This year I’ve been in the process of ripping CDs in the hopes of getting rid of them. Somewhere along the line I realized that I only have so much space for physical media in these undersized apartments that I rent in cities, and I’d rather keep my LPs than my CDs. So there are many bags of them from my last move that I’ve never unpacked (I gave away my racks, so I wouldn’t have anywhere to put them) and little-by-little I’m trying to do high-quality rips of the digital information to use as my source for listening to music.
Going through a box a couple of weeks ago, I came across a CD-R that I’d made in 2002 called Mark’s Xmas Mix 2002. I made this as a gift for my friends at year-end, and it consisted of tracks that I really liked from the year previous (they weren’t Christmas songs, and they weren’t all from 2002, but I did listen to them all a lot that year). And you know how it is—it’s 10 years, a nice round number, and so much has changed in music and my life. So I want to write about this CD-R. I’ll post all the tracks individually here as streams with a couple of thoughts, and then at the end I’ll post the whole mix for download.
The first thing I have to mention about 2002 is that I was reading the I Love Music board pretty much constantly. If you’ve not heard of it, ILM is a music discussion board started in 2000 by Tom Ewing, who was then writing a very early music blog called New York London Paris Munich (and who runs an online pop web magazine called Freaky Trigger). Tom later wrote for Pitchfork and had a column called Poptimist which ran for 45 installments and was wonderful. He still contributes to Pitchfork sometimes.
In any event, Tom started ILM, I heard about it because I was a regular reader of NYLPM, and I followed along with his message board from the first thread. And by 2002, it had been around for a couple of years and was in its mature state. I learned a great deal from reading it; it’s absolutely one of the biggest influences on me in terms of thinking about music writing. At that point, there were so many smart people on it who were bursting with ideas and getting on there and talking about music with them was an education (maybe it’s still just as good but I look at it very rarely now, just not as much time and I probably spend more of what spare online time I do have here).
So in 2002, I was on ILM all the time. One of the board’s hallmarks, which could probably be traced to Tom, who was active on the board then, is that it was very much pro-pop and anti-rockist. In fact, the 2000s-era discussions of “rockism” you’ve seen around can pretty much be directly traced to discussions on ILM (not that the board invented the term or the idea, but it definitely brought it back into the public discourse in the last 15 years). So this CD-R I made for my friends was a Christmas present was very heavy on one-off pop-ish oddities that made sense within a poptimist framework, many of which I discovered while reading ILM and which I downloaded to my computer over my 56k dial-up modem using SoulSeek.
Not this song, though. My mix starts with a song I’m quite sure none of you have ever heard, because it was not commercially released. This track is by a young bedroom producer who also happened to write about music and was then a regular at ILM. He’s since become one of the most important music writers working today and if you follow me here you probably know his work. Another thing about this writer is that he was very into electroclash, which was a reasonably new thing in 2002. And he and I started exchanging emails and I asked him to make me a mix of electroclash that he liked and he did so and mailed me a CD-R. And the very first song on this mix that he made for me (a different mix from the one I’ll be discussing here) was this track, which he made himself. The intro. It’s his own song. And I love it.
One thing about this intro track is that there’s a point where this person inserts “This is an electro mix for Mark Richardson” into it. And since I chose to make this person’s song the first song on my year-end mix for friends, maybe it sounds like it’s coming from me. But no, this was a song that was customized for me, and when I heard it, it made me happy. I thought, wow, this guy I barely know did this nice thing for me and put in so much effort. Just doesn’t happen every day. And it has my name in it. And now, 10 years later, not sure if you’ve ever had this experience, I have this uncanny feeling when I hear it: “This is an electro mix for Mark Richardson” and I think, “Hey, that’s me. That’s my name.” Hard to describe.
Stay tuned for more from this mix in the coming weeks.