Are you ready to get all nostalgic? Lovely. Then we shall proceed. It may not have escaped your attention that there has been a resurgence in the romanticism of the past, especially when it comes to music.
Vinyl for example, still holds onto the hands and hearts of so many that grew up listening to it, and even those who didn’t. There is something beautiful about Vinyl that a CD could never compete with. Hearing its sound seductively crackle as it plays is part of what makes it so unique and loved by so many. But, we’re not here to talk about Vinyl. We’re talking about our old friend the cassette tape. Something that was there for many of us, through the good time and the bad times, the heartaches and heartbreaks.
Sales of cassette tapes in the UK recently reached their highest level since 2003, as a retro renaissance brings the world of cassettes to an entirely new generation – partly thanks to artists like The Arctic Monkeys and Harry Styles, who released their latest offerings on cassette tape.
I fondly recall my younger days, when I would sit for hours listening to old cassette tapes – The Beatles, Queen, Michael Jackson, and Bob Dylan. Anything I could get my hands on. I’d listen to them on my Walkman, my mum and dad’s monstrously big twin cassette deck, or in the car to while away long journeys to places I had no choice but to go to.
Part of the beauty of cassette tapes was the joy of making your own Mixtape. Your chance to put together the perfect selection of songs to suit your mood, and ensure you had music for every possible occasion. The love of your life? The person who broke your heart? Songs for you to sing wildly in front of your mirror like a demented ghoul of funk? It would have it all.
With this in mind, we put it to The Atlantic Dispatch team to each pick their one ultimate song, the song they couldn’t live without, to make up The Atlantic Disptach’s very own mixtape. This whole exercise brought about fierce debate, ended friendships, and asked questions of sanity. Should we go genre specific? What order will the songs go in? Why has nobody picked Ray Charles? Is this really the best we could muster up? What’s wrong with you?
Right, enough of the questions, here is The Atlantic Dispatch Mixtape.
1: PINK FLOYD – WISH YOU WERE HERE
I weighed this up for a long time. Quite possibly an abnormal amount of time. I needed a song that would tick all of my boxes. Something that no matter what mood I was in, I could play and it would just feel right. ‘Wish You Were Here’ does this for me like no other song. As much as I adore the works of The Stones, Dylan, The Beatles, The Ramones, Rage Against The Machine and god knows how many other artists, it’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, that I know I can put on at any time, and it no matter the mood or time of day, it will also sound as good as it did the first time I heard it.
It’s a song that takes me back to my teens. Sitting with my friends on the driveway of my mum and dad’s house on the street I grew up in. A piping hot summer’s day, with nothing to do, and nowhere to go. Just content in each other’s company listening to ‘Wish You Were Here’, talking about everything and nothing. if I close my eyes for a moment, I’m back there again with friends and the memories we shared.
2: LEONARD COHEN – SO LONG MARIANNE
“Well, Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon.” Leonard Cohen wrote those words in a final letter to his muse, Marianne Ihlen, the woman who inspired “So Long, Marianne” days before her death. A few months later in 2016, Cohen would follow.
Cohen first met Marianne in the artistic community of Hydra, in Greece in the 60s. The Canadian had left London in search of inspiration for a novel he was writing. He found a who lot more in Marianne. At that time, Cohen had given little thought to becoming a musician. He would rise each morning blessed with the sun and religiously type out 3 pages a day on his old and battered typewriter and a night he would sing and play the guitar for Marianne’s child. That was the extent of his music career. Those days in Hydra started a romance that would continue on and off throughout the years. Their relationship was the subject of a 2019 documentary by Matt Broomfield, called ‘Words of Love’ and takes you back to those days in Greece where they first met.
When I listen to ‘So Long Marianne,’ I like to take my mind to Hydra and imagine what life must have been like for them then. The first time I heard Cohen, I have to confess I wasn’t enthralled It wasn’t until I heard ‘So Long Marianne’ that my heart was captured. The first time I heard it, I fell in love with everything about it. Rarely can a song do that.
I’m just a little behind you, close enough to take your hand. This old body has given up, just as yours has too, and the eviction notice is on its way any day now.
“I’ve never forgotten your love and your beauty. But you know that. I don’t have to say any more. Safe travels old friend. See you down the road. Love and gratitude. LeonardLeonard Cohen writes to Marianne for the last time days before her death in 2016.
