- - - -
BY DAVID BLUMENSTEIN
March 3, 2003
- - - -
I was at RMIT the other day catching up with comics
auteur and sexy chick Nicola Hardy when we came across a table full
of old C-90 cassette tapes being given away free. Evidently the student
union's tape lending library was being expunged -- possibly in favour
of CDs, but more likely the library's gone for good, a victim of the
music-copyright-litigation monster that's risen from the depths since
the whole Napster thing.
It was an interesting selection. None of the tapes were
"official releases", as such -- they were all home-taped.
Some of the tapes were straight album-rips, some were proper mix-tapes,
but all had one thing in common: they were full of '80s music. Chances
are all the tapes were made in the late '80s/early '90s (a golden
age of music, you will agree). There was Culture Club in there.
Nicola handed me a tape labeled "Ride / Nowhere".
She said I'd like it.
"How do you know?" I asked. She mumbled something
I couldn't hear, busy looking at Wet Wet Wet or some like shit. She
was right, of course. I'd never heard of the band Ride, and this was
their first album, circa 1990. British psych-rock revival. Nice.
However, the tape that caught my eye was the one with
a newsprint photograph of an unidentifiable guitarist pasted on the
cardboard sleeve, and the bold words "METAL ASSAULT".
I can't resist a METAL ASSAULT at the best of times
(although my preference tends to lay in HARD ROCK ASSAULTS), and the
tape cover promised at least one track by the almighty MOTÖRHEAD,
as well as classics from such artists as SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, W.A.S.P.,
THE CULT, ROSE TATTOO and MEGADETH. Obviously I grabbed the sucker
Mix Tape (Various Artists)
1. I'm On To You / Hurricane (1988)
2. Ride Like The Wind / Saxon (1988)
3. Friday On My Mind / Gary Moore (1987)
4. The Real Me / W.A.S.P. (1988)
5. Rock Me / Great White (1987)
6. Antisocial / Anthrax (1988)
7. Anarchy In The U.K. / Megadeth (1988)
8. Eat The Rich / Motorhead (1987)
9. Possessed To Skate / Suicidal Tendencies (1987)
10. Love Removal Machine / The Cult (1987)
11 - 18. Same as Side A, tracks 4 - 10
19. Kid Ego / Extreme (1989)
20. Born To Be Wild / Rose Tattoo (1985)
21. Hideaway / Leatherwolf (1989)
22. No Easy Way Out / Roxx Gang (1988)
Side A opens strong with "I'm On To You".
Hummable chorus, and always good when a song uses the phrase "na
na na na na na" liberally. Next track comes from classic Brit
metallers Saxon, last popular when "The Young Ones" was
in production. Their cover of Chris Cross' "Ride Like The Wind"
was a questionable move for a metal band, but comes out OK.
The next track, I would suggest, is probably the tape's
low point: Gary Moore covers The Easybeats' signature song, "Friday
On My Mind", which I believe was somewhat recently voted "best
Australian song ever" or something. I refuse to believe that
anyone who has ever heard the gritty, urban original would think it
needs a synth break/guitar solo. One more cover follows, this one
from W.A.S.P., whose version of The Who's "The Real Me"
is faithful to the point of redundancy, but does prove they have good
Great White's singer does an excellent Robert Plant
impression, and the band employs it in service of "Rock Me",
a '70s-style epic complete with quiet bluesy opener. Nice.
Our tape sequencer kicks things up a notch at this point
with our first hint of thrash so far: "Antisocial", a Trust
cover, by Anthrax. Production a little thin -- not exactly my taste.
