#374 with Russ Van Cleave: Razorcake Podcast

Oct 02, 2015

#374 with Russ Van Cleave: Razorcake Podcast

I'm sure just about everyone has some mix tape or mix CD or mix playlist (or whatever else gets passed around these days) that they've received from someone at some point that opened them up to whole new collections of bands and artists that might have otherwise been relegated to obscurity. This podcast is dedicated to one of those collections; a mix tape a friend gave me circa 1994 that opened me up to a world that I've since shared with The Replacements, Naked Raygun, The Jam, and a bunch of other great music.

I suppose it’s safe to say that the best days of the "mix tape" are behind us. I know there are quite a few collectors and distributors out there who remain stalwart disciples of the cassette format. But I don't expect we'll see the cassette format regain its former glory as the preferred mode of music sharing amongst the general population.

That being said, I suppose that this installation of my regular podcast could be considered nostalgic. This go around, I decided to pay tribute to a great mix tape my friend Bean made for me circa 1994. I came to college in 1992 eager for new music. I had a background in ‘80s metal and, towards the end of high school and the beginning of college, was starting to familiarize myself with a lot the easily accessible "punk" and "alternative" bands of the day.

As I started to involve myself more in college radio, I eventually met Jeff Douglas, colloquially known amongst friends as "Bean." Bean asked me what I listened to and, after a moment of reflection following the short list of bands I recited, said, "I'm gonna make you a tape." What I got from him a few days later ended up being one of the most memorable collections of music anyone has shared with me.

At this point, I believe I have accumulated a CD or record containing every song on that tape save the one exception detailed below. There are some bands I have left off in the interest of keeping the runtime for the podcast from getting out of control. But, while I still have a few brain cells left upstairs, I decided that it would be a good idea to document what I recall of that mix tape as part of a Razorcake podcast. Enjoy!


Pegboy - "Strong Reaction" from Strong Reaction (Quarterstick)
The Replacements - "Takin' a Ride" from Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (Twin/Tone)
Kraut - "Pyramids" from Complete Studio Recordings 1981-1986 (New Red Archives)
Dag Nasty - "Circles" from Can I Say (Dischord)
Squirrel Bait - "Sun God" from Skag Heaven Plus 8 Bonus Tracks (Homestead)
Henry Rollins & The Hard-Ons - "Carry Me Down" from Let There Be Rock (C/Z)
Fear - "More Beer" from Live... For the Record (Restless)
M.I.A. - "Tell Me Why" from Lost Boys (Alternative Tentacles)
Youth Brigade - "Boys in the Brigade" from Out of Print (BYO)
Gorilla Biscuits - "Sitting Around at Home" from Start Today (Revelation)
Naked Raygun - "Home" from Raygun...Naked Raygun (Caroline)
Agent Orange - "Bloodstains" from Living in Darkness (Posh Boy)
The Jam - "In The City" from In the City (Many Door)
Sid Vicious - "Something Else" from Sid Sings (Like Something Madonna Sings About)

Pegboy: There are a handful of songs that made such a strong impression that the experience of first hearing them is forever burned into my mind. "Strong Reaction" is among them. From the first 30 seconds comprising the opening guitar chords and the rhythm section entrance followed by Larry Demore's first lines, I was an instant Pegboy fan. I'm fairly sure Bean put Pegboy track 1, side 1 on this tape and so I felt it appropriate to make it the opener here. After I tracked down a copy of the Strong Reaction/Three Chord Monte CD, it was stuck in the stereo for months thereafter.

The Replacements: Among bands that I’ve been introduced to by way of the mix tape that have gone on to have some impact on my life, the Mats have to be at the top of the list. Bean put several songs on this tape. “Take Me Down To The Hospital” from Hootenanny was the earliest in the track listing, but he rounded out the rest of side 2 with the first few songs from Sorry Ma. To bring everything full circle, twenty years after hearing them for the first time on this mix tape, I finally got a chance to see the Replacements in Philadelphia in May of this year. I expect it may be the only time I will ever get to see them. They opened with “Takin’ A Ride”.