3: MAMA CASS – DREAM A LITTLE DREAM
Dream a Little Dream was originally written in 1931, and has been covered by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Nat King Cole and of course Mama Cass. It was Mama’s version that I first heard, and I would have listened to it in my mum’s car on a tape that she used to have, that played the ‘best’ of the 60s. I must have been in primary school, and it had Bowie, The Beach Boys and countless others on it, but this song always stood out for me.
It is the song that I play to help my daughter sleep at night, or in the car. Each time I play it she slowly drifts off peacefully into a world of ‘birds singing in sycamore trees.’ 20 months old now, and it’s still playing.
Is it my favourite song of all time? No, I wouldn’t say it is. But there is meaning behind it, and sometimes I think that conquers all. I genuinely don’t know if I have a favourite song of all time, because my taste is always changing. The greatest song ever written in my mind is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ but once again, I wouldn’t say that is my favourite song. It’s just so incredibly unique and defies all the rules and logic of songwriting that you have to admire its genius. What I love about Dream a Little Dream is how you can put it on at any time and just float away to another world where nothing else exists. Just you and the voice of Mama Cass.
4: THE BEATLES – I SAW HER STANDING THERE
I vaguely remember as a youth criticising my brother who was 6 years older than me, for liking The Beatles. I couldn’t understand it. He would listen to them every day. How could a band from the 60s hold such an appeal?
Then, one day I switched on the TV and The Beatles Anthology was on. A series looking back at the life and times of The Beatles. Suddenly it all made sense. From that moment, I was all in. It is my belief that no other band in history comes close to The Beatles. They came and went like a comet, leaving their mark on the world forever. Their music was from the future. Even today it is still so far ahead of anything being made.
So, with all that in mind, I was always going to pick a Beatles song. So why ‘I Saw Her Standing There’? As part of my 35th birthday, my partner took me to Liverpool. It felt like a pilgrimage as we made our way to The Cavern Club. I had intentionally lowered my expectations and prepared myself for nothing more than a tourist trap. From the moment we entered, I was utterly in love.
We managed to find a seat fairly close to where the band was playing, and they made their way through a catalogue of songs. I could find myself beginning to get choked up. Maybe it was the several drinks that had been consumed, maybe it was music. I don’t quite know. Now, my partner and I had only been together 6 months or so at this point, so I didn’t want to unveil my full range of emotions just yet. However, as she made her way to the bar, I kept our sear and as the opening chords of Standing There played out for all to hear, I let myself go. Tears rolled down my face, watching and wondering just what it must have been like to see The Beatles live.
5: BLONDIE – ATOMIC
Debbie Harry is more than just a cultural icon. She is more than her beauty, her fashion, and the clothes she wears. She is also a bloody talented singer and songwriter. Atomic slaps you right in the face right from the start. It doesn’t mess about. It is an unrelenting song right until its last chord. The ’80s are my favourite era for music. It’s just different. With so many styles and genres, it felt like the beginning of something very different and Blondie was there throughout that.
Atomic was a song that kicked off the 80s. Released in February 1980, it was the band’s third number one in the UK Singles Chart, where it held the top spot for two weeks. and Billboard ranked the song number six on their list of the 10 greatest Blondie songs, and in 2021, The Guardian ranked the song number two on their list of the 20 greatest Blondie songs.
When you hear the words ‘Ohhhhhh your hair is beautiful’ you can’t help but cry it out in unison. I also love the fact that the lyric ‘Atomic,’ holds absolutely no meaning whatsoever and has essentially been placed in the song randomly. It all adds to the beauty of it.
6: THE B-52s – LOVE SHACK
I thought, ‘Do I want to go cool and trendy?’ ‘Do I want to pick something out of the box?’ ‘Something that nobody has heard?’ ‘Maybe turn people onto some new music that changes their life forever?’ I quickly dismissed all of that and went for the song that I’m almost positive that the greatest songwriters in the world could never have dreamed up. I first heard ‘Love Shack’ when I was about 8, and on holiday in France. Didn’t know anything about music, and I’m not sure if it was on the radio, or tape or CD, but it was on! And I loved it. Still do. It’s madness. Everything about it. ‘The whole shack shimmies. Yeah, the whole shack shimmies.’ Marvellous.
