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October 10, 2012

Book Notes - "Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road"

Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

It is hard to believe that Michelle Tea's touring literary ensemble Sister Spit has been around for 15 years. I have seen several of their performances over the years, and though the cast is constantly changing, I can honestly say each event was exciting, invigorating, and unforgettable.

Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road collects tour anecdotes from an impressive collection of writers, including editor and founder Michele Tea, Eileen Myles, Blake Nelson, Myriam Gurba, Beth Lisick, MariNaomi, and others.

This is the first book in Michelle Tea's new imprint at City Lights.

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

Ms. Magazine wrote of the book:

"This riotous collage edited by a Sister Spit cofounder celebrates the acclaimed underground lesbian-feminist roadshow. Poetry, art, stories and snippets of self-reflection from the collective's rotating membership honor this cultural institution in its signature provocative fashion."

In their own words, here is Sister Spit's Book Notes music playlist for the book, Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road:

Michelle Tea:

The Modern Lovers' first album is my number one favorite tour album. It makes me feel wild with freedom, and if we're playing it while cruising through New England I totally lose my mind with manic nostalgia for my homeland. Maybe it's because I was introduced to the album on a road trip to the Cape when I was 21 and really lezzing out that it makes me feel so free and really in love with the world around me. The CD was in the van in 1999, when my relationship had a meltdown on the road and I was having a prolonged alcoholic episode and hurting my tour mates by playing 'Hospital' on repeat. Then this last tour we had The Modern Lovers again, and it was much happier. “Roadrunner” is the best road song in the whole world. Just remembering it exists cheers me up.

Eileen Myles:

Geraldine Fibbers – "Marmalade"

It just seemed desperate & androgynous in the best way. Plus I'm a fan of country rock and this was that with some punk drag to it. I had never heard Geraldine Fibbers till I got in that van.


Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven (unplugged)

This song was playing on my iPod shuffle when the Sister Spit plane almost turbulenced itself out of the sky (en route to the east coast). This song is beautiful and sweet, but it was imperative that I switch to something more anthemic immediately. There was no way I was dying to Eric Clapton unplugged!

Britney Spears - "Womanizer"

This song played at the beginning of more than 50% of our shows. That's almost twenty shows! It is impossible for me to hear this song and not get pumped. Just thinking about it makes me pumped, in fact. Pumped!

Rhiannon Argo:

Patti Smith - "Gloria"

Fellow poetess and rebel Patti Smith covers "Gloria," a classic song of male lust, and transforms it into a hot, throaty anthem of lesbian desire. The song is pure energy, fervor, sex and gender fuck. It opens with lines of her poem Oath, poetry fused with music and performance, feels like a sister spit tour to me!

Cooper Lee Bombardier:

Concrete Blonde - "Side of The Road"

"Feeling my liquor/feeling alone/nowhere to go/so I guess I'll go home/you were the first/and the only one/by the side/of the road..."

“Side of The Road” is by the great Los Angeles band Concrete Blonde. This song was one of my faves from the mixtape I made for tour '97 titled Tattooed Outlaw Hitchhiker Bitch. It's a road song, and it's about the loss of innocence, hard-won yet unwanted wisdom, reminiscing with an old friend and lover about good times and burst dreams. Johnette Napolitano's 40-grit voice scrapes sorrowfully over the simple yet heartfelt lyrics, the usually hard-hitting band is reduced to a kicked tambourine and a plaintively-picked banjo. It is about drifting along with the events of life so far you don't know where you need to be. Going home sounds tempting, but you realize you don't belong there anymore, either. It's the discovery that we are all, at heart, rootless and alone.

The Geraldine Fibbers - "Lilybelle"

"In the dark/she is rocking/ not to records/but to voices/ in her head/Lilybelle Lilybelle Lilybelle/ hot as hell/ 3 am and it feels just like high noon/ in her head/come to bed/ when the air cools down/ I'm gonna skate away..."

"Lost Somewhere Between The Earth and My Home" was pretty much the soundtrack of my queer San Francisco life from it's release in 1994 until the turn of the century. Even now, when The Geraldine Fibbers pop up on my iTunes' seemingly psychic shuffle, the music stands the test of time. Everywhere I went, the album seemed to be playing, or the Fibbers were playing a live show. Once I even went out to lunch with the band, and Carla Bozulich shared my salad. I thought I could die happy in that moment -- I usually steer clear of starfuckery, but Carla was such a perfect rockstar crush. I'd fall in love with the thick veins popping out on her straining throat whenever I'd hear her raspy scream. Lilybelle speaks to loving the desperate crazy of our lovers and our selves, fitting to that time when we all had big feelings and big ideas and our whole town was a queer playground, sexual frontier, and art nirvana; everything was about discovery and experiment and identity -- but so few of us had the tools back then to navigate it any other way than as a cacophony, just like this song.

Kat Marie Yoas:

Led Zepplin - "Ramble On"

Karaoke is one of my largest loves and it seems to be a love of all my past Sister Spit tour mates, perhaps it runs in the performance and writerly genes. I hear "Ramble On" and I'm brought back to the flat midwest of our country-wide tour, the dive bar with paintings of giant knockers covering its walls and a stage full of queers singing their hearts out. Both my experiences on Sister Spit were such epic adventures, from language barriers in Europe to filthy squats to crushes and new friendships and stories. There's something about this song especially, in the wanderlust filling a van of queer performers, telling their stories and singing their own songs that gets to the daring and dirty core of my own time in the van.

Lady Gaga – "Paparazzi"

During our UK/European tour, I brought Lady Gaga's first album, The Fame. It was an unlikely choice for the very DIY road adventure we were on; however, something in the insipid glamour was absolutely so comforting and fun as we ambled our way through foreign lands, depending on an alcoholic van driver with a penchant for getting lost, listening to goth speed metal and chain smoking with the windows up. When we would be huddled in the back, potentially scared for our lives, it was Gaga whose beats and pop lyrics would lull us into the calm realization if we were going down, we may as well be dancing together and singing about our (imagined rising pop star) celebrity and adorable selves.

Sister Spit and Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road links:

Sister Spit's website
Wikipedia profile of Sister Spit
excerpt from the book

New York Journal of Books review

Advocate profile of Michelle Tea
Kirkus Reviews profile of the author
Lambda Literary interview with Michelle Tea
Out profile of Michelle Tea
Velvetpark interview with Michelle Tea
ZYZZYVA interview with Michelle Tea

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
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musician/author interviews
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Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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