Original Format: cassette
These were the days of elaborate mixtape packaging. For this one I went so far as to commission custom artwork for the cover (which meant I asked my friend James to do a painting — isn’t it great?). The liner notes were folded up and slid into a little envelope glued to the inside cover, and looked like this:
I suppose some of that time could have been used to, like, start a career or something. But on the whole, no regrets.
How Am I Funny? Joe Pesci & Ray Liotta
This bit from Goodfellas is a bit of a cliche now. Maybe it was then. But it’s a cliche for a reason.
Gangsters & Pranksters Pavement
The line “I’ve got all this Harvard LSD/Why won’t anybody fuck me?” always reminds me of my college roommate, who asked every single female in our dorm to take ecstasy with him. They all said no, so he took it by himself, had a horrible time, and complained that the dealer must have given him rat poison. Good times, good times.
Until I looked it up just now I never realized that this had so many constituent parts. The whistling intro is from this:
The guitar loop is from this:
And some other elements are from this:
Kung Fu Fighting (OMCL Megamix) Carl Douglas
It’s too bad this song came out before the age of MTV. It could have been a big hit.
“Oh, My” Railroad Jerk
The mid-90s was the golden age of CD bonus tracks, and this one comes from the Railroad Jerk album One Track Mind. I can’t now reconstruct the thought process that led to its being included here. Like so many things, it must have seemed like a good idea at the time.
Ringo Rides Again Ennio Morricone & Maurizio Graf
A tip of the hat please to the late, great Ennio Morricone (1928–2020). “With more than 400 scores for cinema and television, as well as more than 100 classical works,” says Wikipedia, “Morricone is widely considered as one of the most prolific and greatest film composers of all time.” (This song was from a lesser-known spaghetti western, 1965’s The Return of Ringo.) I couldn’t tell you much about the vocalist, Maurizio Graf, except that he “was born in 1941 in Gorizia, Italy as Maurizio Attanasio” (IMDB tells us) and “died on October 25, 2019 in Lugo, Rome, Lazio, Italy.” But it sounds like he didn’t speak English, and whoever translated the lyrics didn’t have a great grasp of the language either.
I kiss at last the beloved ground of my land,
That I left one day with my hard heart full of pain.
I have looked in the faces of my old friends,
But nobody looked at me as my old friends.
And now what happens you must, you must tell me.
You must remember who I am.
If you see a man with downcast eyes and ragged clothes,
Walking through your village, don’t shun him, but go beside.
I’m that man, and now, I beg you, help me, I need you.
I need you.
The liar who told my sweetheart that I was dead,
To take my place, he shall pay for this base lie.
Those who saw me as a rundown man,
Those who tried to destroy all our world,
Shall leave forever our beloved land,
Because we are fearless men.
Because we are fearless men.
Because we are fearless men.
Play with Fire Rolling Stones
I’ve always loved this song but always felt that, not being British, I was missing some of the meaning… so, to the internet.
An affluent district of leafy residential streets, St John’s Wood is known for Lord’s Cricket Ground, the headquarters of English cricket and a venue for domestic and international matches. The Beatles made many recordings at Abbey Road Studios and fans use the crosswalk outside to recreate the iconic album cover for photo ops. Boutique stores and chic eateries dot St John’s Wood High Street. —Google
Knightsbridge and Stepney are neighbourhoods in London. The significance in the song is that they are almost polar opposites. Knightsbridge is the most affluent part of London while Stepney is one of the poorest and most run down. Knightbridge is almost entirely upperclass while Stepney was, is and probably always will be exclusively working class. Presumably she’s having to get her kicks in Stepney because she can no longer afford Knightsbridge after the loss of her tiaras. On the other hand, she might well be choosing to seek her kicks in Stepney – think Lady Chatterly – because the men in Knightsbridge are so utterly useless and pathetic – think of Hugh Grant. Now if she were to try Wimbledon… —“Camel,” posting on phrases.org.uk
Scorched Earth, No Survivors, Wholesale Destruction Kate Murtagh & Dan Aykroyd
I haven’t seen Dr. Detroit in a long time and I suspect that it wouldn’t hold up, but it is a fascinating piece of 80s culture. The cast includes Fran (The Nanny) Drescher, Howard (Johnny Fever) Hesseman, T.K. Carter, Glenne Headly, and (in a cameo) James Brown. Devo did the title song; I still have the 45. Dan Aykroyd’s love interest was played by Donna Dixon, whom every boy of my generation had fallen in love with on Bosom Buddies. They got married and are still together 38 years later. Indeed do many things come to pass.
