Before iPod playlists and after mix tapes, there were mix CDs … and I made a lot of them. This periodic feature will look at some of those CDs and see if my opinions and tastes have lasted longer than the cheap CD-Rs the songs were recorded on. And yes, this is a pretty clear rip-off of Nathan Rabin’s Then That’s What I Called Music series.
Title: Benefits of a Day in the Sun
Inspiration: Unknown, sounded vaguely summer-ish
Creation date: June, 2000
Album cover: Promotional, artistic shot from Virgin Suicides movie, back when one wasn’t chastised for having a crush on Kirsten Dunst.
1) “Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran
2) “Electric Music and the Summer” by Beck
3) “Dry the Rain” by Beta Band
4) “Laid” by James
5) “Feelin’ Groovy” by Simon & Garfunkel
6) “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes
7) “Let Me Go” by Cake
8 ) “Gone Crazy” by Marcy Playground
9) “Good” by Better Than Ezra
10) “My Best Friend’s Girl” by The Cars
11) “Get Myself Arrested” by Gomez
12) “Centerfold” by J. Geils Band
13) “Super Bon Bon” by Soul Coughing
14) “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones
15) “A Cloak of Elvenkind” by Marcy Playground
16) “Shower Your Love” by Kula Shakur
17) “Summer Babe” by Pavement
18) “America” by Marcy Playground
19) “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen
20) “Centerfield” by John Fogerty
21) “Saturday” by Marcy Playground
22) “Red Rubber Ball” by The Cyrkle
23) “Alabama Song” by The Doors
Pardon me if this is revisionist history, but Napster was said to have put the fear of God into record executives because kids would download the latest singles (at this time, “Thong Song” by Sisqo and “Smooth” by Santana) and wouldn’t bother paying for the album. Because I didn’t much care for those songs, I figured I was relatively in the clear with my ethical dilema. As this CD shows, I used the software to stock up on songs tucked away in my memory of road trips and oldies stations, back when anything past the “Help!” soundtrack was considered outside the bounds of some stations’ playlists. Now I realize that ransacking the past eliminated record companies’ easiest cash grab – the compilation of older songs that comes along just in time to entice a new generation. My apologies, recording industry, I was young and helpless to the attraction of The Cyrkle.
This was a bald-faced attempt to create a soundtrack for summer sun-bathing. And the first impression now? That’s a LOT of Marcy Playground. My friends like to throw around the label of “hipster” to describe my tastes, and the most truthful (and, thus, stinging) attack is that of liking a one-hit wonder for everything except their hit. But it’s true of this band, which could alternate from a guitar-heavy power pop single (“Saturday”) to a gentle, midtempo gem on both their first two albums.
For a mix CD, even one with 23 tracks, it’s a little much. The non-Playground tracks include six true oldies, one of which has been revealed in a new light. Now, I love Ronnie Spector’s voice on “Be My Baby,” which even forgives Eddie Money for his homage/theft many years later. It’s a force of nature just as strong as Phil Spector’s finest “wall of sound” production, and combined gives the song its rightful place as a pop benchmark. But hearing the song again recently, a decade’s worth of copy editing revealed a peculiar lyric choice. Ronnie sings “You know I will adore you, ’till eternity.”
My first reaction is to take out my figurative red pen, cross out “’till” and put a “for” in its place. In popular vernacular, eternal love exists now and will continue to exist forever. Using “’till” implies that the current state of love isn’t part of eternity. But a dictionary check of “eternity” (don’t check Wikipedia unless you’re willing to immediately engage in college-level metaphysics) gives a theological definition: “the timeless state into which the soul passes at a person’s death.” Technically, the lyric could work in that regard. Just to be safe, future listens to this song will probably focus more on the “whoa oh oh oh.” They probably say just as much.
Track most likely to be skipped: “Super Bon Bon.” I still like the song, but the chorus comes on a little strong amid its more gentle surroundings. “Centerfield” cuts it close, as its use as a highlight package soundtrack has sapped it of any freshness. Each handclap feels like a buddy grasping your shoulder and trying to convince you of how much fun you’re having.
Standout track: Cake produced hit singles on each of the band’s first four albums, and they served as perfect diving boards into solid, enjoyable albums. The band never reached a Goo Goo Dolls situation in which one album featured four hits spaced out over the better part of a year, but they could sell a million records when that was possible. This general recognition makes it especially hard to figure why “Let Me Go” came and went with only a brief appearance on Modern Rock charts. It’s never so easy to sing along with John McCrea as he croons out a simple love lament, and the guitar hooks are monitored regularly by the CDC for their infectious nature.
Et cetera and ephemera:
- If this album was released, “Electric Music and the Summer People” would be the track the record company chose as its single. How it didn’t make it onto a proper Beck album (it emerged as a “New Pollution” B-side), I’ll never know.
- I went through a phase last year where I believed “Centerfold” was the best “story” single of all time. I abandoned pursuit of its equal.
- Kula Shakur can be used as the punchline for a lot of jokes concerning the Britpop era. But just try to resist “Shower Your Love,” when they finally married their appreciation for Indian music influences with the right amount of over-the-top orchestration.