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Red Lehman on How to Make a Back to School Mixed Tape

Posted by November 11th, 2008 No Comments »

Ah yes, the fall, which means back to school for many of us.

You’ve got your books, your scientific calculator, pens, pencils and folders, but what about your music? How could you possibly get through the long fall days of academia without the proper scoring? Let a musician and a professional student guide you in the process of getting the most out of your headphones.

Step 1

First things first – you need to clear house. Remember that music you bought because the guitarist from your favorite band recorded a solo album? It sucked, but you tried to convince yourself it was good? Well it wasn’t. They got your money and you can bet that the local music store has three copies waiting for the next sucker. Ditch it.

Writer has just thrown out 27 cd’s. Mostly soundtracks, promos and compilations from some obscure label that is no longer in business.

Step 2

Now we organize by category.

Familiar tunes. These are the songs that you swear you never want to hear again, but will always gain your immediate credibility when they come through your headphones. Some may even call them “guilty pleasures.”

Writer has added Chris Brown, Maroon 5, Counting Crows, Jason Mraz, Lily Allen, Mike Doughty, INXS, Will Smith, Usher, Beyonce.

Tunes you learned to love through repeated listens. These tracks are like sushi for the soul. You may not have liked them at first, but eventually they took hold, and now you are a fan forever.

Writer has added The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”, Weezer “Pinkerton” and Sonic Youth “Daydream Nation.”

Friend suggestions. “Dude have you heard _______? Oh my f*king gawd. I can’t believe you haven’t heard them yet.” This is where you can determine how much you value your friends’ judgment. If they have a broad, but refined musical palette, its safe to throw in several songs you’ve never heard. After all, that keeps your mix fresh and intriguing. If their musical curriculum vitae is less impressive, best to preview before committing.

Writer has added The Saturday Knights, Northern State, Nick Lowe, The Thrills and Jens Lekman

Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits on www.nadamuchoMemory tunes. Road trip songs, karaoke, camping, anthems, the night you woke up in your own vomit…you know the drill.

Writer added The Eagles, Wilco, Steve Miller Band, ZZ Top, The Dead Milkmen, Journey, Neil Diamond, Beastie Boys, 2 Live Crew, and Beck. 

Relationship tunes. That was/is our song. This category depends if you are a stalker or a real pussy. I usually skip it since I don’t need a reminder of who I dated and neither do they. Alphaville “Forever Young” left my collection years ago with my first college major.

Writer has chosen to instead add DMX’s “Party Up (Up In Here)”, Black Flag’s “TV Party” and Ween’s “You Fucked Up.”  

Mood tunes. I like to use this one as a soundtrack for the movie that is my eyes and ears.

Writer has added the following:

  • Led Zeppelin/Idlewild (for the park)
  • W.A. (for the bus stop)
  • Minor Threat/ NOFX/ R.A.T.M./Tool (waking up)
  • The Parlor Mob//Quicksand (weight training)
  • D’Angelo/Maxwell/ R.Kelly (nude art class)
  • Lou Rawls/Rufus Thomas (grocery shopping)
  • The Who (drinking coffee)
  • Editors/The Doves (walking anywhere)

Long day. Music to chill out to. Be chill. Chill.

Writer has added Pink Floyd, Nightmares on Wax, The Future Sound Of London, Bob Marley, Mazzy Star and Portishead

Step 3

Now that you have your songs organized in to these categories, its time to add them to your track list. Here’s the best way to do it.

You have heard of the band, but not heard them. Take either track 2, 3 or 5. This is where bands hide their best songs. Or, if you are really in doubt, take the song that runs as close to 3:32 as possible.

You have heard the band, but not all the songs. Take the song you heard, a song with a funny title, and the second longest song.

You like the band. Remove two hits from the band’s latest album, then and add the rest. That way you can determine if you really like them.

Maroon 5 on www.nadamuchoYou love the band and want to marry them. Take all their stuff and dump it in. Go on-line and see if you can find more. Set up a MySpace and Facebook dedication to them. Stop being a loser.

It’s your own band. You are probably already sick of it and writing new tunes for the next album, which is going to be waaaaay better. Put some tunes on there anyway. You never know when that super-hot nude model or that record label guy could want to hear your band.

Make it portable. If you are a music freak then you probably have gone over your I-Tunes limit. If not, then you lead a respectable life and will probably finish college and go on to great things while I’m working on my next degree. Here’s what you do if you find yourself in the former category.

Search by minutes.
Start removing the longest songs until you have room.

New Smart Playlist. Should read TIME – IS IN THE RANGE – 1:00 TO 1:59. Hit OK. Label it “One Minute.” Repeat for 2 minutes and 3 minutes. Pull from those categories until you have no room left to add.

You are putting your list on CD. Stop being a wussy and just keep burning until you’ve got them all on disc. Make sure that you at least get the correct song listing on the CD so you know which one is which. Hate to have you go jogging and have George Michael “Listen Without Prejudice” come on by accident.

You are making a cassette tape. You are probably running out of time on your computer at the library. You need to do a job search or visit your AOL or hotmail account for your fantasy bowling stats. Also remember the “super bass” on the walkman is broken and it doesn’t really go 140 feet underwater like your watch.

See you in class.


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