Random Pop Culture Apocalypse: Video Mix Tape

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So Mrs. Ladner once again took the Ladner children to visit their relatives in New Mexico, and once again, rather than pile up pizza boxes and watch a bunch of college basketball, I have taken off to hang out in NoZo at the Raven Cafe in Prescott.  When this happened last year, a mocha overdose resulted in the first Random Pop Culture Apocalypse post on cover songs.

As my blood caffeine level once again reaches dangerous levels, I’ve decided to make a tradition of this. This year’s model: mix tapes.

Just to begin with a “in my day we had to walk to school 5 miles in the snow uphill both ways” story, it used to be difficult to make a mixtape. Back when they were actually tapes, that is. I remember going to libraries to check out cds, raiding the collections of my friends, buying used cds, recording the one song I wanted and then selling it back at a loss, etc. etc. etc.

Ah, and then Napster came along. The great thing about Napster was that they had all kinds of random stuff that you couldn’t buy, like Sammie Davis Jr. singing the theme song to Shaft (I love Sammie, but it sounds like a SNL spoof) or Ozzy Osbourne goofing around in the studio and covering the Bee Gees Staying Alive with Dweezil Zappa. Now the mashup artists are doing cool stuff.

High Fidelity memorably included a discussion of the dos and don’ts of mixtaping. In my opinion, the key to a good mixtape is awkward transitions between songs. Often this can be achieved by juxtaposing songs from completely different genres, but this is not always the case. For instance, I had the following two songs on a mixtape from the mid 1990s:

Followed by:

Ah Rednex, it’s so hard to find a good Swedish electronica/hillbilly band these days! But I digress. Electronic music that takes itself seriously followed by purposely absurd electronic music = awkward mixtape transistion, a delight to be savored.

Mixtapes can tell stories by matching particular songs. I found an old mixtape I made back around 1998, which contained two songs which spoke to a certain political scandal of that era. First the desperately pathetic intern begs for affection:

The male, a practiced liar with an air of menace, responds:

For some reason I used to like to pair Rancid:

with ABBA:

Well, it made sense to me at the time. Still does. Here’s another awkward pairing  of the beautifully elegant Stacey Kent:

with the delightfully inelegant Joan Jett:

So you get the idea, now it is your turn. Post your favorite video mixtape pairings in the comment section, and tell me why it works for you. Person submitting the best pairing wins a JPGB No-Prize.

12 Responses to Random Pop Culture Apocalypse: Video Mix Tape

  1. To reveal my age, I used to make mix-tapes from records. And unlike Matt, I picked songs for a tape that followed a similar theme rather than posing sharp contrasts. In 1985 I made an “America” mix-tape with Green Grow the Rushes (REM — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW6d0uv1pW0 , Help Save the Youth of America ( Billy Bragg — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVRmqFuIUlc&feature=related ), etc…

    I remember trying to make the point that foreign musicians tended to say more about themselves than America while American musicians had criticms that were more likely to hit their targets accurately.

  2. Jarhead says:

    Of course the truest awkward 80’s pairing is anything with 99 Luftballons. That song was the epitome of the 80’s. No one knew what it meant (the German version was way bigger than the English version), but it had a good beat and a weird video so it was a hit.

    Maybe 99 Luftballons http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9whehyybLqU and a little Hooked on Classics http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17dP0QvjsOU

  3. Matthewladner says:

    I made some early mix tapes off of records as well, but took it up as a hobby during the cd era.

    Goldfinger did a pretty fun cover of 99 Luftballons:

  4. Maximus says:

    I mixed before mixing was cool (not that I was cool, mind you… I was unaware of how ahead of the curve I was).

    Like Jay, I mixed from LP’s. I also mixed sampling radio broadcasts with my Radio Shack MONO tape recorder (quality recording? What’s that?). This was the late 70’s/early 80’s. 8-tracks still existed, Mr Kasem was in full force, and there may have been some of my parent’s 78 rpm Nat King Cole in there

    I trended toward tapes which presented bold transition of artists, keeping within a common feel e.g. Scorpions – Rock You Like a Hurricane, Duran Duran – The Chauffeur, Led Zeppelin – Battle of Evermore




    However my favorite mix-tape was given to me be a co-worker during a summer job I held each year between college semesters in the late 1980’s. Mr Ladner may remember the title: “Ferro Cult Dance Mix”.

    It featured hard to find (in those wonderfully simple pre-internet days) remixes of songs by The Cult, interspersed with gems from bands like Dead or Alive.


    Nothing unique about a dance mix cassette. But this one had a longevity that traversed at decade change.

    It didn’t hurt to have “Subdivisions” randomly thrown in on the B side of the Maxell XL II-S 60min for that extra bit of misplaced ecclectic charm…

  5. Good memories. I remember taping Yes’ Roundabout off of an AM radio broadcast on my Loop-de-Loop radio while cursing the DJ for talking too long into the song:

  6. My apologies. It was called a Toot-a-loop:

  7. Patrick says:

    I had a radio with 2, count them 2, slots for tapes. I could record from the radio or from another tape. I remember rushing to the record button when the song I wanted finally came on the radio.

    Now I let other people make me mixed tapes, I don’t have a high enough willingness to pay for music.

    RIP – Napster

  8. Brian says:

    Most of my early mix tapes were recording songs I liked off the radio (age 8-11, Rock Me Amadeus and Safety Dance come to mind. Casey Kasum on Sunday mornings was good for grabbing things off of the radio because you could count on certain songs being played in the countdown.

    Once I was older, I remember I made mix tapes for girls and the song selections were purely about wooing them. Isn’t that the point of mix-tapes?

    • Patrick says:

      Ah, mix tapes, economics and dating. Mix tapes are a good example of division of labor. Some pop star is technically “hired” to inform a girl how you feel about her… without you having to say those awkward words yourself.

  9. Greg Forster says:

    Recent philological evidence does confirm that the phrase “mix tape” was originally used strictly to refer to an instrument of courtship. However, by metonymy, the phrase came over time to be used with a far more general meaning. Similarly, “chivalry” originally referred to armored cavalry units (“the English longbowmen defeated the French chivalry at Agincourt”) but came over time to refer to the standard of behavior desired among persons fighting in such units, and then simply to high standards of behavior, and then to high standards of behavior in one respect (the treatment of women). Soon “chivalry” will refer to the making of mix tapes, and the circle will be complete.

    The chronology of the transition of meaning for “mix tape” is hotly disputed. Records from this period are incomplete (and many of the records we do have are scratched and unplayable). Many of the original sources have been mashed up or remixed. Sorting out the evidence in light of these ambiguities is fraught with uncertainty.

  10. Daniel Earley says:

    Hmm…. my former lengthy career as a bachelor has suddenly come into focus. Phil Collins’ “I Don’t Care Anymore” probably didn’t enhance any of those Lionel Richie songs a tenth as much as I imagined.

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