Then, morning becomes dyspeptic when Megadeth arrive, toting a substandard
cover (we've had a few of these, haven't we) of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy
In The U.K.", which commits a double sin: they change it to "Anarchy
In The U.S.A.", AND they don't bother rhyming "anarchist"
with "Anti-Christ". Forget what I said earlier -- THIS is
the tape's low point. Disrespect Johnny Rotten at your own peril,
Luckily, Motörhead stride in with "Eat The
Rich", which, while not one of their greatest songs, breaks up
the metallic monotony with a little double-entendre. When Lemmy offers
to show you his "bacon torpedo", how can you answer in the
Downhill again. Suicidal Tendencies' "Possessed
To Skate" is not well produced, not much fun and not my thing
to boot. Vinnie Vincent's "Boyz Are Gonna Rock" has nice
guitar work but otherwise sounds like a Mötley Crüe reject,
and is pretty much what you'd expect from a guy who used to be in
The Cult end Side A with "Love Removal Machine",
which kicks my ass! It's not AC/DC, but it's close. It's got some
ROCK 'N ROLL in it, and I am realising a lot of this music really
doesn't. I feel a little gypped until I realise that what I have been
promised is not rock, but a METAL ASSAULT, which I cannot deny I have
gotten. Also, this tape was free.
But wait! It's time for Side B. I turn the tape over,
hit "Play", and... it's "The Real Me" again! What's
As it transpires, Side B is virtually the same as Side
A, but the first three songs have been tossed and replaced with four
new closers. I don't know why this is (certainly there was plenty
of PRIME METAL circa 1988 that could have been subbed in), but I like
to think that the tape sequencer didn't have time to look for more
good tracks because he was making this tape for a mate in Narre Warren
who was having a house party THAT NIGHT and needed some hot sounds
for the tape deck. "Bugger it," Dazza would have thought,
"nobody'll notice anyhow -- they'll just think the tape's gone
back to the beginning."
But once "Love Removal Machine" ends for the
second time, we (and Dazza's mates) are blindsided by a sudden burst
of Extreme! "Kid Ego" is from their first, self-titled album,
and is highly melodic, tightly played, good-time show-off metal. "Born
To Be Wild" is yet another cover, but I would suggest that Rose
Tattoo pull it off. Gary Moore should be ashamed.
Leatherwolf give us a note-perfect rendition of the
almighty GENERIC METAL BALLAD in "Hideaway". It's got everything
-- the quiet opening, the flaming chorus, the flanged arpeggios, the
angsty soprano yelps, a guitar solo with tapping AND harmonic overdubs...
it's even in E minor! The word "genius" is tossed around
so casually these days.
Our final track is "No Easy Way Out", by Roxx
Gang. Apparently Roxx Gang provided the soundtrack for the Playboy
video "Girls Of South Beach" with this song and others.
I can tell you that next time I look at hot, wet, writhing Playmates,
this song will be playing in my head, if not on my stereo. Sadly,
the song cut out before the end: our 90 minutes is up.
Well, what we have here is a solid, if random, collection
of B-grade 80's metal, unfortunately scarred by a few so-so covers.
Thank you, anonymous tape jockey. I only wonder what you are listening
Have your tastes changed since you made this tape in
1990 or so? Have you left hair-metal behind for contemporary alternative?
Do tap-solos contine to ring out into your suburban backyard, or is
it now the murky, sobbing grind of Limp, Korny axe-chugging that accompanies
your beery escapades?
This human connection is unique to the mix-tape -- a
personal statement of who you are and what you stand for, enunciated
for you by talented artists with the courage to say with their music
the things you can only mumble into your pillow late at night. Things
like "I feel", and "I love", and "Wanna see
my bacon torpedo?"
The art of the mix-tape is fading into our cultural
background -- Discmans and portable MP3 players have seen to that
-- and soon will exist nowhere but in the dark closet of our shared
past, next to the NES, behind the Wombles toys. Why not pull yours
out and remember them tonight?
Even better, swap them with friends. Show them who you
once were. Let your dusty mix-tapes sing again. Until you do, there
will be a tiny little void in your heart -- not a silence, exactly,
more like a faint hiss... punctuated by some pops, some clicks, and
the reassuring thump of the tone-arm returning to the ON/UP position.