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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
The World's Greatest Mix CD 
Monday, August 14th, 2006 | 04:57 pm [music, personal]

Two years ago I went to Tennessee with my father and brother, and my best friend Jimmy.  From here it was about a five hour drive, so to give us something to listen to I raided my CD collection and created The Great Tennessee Road Mix, 14 discs of songs culled from my own humble library.  I divided them up by themes – one disc had traveling songs, like “On the Road Again” or Brian Vander Ark’s “Mileage,” and another had great love songs like Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind,” or the great Ben Folds/William Shatner collaboration, “In Love.”  I had a few CDs of nothing but country stuff, a few with nothing but good old fashioned rockers, and one dedicated exclusively to Jimmy’s tumultuous relationship with his wife, entitled “The Jimmy and Tia Story,” appropriately enough, and including the Eminem classic “Kim,” which tells you all you need to know about how well they get along.


Anyway, this morning on the way to class I was listening to the country CD I made for that collection, and I got to thinking: what if I made my ultimate mix CD?  Just one disc with as much as I could cram onto it, the most kick-ass compilation I could ever make – what would be on it?  Yours would undoubtedly be very different from mine.  But if I were to assemble and burn my very own World’s Greatest Mix CD (and after writing this, I just might), I would go about it something like this:

I want my ultimate mix to represent the diversity of my musical taste, so the first thing I need to decide is what types of music to include, and how much.  I don’t want this to end up like one of those lame-ass compilations they’re always hocking on infomercials at like 3 a.m.  I want it to be eclectic.  So, what kinds of music do I like?  Rock, blues, country, jazz, classical, bluegrass, folk, old-school R&B, and gospel, to name a few.  I usually estimate between 16 and 20 songs to fit on a mix CD.  I don’t think I’ll be able to fit enough of my favorites on there if I insist on giving each genre equal representation, so I think I’ll stick with an even mix of rock, blues and country, and leave some space open for some of what’s left out, favoring jazz and folk if it really becomes a crunch.


I’ll be optimistic and assume that I can fit 20 songs on my CD no matter what.  That’s a nice round number, and if my choices don’t wind up fitting, I’ll only have to drop a few.  I’ll divide it into quarters, with rock, blues, and country each getting five tracks, and five more available for those in the other categories.  That might wind up being a little too restrictive, so I’ll make alterations if I have to, since it’s my fucking CD.


Another consideration is the artists.  Whose songs are gonna be on this thing?  For starters, to keep things eclectic, I’d like to limit each artist to only one song.  That’ll help me resist the temptation to make it a Springsteen/Hooker/Cash three-way, and make it more of a free-for-all gang bang.  In the rock pile, Springsteen’s definitely gotta be there, along with some more classic representation, maybe the Rolling Stones or Carl fucking Perkins.  I want new shit, too, so I’ll try to squeeze on The Verve Pipe, Modest Mouse, and Built to Spill.  The rule for the country pile is simple: no new shit.  New country is some of the worst fucking music I’ve ever heard, and it has no home on any CD of mine.  There’s such a wealth of songs to choose from here, but I bet nothing newer than early to mid-80’s Randy Travis or Dwight Yoakam has a chance in hell of making it.  Hank Williams and Johnny Cash go without saying.  The blues pile is gonna be a fun one, because there’s such a shitload to pick from.  Robert Johnson’s gotta be there, ditto for John Lee Hooker, and of course my boys Cephas and Wiggins.  The other pile is where I can fit in a Sam Cooke song, and Mr. Ray Charles, without whom any mix claiming to be the Greatest would be a fucking joke.


Time to start considering specific songs, and the track order.  Here the Rob Gordon method is helpful: start strong, then take it up a notch, then bring it back down.  To make it easier on myself, I mentally divide the CD up into two halves, or sides, if you will.  I want a strong opener for side A and side B, and strong closers for both.  With this structure in mind, let’s have a look at what the track list for my World’s Greatest Mix might look like.


  1.  What’d I Say, Ray Charles
  2.  I Would Hurt a Fly, Built to Spill
  3.  You Can’t Always Get What You Want, The Rolling Stones
  4.  Barbara Allen, Pete Seeger
  5.  Honky Tonk Man, Dwight Yoakam
  6.  Promised Land, Bruce Springsteen
  7.  Me and the Devil Blues, Robert Johnson
  8.  Win Your Love For Me, Sam Cooke
  9.  1229 Sheffield, The Verve Pipe
  10.  Cocaine Blues, Johnny Cash
  11.  When the Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin
  12.  Layla (original version), Eric Clapton
  13.  Going to the River, Cephas and Wiggins
  14.  Streets of Baltimore, Gram Parson
  15.  Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday
  16.  Move It On Over, Hank Williams
  17.  The Stars Are Projectors, Modest Mouse
  18.  Thank God I’m a Country Boy, John Denver
  19.  Desolation Row, Bob Dylan
  20.  I Cover the Waterfront, John Lee Hooker

That’s just one possibility.  I left a whole lot out.  I could remake the list a dozen times and come out with a dozen different CDs.  But that’s pretty representative of me and the music I love.  Some of you may ask why even go through all this effort, when I could just burn a CD of MP3s, or download a virtually unlimited number of songs onto an iPod.  Because making a mix CD requires thought and creativity, and call me crazy, but I think those are some of our better qualities as a species, you soulless android commie fucks.

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006 | 03:32 am (UTC)
I'm glad to see somebody else appreciates mix CDs over iPods as well. We're the last of a dying breed.

I actually just burned a CD for a friend and managed to include 25 songs from Pixies, Frank Black and Modest Mouse. I left off The Stars Are Projectors so I could include four other songs off The Moon & Antarctica at about the same length.
Wednesday, August 16th, 2006 | 03:39 am (UTC)
By the way...I agree that "new country" sucks balls, but have you ever heard Hank Williams III? Most of his material is a giant middle finger to modern Nashville, and he sounds a lot like his grandfather at times.
Wednesday, August 16th, 2006 | 01:35 pm (UTC) - Hank III
I haven't had a chance to get too into Hank Williams III, but what little I have heard I've liked. I think he's worth getting to know. I like Hank Jr., too, I don't think he gets his due from snobby music people like me. He's light years ahead of most of the dead music being made by country artists today, even though his multiple references to how much better things would be if the South had won the Civil War are a little bothersome. Still, his cover of "Kaw-Liga" kicks my ass.

Hank Sr. is the king, though. I think he's the best pure songwriter I've ever heard.
Wednesday, August 16th, 2006 | 01:38 pm (UTC) - Modest Mouse
Yeah, The Stars Are Projectors is problematic for mix CDs, since it's so long. I made a Modest Mouse mix about a year and a half ago and had to leave off a few I wanted to put on because of my stubborn insistence at including The Stars Are Projectors. Oddly enough, it's not my favorite Modest Mouse song. That would have to be either "Trailer Trash" or "Cowboy Dan" from The Lonesome Crowded West. I just thought it has such a cool, dark-epic sound, and would fit in with the rest of my muddled mix better.
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