Your Life: the mixtape

You are going to make a mixtape that explains your life in song. It will feature 15 songs because that seems a good number for a mixtape. It's slightly long for an album but fine for a mix-tape and anything longer becomes, in this day and age, a playlist. The 15 songs will show various stages. And therefore show you at various stages.

So, here are the rules for assembly - you take three songs from across the first three or four albums you ever owned. You add three songs from anything you considered formative at high-school. You add three more songs from university or early working days. You take three songs from anything you've liked across the last three years. And you take three songs that show the impact of other people; their tastes perhaps - things you were put on to that might not have been your taste at first. Things that you have grown to love, maybe because you love the person who likes those songs.

That should total 15. Side one will be subtitled The Early Years and will feature the music from the first albums you bought, high-school and university or first job days (nine tracks in total). Side two can be called These Days and will feature six songs - the three from albums across the last three years and the three you've picked up from someone else's influence. Now line them up and tell a story.

Here is My Life: The Mixtape.

Side One

1. The Dead Heart, Midnight Oil (from the album Diesel and Dust)
2. Cherry Bomb, John Cougar Mellencamp (from the album The Lonesome Jubilee)
3. Running To Stand Still, U2 (from the album The Joshua Tree)
4. The Sounds of Science, Beastie Boys (from the album Paul's Boutique)
5. God Shuffled His Feet, Crash Test Dummies (from the album God Shuffled His Feet)
6. My Michelle, Guns 'N Roses (from the album Appetite for Destruction)
7. Brown Hornet, Miles Davis (from the album Filles De Kilimanjaro)
8. If I Had a Hammer, Trini Lopez (from the album Live at PJ's)
9. Mysterons, Portishead (from the album Dummy)

Side Two

1. Moan, Kristin Hersh (from the album Crooked)
2. Codex, Radiohead (from the album The King of Limbs)
3. The Last Living Rose, PJ Harvey (from the album Let England Shake)
4.Se A Cabo, Santana (from the album Santana's Greatest Hits)
5.Whisper, Schnell-Fenster (from the album The Sound of Trees)
6. Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Saint Etienne (from the album Foxbase Alpha)

So that's my 15-track mixtape. Three songs from across the first three albums I bought (all mid-late 80s: Midnight Oil, John Cougar Mellencamp and U2).

Three songs from high school that were formative: Beastie Boys, Crash Test Dummies and Guns 'N Roses. Well, Beasties and Gunners are still music I associate with friends - and enjoy on my own. Still classic albums to me; still albums that transport me to that place and I can listen to them now and they feel fresh still. And the Crash Test Dummies I've chosen because I think it was the first I knew about guilty pleasures. I liked the album for a brief time and have the odd pang where I decide to listen to it, possibly in a weak moment. It was always going to be perceived as fad music and the guy's voice is annoying but there's some clever stuff happening on that album and I can still dig it from time to time but it almost pains me to listen to it. As I say, guilty pleasure music. My first real brush with that. And I like that feeling; I like the notion of guilty pleasure music. (Regular readers will know that already.)

Three songs from university days/daze: Miles Davis, Trini Lopez, Portishead. I listened to a lot of Miles Davis in my university era. Probably could have done with less Miles on the stereo and more miles on the footpath up the hill to class. But that's in the past. Albums like Filles De Kilimanjaro (and Sketches of Spain, Bitches Brew and Miles in the Sky) just blew me away. Still do. Trini Lopez I discovered through my first music-store job, while at university. And to this day it's my happy music, feel-good stuff. Great for a Friday. It's impossible to feel glum with this guy - look how happy he is! And Portishead was my first impulse buy at university. I heard a tape of about 90 seconds of the first song - and with that I was off down town to buy the album. It was a totally new sound to me.

From the new albums I've picked Kristin Hersh, Radiohead and PJ Harvey. Well, the PJ Harvey and Radiohead will be on my end-of-year best albums list. No question. And those two selections were the key tracks in each case; the sound that won me over. And the Kristin Hersh is an album I've just caught up with, released last year. A gem. One of her best.

The three songs I've picked that come from the influence of others are by Santana, Schnell-Fenster and Saint Etienne. And these are all things that I love, absolutely. Bands that have meant a lot to me - and favourite songs from those bands, of course. But they're bands I might not have discovered on my own. They are the first things I thought of when I thought of the people who have been the most important in my life and the most important influences, musically.

The Santana comes from mum and dad - that Greatest Hits album was one of the first CDs we had in the house. So crucial to my musical upbringing (the album I mean, but mum and dad too, sure).

The Schnell-Fenster was discovered by my brother, Kane. We share a lot of crossover in music but we have our own tastes. This album is something we bond over. This and Split Enz and a lot of the Judd- and Finn-related material. This album was/is very special though. One of my all-time favourite albums.

And the Saint Etienne comes from Katy - in fact from her collection. It seems the perfect compromise for us too; a bright and shining rendition of a great song (found in Katy's collection) by some old crusty like Neil Young (a staple of my collection).

I'm not sure that's the greatest mixtape. But in some ways that is my life in music - as much as it can be reduced to 15 songs. As much as it can be reduced to 15 songs on this day. Tomorrow I'd make a whole new mixtape, obviously. But that's my life - in music - for today.

Now it's your turn. Follow the rules and create Your Life: The Mixtape.

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