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9:58 a.m. - May 02, 2006
The Worst Of Smed!
As you may have guessed, I love making mix CDs for people.

I’ve sent out a whole bunch of mixes to friends and fiends alike since last spring, and form the most part, it’s been a rewarding experience.

I realize that I have a wild, varied taste in music, and do possess a whole bunch of songs that aren’t normally in people’s idioms. Not as many as this guy (who sent me a whole bunch of mixes and totally, totally rules), but I try.

When I send the mixes, I receive a big thank you, and usually another note saying “Oh, I really loved them. Thank you so much. You rock!”

Well, of course I rock. I also roll.

But I know I’m not perfect.

Since I usually make 3 to 5 to 7 (or more) CDs per mix set, it’s impossible to hit on every song. You are always going to have a few songs that are clinkers for people.

Also, I try not to be ‘safe’ in my mixes. I like to stir things up, and put a couple songs in there that challenge the listener and take that person out of their safety zone. A few times when that happens, it backfires. But at least you can’t fault a guy for trying.

However, since I’m a curious (OCD?) guy who wants to know, I decided, in an effort to better my mixes (I always keep my feet on the ground, but I always keep reaching for the stars – because I listen to what Casey Kasem says!) and to provide some entertainment for you in my public flogging by my victims mix recipients, to ask them to list their favorite songs and least favorite songs.

Well, a lot of them answered my clarion call! And I thank them.

Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about my hits, but today, I’d like to explore my misses.

Sometimes, it’s simple. You pick songs that the other person has heard before and can’t stand. Vicki hated “Heat of the Moment” by Asia. She did back in school, and she still does.

Andria said this about Steely Dan:

“My parents used to listen to Steely Dan ALL the time, and it never grew on me (as a lot of music tends to do - I won't like it at first, but I begin to appreciate after a while). I think they're pretty overrated, too. And people tell me I'm crazy when I say that, too.

But then, I'm used to people looking at me funny and then calling me crazy. :)”

I love Steely Dan, because they are quite varied and unique, but I can see where it foisted upon you as a kid may not be your cuppa joe.

Andria also hates Kiss, so she and Zon are going to have to fight that out to the death. Yeah, Zon will have the Kiss Army behind her, but Andria’s a tough cookie!

Kat (currently mourning the loss of her Red Wings) has issues with Bjork, so “Deus” by the Sugarcubes gets skipped by her all the time.

Kat also has big time Steve Miller issues, which I find interesting. The lovely Dandy and I bonded at first over “Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma” by Steve Miller, and that’s the song I put on Kat’s CD, and Kat always skips it. Perhaps I thought that if one beautiful lady from Michigan dug it, then all beautiful ladies from Michigan must dig it. Perhaps it’s a Lansing vs. Dearborn thing?

But you know what? You’re not going to be a mind reader, are you?

When I take chances with people, I sometimes forget that some artists have built-in biases against them. Rush, especially early Rush, can grate on the nerves because of Geddy Lee’s shrieking vocals. But, for Harri3t I picked “Beneath, Behind, Between” anyway, and, well, this is typical amongst non-Rush freaks:

“This is really the only song I out and out don't like and it's all about the vocal sound. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard. But the tune is really good, as is the orchestration, and I really like how it follows on The Who's "Heaven and Hell," which immediately precedes it on the disk. “

At times, a person just doesn’t get a song. Jenn (now locked) said this about “Up For The Down Stroke” by Parliament:

“I have a really hard time saying "why" I do or do not like a particular song. I just don't "feel" it or something. I can't identify with or maybe I'm just not hip enough, haha. (It's entirely possible.)”

Then there are songs you put on mixes that may correspond with some bad memories, or just difficult places in their life. I put a couple of songs on Dandy’s mixes that reminded her of her ex, because her ex was in a band and they used to cover those songs.

Then she said this about “Mower” by Superchunk (it was in one of her entries, BTW. She wrote all about my mixes!)

“This one sounds so much like my ex and his brother way back in the early 90's when they tried their hand at cranking out originals. I can't really get into it all that much, but I love having the variety.”

I thought Dandy would be a sucker for a little slow soul music as well, but this was the reaction to “Where Is The Love” by Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack:

“Okay, I have to be honest. I don't like this song. It reminds me too much of the kind of music that played in the lobby of my doctor's office during the 70's. It reminds me of the jumpers my doctor wore with the first few buttons undone so that his chest hair and chain necklace were visible. He was a good doctor, just, very 1970's.”


Then there are some songs that just evoke a visual for someone, not bad, but it’s unmistakable.

