Back before all music was free and digital and could be organized by dragging a song hither and yon, people used to make each other what we called “mixtapes,” essentially a collection of songs designed to inspire, impress or otherwise turn on the listener. Those evolved into personalized CDs and then iPods came along and with such a musical buffet at hand, the fun of creating a narrative out of song selection pretty much vanished — except for a few radio strongholds.
Now, a certain, successful, commercial radio programmer once scorned public radio as “people playing their mixtapes,” implying that spending two hours alone in an airbooth playing music one loves is a selfish act — that generous radio hosts pay attention to what’s popular, what “the people” like. And sure, the spectrum of public radio hosts runs the gamut from introverted audiophile to erstwhile radio personality wannabe, but somewhere in between emanates the passionate sharing of music reminiscent of a friend running in and saying, “You have to listen to this song right now!”
Years ago, I had a show on KHSU — which is how this blog started, just as a place to dump playlists. One of my favorite things to do was try to create a musical path between two disparate songs in a way that made sense. Like you can start with Howlin’ Wolf and end up with Nirvana (covering Leadbelly, natch) and play AC/DC in between — I swear, it can be done! (It’s all blues music, babies!) Especially fun to drag the unwitting folk junkies into some weird indie pop places.
Locally, KHUM exemplifies this, so props to them for long ago expanding beyond Little Feat and into way more interesting musical locales. I mention all this right now, at 10 minutes till midnight, because in the last week I’ve heard three songs I love, two of which I rarely hear, and was suddenly inspired to see if I could get from Golden Earring’s Radar Love to Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe. Totally indulgent and utterly fulfilling. Music is so fun, so powerful — nothing else influences my mood with such immediacy. Playing with songs makes me so happy. (Music = happy. Did I make that point yet?)
Golden Earring — Radar Love (I love this song! Love! All-time!)
The Rolling Stones — Bitch (that transition totally works in that classic rock way)
Prince — I Want to Be Your Lover (Prince opened for the Stones in 1981! Bobby was there!)
Anya Marina — Whatever You Like (sexy soul groove continued, bringing it up to date)
White Rabbits — Percussion Gun (might be a rough transition, yet it’s not — both songs are stupid catchy and Percussion Gun has such a killer opening, you’re sucked in before you can think about whether or not it “goes”)
Spoon — Black Like Me (this “goes” — Spoon is never a wrong choice)
Modest Mouse — The World At Large (quintessential modern rock set continues)
Wavves — King of the Beach (picking it up a little, fuzzing it out, addictive chorus)
Lila Nelson — Child of This World (bringing in a singer-songwriter vibe — if you crossfade the mbira intro over the King of the Beach fade out, it’s a delicious transition!)
The Be Good Tanyas — When Doves Cry (folk meets Prince, circling back around)
Mumford & Sons — Little Lion Man (folk meets indie rock in a dream and this is the result and I love it even after hearing it a thousand times now)
Pearl Jam — Just Breathe (works with the indie rock sound because it’s Pearl Jam, but also works with the folk vibe because it sounds like a Greg Brown song to me)