As I’ve explained before, we’re compiling a compilation of MTX songs, a double LP “best of”, and we’ve been soliciting input from fans and friends as to what should be on it. (There’s a full explanation here; and the voting is still open here.) At the bottom of the voting form there’s a field to add a comment, and the comments have been good. This post is a selection of them with my answers where appropriate.
If you follow me on social media you may well have seen some of these already, but I doubt you’ve seen all of them. Anyway, it is helpful to me to have them all in one place for future reference and it may interest others who are interested in this project so here they are.
One thing I’ve realized is how inapt the term “best of” is for something like this. It’s a convenient short-hand term for the sort of thing it is (and seems better than “greatest hits” for a band that had no hits per se) but it introduces an unhelpful criterion of, you know, “bestness.” I’m well aware that the people have spoken on this matter, and that the four sides of Love Is Dead and Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You are it. (Not that there aren’t people who disagree with this consensus — there certainly are, and it’s been interesting hearing from them on this matter — but they appear to be the minority.) As I said in an answer to one of the comments, if we were to release this four-sided LID plus RISaSAY as the “best of” it would literally just be a re-issue of those records, which would make our future plans to re-issue them a bit redundant, even if those songs are the “best”. Not only that, but, even taking their “bestness” as a given (which I don’t necessarily) it would be too much of a good thing all in a row like that.
This band has gone through many stages over thirty ish years. Some punches landed pretty well, but there were of course many pratfalls. Along the way, some items in each category (and some in both simultaneously) have become, in the context of our dumb little world, “iconic.” You can’t leave those out; however, there are also some songs that are especially well-written, or interestingly recorded, or significant in some other ways while not necessarily being big crowd pleasers, that flesh out the picture. And to add to that, there is the consideration of sequencing and pacing, and the technical limitations of vinyl that have to be worked with…
At bottom it’s still a question of “what to do with it all?”, but it’s the weird, oddball history of the whole thing that is of most interest to me, even through some of the embarrassing bits. Summing it up in twenty-four tracks is harder than I or anyone thought, but we’re getting there.
So “best of” it isn’t. I’m still searching for the appropriate subtitle. “Hi-lites from the Mr T Experience”? “Hunks and Chunks of the Mr T Experience”? “Rifling through the Mr T Experience”? Suggestions would be welcome.
Top Ten Update: All that said, the top ten vote-getters have remained consistent since last report. They cover more than just LID / RISASAY:
1. Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend; 2. Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba; 3. More Than Toast; 4. Dumb Little Band; 5. I’m Like Yeah, But She’s All No; 6. Swallow Everything; 7. Here She Comes; 8. I Wrote a Book About Rock and Roll; 9. Book of Revelation; 10. Velveeta.
If we were to use this (or similar) as the “backbone” and fill in the sequence with more “diverse” tracks, that could well work.
Anyway, on to the comments..
me: I know the feeling.
comment: Some of my favorites of yours are slower, longer, progressive-y, or just extra quirky: A Song About a Girl Who Went Shopping; Game Over; Deep Deep Down; This Isn’t About You Anymore; We’ll Get By; Leave the Thinking to the Smart People; Stephanies of the World Unite.
I think you balance the set list quite well between the popular and the lesser known. Everyone loves those “hey, wow, they’re playing this!” moments, but some of those songs I listed I’m pretty sure I won’t hear live. However… is my brain just filling in a memory gap, or do I recall hearing Game Over when you recently opened for the Smoking Popes in Chicago?
me: Thanks. The term “best of” isn’t so fortunate. “Most effectively interesting” would be better. I know everyone’s favorite songs are the ones that sound like “Here She Comes”. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But 24 of them in a row doesn’t make the best set, nor would it make the best album. I find that in live sets you get more out of playing “that kind of song” when you space them out and build anticipation. Anyway we shall see. We definitely didn’t play “Game Over” at that show. The last time that would have been played live would be sometime around 2002 if I’m remembering right.
Coment from Jonas: “My personal best of MTX/Dr. Frank collection would have about 150 songs on it, but I already have those in playlists in my digital collection, so this was an interesting exercise. I guess I’m in a minority in that more than 1/3 of my choices are from Yesterday Rules. Thanks!”
Me: Thanks, you might be surprised (I was) at how many people lean heavily on this one. It does have good songs. This is one of only three releases that was never done on vinyl so it’s a priority if this re-issue project gets off the ground.
