Even with the potent nostalgia-inducing power of childhood treasures like Star Wars action figures, Simon Says, and the Snoopy Sno-Cone machine, no object in the Generation X universe may be more fetishized than the mix-tape. That nostalgic potency of that still-in-the-package Lando Calrissian pales in comparison to obsolete media closely associated with crushes and tentative early stages of relationships. Unsurprisingly, as technology has rendered audio cassettes obsolete, a culture celebrating them has grown: Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore examined mix-tapes in 2005’s Mix Tape: The Art Of Cassette Culture, which Amazon bundles with Rob Sheffield’s 2007 memoir Love Is A Mix Tape (order both for a discount!); T-shirts that say “True love is a mix tape;” and tinymixtapes.com even offers an automated mix-tape generator. Add to the phenomenon Jason Bitner’s new Cassette From My Ex: Stories And Soundtracks Of Lost Loves, in which 60 writers, artists, and musicians—including Rob Sheffield—discuss the mix-tapes that affected them most, and in many cases, still have in their possession. To test Bitner’s expertise on the subject before his appearance at the Hideout tonight, The A.V. Club gave him a list of possible celebrity mix-tape recipients. He chose a few and came up with these suggestions.
Dr. Octagon, “Halfsharkalligatorhalfman”
Ol' Dirty Bastard, ft. Macy Gray, “Don't Go Breaking My Heart”
Screamin' Jay Hawkins, “The Constipation Blues”
Heavy D And The Boyz, “Now That We Found Love”
Jason Bitner: Okay, so Tracy Morgan is obviously an unhinged artist. He’s a pure pleasure, and I love all the sci-fi stuff that he’s into as well. He can pull from lots of places but the very first thing that came to mind is Kool Keith, anything from Dr. Octagon, and I’m thinking specifically the “Halfsharkalligatorhalfman” song, because it seemed to me they’re totally from the same mold, Tracy Morgan, Dr. Octagon. There’s a good chance that he’s got that tattooed somewhere on his back. Maybe on his tape also the ODB/Macy Gray duet, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
Maybe some Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “The Constipation Blues,” perhaps. I don’t necessarily see that Tracy Morgan would necessarily love Screamin’ Hawkins but I think he would appreciate the ridiculousness. There was one more. When I was thinking about Tracy Morgan, I was remembering that he had that Tracy Morgan Show for a season, and it occurred to me that the theme song was actually by Heavy D And The Boyz, so as a tip of the hat to that, I think we want to put “Now That We Found Love” by Heavy D And The Boyz for instant nostalgia there.
Ted Nugent, “Kiss My Glock”
The Beatles, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”
Toby Keith, “Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American),” “I Wanna Talk About Me”
The Who, “I'm A Boy”
Meredith Brooks, “Bitch”
JB: First off, I’m just wondering if she’s still around. I feel like the last I heard was in 2007. I know she still has a column and everything, but I think her days of outrageous statements are sort of behind her. She’s all about irrational anger and exploiting political discourse, so this one’s pretty easy. You know she loves The Nuge, so we’re throwing on Ted Nugent “Kiss My Glock.” I haven’t seen any photos of them together, but I’m sure they’ve passed ways before. But yeah, “Kiss My Glock,” what’s not too love? Along the same lines, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” kind of a no brainer.
The A.V. Club: Right, who doesn’t like The Beatles? Although Ann Coulter could be the one person who totally hates them.
JB: Of course she hates The Beatles! [Laughs.] She absolutely hates everything they stand for and is going to make some ridiculously over-the-top anti-political statement about everything they’ve ever done and then turn it around on herself so that she becomes the victim of the statement somehow. I’ve noticed she has this quote, if you go look on any Ann Coulter ridiculous quotes website, there’s an unbelievably long, ridiculous page, one of the things she said is “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” Toby Keith, “Courtesy Of The Red, White, And Blue” encompasses the angry American. I think there’s another Toby Keith song, “I Want To Talk About Me,” which again, everything with Ann Coulter always comes back to Ann Coulter. Typically with a mix-tape I don’t like to put too many artists back to back, but I think in this case we can make an exception.
