I feel weirdly privileged when I think that I come from the last generation to embrace the lost art of the mixtape.
Even when I think about them now, I can’t help but feel full of nostalgic warmth. There was something about the sound quality, about the way each track was carefully selected and flowed into the next one with no chance of skipping it that was loving and intimate in a way that today’s modern playlists just aren’t.
That said, loving and intimate are probably odd words to choose when you consider that the first mixtape anybody ever gave me not only contained minute after minute of aggressive heavy metal, but that it started with the heaviest song I’d heard at that point in my life:
It was called Cowboys From Hell, and it was just one of the most awesome things I’d ever heard in my life.
Here We Come, Reach For Your Gun…
Thumping drums like machine gun fire that had been dragged from a warzone and infested with the same undeniable groove that filled that deliciously savage guitar riff, razor wire solos, and purely pissed vocals all came together to deliver everything a teenager metalhead in the making could have asked for.
Pantera quickly became one of my favourite bands, Cowboys From Hell one of my favourite songs, and the album of the same name one of my favourite metal albums.
A few years later, it was because of Pantera that I also became a big fan of Down, which featured lead singer Phil Anselmo and, for a time, bassist Rex Brown.
Yet as much as Cowboys From Hell turned me on to the kind of music I still love today, that wasn’t why the song makes this list.
No, the reason Cowboys From Hell is included because of what it represents:
Step Aside, We’re The Cowboys From Hell
I remember very clearly that there were two of them, given to me by my friend James, the same James who let me borrow his Ride The Lightning album and cemented my life-long allegiance to Metallica.
Looking back today, I still think fondly about those mixtapes and wonder whatever happened to them, not purely because of the fact that I think mixtapes were better than playlists in oh so many ways, but mainly because of the influence those tapes had on my musical tastes.
I know for a fact that the first one started off with Cowboys From Hell.
After that, there was everything from System of A Down (more of which later on in this list), Stuck Mojo, and an instrumental by a guy called Owen Barry which started with a guy saying “And this is The Muts Nuts, apparently..”
Honestly, I can’t tell you how happy I am just to have found this instrumental.
As dramatic a statement as this may sound, those mixtapes would shape and define everything about my life, particularly in my mid-late teenage years.
The way I dressed, the people I hung out with, the places I went, were all, at least from the ages of about 14 – 20, were all determined by my unwavering passion for heavy metal and hard rock.
The seed of that passion was planted years before hand when I first heard The Hitman by Queen.
Later, the fact that this music was meant for me was confirmed when I first saw the video for Coal Chamber’s Loco, but it was these mixtape came into my life that I went from a young kid still discovering what music he liked to a fully certified metalhead.
As I’ve mentioned before, it was on one of those tapes that I heard The Memory Remains, the song I’d heard on TV and yet knew nobody else who I could talk to about it.
Yes, those mixtapes changed my life, and they did so by kicking off with the violent groove and unbridled awesomeness of Cowboys From Hell.
Cowboys From Hell by Pantera is the seventeenth song in my list of 52 songs that changed my life. Other entries in this list are below:
- Michael Jackson – Bad
- Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
- Queen – The Hitman
- R.E.M – Drive
- Pink Floyd – The Wall
- The Eagles – Take it Easy
- Beautiful South – Old Red Eyes is Back
- Coal Chamber – Loco
- Type O Negative – Everything Dies
- Monster Magnet – Space Lord
- Live – The Dolphin’s Cry
- Metallica – The Memory Remains
- The Prodigy – Poison
- Nirvana – Territorial Pissings
- Iron Maiden – The Angel & The Gambler
- Metallica – Creeping Death