Guardians Of The Galaxy, Marvel’s summer blockbuster starring the truly fucking gorgeous Chris Pratt, has a soundtrack – Awesome Mix, Vol 1 – that has just become the second soundtrack to top the Billboard 200 chart this year (Frozen, was of course the first, and is still going strong at #8 with 37 weeks on the chart).
Awesome Mix, Vol 1‘s heartrending importance in the movie’s narrative is that it is a cassette tape given to the Starlord by his mother to introduce him to all the music she loved, and he carries it around the galaxy with him in his old Walkman. And that got me thinking… if my parents made me an Awesome Mix, Vol 1, what would the tracklisting look like?
The rules for this playlist were:
1. It must be 12 tracks long. Despite the fact 2 of the songs on Awesome Mix, Vol 1. aren’t actually canonically part of the tracklisting in the movie, cutting down to 10 was near impossible for me, so 12 tracks gave mesome slack.
2. Only include songs released before the year you started school. For me, 1993 was my cut off point. There are lots of songs that I remember my family enjoying together, but for the purposes of the Awesome Mix, I only chose songs that would have been “enforced” on me for want of a better word.
Growing up, my parents had a shared record collection and of the 12 songs I chose to represent my formative music education, only one or two tracks are associated with one parent more than the other. ‘Diamonds And Pearls’ by Prince, for example, was a song I would sing only at my mother’s request, and is such an integral part of the relationship we had that I had the opening notes to the chorus tattooed on my wrist after she died. I have memories of my mum and aunt singing ‘September’ by Earth Wind And Fire into the evenings from a very young age up until my teenage years, and ‘Sledgehammer’ by Peter Gabriel was the song my dad used to dance me around the living room to.
It’s easy to see where some of my early taste was formed – the brash, squelchy pop songs I enjoy now sit nicely alongside tracks like Technotronic’s ‘Pump Up The Jam’, I still love powerful R&B vocalists singing pop melodies like Sybil on ‘The Love I Lost’ and I still don’t shy away from boldfaced sentiments like ‘She’s A Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked)’ by Carl Carlton.
Notable by their absence are big hitters like Madonna, Michael & Janet Jackson, Blondie, George Michael and other artists I became a big fan of as an adult, but truthfully they were artists I discovered later, aided by my parents, but not sewn into that early blanket of musical memory.
I learned Janet Jackson when my mum bought the newly released The Velvet Rope and lent me her Control cassette for my Walkman to placate my need for new things to belong to me. Michael came later, when I found the Thriller tape next to Bobby Brown’s ‘Two Can Play That Game’ one day when I was helping pack boxes for our house move, and lifted them for my own use. My appreciation for Madonna coincided with my appreciation for Marilyn Monroe, and The Immaculate Collection being on sale in MVC – I had a CD player by then. I got into George Michael because the insert booklet and the back of the CD for Ladies & Gentleman: The Best Of… included the word “sex”, which was of course, hilarious to an 8-year old. As a 13/14-year-old I was pleased to discover that favourite songs may well be hereditary as I picked off ‘Call Me’ by Blondie and ‘Start Me Up’ by the Rolling Stones as the highlights from their respective greatest hits collections, only to learn my mum thought the same.
There were songs we sang in the car, songs we played when the house was being cleaned, new albums on birthdays, compilations at large family gatherings, Christmas songs in the winter, songs that my grandparents liked, songs my parents danced to when they were dating, songs my new favourite artists were covering that my parents remembered the first time around… The point is that none of them got into my subconscious the way those 12 songs I chose did. I have memories of those songs that I almost definitely don’t actually remember, you know? But because they could slot in with any snapshot of my childhood I care to pull to the forefront of my mind, often they do.
I’d be interested to see what other people’s Awesome Mix may look like, or, to put another spin on it, what 12-track selection would you make for your own child in the future (or now if you have them)?