Some of the Best – Preface

Do it again on the next verse and people think you meant it.” – Chet Atkins

One Saturday morning at the tender age of 9, I made a startling discovery. In exploring the functionality of my parents’ Sanyo G-2601KCA wooden record/cassette player it dawned on me that I could create my very own personalised mixtape. A lovely cheese pizza, just for me. Suitably inspired, I ferreted out an unloved Philips ‘Studio-Quality’ C60 Ferro/Low Noise tape and devoted the rest of the weekend to mastering the rudiments of vinyl-to-cassette recording. By Sunday evening, that crusty old orange cassette had blossomed into a finely honed selection of esoteric musical mayhem. A now notorious mixtape of some of my favourite songs. Some of the best, if you will.

Little did I know that the seed had been planted for a musical journal that would shape the soundtrack to my life for the next twenty-eight years (and counting). That first fledgling volume was originally (and wholly misleadingly) entitled ‘Funky Songs’, but was later re-christened Some of the Best 1. In the decades subsequent to that initial mixtape, I have continued to curate periodic assortments of my most favourite tracks, variously by medium of cassette (1992-2004), CD (2004-2011) and – for the past 9 years now – mp3 playlists. From Volume 2 onwards, these collections have borne the literally descriptive title of Some of the Best (SOTB). I am nothing if not loyal to my past, and so that nomenclature has remained constant from SOTB 2 to date. The first rogue 60 minute entry aside, each volume runs at somewhere between 80 and 90 minutes.

I hasten to add that the quality of the titular ‘bestness’ is a grossly subjective, circumstantial and often deceptive claim. This canon is by no means a collection of genuinely great or classic songs (unlike, say, ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’). Rather it the audio gazette of my musical journal. A haphazard record of the music that has provided the soundtrack to my life. Now that we live in an age where all of the music is available all of the time, it is hard to recall that it was once painfully difficult to find (or indeed afford) one’s preferred music. We just had to make do with what was to hand. What we could beg, borrow or steal. The resulting magpie compilations borne from this era were therefore necessarily eccentric ensembles. Some have aged well, and some have not. Nonetheless, they were (and are) always true to what I liked. At least in theory.

Now that I have entered the third century of my musical voyage, I thought it time to revisit the entire retained catalogue and profile one track from each edition as a representative sample of my all-time most favourite songs. SOTB 1-60 are all on audio cassette, and so I have hunted down an old Sony TC-KE230 on Gumtree so as to be able to listen back to those battered old gems, warty warbles and all. Choosing between my adoptive musical offspring is a tricky business, and so I will also highlight a few ‘honourable mentions’ for when the choosing gets particularly tough. The plan is to post a new entry every week or so for the indefinite future. Whether I make it all the way through the 200+ compilations is anyone’s guess…

That’s enough chat though. Now it’s time to kick back, gird the ears of your loins, and get intimately acquainted with the musical misadventure that is Some of the Best.