It should also be noted that The B-52s have a hell of a lot of hits: “Rock Lobster”, “Planet Claire”, “Party Out of Bounds”, “Private Idaho”, “Whammy Kiss”, “Summer of Love”, “Wig”, “Roam” and “(Meet) The Flintstones”. They have also been nominated for three Grammy Awards: twice for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group in 1990 and 1991, and for Best Alternative Music Album in 1992. There is a lot more to them than just ‘Love Shack.’ However, it is without a shadow of a doubt their best song. Released in 1989, it was a great song, to sum up the madness of the ’80s as it neared its end. In fact, Rolling Stone magazine named it as the best single of 1989. So it’s not just me that acknowledges the genius of it all.
7: PLASTIC BERTRAND – CA PLANE POUR MOI
WHAT A SONG. I always imagined that if I had ever made it as a professional football player, this is the song they would have played over my goal montage. I think if that had ever happened then I would have put my feet up for the rest of my life happy in the knowlege I had reached my peak.
The song was originally released as a B-side to “Pogo-Pogo”, which was chosen to launch the solo career of Plastic Bertrand. However, following the success of the B-side, the sides were switched when the single was repressed. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the song wasn’t actually sung by the man behind Plastic Bertrand, Roger Jouret but by producer and songwriter, Lou Deprijck. I also learned recently that Jouret apparently plays in Scrabble tournaments. So, That is the kind of knowledge I’m bringing to this mix tape.
I don’t think anything comes close to this in terms of pop music. I loathe to call it punk, or Euro Punk, because it’s neither. It;’s just an incredible pop song that could set fire to the dampest of nights. I think Joe Strummer sums it up best when he said, “Plastic Bertrand compressed into that three minutes a bloody good record that will get any comatose person toe-tapping, you know what I mean? By purist rules, it’s not allowed to even mention Plastic Bertrand. Yet, this record was probably a lot better than a lot of so-called punk records.”
8: BEASTIE BOYS – SHAKE YOUR RUMP
The Beastie Boys. Wow. To me, they are what makes music so great. I was brought up on folk music. That was my thing. Beastie Boys weren’t even on my radar. I knew of them and had heard Fight For Your Right and Sabotage, but that was about my knowledge of them. I was in high school when I first heard Intergalactic and I was blown away. I bought Hello Nasty and it changed the way I looked at music and opened my mind to other styles and genres. I’m so glad it took me so long to truly discover them because diving into their back catalogue was something that even now makes me smile. Their diverse, eclectic style and disregard for rules relating to genre and how music should be made or written are what still make their music sounds new and fresh. I honestly don’t think we’ll ever see anybody do what the Beastie Boys did.
I could have chosen any Beastie Boys track, but ‘Shake Your Rump’ for me sums them up. The sampling, the beat, the lyrics; ‘I’m like Sam the butcher bringing Alice the meat. Like Fred Flintstone driving around with bald feet.’ Is it poetic? Of course not, but it is quintessential, Beastie Boys.
‘Shake Your Rump’ featured on their 2nd album, ‘Paul’s Boutique’ which was released in 1989, 3 years after their debut ‘Licensed to Ill.’ The album didn’t match the. the commercial success of ‘Licensed to Ill’ however, it became recognised as the group’s breakthrough achievement, with its innovative lyrical and sonic style earning them a position as critical favourites within the hip-hop community. Sometimes described as the “Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop”, Paul’s Boutique has been placed on several lists of the greatest albums of all time and is viewed by many critics as a landmark album of golden age hip-hop and a seminal work in sample-based production.
9: LADY GAGA – BAD ROMANCE
I can hear the condemnation already. This is a bold statement I am about to make, and appreciate that this will see me ridiculed. I, however, shall make no apologies for it. I genuinely believe that ‘Bad Romance’ is the greatest pop song ever written. I remember when Lady Gaga first came to public attention and she was labelled as a Madonna doppelgänger and no more than that. Her debut album ‘Fame’ was released in 2008 and songs like ‘Paparazzi’, ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Poker Face’ saw her accused of being a Madonna clone. That was until ‘Bad Romance’ was released in 2009 and she started to receive the recognition she deserved.