Comments from Steve and Mouse and Blaine: “Please PLEASE don’t neglect the pre-Love Is Dead era and likewise, don’t over do the late 90s Records. Love you folks.” — Steve
“Excited for this! Been a fan for a long time. I felt bad for picking so many songs off Love is Dead but that is my favorite album. I play it so often I catch my kids singing snippets now.” — Mouse
“This is such a cool idea — My ballot is heavily skewed towards the 90s but that’s what I grew up on!!” — Blaine
Comment from Jessica: That was as hard as everyone has said. I had to cut so many songs! I didn’t count anything that only appeared on CD. If it’s not vinyl, it doesn’t count, from the girl who owns every vinyl record on the list; first press for nearly everything, because, you know, age. I love the acoustic stuff, so those are almost all included. The songs that I can’t see not being included are “Thank You”, because it’s such a big part of my live Coney Island High memories; “Now That You are Gone” because it’s practically perfect; the entire “Tapin Up My Heart” 7” (minus what’s already been released on Sounds Rad). I have no idea how you’re going to sort it out. It’s not going to be easy!
Patrick: “Since I have all of the MTX discography already, I don’t really have any reason to buy a Best Of. An idea to make it worth it for me (and others like me) to re-buy these tracks: include a PDF /Word Doc/etc collection of Dr. Frank’s writings about all of these albums which can be downloaded with the album. Or maybe you already have something else in mind?”
Me: Thanks, we’re going to make it the best package we can and are still brainstorming and mulling over possibilities, including possibly some sort of documentation of that kind. But depending on how much you care about thIs sort of thing, the sounds will not be identical to what you’ve already got. (Hopefully they’ll be better — at least they’ll be interesting!) We’re taking great care with it, drawing from sources of widely varying and uneven quality. For sure it’ll sound better (way better) than what is currently on offer digitally and it’s worth doing it for that alone. To the degree anything is worth doing, that is. Anyway, we’ll see what happens and thanks for the input.
Comment from Harrison: “You’ll have to excuse me for being so heavy on the early material. That’s always been my preferred period. I’ll try not to get my heart set on a remix/remaster of Milk, Milk… , but just so ya know, I think that’s a brilliant idea, and I am eagerly awaiting a redux! Live long and prosper.”
Me: It may take awhile to get there, but a revamped MML is on the agenda, a remix if we can swing it technically.
This comment, from Artur, is a fascinating look into how difficult it was to listen to music in Brazil in the late 90–2000s. Imagine trying to compile albums via ICQ. I though we had it tough just not being able to find that Bad Brains single or whatever. A whole nother level of record-collecting complexity!
“I found out about MTX in the late 90s, early 2000s, I was looking for obscure Ramones songs on Napster and found “The End of the Ramones.” I downloaded it because of the title. After that, I got to download a bunch of other songs: Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend, Semi-OK and many more. I was living in Brazil at the time, and it was impossible to legally get my hands on anything that wasn’t on a major label, so my friends and I would download anything we could and share using ICQ or other dead messaging systems.
“They were mostly focused on completing Revenge is Sweet… I was in love with Alcatraz. Naomi, Hey Emily and Self-Pity took another cool Lookout band to another level for me. When Yesterday Rules was released I was on the US and managed to get a copy; it was my first Mr. T Experience record, the only I could listen on its entirety, as it was intended. It was like a Pet Sounds to me, every song, every track made sense, not only lyrically, but also musically. Later I managed to buy all MTX records; I hope Dr. Frank got some of my money (well, at least the latest releases) after I stole so much from him. Mr. T Experience site next to The Queers, Screeching Weasel and The Muffs as the bands that taught me English, helped me move to Canada and get my life together in moments in which everything seemed helpless. Twenty-four tracks are not enough, nor this text makes a lot of sense. I just wanted to say Thanks (and create a “demo tape” for people getting to know MTX).”
William: EETTOO , NSATTF, and BBBBBB were the albums my wife and I fell in love to. Thank you, Frank, Jon Von, Byron, Alex, and Aaron.
From Greg: “Dang, this was fun! I was intentional about selecting tracks across the expanse of the catalog. So these are not my 24 favorite MTX songs, but these 24 definitely include my favorite MTX songs. Also, unlike many, I didn’t find this to be difficult. That’s because, even though I had to exclude songs that I love, I love every song that I included. My sincerest wish is that MTX Forever includes “There’s Something Wrong With Me” which is one of my most favorite songs, and the Cornerstone of my well-being (if Cornerstone means what I think it does).”
From Doug Smith, who was there from the beginning: “So fortunate to have the esteemed honour of booking your 1st International show…getting my MTX fix early and often and, being semi-responsible for the corruption of the young reprobate drummer boy via a plethora of Kokanees. Thanks”
Kevin: So since the day you posted this about this best of type album, I’ve been listening to all of the albums. I put all the CDs on a thumb drive (except Shards) and it came out to around 10 hours. Now I am like a lot of people, Love is Dead is my go to album, it always has been. Also like most people, I have made my own MTX mixtapes with the songs I thought were the best. Most of the time, the list was made off of the top of my head and included a lot of Love is Dead. This week when I started to compile a new list, I realized that it is basically impossible to make a list of 24 of your best songs. Listening to the albums in chronological order, I have over 24 songs and I’m not even at Love is Dead yet..
