The Beatles are funny – I play some of these covers and the lyrics and melodies come to me instantly, like they were ingrained in my being, even though I may not have listened to the original in 10 or 20 years. But I was never really a Beatles-lover growing up. As a kid, my parents owned and sometimes played Sgt. Pepper’s, and my friend Dan Morris was a Beatle-head at a young age – he had one of those cassette-organizers with the three drawers, and I remember opening up one of the drawers and it being filled with all Beatles tapes. This is actually one image I associate most with the Beatles to this day – I think I was more amazed by his collection than the music.(I also remember those cassette-drawers things being really crappy plastic pieces of $%#^).
So I don’t have a full understanding how all these songs have permeated my brain. My only guess is that growing up in this country, at least during a certain period of time, the Beatles were such a cultural force that they were inescapable – even years after they had gone their separate ways. This isn’t really a complaint, it’s just something that’s intense to think about.
Anyway – it’s also crazy to think about how so many people were inspired to do hundreds of covers of their music, through any and every genre. I have gospel records with covers of “Let it Be,” and crazy pysch covers of “Eleanor Rigby.” So here’s a couple of my favorites – as you can see, I love “Rocky Raccoon,” it’s just a great song, and I couldn’t help playing two different versions below, both of which are incredible. It seems like everyone and their mother covered Rigby, so I tried to give two different versions with completely different moods. There’s definitely some great covers that I didn’t drop, either because I don’t own them or they just didn’t fit this time around.
Special shout out to Verb Math for helping with this month’s idea!
Hope everyone enjoys.
— DJ Ian Head
Rocky Raccoon – Lena Horne
Ok, I’mjust gonna list the reasons why I made this mixtape:
— DJ Ian Head
On December 10, 2010, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an Independent, took a full day to go hard against the so-called “Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010” tax bill, which continues the massive George Bush-era tax breaks for rich people for two more years (and possibly/probably more). I’m not usually one to dedicate a tape to a politician of any stripe, but I have to give it up to someone standing up against basically everyone in Washington – Democrats and Republicans – and railing against them for eight and a half hours straight, fact after blatant fact, about how they are selling out working people, the poor and the middle class. So, credit is due, and as Bernie was bringing his speech to a close, I posted on Facebook that I’d dedicate the next Monthly Mixtape to him, so here it is.
If you want to read an article about the bill, here’s one (of several) by progressive economist Dean Baker: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-baker/the-tax-deal-and-the-apoc_b_795989.html.
This is a short tape, just over 20 minutes, and the music was selected for thematic feeling rather than anything symbolic. Hopefully it worked. I remember ten years ago when I lived in Philly talking with another activist, hip-hop head friend of mine about doing a series of “political mixtapes” that touched on themes / people and mixed music and vocal snippets, but it never came together. I’m not sure if this is exactly what we envisioned but I like doing it every once in awhile (the last similar tape was the Howard Zinn dedication).
Snippets were taken off Youtube, Democracy Now! and MSNBC’s Countdown. Shout out to Bernie Sanders, the only socialist in Congress.
— DJ Ian Head
June 2010: Summer Sun
The past week in the Apple has been increasingly sticky-hot. My fan was set on High, and I probably consumed half a gallon of water while laying down this tape early this morning, racing over to dump a couple ice cubes in the glass after mixing in a record.
Even having spent close to half my life on the East Coast, I still can’t quite get used to the thick, humid air. So I keep it a little slower, stroll up the block to the bodega at half-speed. Try and coast around Brooklyn on the bike. Especially that easy evening sun, slight breeze, rollin over to check some friends to post up and grab some food. Really, I’m glad it’s about to be summer, even if it is a little sweaty and grimey.
This is a short collection of more relaxed joints as we ease into summer. Some are themed for the season, others just remind me of the sun, or driving home at night with the windows downm, back when I didn’t live in New York. And a couple remind me of some hip-hop records that spoke on NYC summers and inspired me to come out here in the first place.
No track listing this month, but you should check your Lonnie Liston Smith collection. Hope you dig it.
— DJ Ian Head
There are these compilation albums from the 70s I think, called like “Heavies” or “Heavy Stuff from CBS” – something in that vein. I took it to mean that the songs included, while for promotional purposes, were a sampling of some deeper, more intriguing cuts by artists, rather than pop-radio athemns.
So here’s my own little compilation of “heavies.” I tried to choose songs that feel…beautiful, I guess, or at least evoke something larger than just “it’s time to dance!” (not that I don’t love dancing to good music). These selections are more thoughtful pieces to me, along with “heavy” production value – thick drums, instrumentation, vocals that hit you directly.
It’s not a long mix, and I know some folks have told me I need to stretch the mixes out. I had several other records pulled originally, but when the Bobby Hutcherson song ended, I just felt like, that was it right there, a proper conclusion. Maybe the next mix will be an hour, we’ll see..
Full tracklisting below.
— DJ Ian Head
1. Cannonball Adderley “Tensity”
December 2009: Tribute to Aretha Franklin
I thought I’d pay tribute to another one of my favorite artists, the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin. A voice like no other. I’ve done the Reborn Soul project (with Evolve-One) sampling her work, but I thought it was time to just play some of the records out that I really enjoyed. I didn’t get super obscure on here, kept it mostly within her Atlantic catalogue with a couple big hits and some minor ones.