Stepping Razor Peter Tosh
This song was written by Joe Higgs, who actually was a small man, hence the line “Don’t watch my size.” Peter Tosh was 6-foot-5 (the tallest Wailer by far) and well known as a bad motherfucker, so I don’t think many people stepped to him; though he did end up getting killed by home invaders, who perhaps had not heard the song.
Brand New You’re Retro Tricky
I never knew until today that this song was built around a sample from Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” I may have been happier before, but oh well.
Daring but Dead Coyle & Sharpe
Coyle and Sharpe seem a little taken aback when the victim of this street prank (or “terrorization,” as they liked to call their antics) proves all too willing to rob a bank at their behest. Best line: “You’re lying on the steps of the bank, riddled with bullets, and we’re driving across a bridge.”
Bad Monkey Love and Rockets
“The signifying monkey is a character of African-American folklore that derives from the trickster figure of Yoruba mythology, Esu Elegbara. This character was transported with Africans to the Americas under the names of Exu, Echu-Elegua, Papa Legba, and Papa Le Bas. Esu and his variants all serve as messengers who mediated between the gods and men by means of tricks. The signifying monkey is ‘distinctly Afro-American’ but is thought to derive from Yoruban mythology, which depicts Echu-Elegua with a monkey at his side. Numerous songs and narratives concern the signifying monkey and his interactions with his friends, the Lion and the Elephant.” —Wikipedia
Blues X Man Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
“If you take a shot every time you hear the words ‘Blues explosion,’ you’ll die of alcohol poisoning by the end of this song.” —YouTube commenter Shane Fell
B.A.D. Nicolas Cage
This is from the 1995 remake of Kiss of Death with Cage and David Caruso, which nobody liked at the time but I thought was great. I haven’t seen it for almost as long as Dr. Detroit, and I’m not sure it would hold up either, though as I recollect Nic’s scenery-chewing performance as Little Junior Brown was one for the ages.
Bad Man Juicy Bananas
“As for Juicy Bananas, their entire career spanned one song, ‘Bad Man’ on the Repo Man soundtrack. About all I can tell you about them was that the Circle Jerks’ Zander Schloss (who plays Kevin the Nerd in the film) was part of the band, while Sy Richardson, who played the super bad ass Lite in the film provides vocals.” —Michael H. Little, The Vinyl District
Sheik ZZ Top
I can’t 100% explain why this is on here, but I had recently acquired the ZZ Top album and I guess it seemed to fit.
Czar Frank Black
“John Denver is an accomplished pilot, and he offered ten million dollars to the NASA agency, and also ten million dollars to what was then the Soviet space agency, just so that they would take him up into space. He was denied by both, and I kind of feel bad for him because, even though the money may have been better used for charitable purposes, I sort of admire a really wealthy person like that who tries to go out and do something really weird with his money.” —Frank Black,
Stone Circles’n’You Julian Cope
“Sure, everyone knows about Stonehenge, but it might not be quite as widely known that stone rings and megaliths dating back several thousand years, well before the birth of Christ, are quite common in Europe and especially Great Britain. Julian Cope, formerly of the Teardrop Explodes, set out to remedy that with his stupendously informative books The Modern Antiquarian: A Pre-Millennial Odyssey Through Megalithic Britain (1998) and The Megalithic European: The 21st Century Traveller in Prehistoric Europe (2004). One of Cope’s pet tropes is the concept of ‘moving forward,’ an idea strong enough to yoke his original clan in the postpunk movement and his country’s forebears of the Neolithic era (4500-2000 B.C.), as in his opening salvo, which runs, ‘Rock and roll didn’t start off as an excuse for sloth. It started off because people were forward-thinking mofos.’ Amusingly, at one point Cope compares the druids responsible for a given megalith as exhibiting the same mentality as ‘glam rockers.”’ —Martin Schneider, Dangerous Minds
That’s Our Story & We’re Sticking to It Scum of the Earth