Repurposed language tapes: Charlotte Botterill’s mixtape

A mixtape compilation from composer Charlotte Botterill

Despite starting secondary school in the year 2000, my friends and I did actually make mixtapes for each other! At the end of each year we were told to keep our foreign language listening exercise tapes, so instead of throwing them away (because, let’s face it, we barely listened to them to do our homework, we weren’t going to listen to them for fun!), we turned them into mixtapes. I’d sit in my room, covering the top of the tape with layers of Sellotape in order to be able to record over year 8 French, and hand selecting some of my favourite new music discoveries to share with my friends.

I spent a lot of my time obsessing over my new music discoveries, researching the artists, their influences, and buying as much of their back catalogue as my pocket money allowed. I remember a friend’s parent once saying to me “But you have the Greatest Hits, all the best songs are on there.” I was so surprised by this statement because some of the most interesting songs, and some of my favourite songs, are album tracks.

This playlist is a nod to those teenage mixtapes. It features 10 songs, none of which were released as singles (or B sides), which I absolutely love. These songs and their albums had a huge impact on the way I thought about music and opened up my mind to new, endless possibilities.

Best listened to in order, with headphones, in a dimly lit room with your favourite drink.

Take My Breath Away – Queen

I find Freddie Mercury’s use of the sustain pedal and the backing vocals really atmospheric and beautifully crafted. The swirling vocals at the end are especially ethereal.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun – The Beatles

This song was on one of the “original” school mixtapes given to me by a friend who loved The Beatles and who is responsible for getting me into them too (thanks Diane)! I was struck by the bizarre lyrics, and that each section of the song is in a different rock ‘n’ roll style, including blues and a 50s doo-wop spoof.

Freedom Rider – Traffic

I love Traffic’s music because they mix together rock, folk and jazz to make really cool songs. This was the first time I’d heard a flute in a rock song, and the first time I’d heard jazz flute. I love the vocal panning and energy at the end, as if we are indeed on a wild ride.

Moonage Daydream – David Bowie

This opening chord progression (I III vi V) is so lifting, it’s a real favourite of mine. Exquisite arranging; the reverb-ladened guitar outro sits beautifully against the phased strings.

1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be) – Jimi Hendrix

I’ve always found this song very chilled but immensely interesting. The extensive use of studio effects (delay, extreme panning, reversed guitar, manipulation of microphone feedback), the inclusion of a flexatone, and the improvisatory nature of the middle section creates a really otherworldly sound.

My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion – The Flaming Lips

80s pop left me hating the majority of synth sounds, but The Flaming Lips showed me how beautiful they can now be. This song is a great example of their lush MIDI and synth orchestration. I really love the imitation birds flying around at the start.

Boys In The Band – The Libertines

The Libertines embody the spirit of punk but with some interesting chord voicing (one of the guitarists cites Django Reinhardt as an influence). I really like the rawness of their sound. It captures the energy of their live gigs and is a good antidote to some of the highly polished albums I listen to!

Pretty Green (feat. Santigold) – Mark Ronson

This reworking of The Jam’s Pretty Green is so cool. Turning the lyrics into something more akin to a playground chant and backing it with 60s and 70s influenced brassy, percussion heavy soul. The bass slides are awesome and the whole vibe just makes me want to dance.

He Can Only Hold Her – Amy Winehouse

Back To Black was the first pop album released in my teens which I actually liked. Amy’s vocals are obviously perfect, but Mark Ronson’s arrangements and studio production are what made me fall in love with this album. It has the vintage Motown sound, but at the same time it’s current and fresh. Mark Ronson is a musical genius!

Dream Brother – Jeff Buckley

Featuring a vibraphone and tablas alongside your typical band set up, this song is beautifully hypnotic, provocative, and emotionally honest. You can really hear the Indian music influence and I love pieces which blend different musical traditions so effortlessly.

Charlotte Botterill is a composer from St Albans, England. Her musical output is varied, reflecting her own eclectic taste. She enjoys exploring timbre and harmony, and her music is influenced by personal experiences and social observations.

Her debut album Isolation was released in December 2020 on Lis de la Mer records. In 2019 Charlotte won the grade 7 category of the Trinity College London Young Composers Competition, which resulted in her piece Soho being published in the 2021-2023 piano syllabus at grade 7. As an arranger, her work has been played on BBC Three Counties radio and on BBC Radio York. During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Charlotte’s music has been performed by concert pianists Francesca Hurst and Maria Marchant as part of their online concert series.

If you would like to submit a mixtape to The Cross-Eyed Pianist, please get in touch