Comment from Reece: Ok, I found this quite difficult but my playlists always start with a gazillion songs. I came in relatively late to mtx at the time of Our Bodies, and that era weighs heavily on my choices. I have tried to select something from every release but was not able to discern a few favourites. There are so many good songs to choose from. Are you certain we can’t fit a few more in if we just squeeze out the silent gap between each track? The best part of this is re-listening to each album in part and remembering past listens and previous experiences. Time to check out the webstore now. Ps it’s late here, I started this at 9am on sunday morn, its now 30 mins past midnight. I restarted this at half 10 after getting the house ready for guests and said guests fucking off. I can’t get that line from stutter rap out of my head, bonne nuit.
Kyle: Wow, that was so much harder than i ever imagined, such an amazing collection of great tunes, picking 24 is nigh on impossible, really depends on the mood of the day.
Dana: I feel bad for not selecting more, but I want to be sure the songs I did select REALLY count! I’ve been an MTX fan for more than 1/2 of my life. This band sure means a lot to me ❤ (Thanks for keeping it alive, Frank!)
Comment from Lance: “Wish I could choose more songs, but given twenty four choices, I’ve distilled things down to the quintessential MTX songs, in my opinion. I would say every record has it’s own unique “voice” and I would say they are some of the greatest rock n roll records out there.”
Me: Too kind, but you’re right about the “voice” thing. Part of that was deliberate, part of it just the result of circumstances making it so. “Art” is weird.
Rebeccca: Wow! There are a lot of MTX songs that I dont know!
Andrew: I love you. Super hard to narrow it down. I wanted to pick every song on revenge is sweet, and so are you and love is dead ❤ MTX Forever!!!! P. S. Can I, Can I, Can I, Can I, Can I, Can I Do the Thing? — Andrew
Me: Love you too, and no, you can’t.
Steven: Alcatraz is such a fucking genius album front to back. I remember buying it right as it came out, loving the cover, taking it home, unwrapping the plastic jewel case, and having a loud/dedicated good quality headphone listen with the lyric sheet open in my bedroom in Bakersfield at the age of 16. As a budding songwriter, i really appreciated all the cool, close intimate warm/analog-esque textures/complexity the album provided, even though i was expecting loud bashing pop/punk (there’s that phrase again lol) power chords/distortion. The heartfelt/genius, soaring/pretty melodies, and personal lyrics.. gorgeous harmonies and all REAL, RAW musicianship, before the age of auto-tune, beat-detective on every drum hit.. i remember being really inspired by the record, rocking it very often in the car with my dad and loud on our home stereo, and even playing along to it w/my Les Paul in the boom box in my bedroom. I’m not ashamed to mention the songs brought tears of joy at times.. just so incredibly beautiful.. louder the better. It really hit home and helped me want to create more music as i was starting out playing all the instruments on fun little punk demos in my bedroom, at home alone a lot in boring central valley of CA. I remember plinking around on a lot of the Alcatraz tunes on my acoustic guitar and admiring all the classic, descending/ascending chord patterns. I love all MrTx records, but this one’s kinda more personal to me.. timing in my life was just perfect. Thanks for rocking and ruling, still to this day, Dr. Frank! always a pleasure!
Luke: Reading all the fan love for Alcatraz on Dr. Frank’s FB page got me excited to give it another listen. It’s been a while, but boy does it still sound great. It was a bit of a shock when it first came out just because it was not the record I was expecting. It took time but it really grew on me. ‘Hey Emily’ is one of my favorite songs ever. To me Love Is Dead-Alcatraz is the golden age of MTX and I love how distinct each of those records is. Each one is a totally different thing and I pretty much love them all equally but in different ways. The Holy Trilogy of pop punk!
From Chrispy: “Best of…” collections can be divisive. Personally, I love them. The above choices include a lot of ‘yawn’ tracks to the average fan but many from the LID/RISASAY time that were compilation/sampler tracks or singles are the songs that got me to ride the MTX bus in the first place and if they worked for me (and probably countless others) how could I not suggest them for people who have never heard MTX before? It would be like a Motorhead compilation without Ace Of Spades (hence letting personal faves like Who Needs Happiness or I’m Like Yeah go in favour of the songs with the biggest hooks). Unusual observation is that I listen to the “… And The Women Who Love Them” EP a lot but found it easiest to let songs go from (in spite of Checkers Speech/Now That You Are Gone). Good luck crafting the time capsule (or future gateway drug) and thanks for making these records in the first place. My world would be poorer without them. Cheers, Chrispy PS — MTX FOREVER!
