We went to see Guardians of the Galaxy on Friday. It was a fun movie with a lot of humour, some great visuals, and an amazing soundtrack. In fact, last week the soundtrack album reached number one in the Billboard 200. The album, which is called Awesome Mix Vol. 1 is a compilation of songs from the 1970s that includes Moonage Daydream by David Bowie and I Want You Back by The Jackson 5. At the start of the movie we see the hero Peter Quill as a boy listening to I'm not in Love by 10cc on his cassette player. It's one of the tracks on a cassette compilation that his mother gives him shortly before her death. Peter is then abducted and taken into space, growing up to become an interstellar adventurer also known as 'Star-Lord', still taking his cassette player and his mother's mix tape, labelled 'Awesome Mix Vol. 1', with him wherever he goes. The mix of retro music with a space adventure isn't new but it works so well here.
Depending on your age, you may or may not have made your own awesome cassette mixes in the past. I made a few and was also given a few over the years. We tend to think of cassettes as an inferior audio format but the other day I was amazed to discover that a song which sounded so clear and bright on my iPod was originally from a cassette that I'd transferred to digital. (I went through a phase a few years ago when I transferred all my old vinyl albums and cassettes to digital as well as the old reel-to-reel tapes of my songs.)
The modern equivalent of the cassette mix is the playlist but somehow a digital playlist can't beat the fun and excitement of the other contemporary option - shuffle all. With a choice of around 8,000 tracks on my iPod from the past and present, from a wide range of genres, I'm always amazed at how tracks seemingly selected 'at random' can often fit together so well, creating a totally unique awesome mix. It happens often and is even more satisfying when one of my own songs appears sandwiched between David Bowie and Joni Mitchell! Of course, the shuffle option can get it very wrong at times and totally destroy the atmosphere you'd wanted to create. But that's part of the fun.
The random option fits the times we live in so well when we tend to think in terms of tracks rather than albums even after artists have tried so hard to create 'an album' with the perfect running order of songs.
In spite of having access to so much music online, I do wonder if young people today get to hear as wide a range of music as I did when I was growing up. The shuffle option can only really come into its own when it's shuffling a wide range of music from Mozart through Miles Davis to London Grammar and the theme from Thunderbirds. If it's simply shuffling a single genre then there isn't much scope for discovering how apparent opposites can work so well together.
As for Guardians of the Galaxy, there's an Awesome Mix Vol. 2 cassette compilation to look forward to. Let's hope the movie sequel will manage to maintain the random feel of the current movie. Shuffle all ...