White Label Wednesday: Medsker’s Retro Beat Mix

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In the comment section of last week’s White Label Wednesday column on ABC, Ted lamented that I didn’t beat mix the songs together. Today, he gets his wish.

I made roughly 15 to 20 beat mixes during my time as a DJ in college (1987-1991). I didn’t own any gear, so I either made the mixes after hours at the clubs where I worked or I used the gear of a fellow DJ friend, who was brave enough to have his gear in his dorm room. Since the mixes were all recorded on cassette, very few have made the jump to the digital realm. Easy CD Creator had an add-on earlier in the decade that enabled people to input analog sources into their computer, and it would record the tracks and break them down. The program was clearly designed for vinyl, thinking that it would create a new file whenever a song ended or faded out. With beat mixes, this was a little more complicated, since the idea is for there to never be a break. I’d end up with one 12-minute file, and then 15 ten-second files. I would then take this .wav file editor and put the songs back together. Wheee.

The worst thing about uploading the tapes was that the digital recording was really quiet, so I would have to amplify the tracks exponentially, which of course amplified the tape hiss as well. You don’t really hear it when things are jumping, but when a song got quiet…whoooooosh! I should just break down and get one of those USB turntables that can convert vinyl and cassettes, but there is just one problem: I have no money, and with two kids, no time. So most of my tapes are still tapes.

Except for this one. Recorded in early 1991, before the whole ’80s nostalgia thing got into full swing, I made the Retro Mix because I had all these older 12″ singles that just didn’t work well with the newer records I was buying, so I made a mix of nothing but older stuff. This mix was recorded on my friend Paul MacDonald’s gear in his dorm room, and his mixing board had one of the coolest things I had ever seen at the time: it could actually record about three or four seconds of music, which you could trigger like a sample! I know, totally not a big deal now, but I had to experiment with it by spinning the intro to the Power Station’s “Some Like It Hot” backwards. Those drums were just asking for it.

As for the beat mixes themselves here, well, some are good, and some aren’t. Just like any of my beat mixes, really. There’s always one colossal train wreck on each mix, and this time it’s the transfer from Arcadia’s “Election Day” to Level 42′s “Something About You.” The problem was that the percussion intro to “Something About You” is not at the same speed as the rest of the song, so as I was matching the Level 42 beats to the Arcadia track, I was using the middle of the song, and then cued the record back to the beginning. Whoops. I did something atypical with this tape in that I started several of the mixes “hot,” going live with the beat mix from the very first beat of the song. (Talk Talk, Chaka Khan and the Human League, to name a few.) Much of that was out of necessity, since “Don’t You Want Me” only has eight beats before the big keyboard riff hits. And if Chaka Khan looks wildly out of place with the other artists on this mix, keep in mind that the song was written by Green Gartside and David Gamson of Scritti Politti, and sounds exactly like a Scritti song. Green even sings backup.

Now, in case I didn’t already make this clear, be advised: this is an eight-year-old, pre-USB turntable transfer of an 18-year-old cassette, where I recorded a bunch of 25-year-old vinyl. And chewed up 25-year-old vinyl at that. Audiophiles might get hives listening to this, and most of Side II is not beat mixed. (There are only two beat mixes on the entire side.) But anyone looking for an ’80s party mix, or an insight into how my college-age mind worked, might get a kick out of this.

UPDATE: King of Grief to the rescue! He has graciously volunteered to assemble all of the tracks into one mp3 file. And what a marvelous editing job he did, too. Download Side I

Side I
1. Howard Jones – What Is Love?
2. Talk Talk – Life’s What You Make It
3. Thompson Twins – If You Were Here
4. Arcadia – Election Day
5. Level 42 – Something About You
6. Depeche Mode – Everything Counts
7. Chaka Khan – Love of a Lifetime
8. Wham! – Everything She Wants
9. Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
10. Human League – Don’t You Want Me
11. Eurythmics – Sexcrime (1984)
12 OMD – So in Love

And for reasons that I’ve since forgotten, I added this bit from an old Bugs Bunny cartoon that still stands as my favorite Looney Tunes moment ever.

Side II
1. Power Station – Some Like It Hot
2. After the Fire – Der Kommisar
3. Boomtown Rats – Up All Night
4. General Public – Tenderness
5. The B-52′s – Dance This Mess Around/52 Girls
6. Adam Ant – Friend or Foe
7. A-ha – The Sun Always Shines on TV
8. Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes
9. Go West – We Close Our Eyes
10. INXS – The One Thing

Download Side II

Next week: another beat mix, from 2000, using CDs and then-current songs!




  • KingPervus

    Outstanding. Exactly the type of material nececessary to survive next week's holiday road trip and blow my 80s-obsessed, 6-year-old's mind in the process. Much thanks.

    Now then, concerning a suggestion for a future submission: Howsabout a Gothy/postpunk mix? I'm thinking Sisters of Mercy, Mission, pre-Electric Cult, Belfegore, Siouxsie, Fleshforlulu, and especially Killing Joke (masters of the 12-inch genre – perhaps even worthy of their own mix). I would surely wet my pants with joy.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    If I had one of those, I would be happy to oblige. Those bands are sprinkled on mixes here and there, but I have no way of converting them anymore, sorry.

