‘I have a problem,’ I confessed to my friend in the backyard of a friend’s friend’s party on Friday.
‘What is it?’ they asked.
‘Well, we’re having a party tomorrow too, and I’m worried about the music…’
‘Oh, not you too!’ she said.
‘W… what do you mean?’ I stammered.
‘Another Playlist Nazi!’
‘You’re about to tell me you want to hide your iPod so that nobody can
‘Y… yes,’ I confessed, bashfully. Gosh, were my symptoms so obvious? My friend then explained that she’d had the same fraught, exasperating conversation with the host of the party we were at only a few hours earlier. Oh dear, I realised, I had come to epitomise the contemporary twat. She was right. I was a Playist Nazi.
When my father was a teenager, he once committed the ultimate party crime of his generation by vomiting on the record player. Hey, they were playing Jefferson Airplane, so who can blame him, but… In the 90s, by the time I’d started binge drinking in people’s backyards, things got a lot simpler: you just had your five CDs (usually Triple J Hottest One Hundred Vols I through IV and the Rage ‘Most Requested Videos’ double CD) which you left on shuffle. By the time the Cranberries ‘Zombie’ played, you were too busy holding your girfriend’s hair back while she vomited off the balcony into the cactus garden to be able to change the tune, even though it was stuck on repeat… which is enough to make you vomit on a cactus garden, repeatedly (trust me).
But these days, it almost always comes down to an mp3 player on shuffle. One little box, and the shuffle function that rules it. It’s either that, or let drunk people near your laptop, where you risk a helluva lot more than a stylus and a Jefferson Airplane LP.
So anyway, I spent most of Saturday loading up my playlist, with the ‘playlist nazi’ conversation ghosting my thoughts the whole way. I named my list (imaginatively) ‘Megamix’, with an enormous list of 6 days worth of tunes that I figured nobody could reasonably object to at a party. The strategy was to have so much good music on board that all I’d then have to do was hook the thing up, hit play, then hide the wee bastard out of sight.
But thing is, playlists are never quite perfect. The big ones are never specific enough, and even the best contain at least one song that’s ‘not quite right’, or enough to inspire a would-be John Peel with a skin full to think that a better track is only a quick jog and click away. I got cocky, basically, because I was thinking in terms of ‘gigs’, not songs. I foolishly thought that by including six days worth of favourites (with the sad, downbeat and introspective tracks removed off every album), I’d have all my bases covered. Something for everybody, and all that.
I was wrong, of course, because all that goes pear-shaped once the ‘average party intake’ reaches 7+ beers. Then you’ll have the aforementioned drunk bastard, as mentioned above. Well, I frightened him off by being a completely rude prick to the guy (and hey, whoever you are, I’m sorry, but I was being egged on by two friends who were whispering to me ‘Pete, the playlist – quickly, quickly!’).
I went up to him and said, threateningly: ‘Hey, whatever you’re choosing, it better be good.’
‘I was just…’
‘I mean, you’re going to have to take responsibility for it… you understand?’
‘You have until the end of this song…’ and said, then wiggled my clipped moustache, clicked my heels, placed my riding crop under my arm, and marched off.
At the end of the song, silence. Hah, victory! Actually, I think it was through no fault of his, just a long fade out, but I used the opportunity to pounce.
‘Sorry mate…’ I said.
‘But I hadn’t chosen anything…’
‘Sorry mate, there’s a playlist and I’m happy with it.’
Thing is, once it gets to eleven, the last thing people want is the astonishing display of breadth that you’ve provided. What they want is to dance, but not to anything that: is instrumental; has an open groove (i.e. no house, unless it’s Daft Punk); that they haven’t heard before. This really narrows things down a bit. No it doesn’t, it narrows thing down a lot. Despite spending hours attempting to make the ultimate variety playlist, I had neglected (or been living in denial of) the reality of what nearly every BBQ party becomes. I was so busy getting hung up on filling gigs with songs that I neglected to think about the right songs for the gig. I forgot the one playlist that every summer BBQ in Melbourne actually wants, and ended up having to make it happen with the clickwheel, track by track (leaning heavily on one compilation of mine from ’94 called ‘Rap Attack’). But because I’m such a nice guy (except when you touch my playlist, fucker) I’ve included the list of every single track that I’d neglected to include, tracks I thought were too clichéd, too played out, or too tired to work, but that actually constitute (more or less) the tracks that drunk people in Melbourne in 2008 actually want to dance to. Ignore it at your peril.
Deee-Lite ‘Groove is in the Heart’ (the cliché that never gets old, apparently)
Salt’n’Pepa ‘Push It’ (same as for the first)
Tone Loc ‘Funky Cold Medina’
Stevie Wonder ‘Superstition’
Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince ‘Boom! (shake the room)’
Faith Hill ‘Love like This Before’
Beyonce featuring Jay-Z ‘Crazy in Love’
Justin Timberlake ‘Sexy Back’ (or ‘My Love’)
Tina Turner ‘Nutbush City Limits’
Miss E ‘Get Ur Freak On’
Outkast ‘Hey Ya’
Jacko ‘Don’t Stop (‘til you get enough)’ [or anything off the original version of Thriller]
Parliament ‘Flashlight’ (a bit of a risk, but sometimes works a treat)
George Clinton ‘Atomic Dog’ (but it’s very long, be warned, you might lose ‘em)
INXS ‘Need You Tonight’ (might bring ‘em back after ‘Atomic Dog’)
Stardust ‘Music Sounds Better With You’
Daft Punk ‘Around the World’ (these two are some of the only house that will work)
Depeche Mode ‘Just can’t seem to get enough’
Madonna (everything off the Immaculate collection except ‘Crazy for You’, ‘Borderline’ or ‘Live to Tell’)
Soft Cell ‘Tainted Love’ (doesn't work as well as it used to)
New Order ‘Blue Monday’ (or the Shep Pettibone mix of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’)
The Smiths ‘This Charming Man’
B-52s ‘Rock Lobster’ (and/or maybe ‘Love Shack’)
The Cure ‘Lovecats’
The Cure ‘Close to Me’
David Bowie ‘Let’s Dance’
in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked
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