Monday, October 6, 2014

My Take on Awesome Mix Vol 2

Welcome! This week, I think I’m going to devote some wordage to a puzzle that has been troubling me for the better part of two months now. At odd moments I find my mind turning to this conundrum over and over again, demanding my attention no matter what I’m doing—running errands, puttering around the house, exercising, or even when I’m trying to work. The question is simply this:

Which songs deserve to be included in Awesome Mix Vol 2?

If you are so culturally unaware that I have to explain this to you, well, Awesome Mix Vol 1 was essentially the soundtrack for the recent movie Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a cassette tape of songs that the hero, Peter Quill, carried around and listened to on a Sony Walkman or played in a cassette player in his starship. It was loaded with a mix of early ‘70s one-hit wonders, Motown, rock classics, and a couple of just goofy old hits that, frankly, were a complete blast. Thousands upon thousands of people have rediscovered these songs on iTunes thanks to this movie. And, best of all, we discover that there is indeed an Awesome Mix Vol 2 – and we don’t know what might be on it.

The Rules: Spoiler Alert!
I’m now going to explain what we know about The Rules for Awesome Mix Vol 2, and I can’t do it without spilling a few spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve been warned.

We can learn a lot from a careful watching of GotG and some consideration of what’s on Volume One. First, Peter Quill’s mother made the tape for him. It includes the songs she loved when she was a teenager. Everything in Vol 1 was released between 1969 and 1976, with one outlier: “Escape (the Pina Colada Song),” from 1979. So, we want to stay in the same time range. While there were some gigantic acts going in the early 70s—the Rolling Stones, the Who, Wings, Zeppelin, etc.—we’re not really looking for the biggest hits or the most recognizable names from the target era. We want to focus on one-hit wonders, B sides, and things that are just a little bit goofy. And of course we want recognizable tunes with extreme earworm potential—there is a reason “Hooked on a Feeling” was used in all the movie trailers.

Finally, we know that “Ain’t No Mountain” and “I Want You Back” are already on the tape. Cassette tapes of the day couldn’t hold more than a dozen songs, so we only need to add ten more. Accordingly, here are my nominations for Awesome Mix Vol 2. I guess we’ll find out how close I got when Guardians of the Galaxy 2 comes out! This is going to be fun.

“Long Cool Woman” (1972), the Hollies. The opening guitar riff is pretty darn ear-wormish, and the Hollies are exactly the right amount of famous. They only had a couple of big hits, but those were really darned good.

“Right Place, Wrong Time” (1973), Dr. John. If you can’t find a moment in a Guardians of the Galaxy story when Starlord is in exactly the kind of trouble this song suggests, you’re just not trying.

“Dancing in the Moonlight” (1973), King Harvest. Goofy, mellow, almost totally forgotten now. It’s my “Escape,” but it’s dead-center in the time range. It should be choreographed to an intense fight scene for the same delightfully inappropriate contrast.

“Bang a Gong” (1972), T Rex. This one is sort of like “Spirit in the Sky” in Volume One – a great rock tune everybody knows from a band that just didn’t record a lot of songs that got air time.

“Make It With You” (1970), Bread. We know Quill enjoys the let’s-get-it-on ballads; it’s hard to find one that does it more earnestly than this one. And, so, so, so ‘70s.

“Some Kind of Wonderful” (1975), Grand Funk Railroad. A first-class earworm, and the gospel-like refrain of “Can I get a witness?” catches just a bit of those Motown overtones I think Mama Quill grooved on.

“You Sexy Thing” (1976), Hot Chocolate.  Sort of like “Come and Get Your Love” in the first movie; it’s a super-recognizable opening, demands some serious dancing, and really captures Starlord’s love of all the galactic ladies.

“Panic in Detroit” (1973), David Bowie. We know Quill’s mom was a Bowie fan thanks to “Moonage Daydream” on Vol 1. In my opinion, that’s the best track from Ziggy Stardust—great stuff. So, we’ll move one Bowie album over to Aladdin Sane (boy, could Bowie do album titles – a lad insane, get it?) and scoop the best track off that one. “Panic in Detroit” rocks. Might be a personal favorite I’m giving too much love to, but hey, it’s my list.

“It’s Your Thing” (1969), the Isley Brothers. So we’ve got a traveling group of roguish galactic misfits determined to do things their way; find me a song that better expresses being your own person.

“No More Mr. Nice Guy” (1973), Alice Cooper. We know that Quill’s mother had a little bit of a bad girl streak in her music taste. If you were a teenager in the early ‘70s and you wanted to drive your parents crazy, I think there were two artists you listened to: David Bowie and Alice Cooper. Strong opening riff, and it just screams out for use in a soundtrack.

“Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (1972), the Temptations. We need some more Motown to round out the list. There is some absolutely outstanding Marvin Gaye stuff from this era, but I think Marvin Gaye is too big. The Temptations were fading from perennial chart-toppers by this time, so I think we can slip it in. And, given the mystery of Peter Quill’s parentage, it sure seems appropriate, doesn’t it?

I could put together a pretty good Awesome Mix Vol 3 from the songs I thought about including but didn’t. “Superstar” by the Carpenters or “December 1963” by the Four Seasons would have hit that 1970s vibe pretty well. No doubt my choices won’t match yours – but I maintain that this would be a pretty good selection for the further adventures of Starlord and his crew.