Inspired by German house and techno, the song was developed as an experimental pop record and exploded into the mainstream when it was released. It topped the charts in more than 20 countries and sold 12 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time. In the US, the song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was certified eleven times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, having sold 5.9 million digital downloads as of 2019. “Bad Romance” won a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and was included in the annual “best-of” lists of the media outlets Rolling Stone and Pitchfork; the former named it one of the 100 Greatest Songs of the 21st Century and 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
If it sounds like I’m trying to justify myself, then of course you’d be correct. But it does prove the point that it is a critically acclimated and highly regarded piece of work. I can imagine music snobs turning their noses up to this and thinking ‘Lady Gaga’? But just listen to the music and appreciated it for what it is. I love Joni Mitchell, I grew up listening to The Eagles, and I spent my teens listening to Bruce Springsteen, but a well-crafted and executed pop song is still hard to beat.
10: THIN LIZZY-DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT
Thin Lizzy to me remain one of the great underrated bands of all time. Many would argue this is not even close to being their best song, but it reminds me of summer days and the innocence of youth, It should also in no way be confused with Toploader’s god-awful ‘Dancing in the Moonlight.’
The song was written by lead singer, Phil Lynott, and features not only one of the greatest saxophone solos of all time but also one of my favourite lyrics, just for its sheer simplicity and the way it’s delivered by Lynott; ‘Now we go steady to the pictures, I always get chocolate stains on my pants. And my father, he’s going crazy. He says I’m livin’ in a trance.’
Lizzy was an effortless blend of blues, soul, and rock, and Lynott’s golden voice was the perfect accompaniment. I would say that Lynott was Thin Lizzy. The band’s leader, who was a composer to practically all of their songs. He was also the first black Irishman to break through and achieve success in the music industry. When Lynott passed away in 1986, the band died with him.
If ever there was a song for summer it’s this. Get the tape deck on, press play and make some memories.
11: JEFF BUCKLEY – SATISFIED MIND
There is a danger of looking at Buckley as the James Dean of the music industry and that his persona overshadows his work. It is quite remarkable that Buckley’s only studio album was Grace. Released by Columbia in 1994, his band toured it relentlessly until 1996. It was then in 1997 he moved to Tennessee to begin work on his second album, which was to be entitled ‘My Sweetheart the Drunk.’
However, the album would never be properly finished. On the evening of Thursday, May 29, 1997, Buckley’s band flew to Memphis to join him in his studio to work on his new material. The same evening, Buckley went swimming fully dressed in Wolf River Harbor, a slack water channel of the Mississippi River, singing the chorus of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” while swimming under the Memphis Suspension Railway. Keith Foti, a roadie in Buckley’s band, remained on shore. After moving a radio and guitar out of reach from the wake of a passing tugboat, Foti looked up to see Buckley had vanished; the wake of the tugboat had swept him away from shore and underwater. A rescue effort that night and the next morning by scuba teams and police failed to discover Buckley’s body. On June 4, passengers on the American Queen riverboat spotted his body in the Wolf River, caught in some branches. A year after his death a compilation album called ‘Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk’ was released comprising recordings Buckley had made with producer Tom Verlaine.
Buckley’s autopsy showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in his system, and the death was ruled an accidental drowning. The official Jeff Buckley website published a statement saying his death was neither mysterious nor a suicide. At only the age of 30, Buckely was gone, leaving behind a voice that will echo for eternity. Listen to his album Grace, and I promise you that you will never hear a voice like his again. It is both haunting and spine-tingling and simply stops you in your tracks and demands to be heard.
Grace is filled with incredible songs such as ‘Mojo Pin’ and ‘Last Goodbye’ as well as his cover of ‘Hallelujah.’ However, it is the song ‘Satisfied Mind’ which appears on ‘Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk’ that I have chosen as my all-time favourite record and it would be the crowning glory on any Mixtape.
Originally written and performed by country singer Porter Wagoner, in 1955, Buckley’s version of ‘Satisfied Mind’ is simply breathtaking, the lyrics are heartbreaking and when sung by Buckley it adds another element of emotion. “When my life is over and my time has run out. My friends and my loved ones, I’ll leave them no doubt. But, one thing’s gone for certain, when it comes my time. I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind.” I really hope that he did.
So there you have it. The Atlantic Dispatch Mixtape. It’s safe to say there are some incredible songs listed. But also a host of glaring omissions. I could list hundreds of songs and artists who could have easily been selected. Ask yourself though, out of your vast music collection, who would you have chosen? It’s not as easy as you may think.