  • Matt

    Man, this is one of the many things I really love about Popdose – unexpected retro surprises like this one! You can't buy this kinda stuff in the record stores! Well done!

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    This is fantastic, David! In a weird way, I even love the tape hiss on these mixes … kind of reminds me of listening to tapes in my car back in the '80s. Plus, the whole homebrew/real time mixing is so awesome.

    I've killed “house monitors” in my office so I can hear your mix for the morning — which is a welcome relief from the adult contemporary hell I have to listen to every day.

  • JPH

    this awesome. i have a really dumb question though. is there no way to download it as one entire mix? am i missing something?

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    I originally broke this down into .wav files to burn to CD, which have since been ripped to mp3. If anyone can tell me how to put these mp3s together into two files (one for each side) and have it be an mp3 file as opposed to a zip file, I'm all ears.

  • nathan_az

    It would only take a couple of minutes using Garage Band (Mac)…

    Thanks for sharing this!

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    I could do this on my old PC, but it's torn down. Let me tinker a bit and see if I can come up with a solution.

  • nathan_az

    It's no problem for me to put these together this evening (no downloading at work).

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I could put it together for you, but I'd have to do later today.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    I'm trying to merge files using Audacity, but when I merge HoJo with Talk Talk, it's cutting off the beginning of the Talk Talk file. Very strange.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Audacity blows for mixing multiple tracks. Garageband is good (and I have it at work), so maybe I'll take a few minutes stitch the tracks together.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    My hero. (*bats eyes*)

  • kingofgrief

    Did the HoJo repeat the intro in the middle of the first verse on the tape, or is that a file error?

    I just spliced the first side together using Cool Edit Pro, and I'm listening to the results. Barring that HoJo snafu, I might have a seamless mix (or two) to offer my fellow WLW-heads in the next hour or so.

  • kingofgrief

    BTW, I can edit the Arcadia-Level 42 train wreck if you'd like, or I can leave it in for posterity's sake.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I tried piecing it together on Garageband and it seems there a small bit from each track that's missing — which is making for some awkward sounding transitions. If you have it, then please send to David so he can upload to the Popdose mother ship.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    “Did the HoJo repeat the intro in the middle of the first verse on the tape, or is that a file error?”

    Motherfucker. That's an iTunes ripping issue. Thanks for pointing that out. I'll re-rip using CDex and repost.

    As for fixing the train wreck mix, thank you but that's all right. That feels like cheating.

  • kingofgrief

    All I had to do was snip some silence off each end…didn't have any parts missing (apart from the HoJo issue which will be amended in die time). I'm a little over halfway done with the playback; no errors so far. I might have to post it to one of my drop.io accounts for David to retrieve as it'll be a hefty file.

  • kingofgrief

    Let me know when you repost it and I'll try to splice it into the master mix. It could be tricky but it'll further my armchair sound editor training.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    I'm in the middle of burning a DVD (or trying to, anyway; it doesn't seem to be working), but as soon as that's finished, I'll upload the new file and drop you a line. Thanks for your help.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    Had to re-rip it twice – CDex cut off just enough of the ending to make it sound jumpy, so I ran it through iTunes again and it worked – but try it now. And thank you for your help in bundling them all together. Did you include the Bugs Bunny snippet?

  • kingofgrief

    Dude…I have been known to moan “I'm feelin' mighty low” in reference to that very soundbite. You BET it's in. I even tacked on a corresponding coda of sorts to Mix II…which is currently being scrutinized; upload and take 2 of Mix I when it passes the test!

  • kingofgrief

    The re-edited mixes are finished! I've forwarded the drop location to Medsker; all we need now is for him to sign off on both. (And upload them to the 'dose, of course.)

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    Both are up on the site. Excellent work, sir, and thank you so much for volunteering and turning them around so quickly.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I'll second that! I'm downloading the full mixes now.

  • kingofgrief

    *humble bow*

  • kingofgrief

    BTW, I think the ID tags I gave Mix II might not have taken, as I had to redo them for my copy this morning. If you're a last.fm subscriber, make sure you ID your file as Retro Beat Mix II by David Medsker, and eventually your data will wind up here!

    Oh, and props to everyone who volunteered to weld the files. I didn't mean to steal anyone's thunder, I was just lucky to have the means (and the day off) to do it.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    Both are up on the site. Excellent work, sir, and thank you so much for volunteering and turning them around so quickly.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I'll second that! I'm downloading the full mixes now.

  • kingofgrief

    *humble bow*

  • kingofgrief

    BTW, I think the ID tags I gave Mix II might not have taken, as I had to redo them for my copy this morning. If you're a last.fm subscriber, make sure you ID your file as Retro Beat Mix II by David Medsker, and eventually your data will wind up here!

    Oh, and props to everyone who volunteered to weld the files. I didn't mean to steal anyone's thunder, I was just lucky to have the means (and the day off) to do it.

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