a guy named Eric Kolb. Eric played keyboards and had a setup in his room with a keyboard, drum machine, and four-track. Remember, this is only 1987, so this kind of setup for a college kid was still fairly unusual. Eric was in his room doing stuff like this track, in which he takes a sample from a porn movie and turns it into something else (albeit a bit predictably at the…well, you know.) Eric, it turns out, did keyboard and production work for the Neville Brothers, but passed away at a young age from a heart attack due to substance abuse. His mother found the original version of my music pages and sent me a nice email about how pleased she was to see his music still being appreciated by folks.
For obvious reasons this is a dub from the original tape, and it also includes the glitch where I accidentally hit “record” on my jambox instead of “play”.
- Suzanne Vega – Gypsy
I found Suzanne’s second album, Solitude Standing, to be a bit of a disappointment, though I liked this song. Not much else on it grabbed me, so we’ll be saying goodbye to her for a while.
- Big Audio Dynamite – E=MC2
Stephen introduced me to these guys. This was one of the first songs I heard that featured sampling in a big way, and all of Big Audio Dynamite’s first album really blew me away, since it was so different from anything I’d ever heard before.
- Depeche Mode – But Not Tonight
- Fuzzbox – Love Is The Slug
“But Not Tonight” was originally the last track on the tape, and served an obvious purpose. As with “The Mercy Beat” above, “But Not Tonight” closes out Black Celebration by throwing a finger up at the oncoming darkness and declaring the time for misery to be over (I understand that Depeche Mode did not like the inclusion of the song, as it actually cane from a movie soundtrack and they felt it intruded on the rest of the album with its dramatic shift in tone. I’m sorry, guys, it doesn’t ruin the album, it makes it.)
I had a ton of extra space at the end, and threw in “Love is the Slug”, another discovery courtesy of Dave M. And damn if it doesn’t work, effectively subverting the “happy” ending to the tape.
The title serves a few purposes. Back in high school, just after the whole Dina adventure, I became a typical teenager and decided that love sucked and didn’t really exist and all the other usual angsty foolishness teenagers believe when the girl they like won’t go out with them. I wrote a short story that was the “Anti- Love” story and a song called “Love Eats Dirt”. It was really embarrassing stuff. When this tape was being made I tried writing again and was working on a novel called Love Eats Dirt which would have involved four different relationships that happen to intersect, almost all of which ended in tears. It was strictly therapy writing and what little actually got onto paper was truly, deeply awful. In honor of that project (which was never finished, thankfully) and the doomed relationships of this time, I chose the title for the tape when I went back and renamed the Cool New Music Tapes. The title is perfect.
Click on the player below to listen to this mix!
(xspf player courtesy Lacy Morrow and Fabricio Zuardi.)