>Harri3t said this about “Electric Funeral” by Black Sabbath:

“I just find this hilarious and I'm not sure I'm supposed to. Maybe I've seen Spinal Tap a few too many times, but I find it impossible not to imagine this song sung with midgets dancing around a tiny Stonehenge”

You know, I put that song on for her to illustrate that Sabbath WASN’T all a parody, and that song in particular had some interesting bass counterpoint in the slow sections, and demonstrated some interesting dynamics and wasn’t just a stooopid rock song. (It’s about nuclear annihilation, I believe). Oh, well.

Sometimes you think you’re going to hit a big time home run with someone, and you find that, for whatever reason, you missed on a song.

I did that with Rachel, who is a dance and drama teacher. Hey, a dance teacher, she’d LOVE Prince. So I put one of my favorite Prince songs on there (“Dirty Mind”) and I was shocked when she said it was one of her least favorites. I mean, it’s PRINCE! Even I liked Prince back in the day. Ah, well.

Knowing something about Freshhell, I thought she may be up for a few extended songs from the 60’s, so I threw some on there.

Well, she said she was tired of the Byrds (I can never tire of the Byrds) and said this about an extended suite by Steppenwolf I put on her mix, which was “Monster / Suicide / America”

“Not my thing. Too much the other kind of 60's music that I'm tired of. I'm more about 60's pop than the grunge precursor end of things. Plus, things like this just go on and on and on. Which is fine if you're stoned. If you're not, a song really has no business being more than 3 minutes long. In general.”

I’ll admit that I was taking a chance with that one. I normally don’t put those extended songs on mixes, as I like to pack ‘em in tight. But I took a chance with what I THOUGHT I knew.

And that’s my problem. At times, I outthink myself.

Judith and I are the same age, and we’re both self proclaimed hipster doofuses. So I had thought that she’d remember the scene in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” when Twisted Sister was shooting a music video in the studio where Pee Wee was running amok. So I put the song on there that they were shooting the video for, “Burn In Hell”

The reaction? She didn’t get the connection to the movie, and Twisted Sister isn’t really her bag.

I guess I was hoping for some recognition of the song, but now I remember that song is only briefly in the film, and what’s in the film is toward the end of the song, so you won’t have the total recognition at the beginning of the song. So I went along with the assumption that she’d immediately recognize it, yet, it was foolish to assume so in retrospect.

Violet and I are musical kindreds in many ways. We’ve got the hipster creds, and we’re big time lovers of some ‘bad’ music in the 70’s and 80’s. Is it ironic love? Nah, I really like that stuff, and I know she does too. So I loaded a disc with songs just like that, and well, one provoked this reaction.

Rock N Roll Band -- Boston. Ah, Boston. So precise. So melodic. So
engineered within an inch of its life. I don't think any song Boston ever put out actually rocked, but they tried so hard to ensure quality of production. This song in particular irritates me because it is essentially just an egomaniacal and long description of the band's hard work to rise to what they believe is the top, which they then reach owing to inherent superiority. The line "Dancing in the streets of Hyannis" is particularly amusing if you know Hyannis at all, but I've always liked the high-pitched histrionics of the line "Signed a record company contract!"--a piece of information not generally assigned to operatics. Just another band out of Boston, indeed.”

Ah, she hit the nail on the head, there, but I still love that song, for some God-forsaken reason.

Then, there are times where you don’t know if you like a song or not. Take “Nice To Be With You” by Gallery. What are your thoughts, Violet?

“The blandest band name ever, the blandest sentiment imaginable, the most inoffensive arrangement, it bounces along as if being sung to a slightly slow child by a man with weak hands and watery eyes. Devoid of passion or tension, this song could have been recorded by the Brady Bunch's Silver Platters and no
one would have blinked an eye. And then the singer utters the line, "It's so nice to hear you say you're gonna please me in every way," which injects a note of unexpected dominance that changes the tenor of the whole thing. Actually, maybe I should put this on my "favorites" list.”

Violet, I have the notion you’re causing commotion in my soul! (Also, she sent me two rockin’ mixes! Woot!)

So yeah, I missed on a few of my selections to people, and for Harri3t, I lumped all of her least favorites on one CD. (Well, it’s convenient to skip ‘em, I guess!)

But she also had the last word, and this is exactly why I do mixes for you people, and why I know I’m doing OK by you all:

“Despite my critique, though, I'm glad have this disk, because I have a tendency to tune out music to which I have these types of objections. And really, that's not fair because some of it's quite interesting, particularly in the area of orchestration – there's usually a lot going on. There's an interesting blend of improvisatory and straight up styles, sometimes you get out and out counterpoint.”

That paragraph made me smile most of all, for whatever reason.

So thanks to everyone who sent in their critiques! And for those who are getting mixes from me in the near future, this feedback can only help YOU to get the most perfect Smed mix!


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