Twisted Mixtape Tuesday: The real story, and the music that saved me from country

So here goes, this is my first post for “Twisted Mixtape Tuesday”. If you’re interested in giving it a go, there’s a button and some links at the end of the post that you can follow through.

And again, here goes.

Growing up, I was exposed to music all the time. I remember there were a lot of oldies going on; the big oldies station in Detroit was, and still is Oldies 104.3 WOMC and I heard a lot of those. Then there was the stuff my sister listened to – Madonna, Pat Benatar, Wham, George Michael. . . stuff like that. Of course, I was the bookish kid that got hooked on spoken word cassettes of Greek myths. Audiobooks, essentially, but I played the crap out of them. I grew up alongside the sounds of the 50’s, 60’s, and the 80’s, mostly leaving the 70’s right where they were, and for good reason at the time. Nobody, it seemed, cared for either funk or disco, but that’s a story for a different day I think.

So that really saw me through to Junior High school years, when I dabbled in a little bit of the M.C. Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Bel Biv Devoe, Boys II Men. . . and I can’t believe I’m going to click publish when I’m done with this. But mostly, I was musically aimless. In high school then, I sort of got into the stuff that my friends were into, and there I was exposed to Monty Python, Doctor Demento, Weird Al, They Might Be Giants, and other stuff. This might be where I was starting to develop what I would think of as a real taste in music – not as in, wow, I found the good stuff! But more like, wow, music really. . . means something? And what does it mean? What does it mean to me?

But the thing was, I wasn’t discovering it with any idea that I was doing so; rather, it was a happening – I was slowly awakening to music as a form of internalization and expression. Music that really speaks to you, that becomes a part of you. Music that shapes and molds you – or, if you’re canny, music that you can use to shape yourself. Use music to inspire your own improvement and reality. But I didn’t really get it yet, although I did eventually reach back a little when I finally did.

Somewhere around my 12th grade year I got my Dad to get me a guitar at the pawn show, or some big place with a bunch of sellers selling old junk. This was a no-name classical guitar, meant for nylon strings and strung with steel. I didn’t know any better, but it was my learning guitar. And somewhere around this time I was listening to country, of all things. Now, I’m not knocking country music per se, and I think anyone who loves it is more than entitled to love it. But I’m not really an exclusively country person and it took me years to learn that I had to separate the wheat from the chaff. Garth Brooks? Chaff. Clint Black? Wheat. Junior Brown and Johnny Cash? Silver and gold, baby. But that’s not my scene and I’m not a rope-and-leather kind of musician.

I went to college in Ohio with this kind of cultural confusion clothing my personality and when I came back I had started to pop to a revelation, because in a very big way Ohio changed me as much as I was changed by everything else that was a part of my life post-high-school, and the music I discovered playing on Columbus’ local radio stations – although they were the same songs playing everywhere, they truly helped to rescue me from country music. And of course, I got by with a little help from my friends. This story will be continued in this week’s upcoming Saturday Jams post, but I’ll leave it hanging and move on to the seminals – the five songs that most worked to make me the person I am today. I’m certain I chose all five on purpose in order to change myself, but I also think that they chose me, all back in 1996-1998.

On each of these songs, I choose not to elaborate but will let them speak for themselves.

I lied. Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly is probably my favorite song of all time. That’s me, all the time.

They Might Be Giants came out with this amazing album Flood in 1990 and one of the tracks really came at me later out of left field when I was asking myself how I really felt about the way people kept trying to force the way I believe and the way I handle what people might call my “faith.” Nowadays I’m more likely to tell them to mind their own business if they don’t want to have a bad day, but this song . . . it helped me understand exactly how complex my feelings on that subject are.

Son Volt’s Drown is the first song I really became hooked on after moving to Columbus, but it was always “that one song”; after coming back home I could not figure out what this song was or who sang it until just a couple years ago, because I had the presence of mind to type “if living right is easy what goes wrong you’re causing it lyrics” into Google and there. It. Was. So here’s a tribute to the song that started to bring me back from the brink of mediocrity, and remained anonymous for oh – fifteen years; as they say, silence knows you can’t drown a heart.

The Spin Doctors‘ Two Princes was one of my very favorites, and prompted me to purchase the album A Pocket Full of Kryptonite, which was solid gold for an album. Other favorites include the other radio hit Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, What Time Is It? and Jimmy Olsen’s Blues. These songs started making me question exactly what it was that popular music was filling our heads with when we were too busy rocking out to hear the things they were saying out loud, and that question can be directly attributed toward my eventual leaning toward instrumental music and surf.

Last song comes from a band out of . . . wait for it . . . my hometown of Detroit! Yayyy! This is Sponge’s first big radio hit, Plowed and it made this band a big thing for a minute. When I found out stuff like this was coming out of Detroit and hitting the big time, I realized I was really in the wrong line of music. And how can you not rock out to it? The first time I heard it I just wanted to throw all my limbs all over the place and thrash my head around. Later on I had the pleasure of taking guitar lessons for a short time with their former guitarist, Joey Mazzola, at the Music Castle in Berkley, Michigan at like 12 & Woodward. I once went to my lesson right after work, and he kind of laughed at my Little Caesars shirt, asking me what it was about. I said, I just came from work. He goes, oh ok, I thought you were trying to make a statement. Ha ha, musicians, right?

So that’s it, my seminal five. Take it or leave it; I mean, how can you narrow it down to five? My seminal is a frickin’ decade. The alt-grunge wave was my seminal. And with that, I’m reading my Lovecraft story and then going to bed.


This post was prompted by Twisted Mixtape Tuesday at My Skewed View.

Jen Kehl


  1. I loved Pink Floyd. Bird house in your Soul is a brilliant song, but do you know I would have struggled to tell you who sung it if you’d asked lol. I’d forgotten all about Two Princes, but another great track. Will have to check the other two out when I’m on the big PC. Have you ever listened to Roger Waters – Radio Kaos?

  2. I used Learning to Fly also, not my favorite PF, but awesome song (that fit the theme). I’ve always liked Two Princes and Plowed, but hadn’t heard Drown before. Its interesting enough to give it a few more listens. Great list!

  3. This is a great list Rob! Excellent to see Sun Volt here and Birdhouse In Your Soul is such a great tune.

  4. Hey I’ll take it! They Might Be Giants have made more than one appearance on my past mixes – both songs from Flood. Because that album is CHOCK full of gold! And although I was already 20 when that album came out I used to jump on my bed and sing every word. Also, I haven’t thought of Spin Doctors in so long! I still have the CD and am thinking of dusting it off now. I love the story behind your musical life. I caught you during a Trifecta and have to say am still impressed! I so appreciate you joining my link-up also you might consider checking out my new blog with Linda (elleroy was here) and Lance (my blog can beat up your blog) it’s maybe even up for a guest post?
    Whatever you want, but come back next week!

    • Sounds like a deal thirsty for follow-through – I will certainly check out this “raisedontheradio” you speak of. Thank you for commenting… I’m guessing the other song you mentioned may be Istanbul? Or is it Particle Man? That last is another which inspires religion-themed interpretation, and I have wrestled with Triangle Man over his anger issues more than once!

Leave a Reply to Rob's Surf Report Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s