06 October 2003

Thoughts on a New Orleans-themed mix tape.

So the person who got the mix tape I offered Friday - and did I mention how ingrateful you are? - wanted New Orleans music. A challenge.

See, New Orleans music can be so many different things. For some people it's jazz - both traditional and contemporary. For others it's funk and the brass bands. For others it's blues, or the roots rock you can hear in any one of a dozen bars.

For me, though, it's Mardi Gras music. It's a little sampling of all the different styles, all centered around an event that is quintessentially New Orleans. It's like Christmas music, almost; it's identified so closely with a particular season that it sounds a little off any other time of year. Not bad, just not quite right.

So on this tape I went heavy on Mardi Gras music. A few other tunes about New Orleans, and some I just associate with the city. It's a good tape if you're me. The songs:

  1. REM, New Orleans Instrumental No. 1 - Because it's in the title, right?
  2. Dixie Cups, Iko Iko - An ubiquitous New Orleans tune, but if you listen to it there's a whiff of something ancient there. A funhouse tune for a funhouse city.
  3. Professor Longhair, Tipitina - What about this song isn't famous?
  4. Harry Connick, Jr., Here Comes the Big Parade - Not a Mardi Gras standard, but it should be. Have I mentioned I want to be Harry Connick, Jr. when I grow up? He's got his own Mardi Gras parade and an underwear model wife. Not too shabby.
  5. Fats Domino, Jambalaya - Fats is supposed to be a cool guy, but he won't fly and he doesn't do interviews. He just stays home and chills.
  6. Stop, Inc., Second Line - Another song you hear a million times during the week leading up to Fat Tuesday. Everyone dances to it.
  7. Zachary Richard, Colinda - Cajun and zydeco music are associated with New Orleans, though they don't come from here. This is good swamp pop.
  8. Jimmy Buffett, The Wino and I Know - Buffett got his start in New Orleans, you know. And the burgers at his place here are really, really good.
  9. Buckwheat Zydeco, Jole Blon - Zydeco musician does cajun traditional. It's about a pretty girl.
  10. Neville Brothers, Hey Pocky Way - Also played a lot during Carnival. In fact, there's a story here...
  11. Beastie Boys, Shake Your Rump - ...or was it this song? Anyway, it was Mardi Gras 2002, the Friday before Fat Tuesday. A friend of mine used to live on St. Charles, right on the parade route, and I was at her house late that night with Sonya, some friends and a big crowd of people. Everyone was drinking beer and maybe a little high and eating red beans and either this tune or the last one came on and suddenly everyone was dancing. Not like a Frankie and Annette "hey everyone, let's dance!" It was an organic thing. The music was right, the mood was right and I looked around and everyone was shakin' that thing.
  12. Marcia Ball, Louisiana 1927 - A Randy Newman tune done by a blues piano regular in the clubs here.
  13. Better Than Ezra, King of New Orleans - Back in '95 or '96 Sonya and I came down to New Orleans for a weekend. It was the same weekend all the radio stations had just got this single and it seems like we heard it everywhere - in the car, pounding out of clubs and shops, on the radio when we woke up in the morning. I immediately loved it.
  14. Beausoleil, Zydeco Gris Gris - This song is about werewolves, I think. Or, as they say on the bayou, the loup garoup.
  15. Concrete Blonde, Bloodletting - One of the truly great songs. Ever. For some people. I'm one of them.
  16. Al Johnson, Carnival Time - Ubiquitous Mardi Gras Song or, as we'll refer to them from now on, UMGS.
  17. Frankie Ford, Sea Cruise - I saw Frankie Ford play at the Orpheuscapade one year. He's what would have happened if Jerry Lee Lewis and Liberace had had a baby.
  18. Better Than Ezra, WWOZ - I wake up to WWOZ every day. All New Orleans music, all the time. The concert calendar is very soothing at seven in the morning.
  19. Siouxsie and the Banshees, Kiss Them For Me - A staple of New Orleans road trip tapes for years.
  20. Neville Brothers, Tell It Like It Is - I saw them do this at the Beale Street Music Festival a few years ago. Chills, buddy.
  21. Professor Longhair, Go To The Mardi Gras - UMGS. This came on the WEVL New Orleans show one time when I was getting ready to leave Memphis for Mardi Gras and I about jumped out of my truck, I got so excited.
  22. The Hawketts, Mardi Gras Mambo - UMGS.
  23. Dirty Dozen, L'il Liza Jane - UMGS.
  24. The Iguanas, As We Kiss Goodnight - A dark, brooding tune. It sounds like three a.m. on Esplanade, just after a thunderstorm. In the middle of summer. All potential humidity and unexploded ordnance. A great, sadly obscure tune.
  25. Rebirth, Do Whatcha Wanna - UMGS.