(Disclosure: I was compensated for this post, but words and memories are all mine.)

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is out today on Blu-ray, but most of you kids already got it on Digital HD when it came out August 8. But there’s something we need to talk about…

The Awesome Mix.

While the other Marvel movies rely on composer-driven orchestral soundtracks (with maybe one pop/rock song peppered in to use in a commercial or credits sequence, I’m looking at you, Iron Man), Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 have really made a point of integrating the music we’ve already loved into the movie – not just as a musical backdrop but as part of the story with the Awesome Mix cassette tapes.

In honor of the Digital HD and Blu-ray releases of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, I received a challenge to come up with my own Awesome Mix and include some of the tracks that shaped my child and adulthood.

Here’s what I chose for my Awesome Mix:

  1. Girl/Boy Song by Aphex Twin: Way back when MTV played music videos, there was a way-too-short electronic music show called Amp. When the show started in 1996 I was 16. I’d listened primarily to rock and alternative, but the late night electronic music was captivating. One of the most “out there” songs was Girl/Boy Song by Aphex Twin. I’d go on to own a bunch Aphex Twin albums later, but this song started me on my journey.
  2. Useless (Kruder and Dorfmeister mix) by Depeche Mode: First of all, Depeche Mode, right? Add a bass line that can fill a car and give Dave Gahan’s haunting vocals a deep reverb. I used to put this song on and drive to the music store on Saturday night. In addition to night driving with it, I’d put it in my Discman or later my MP3 player and go to sleep with it in my headphones.
  3. Alive by Pearl Jam: If I were trapped on a desert island, Pearl Jam’s Ten would be one of the albums I’d wish to be marooned with. But it’s Alive‘s build-up that makes it great; written originally by Stone Gossard as an instrumental, Eddie Veddar only came around later and wrote lyrics to it. This explains the awesome pull-your-car-over-so-you-can-rock minute-plus guitar solo at the end.
  4. Out of Space by The Prodigy: The Prodigy had commercial success with other songs I’d listened to first, but 1992’s Out of Space would find me a couple of years later when I was in high school. It’s rave-n-reggae drive and sample-heavy style made it, without getting too technical, really cool. I listened to The Prodigy’s Experience album for years and would frequently play it as background music during the LAN parties I’d attend for Doom and Quake deathmatches.
  5. The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel: I don’t know what it is about this song, but I can’t even think about it without crying. My dad loves this song and I think maybe I remember him getting emotional with it as well. Nothing about it is particularly sad, but it makes me ugly cry every time.
  6. Hollywood Nights by Bob Seger: I stole Bob Seger’s Greatest Hits cassette from my stepdad because I’m fairly sure he’d moved onto CDs and my car only had a tape deck. Of all of the songs on the album, I liked Hollywood Nights the most. At a post-high school graduation party, I’d somehow found myself in a conversation about the song with a girl. I thought we hit it off. We never spoke again. That’s life for you.
  7. Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin: Sometimes you do hit it off with a girl and it lasts forever. My wife and I had Beyond the Sea as our first dance at our wedding. Eleven years later, it’s still our song.
  8. Homecoming by Yellowjackets: I know nothing about the Yellowjackets or why hold music jazz was a thing in the late 80s and early 90s, but I’m fairly sure that the Yellowjackets’ Samurai Samba was one of my mom’s favorite albums. For some reason, every time we’d get in our pool, my mom would put her boombox outside with this album in it, and Homecoming being the first song, it’s the track I remember the most.
  9. Killer Queen by Queen: One of my first grown-ass-man jobs was an internship at the ad agency in Santa Monica where my stepmom worked. I had decided right then and there (at 16) that I wanted to work in the design industry because of how cool the day-to-day office work was. I got to hang out and chat with creatives and learn how the industry worked, from the agency receiving a job to creating key art for posters and magazine ads. One of the employees there, Roger, was blasting Queen and dancing along to Killer Queen, and it’s still to this day the thing that immediately comes to mind when I hear the song.
  10. Animals by Martin Garrix: A soundtrack of my life wouldn’t be complete without one of my son’s favorite songs. I’d played it for him once and he would hum the melody to himself in his idle moments. Whenever it’d come on my stream in my car, he’d hum along with it. We even came home one night and tapped out the melody on his electronic keyboard – me doing the melody while he pressed the clap button to the beat. Classic fatherhood moment.
  11. Riders in the Sky by Dick Dale: There was a point in my teen years that I was into surf music and I apologize to my family and friends for that.
  12. Same Song by Digital Underground: In many ways, Digital Underground was one of my introductions to rap music, which is odd since I don’t remember them on MTV (aside from “The Humpty Dance,” which years later would be blaring in my car as I was pulled over for doing 85 in a 65 MPH stretch of highway). But back in 1991, one of my best friends had brought Digital Underground’s This Is An E.P. Release album over and I immediately wanted a copy. He taught me how to high-speed dub tapes, and because of my lack of skill, I hadn’t pressed the high speed button in time, causing a classic tape warp sound in the intro organ in my copy.
  13. Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan: I remember my father telling me about his “Cousin Ally” when I was a kid. I didn’t realize until later that Cousin Ally was Al Kooper. Best known for organizing the band Blood, Sweat and Tears and playing organ on Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone. I invited Al to my wedding but he didn’t attend. I don’t hold grudges.

That’s my Awesome Mix! Truth be told, there are a ton more songs I could have added – especially since I only scratched the surface of the many genres that shaped my life. What’s on your Awesome Mix?

Don’t forget to rock out to Peter Quill’s Awesome Mix Vol. 2 in Guardians of the Galaxy, out on Blu-ray today, August 22.