Kraut: Great cut and the first song I ever heard by this awesome New York punk band. Their first ever show was opening for The Clash. Where do you go from there?

Dag Nasty: Prior to the mix tape, I had heard of Dag Nasty mostly through my interest in Minor Threat, but I knew nothing about them other than that they had a funny name. When the semester ended, I went back to my folks house to spend the summer. After repeated listens to this song, I sought out a copy of the Can I Say & Wig Out At Denko’sCD at the local record store. I think I listened to that CD and The ReplacementsTim every day until I left to go back to school.

Squirrel Bait: I liked this song right away, but it took me awhile to come around to the full-on glory that Squirrel Bait had to offer mostly because it wasn't always so easy to find my own copies of the songs. When I finally picked up the Skag Heaven Plus 8 CD that contains the debut Squirrel Bait EP it all came together for me. Some may be more familiar with Slint and Bitch Magnet that members of this band went on to form after their break-up in 1988.

Henry Rollins & The Hard-Ons: This is an interesting one. I remember seeing this on the track list and being somewhat perplexed about what it was I would soon be hearing. Henry Rollins was a darling of the “alternative” press at the time so it was hard to not be familiar with him. But the Hard-Ons were relegated to being one of those bands that you’d hear about in middle school because they had a funny band name associated with male genitalia; no one I knew actually listened to them. The A-Side to the record, that is now among my favorite 7"s, is a cover version of “Let There Be Rock”. Sold!

Fear:    “What’s interesting is how time and space are interrelated…you see, the square root of the negative one times c which is the speed of light times time is the same equivalent univentional directional...we just want to be friends with you all share this Christmas feeling here...and some of our inner selves...if you know what I mean...1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4!"

M.I.A.: This was one of my favorite songs on the tape from the get go. M.I.A., unfortunately, seemed to remain among the more elusive bands that Bean put on here for me. Years later I found a cassette of After The Fact, one of their later releases. But it wasn't until the early 2000's, that I was able to track this song down when Alternative Tentacles re-issued all of the early M.I.A. material. Sadly, lead singer Mike Conley passed away in 2008.

Youth Brigade: I'm not as readily familiar with the CA Youth Brigade as I am with most of the bands on here, but I love this song and have it on this comp containing a bunch of their early material, including most of their first albumSound & Fury.

Gorilla Biscuits: This Buzzcocks cover was my first introduction to GB.

Naked Raygun: This song was the tip of the iceberg that hinted at the wealth of music just beneath the surface that is the Naked Raygun catalog. After I found a copy of Raygun...Naked Raygun at a used record store there was no turning back. The rest of the dominos fell quickly, until I had fully immersed myself in what would become another one of my favorite bands.

Agent Orange: There were a few months where Living In Darkness was in heavy rotation around my place. Incidentally, their covers of "Miserlou", "Pipeline" and "Mr. Moto" actually went a long way towards getting me interested tracking down a lot of 60's CA surf rock.

The Jam: This song was another pebble that launched an avalanche. I had heard "In The City" covered before but had yet to hear the original until it found its way onto this mix tape. After I found the a copy of the In The City album, "anything by The Jam" made its way to the top of my shopping priorities whenever I found my way into a record store.

Sid Vicious: Lamentably, I do not believe this is not the version of "Somethin' Else" that made it to the original mix tape. I believe that version was the studio recording that Sid recorded for The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle that I will probably delve into at some point during my life. Instead, this is the live version recorded at Max's Kansas City from the Sid Sings record. I'm admittedly not much of a Sid Vicious fan but felt obliged to include some approximation of this performance in this podcast for completeness. I guess that just goes to show that not everything that gets thrown against the wall will stick. Nonetheless, I do like the song. But, it ultimately piqued my interest more in Eddie Cochran than it did in anything else which certainly hasn't been a bad thing.