Mike: Thanks for the chance to contribute. It always seems that the first album you are exposed to for a band you love remains your favorite despite the overall consensus of the fans or critics. I love “least likely to succeed “ by snfu as that was my first exposure to them despite the epitaph albums being lowly regarded by “fans”. And why insomniac by green day will always have a special place in my heart. Being a teenager in the 90’s punk boom in a very small town in australia was an interesting time. CD’s at the time were ridiculously expensive, over$30 for an import cd , which is what the lookout one’s were. Anyway one of my friends used to import months old flipside magazines and he ended getting a copy of love is dead. He went on for ages about how great this album was. But being how expensive cd’s were, our unwritten rule was that we never bought the same albums so that we could share and expand our listening.
So anyway, one day I stumbled across our bodies, our selves and my life was changed. This was how “punk” music could sound? To this day, whenever I listen to mtx, especially Hitler, I reminded of my friend who first exposed us to mtx as he is sadly no longer with us. This is why my selections are so heavily stacked towards our bodies. It was my first love. Thanks for the songs dr frank.
Comment from Andy: “Hey Dr, Frank. Thanks for all the years of great music. It’s been so wonderful seeing you still performing live over the recent years. As a music nerd into tons of music from many genres and decades, I have to say MTX is my sweet spot! Keep up the amazing work! Its been so great to see your success as an author as well. I guess young adult literature makes sense, in that your MTX lyrics tapped into becoming an adult type angst issues! So happy that MTX online presence has been booming recently.”
Matt: Ok, so I may be a little biased. Revenge is Sweet got me through a really rough patch in my late 20s. The album is a full spectrum of emotion that swings widely from one end to the other. Lyrics that shouldn’t have made sense, such as “Her eyes are saying yes, but her nose are say no”, “Imagine if we were to make that spectacularly bad mistake”, and “except for all of these apologies that I don’t owe you now”, rang loud and clear in my young broken heart. The syncopation in “How many times is my heart gonna break over you, you, you?” is pure genious. I realize this exercise is to find the best 24 songs, but aside from a few Dr. Frank solo jams, like Population US, the 16 tracks on this album are hands down some of the most life changing songs for me. If there was ever an album that deserved a reboot, this is the one. But don’t mind me. I’m just over here waiting for that King Dork movie. …sigh.
Joseph: I procrastinated this assignment because I knew it would be time consuming. Son of a fucking bitch. This was too difficult. I was at 36 songs before I even reached Alcatraz. Mtx Forever must have a Big Hits and Fazed Cookies sequel. Promise? Merry Christmas Sounds Rad People of the World. Keep up the good work in 2019. And those boxes!
Sandra asks: “Dr. Frank, When does voting close for this? I take a lot of time to make these decisions like I do with our election absentee ballot. This is 100x more difficult!”
me: Yes, I know what you mean. I find it nearly impossible as well, which is partly why I thought of “crowd sourcing” it, if c.s. is the word I want. No rush. This is a slow, deliberative process that must go through several stages before execution. You’ve got time.
comment: “Even though Show Business is My Life doesn’t count since it’s solo vs MTX, “Two Martinis From Now” and “Thinking of You” would be my write in votes from that one… “
me: Thanks. A SBIML re-issue is definitely on the agenda, and I have some big plans for it when and if we get there.
comment: “I find it impossible to picture anything that is even sort of the “best of MTX” not including the best version of Sackcloth and Ashes.”
me: Yeah, I get that. There are plenty of Love Is Dead songs you could say that about though and this just frees a slot for them. It’s all about the songs for me, and I want to put out as many of them as possible. As for the LID “S&A”: we’ll get there.
comment: Count me among those who would really miss a version of “Sackcloth and Ashes”. Even if I narrowed it down to ten best MTX songs it would definitely be there (and I put Milk, Milk, Lemonade above LiD on my top 5 MTX albums.) It is perilously close to being the ideal MTX song.
Any compilation has Deliberately set limitations but keeping off any and all album tracks where single versions have been released on a different collection might lessen the final product. Of course, that’s just my .2, It’s not like I put hundreds of hours into creating (and re-securing) the source material and invested in creating a physical product in this day and age, so I will defer to those who have done so.
me: Yes, as I said, I get it. (And it’s gratifying how much people like that song.) To me it’s a useful limiting parameter in a field that needs a whole lot of limiting, and is a way of getting more songs “in print” sooner. S&A’s time will come.