John Harvey started it, back in ’86 or ’87. He made these end of year compilations (we didn’t call them mix tapes then) of his favourite songs of the year. They were usually titled with some wry quotation from a song lyric. In ’87 I made him a tape in return. In ’88 I made copies of the tape for a few friends. Mike made one back, using C120 tapes from the start (a bit too long at times, plus the tape’s too thin to risk in the car stereo) – Mike always likes to cram in as much music as possible.

In the mid-nineties, my tapes crept up to 100 minutes in length. Come the millenium, everybody bought CD recorders or computer burners and started doing compilations on CD. This improved the sound quality and made it easier to skip tracks you didn’t like, but limited the amount of music you could fit on. Mike got around this by sending out three themed cds, doubling his length. I use a CD recorder that copies in real time, so more than one would take too long to copy.

Yesterday I only squeezed out 500 words of the novel I’m working on, but I did make the best of year CD, ready to reach friends abroad (I haven’t missed the last posting date for France, have I?) in the home made sleeve cum christmas card that Sue designed on Wednesday. She also road tested a 90 minute cassette rough draft in the car going to work this week, nixing tracks by Bob Dylan, John Stewart and the Super Furry Animals, amongst others.

Getting a balance of tracks is almost impossible. ‘Too folky’ Sue argued and I had to remove tracks by Lucinda Williams and Neil Young, both of whom I saw giving great shows in Manchester during the spring. I limit myself to music released during the year (except track 18, which came out in mid December 02, too late to be in last year’s compilation). Keeping the volume even is another challenge. Most CDs are the same volume, but a few are deliberately louder and a couple rather quiet (especially track 20, a bootleg recording of a rewritten Phil Ochs anti-war song).

Anyway, it’s done: I even slipped on a Robert Wyatt track (Sue hates his voice, but this is a piano solo). Now all I have to do is make up to twenty copies to send out to family and friends (and if you’re one of them, you might want to avoid the list below – it’s always more fun to listen not knowing what comes next). John stopped making his a few years ago, but still gets sent one when he’s in the country. A different John is now onto his third CD compilation – half chosen by him, half by his kids. And this year Terry’s made one too (that great Dylan track, ‘Cross The Green Mountain’ is bound to be on there).

Let the copying begin.

Dave and Sue’s Musical Highlights of 2003

1 REM – Bad Day

2 Johnny Cash – Hurt

3 Gillian Welch – Look At Miss Ohio

4 Outkast – Hey Ya

5 The Strokes – 12.51

6 My Morning Jacket – Mahgeetah

7 Warren Zevon – My Dirty Life And Times

8 The Jayhawks – Tampa To Tulsa

9 David Bowie – Bring Me The Disco King

10 Steely Dan – The Things I Miss The Most

11 The Dandy Warhols – We Used To Be Friends

12 Joe Strummer – Coma Girl

13 The Libertines – Don’t Look Back Into The Sun

14 Emmylou Harris – Strong Hand

15 Blur – Out Of Time

16 Evan Dando – Hard Drive

17 Madonna – Hollywood

18 Eminem – Lose Yourself

19 The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army

20 Richard Thompson – I Ain’t Marching Any More

21 Robert Wyatt – Raining In My Heart

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