On “Try a Little Tenderness” by Leesa Cross-Smith
I don’t know if I can remember a time when Otis Redding wasn’t my favorite voice. I have other favorites too like Stevie Nicks and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and Miranda Lambert and Nina Simone. But, Otis. Who sings like Otis? No one before and no one after. So often when I listen to Otis, I turn to my husband, my kids and go who sings like Otis? No one.
There isn’t a song by Otis Redding that I don’t like. But “Try A Little Tenderness” was my personal gateway to all things Otis. My dad’s favorite song is “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” and my dad isn’t really a music person. My mom loves Otis. Who doesn’t love Otis? No one. Who sings like Otis? No one. I thank Otis Redding in the acknowledgements of my debut novel Whiskey & Ribbons. My characters dance in the kitchen to “Chained and Bound.” Back in 2000, right before my husband and I left for our road trip honeymoon to Santa Fe, I bought a double-disc Otis Redding album to take along with us because being in the car for twelve hours a day means listening to Otis. When I gave my kids my old iPhones to load up with music, Otis was already on there.
Continue reading “Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 32”
On “Cuyahoga” by R.E.M. by Rory Porter
Cuyahoga! You say, and I agree.
Mick Mills, teach me how to be.
Cuyahoga! You sing, to me alone.
A step, a half-step, a semi-tone.
I’m not a musician,
I wouldn’t know,
But please Mick Mills
Teach me how to grow.
Continue reading “Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 31”
Shot through the Heart with a Cannonball by Joyanna M.
When “Cannonball,” by The Breeders, first came out, I couldn’t get enough of it. The bursts of machine-gun snare, and the pop harmonies; the chunka-chunka guitar riffs and Kim Deal’s alto voice. But when they run the vocals through the distortion in the chorus is pure musical orgasm. The edgy anger smoothed over with a fat compression, a blend of cotton and steel wool, makes you instinctively reach for the lube.
Continue reading “Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 30”
The Way that Kindness Died: An Updated “American Pie” by Gavin Lakin
The man there said the music wouldn’t play.
Eleven years old, in the sweat and smog of the San Fernando Valley, I learned about the day the music died. Actually, it was my understanding from listening to 93 KHJ that rock music was alive and well. James Taylor was singing “You’ve Got a Friend.” Tapestry, Carole King’s living room album brilliantly produced by Lou Adler was changing the world. With cinnamon bun sugar sticking to our acne-filled faces, as we played triangle-shaped paper football at the lunch tables, Don McLean’s epic lyrical tale resounded over the school’s speakers. Meaning flew over my head like the daily seagulls that swarmed in for scraps. Understanding its many verses wasn’t necessarily the point (or even possible); “American Pie” captured something about my country, about being human, about innocence lost. I may have been a kid, but I was able to innately feel he was speaking for us all.
Continue reading “Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 29”
Elegy for Chris Cornell by Justin Karcher
When I wake up in the garden
All the flowers are screaming
And the sun has a giant hole in it
Chris Cornell is dead
I gouge my eyes out
And give them to the sun
To use as catheters
So it stops dripping everywhere
Continue reading “Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 28”
Your Long Arms by Marcus Civin
I convinced my parents to spring for the bus to San Francisco. I said, “It’s hard.” I said, “But it’s good.” I said, “At least I know I’m not ready for college.”
A roommate fresh from Peace Corps falls in love with an Italian lawyer. Leaving for his family olive farm, she says: “I’m bad at goodbye,” shoves at me two shoe boxes stuffed with cassettes. One is orange. One is unadorned brown cardboard.
Continue reading “Memoir Mixtape Vol.1 / Track 27”
The Hardest Part by Ryan Peckinpaugh
Growing up in the 90s, I had to listen to some shitty music. At the time I didn’t necessarily think the music was so bad, but then again, hindsight. Recently, I found a box of CDs in my childhood bedroom. Among them included Creed’s “Human Clay,” Nickleback’s “Silver Side Up,” Lifehouse’s “No Name Face,” “NOW 6,” and a CD called “Everything You Want” by a band called Vertical Horizon (yes, I actually spent money on this). Needless to say, they all went back in the box.
When I was a kid this was the music readily available to me. I enjoyed the pop of Third Eye Blind, the cheese of Smashmouth, and the incessant catchiness of the Goo Goo Dolls. Even today, when browsing a random 90s Pandora channel, this music still induces fits of nostalgia. But it doesn’t mean it was good.
Continue reading “Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 26”
On “Grounded” by Pavement by Joseph S. Pete
As a young enlisted soldier at Fort Lewis, Washington, I had an evening routine when training permitted. I would head to the chow hall to dine on a bland nursing home-like meal of rubber chicken, starchy mashed potatoes, and a mushy vegetable, usually one with a lot of butter and marginal nutritional benefits like green beans or corn. It was institutional feeding for cannon fodder instructed to tie a dog tag into your boot laces so they could identify your corpse. After filling up on the overcooked cafeteria fare at the dining facility at the end of a long day, I’d hit the pull-up bars just outside the barracks before heading off to the gym.
Continue reading “Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 25”
On “Breakout” by Swing Out Sister by Alexis-Rueal
Give me that wide, gliding voice.
You’ve got to find a way
Star to wish on
Say what you want to say
Prayer for escape
Continue reading “Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 24”
On “Dreamer” by Tiny Vipers by Jon Johnson
Here comes one of those “back in my day” stories. Where’s my prune juice?
If you look at Menifee, CA today, it is trying to look like nearby Temecula, which in turn is trying desperately to convince everyone it belongs in Orange County. I’m sure the pattern continues ad infinitum. But I remember – and here is our key phrase – back in my day, Menifee was little more than an annoying growth lumped from Sun City’s bald, liver-spotted head.
There was a certain culture in that time. It was seeing someone from your school at the old Target and not saying a word to them (though sharing stiff, knowledgeable glances). It was spending Sundays in some daze at a huge church, where everyone masks their uncertainty in the safety of numbers.
Continue reading “Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 23”