Ann Coulter also had this other quote, “I’m more of a man than any liberal,” so you go with The Who, “I’m A Boy.” Straight up, very simple.
AVC: And the lyrics in that song say, “My name is Bill and I’m a head case.”
JB: Exactly. Sometimes it’s with the title that makes the song appropriate, but it’s all the better when you can dig a little deeper and send an even greater message with the lyrics. So finishing up with Ann Coulter, this sounds like maybe it’s a bit too obvious, a little bit too simple, but that Meredith Brooks song “Bitch.”
AVC: She’s probably into that song.
JB: I know! It’s like her anthem; it’s like the first thing she listens to when she gets up with the morning. She’s like, “I’m going to go out there today, and I’m going to be a bitch!” I think she has it tattooed on her eyelids.
JB: Okay, so the Internet right now is really obsessed with her oddly shaped first digits. Apparently, they’re particularly long and sort of like a clubfoot, like she has like a club thumb. So based on that I think we want to go with Dinosaur Jr., “Thumb,” then have like a triptych of thumb-related songs. We’ve got “Under My Thumb,” Rolling Stones, or if we want to go even more contemporary pop culture, we can go with Anvil doing “Thumb Hang.” Now I realize that making a mix-tape for Megan Fox all about her thumb probably isn’t going to get me laid. I’m starting to see now that I’ve put those three songs on, I’m totally regretting putting them in there. I feel like a dick.
Megan Fox, other than the thumb, she seems to really be playing up like the fauxbian, like the fake lesbian stuff these days. She was talking about her early love of this Russian stripper and trying to get her out the game and all that when she was 18. The ridiculously obvious choice on this one is going to be, actually I’ll go with the less obvious one, I’ll go with “I Kissed A Girl” by Jill Sobule. But and I’m pretty sure that, within a couple years, Megan Fox will do a cover version of the Katy Perry song, when she makes the actor-to-musician crossover, that’s her first one. It will be a sexy, very sexy video.
What was the big movie she was in recently? Transformers, right? I haven’t listened to any of the contemporary soundtrack for the Transformers movie, so I really don’t know what’s on there, but I do know about “The Touch,” the Stan Bush song, famously brought back to life from the Boogie Nights soundtrack. Right now I don’t feel like she has a lot of respect for her elders, and I think that providing a little of a historical context for the Transformers behemoth would help her maybe just get a bit of context to the whole franchise that she’s working on right now.
JB: Okay, right now he’s totally rocking the Jackson Browne look, a little bit a dead ringer, so maybe a song that works on two levels is Jackson Browne, “The Pretender.” I don’t think he’s trying to play it down or anything—I mean, dude wants to look like Jackson Browne. That’s fine by me, and there’s obviously the family connections that he has—you don’t even have to have an IMDbPro account to know that his cousin is Nicolas Cage. Nicolas Cage sings on the Wild At Heart soundtrack, so I think the last song on that is “Love Me Tender.” We might want to go with that. Also going with the family themes, you might want to go with the Rocky theme, as his mother was Adrian, Talia Shire. There’s a few family things there. We’re not going to put any Phantom Planet—it’s bad form.
Jason Schwartzman is in a new TV show Bored To Death. In the show he plays a novelist named Jonathan Ames. The real-life Jonathan Ames wrote the lyrics to a song called “The Story Of The Hairy Call,” which was by a band called One Ring Zero, and Michael Hearst [of] One Ring Zero wrote a story for [Cassette From My Ex]. I think all of the stars align on this one, where we have, I know it took a few steps to get there, but Michael Hearst, One Ring Zero, Jonathan Ames, One Ring Zero, Jason Schwartzman is Jonathan Ames.
AVC: That’s the kind of extra thinking you need to put into a mix-tape.
JB: This is the whole thing, where you’re sending messages. If you show that you put some effort and some love into the creation of this tape, then you hope that they appreciate it as much, and then maybe they’ll make you a mix-tape, and maybe it becomes a mix-tape exchange. That’s always great when you can have an ongoing conversation with a series of mix-tapes.