A Stay-at-Home Mixtape of Quarantine-Themed Tunes

CityBeat music contributor Brian Baker has created a playlist to get you through isolation

click to enlarge Kim Taylor - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Kim Taylor

We are clearly living in unprecedented times. In some ways, the coronavirus pandemic feels a bit like the aftermath of 9/11, save for two important aspects: first, 9/11 was an American tragedy that brought us together and gave new meaning to the “united” part of our country's identity, and second, we were able to embrace and comfort one another at a point when it was most needed. Conversely, the pandemic is an equal-opportunity issue on a worldwide scale and the one thing that could quell all of our anxieties and fear is the one thing we can't do because of self-imposed and now government-mandated social distancing: simple human contact.

Typically, this global panic has brought out the worst in some people. Tell me you haven't seen someone with a shopping cart filled with nothing but toilet paper and Clorox wipes and been tempted to beat them with a pork loin.

Thankfully, not everyone is a Cottonelle-hoarding buffoon and now, by way of the same social media outlets that kept us glued to our phones and isolated from our fellow humans, we are bonding like never before by sharing the best things that are happening in the worst time, even with our home confinements and limited social interactions. It's proof positive that not everyone is an idiot, and that, in most cases, extreme pressure truly can make diamonds of anyone.

For those of us that make a meager living by writing about people who make a meager living by creating music, this is a particularly difficult moment in history. We cannot congregate to listen to live music, and we cannot gather in any significant numbers to listen to recorded music, and yet we are still bonded by the music, as isolated as we are from one another.

Elton John proved it with his I Heart Radio concert on Sunday night, people in Chicago proved it by hanging out of their windows singing Bon Jovi's “Living on a Prayer,” and the late night shows are proving it by presenting artists performing their songs from home. It's an amazing response to a terrible cataclysm and it gives us the one thing we most desperately need in this desperate period: hope. Music has always served that purpose and I can't or don't want to imagine a situation where it will fail to do so.

On a strictly personal level, the loss of income resulting from the silencing of the city's live music community is a pittance compared to the loss of camaraderie and fellowship with the friends and strangers that power this scene. As the saying goes, this too shall pass, and with any luck, we'll be back to business as usual as soon as humanly possible. In the meantime, what to do?

On the homefront (because what else is there?), I've busied myself with projects that have been in a holding pattern for several months, namely addressing my basement work area which, as many already know, I lovingly refer to as the Bunker. I've also been attempting to clean the Bunker, a fool's errand at best.

While all this straightening and cleaning has been going on, I've naturally taken the opportunity to listen to a lot of music, some new things that I'm experiencing for the first time (like the somewhat Zappa-meets-Primus-meets-Return to Forever instrumental musings of Ratgrave), and some old favorites that I revisit from time to time (Todd Rundgren's A Wizard, A True Star, one of a crateful of albums I would run into a burning house to rescue).

And this sort of random, diffused music exposure has led me down a familiar side street, namely the making of mix CDs, a natural upgrade from my '70s-through-'90s mixtapes (which I would like to digitize if I could just get the right jacks in the right holes). So, given the fact that I'm not writing about much of anything at the moment, I thought it might be fun to make some prospective setlists for future mixes and share them. You can search my tracklist and burn the songs for yourself, or make up your own personal take on the same theme and share the results.

I've just finished my second pot-themed mixdisc, and I'll likely publish that tracklist down the road, but it seemed appropriate to use this first posting to present a “stay at home” mix. And for all the housebound fun-and-games spirit I'm hoping to generate with this concept, I'm not oblivious to the fact that real lives are in real danger. Just this morning, word came of the passings of Country veteran Joe Diffie and British guitarist/songwriter Alan Merrill, formerly of The Arrows and the composer of the timeless anthem “I Love Rock 'n' Roll,” which was a UK hit for his band in the '70s and a global smash for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. We mourn our losses and move forward as best we can.

I've always enjoyed giving my mixtapes odd titles that don't have anything to do with the compilation itself — I had mixes that I dubbed "Tiny Jumbos," "Hell's Bare Lightbulb" and "Haunted by the Ghost of Shemp," so you see what the '70s did to me — and I could certainly offer suggestions for this collection and whatever comes next, but in the spirit of fostering your own creative energies, I'll just suggest an appropriate group of songs and leave the titling to you. Or not.

And of course, the track order is also completely up to you. The first rule is there are no rules. And so, here are a few ideas, some obvious, some not so much, for a mixdisc to pass the time in your confinement, after you've washed the first layer of skin off your hands, maintained a six-foot safety perimeter during rare out-in-the-world activities, and ordered that oh-so-chic hazmat suit from Amazon.

  • “Burning Down the House” - Talking Heads
  • “You Can Live at Home” - Hüsker Dü
  • “When You're Alone” - Bruce Springsteen
  • “Staying In” - Juliana Hatfield
  • “Don't Touch Me (I'm Electric)” Bill Nelson's Red Noise
  • “I Miss the Zoo” - Joseph Arthur
  • “Isolation” - Crowded House
  • “Get Outside” - Robert Palmer
  • “Don't Let Us Get Sick” - Warren Zevon
  • “Days Like This” - Kim Taylor
  • “Indoor Fireworks” - Elvis Costello
  • “Welcome Home” - Jean Yves Labat (M. Frog)
  • “Doldrums” - The High Back Chairs
  • “House with a Hundred Rooms” - The Chills
  • “Home” - Iggy Pop
  • “House of Fun” - Madness
  • “Hurry on Home” - Sleater-Kinney
  • “Quarantine” - Ceremony
  • “To Wild Homes” - The New Pornographers
  • “No Direction Home” - Cheap Trick

*This Spotify list has a name because they have to, but you can still pick your own

** "Don't Touch Me (I'm Electric)", "Isolation" and "Doldrums" were not available

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