I love the range of songs she did, from the raw, upbeat anthems to the smoother, Curtis Mayfield funk. There’s some great gospel stuff too that I didn’t include because it didn’t quite mix right, but maybe I’ll drop that on a later tape. But my favorite Aretha is her bluesy side – I think those songs are among my favorite, where he voice slowly builds and builds with emotion. The kind of songs you find yourself listening too after a long, frustrating day, that let you know someone else felt your anger, frustration, loss, or pain – and put it on record in the most raw, soulful way. Or rather, even if you don’t feel that way – she takes you right there herself, for a moment.
However, I tried to end the tape on a more upbeat note, with a classic live version of “Spirit in the Dark” with Ray Charles, off one of my favorite live albums, her “Live at the Fillmore West.”
This tape finishes up 2009, a pretty good but crazy year, that has found me traveling and then moving back across the country once more, resettling again in the boro of Brooklyn, NY. If I haven’t gotten at you recently, I promise to soon. Thanks to everyone who continues to listen to my tapes and tell others about them, it’s greatly appreciated.
— DJ Ian Head
October 2009: Good Ol’ Soul (For Carlos)
I’ve spent a number of years accumulating a lot of soul 45s, not just rare stuff but the big hits, the “golden oldies,” that my dad used to play in the car when I was a kid. Just because the records were huge doesn’t mean they aren’t great music, even though I feel that they are frowned upon by many DJs today, either because of their popular status or because the sound is simply “too old” to play now. I can see there being reasons for not playing a Sam and Dave record unless it’s a wedding – a lot of young people are gonna be like, what the hell is this? The thing is, this soul music, whether on Motown or Atlantic or another large label, was (and is) extremely danceable, just a different kind of danceable than what’s in the club today.
Anyway, I’ll keep it simple – I love these songs, just like I love some of the heavier, rare-groove type stuff as well. Whether or not it’s “cool” to play it. And that brings me to my friend Carlos.
My relationship with Carlos had little to do with music. He was a volunteer at a program I ran, helping to send legal information to prisoners (http://jailhouselaw.org). He was an extremely dedicated volunteer, and often it’d just be me and him and a stack of 120 letters from prisoners to answer, staying into the night to get through them. I’d often play one of my mixtapes as background music. At one point, Carlos offered up his iPod to plug in and play, and we started listening to his catalog of 50s and 60s blues and soul music. Lots of Ray Charles, Otis Redding, King Curtis. He started bringing flyers for dance parties he was djing – spinning strictly 50s and 60s 45s, he told me. We’d occasionally talk music – I remember vibing with him about Rufus Thomas’s “Turn Your Damper Down” one day, how he loved that song and wanted to find more Rufus 45s. But he wasn’t a hip-hop, “breaks” type of head – I remember the Ray Charles song Kanye sampled for “Gold Digger” came on his iPod once, and another volunteer said “Isn’t this what Kanye sampled?” And Carlos hadn’t even heard the Kanye song, he was just like, “Really?”
Carlos was not only a music lover and DJ, but an incredible dancer. Such an incredible dancer that he was known throughout Brooklyn – when he stepped on the floor, people took notice. He’d warm a spot up djing, then let another person take over and go out on the floor. This was how he died last August – dancing to the music he loved, he collapsed. He was 29.
As much as I wanted to, I never made it out to his parties. I’d always be doing something else, or be too tired. It’s one of the few things I regret, not being able to see him in action on the dancefloor, vibing to the great music he loved. And so I thought I’d dedicate this mixtape to him. It is not supposed to be “what he would play” but it could maybe be what I might have played, if I had ever dj’d with him. I realize there’s not a lot of 50s songs on here, mostly just 60s stuff, some a little more break-oriented (Alvin Cash) and some big hits (Aretha). The final song is Archie Bell and the Drells “Tighten Up” which I know was one of his favorites of all time. It’s an amazing song – the breakdown is one of the best that I know of, as Bell directs each of his musicians to solo and come in over each other.
Carlos was straight-edge, a vegan, who once spent a year cooking all his meals and not eating out. He cared deeply about the struggles of prisoners in the U.S., and dedicated countless unpaid hours to helping send thousands of legal handbooks to people imprisoned all over the country. He had a quirky sense of humor, and was constantly asking questions, showing up with new books to talk about every other week. He would smile broadly whenever one of his favorite songs was playing. He had incredible soul.
This is for my friend Carlos Alvarez.
— DJ Ian Head
You can read an article about Carlos Alvarez in the NY Press by clicking here.
The Miracles – “I Like It Like That”
So my dude Evolve-One got inspired on the DJ tip this month and hit me with this laid back, smoothed out mix of original selections, a lot of which I hadn’t really been up on before. It inspired me to go back in the crates and explore some records I hadn’t fully checked out upon purchase – records I’d bought for one signature cut, but admittedly ignored other joints. Or, on the other hand, songs that originally I had thought “too cheesy” or not “raw” enough for mixtapes, but five years later, my tastes have become different, wider. Not to say there aren’t a few of my favorites on my side of the tape, but definitely a number of records I haven’t broken out in a minute.
My set starts the tape off, and I sort of run through some breaks and joints – hopefully I get the heads nodding. Evolve is the clean-up hitter here, just dropping classic, soulful, smoothed-out pieces for the final half. So lean back, cool out, and enjoy.
DJ Ian Head side:
I can’t really reveal the last two cuts but they should be recognizable. The last joint is pretty ill, and was used on that last (?) De La album, for the opening track, which was one of my favorites on the LP.
1. Nikki Giovanni from The Way I Feel
— DJ Ian Head