A Good Compilation Tape

Rob Gordon (John Cusack) Embarks on Another Superb Mix Tape...

Having recently been a position to digitise my sizeable music collection, I been able to reassess how I’ve enjoyed music and how I’ve discovered new things and spotted links between artists and genres. And also friendships. When looking for holes in my iTunes music library – things I will need to download or buy on CD – I’ve had to acknowledge that there are many things that I only own on minidisc, or going back even further, on cassette.

I was reminded of the significance of the compilation (or mix) tape in the opening chapter of “Starter for Ten” by David Nicholls (a book I’ve wanted to find time to read ever since he headed a very interesting and inspirational course on script editing I was fortunate to be sent on). The protagonist is about to leave for university and one of his best friends, unable to find any other way to convey his feelings (sound familiar, guys?) gives his mate a mix tape. The protagonist thanks his friend and his friend responds;

“‘Alright, Jackson, it’s only a sixty-nine pee tape from the market, no need to cry about it.’ He says that, but we’re both aware that a ninety-minute compilation tape represents a good three hours of work, more if you’re going to design an inlay card.”

I realised that this is very true. Although this story is set in 1985, things didn’t really move forward much until the digital revolution – you had to actually sit there and listen to each and every track to make sure that it recorded OK but more importantly that the order of the songs was right for the general message you wanted to convey. I immediately thought of Nick Hornby’s memorable explanation of the guidelines of preparing a successful compilation in High Fidelity;

“Making a tape is like writing a letter – there’s a lot of erasing a rethinking and starting again… You’ve got to kick it off with a corker, to hold the attention, and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds black, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs and… oh, there are lots of rules.”

The cassettes I’ve recently found are “Schrodinger’s Astrochicken”, from my buddy Robert that he posted when I was in my first term of uni and cheered me up no end, “Fish Pan Skillet Trousers” from another good friend Liam who forwarded the cassette to me in the first term of my second year and similarly brought a smile to face, and another by my uni housemate of two years Graeme, who sent me a minidisc just after I’d moved to Brum called (rather less imaginatively) “Compilation for James”. All three were full of memorable tunes by artists I went off and bought more music by and still listen to today. As well as bringing endless enjoyment, they let me know I was missed.

I’ve made many a mix tape for friends and significant others and have each and every time been amazed at how much time and thought they have required. Because of this you knew that when you were given one, it must mean that someone had spent an equivalent effort for you. I don’t think the same can be said for assembling a playlist and burning a CD for you. It’ll still be special because you’ve carefully selected the songs and the order (even if random play can negate the structure) but won’t ever quite recapture that feeling that someone has written off a whole evening to put a smile on your face.

Too Proud?

So I’m still between jobs. I think this is a kind way of putting it. Out of work; unemployed; surfing the sofa is more the state of things. I mainly patrol BBC Jobs, Guardian Jobs and I get individual job alerts from my subscription to Production Base. Today has once more yielded wholly underwhelming results. At the moment I’m sticking to my guns and looking for drama work only (as time progresses I might have to extend my search criteria). Today’s job alert from Production Base has brought Fremantle Media to my attention and their current search for Clarity Operators for “Quizmania”.

You can imagine how my heart sinks everytime I read something like this. Firstly, I have no idea what a clarity operator is. Is this someone who dumbs down the content to a more baby-food level than it was before? It probably airs on UK TV Pleb Dazzle at 3 in the morning and attracts lowest common denominator viewing and is cheap and unimaginative viewing made by people who “…have experience within quiz or shopping formats.”
Maybe I should just bite the bullet and go for something like this. It does have the advantage of getttting me to London but I know I’d be miserable, it would look bad on the CV and might limit my already poor chances or getting back into drama.

I think for the time being I’ll leave this exciting opportunity to people more keen to immerse themselves in “…the UK’s most successful live interactive gameshow.” Best of luck to them.


Getting Carried Away...

Being in the midst of the Six Nations at the moment and loving rugby as he does Dad was ready for England vs Scotland at Murrayfield this weekend. Rae was home for the weekend but was due to be whisked away to sunny Snowdonia for some hiking on Saturday. Not being able to bear her lucky England top going unworn and therefor rendering it’s good fortune void, Rae passed the talisman to Dad who clambered into it. I think we have a fairly good side at the moment who were thoroughly capable of a grand slam having seen off Wales and Italy comfortably. Scotland, to everyone’s surprise had made a strong opening impression but were supposed to be beatable – or so we thought. Solid team work and a faultless defence triumphed over the English to reclaim the Calcutta Cup and dad never really got to make the above face again in a match devoid of tries. I was annoyed with a Scottish team who deserved the victory yet had been unable to beat a lacklustre Wales the week before. Rachael was annoyed that she hadn’t been dressed in her England top which apparently would have made all the difference.

Man with the Plan

Wow. Me with a blog – who would have thunked it? Thanks to my good friend Robert I now have one. Hurrah! There may well be teething problems as I try and learn how to use this blogging equipment but hopefully not. I’m delighted to finally have an internet presence! I look forward to your support in the matter 🙂