Songs for Swinging Subversives: Recreating the mixtapes of Andrew Weatherall’s youth

This week, Andrew Weatherall’s childhood friend Paul McKee posted a track listing of a mixtape that Andrew had made for him back in 1982.

I thought it would be nice to hear it in something like it’s former glory, so I stitched it together and uploaded the mix here:

It gives a glimpse into the pre-acid house musical mind of Andrew Weatherall, mixing up the post-punk funk of A Certain Ratio and Section 25 with pre-punk punks Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, plus rock ‘n’ roll from Fats Waller and some indie rock from the likes of Orange Juice and Aztec Camera. And, of course, there’s room for some real curveballs – Dave Brubeck, anyone?

Intriguingly, there is even a “special mix” of Booker T & the MG’s BBC cricket theme Soul Limbo, which I couldn’t find anywhere. Could it be Andrew’s very first remix? Done at home on two tape decks? Paul can’t remember but promises to check it out when he digs out the tape.

It definitely has a dance flavour but there are ballads such as Carmel’s Storm and that Dave Brubeck track really is odd. Mind you, I have a few tapes from my teenage years with some pretty strange choices too.

What’s really interesting is that it works really nicely as a mix. I didn’t even like some of the tracks when I was putting it together and wasn’t sure how one track was going to flow into the next. But it works. And listening to it through I think I do like all the songs. Yeah, even that Dave Brubeck track… I think. Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise.

The tape is annotated with Weatherall’s familiar scrawl and finishes with the phrase: “Comical interventions on both sides by Vivian Stanshall….. from “Sir Henry at Rawlinson End”.

These came from a 30-minute John Peel session, which Andrew must have taped from the radio (there’s a few of us who share that sort of behaviour). I couldn’t possibly guess what Andrew would have used – he would not have had space for it all on a C90 – but I did manage to include Stanshall blowing a raspberry, pleasingly. It’s pretty far out though. Reminded me of Peel playing Ivor Cutler in my own youth.

There is so much here that connects Andrew with any music fan who has ever made a mixtape for a friend, which must be just about everybody. There’s the desire to show off one’s eclectic tastes, the care put into sequencing, even the annotations.

Andrew would have been 19 at the time. There is already a hint of the darkness that would seep through his 30-plus years in the recording studio, including this piece of post-punk from Danse Society – a real favourite, according to another of Andrew’s childhood friends.

As a massive Cure fan, I was pleased he ended with The Cure’s Other Voices from Faith. It is a track that Andrew would often mention when he was asked to put together lists of cool tracks for magazines in later years.

It’s worth remembering that this tape was made in 1982. The charts were ringing to the sounds of Dexy’s Come On Eileen, Eddy Grant and Musical Youth. Plus Bucks Fizz, Shakin’ Stevens, Tight Fit, The Jam and Adam Ant. Of course, neither hip hop nor acid house existed, although Grandmaster Flash’s The Message and Afrika Bambaata’s Planet Rock were released in 1982. Post-punk was fading away with new romantics and synth-pop outfits taking their place. The Smiths were still two years from releasing a record. Madonna was still one year from releasing her debut. There is no New Order here. Your Silent Face became a real favourite but was not released until a year later.

The mix does have a groove despite the limitations of the time. Strangely, there is no dub reggae here. Andrew credits John Lydon with putting him onto reggae and he had done that a while back. But hey, you can’t have everything – even in an Andrew Weatherall mix.

Special thanks to Paul McKee for sharing the track list. Paul is the devoted keeper of the Soul Boys Soul Girls Facebook page, which documents the roots of British club culture from 1974 until 1985.


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