Sonny Smith – 100 Records Vol. 3


You want me to be honest? I’ve had a good run. I can’t complain. 42, 3 lovely kids and a wife who dearly loves to complain about me with her friends. That’s a-ok, I do the same when The Chaingang reunites at Lukin‘s every third Friday for brewskis, buffalo wings and the inevitable letdown of watching the Raiders lose again. We might nag about our wives, but we are more cross about our team getting pummeled again.

Death, taxes and Oakland losing. Them the three certainties in life.

Today is a different day. Madge told me to clear the attic of trash, as in “get your old comics and football gear so I can store some hand me downs”. All a-okay, I’ve got my old tape collection there and I might find some old gnarly tapes from my dashing years (81-84).

As I take out the fourth heavy box of Sports Illustrated (hopefully the last one that turned into a hive of silverfishes), I find this old sandalwood box. Could it be? I open it and inside – wowzers! A couple of GoBots!, my top notch Tonka truck, my signed Sgt. Slaughter action figure (without the hat) and three tapes. Each one is in a different colour and…oh, some old letters. Letters for her. Funny thing, life. I always thought I wouldn’t get over her.

What the devil did I put in these tapes? And why were they given back? Ah, right. I think cleaning can be done another day. I walk downstairs, jump into my Citation (it’s a modern classic, you guys) and pop the tape. Crackle, crackle, almost a snap? Oh, no, crisis averted. C’mon! Don’t eat it like my Slint tape!

A gnarly mixtape must start with something rocking and I’m glad to have included Danny Dusk & The Twilights‘ ‘Life ain’t clear’. I remember when I saw them at The Filmore, with Zig Speck & The Specktones, those garage-peddling rockers from Santa Cruz. Both tracks so deserved to be here! ‘Fruitcakes’ was possibly their only real hit, but, hey, they owned. I never saw Fuckaroos live, though, but I always swayed with ‘Cosmorama’. Ah, I remember drunkenly dancing that one with her outside of Amoeba Records. Then we got chased away by some stupid Rams fans. Remember them? Ha!

New Wave was the rad thing back then and I was trying to impress her with my knowledge of the synthesizer scene. Earth Girl Helen Brown was recommended by my pal Lloyd Dobbler, he said it was as good as Thomas Dolby and Harold Faltermeyer, so I included ‘Space travel’s in my blood’. Maybe I should’ve gone for the 12″ version? Nah, the original was good enough. This mixtape was certainly varied! I juxtaposed this sort of electronic stuff with thoughtful acoustic tracks like Merriweather Bradley’s ‘Medication’. My grandmother used to love that one. Bless her and her catfish stew.

Little Antoine & The Sparrows was my Dad’s fave driving music. Every summer, when we drove to Marina del Rey, we heard all of their albums and ‘A Steady Stream of Love’ was my fave. That sexy solo always felt like doing 95 mph on that final stretch before our summer house.

I wasn’t into country music, but She Whose Name I won’t Say was. It probably was because her dad was this old drunk from Tennesse. I just never got into the spitefulness of country. Still, my mother was from Nashville and when I shyly told her about this mixtape (my third attempt), she suggested a trifecta of alt-country unknowns. Jackie Feathers’ ‘Year of the cock’ was banned in 1957 (it was part of the Filthy Thirteen),’From dud to stud, from zero to hero’ was a hidden track in a limited edition 7″ by Hank Champion, who died in a car crash in the treachery roads of Arkansas. My parents went steady after a Bobby Hawkins concert. Dad  bragged that they got a dedication from Hawkins when they decided to impromptu dance ‘Difficulties, Mistakes and Errors’. So Hawkins had to be in the mixtape. Twice.

Spitefulness is my nickname. I miss you. I miss your name. I haven’t breathed it in ages and I won’t start today. But I will breathe the name of those bands I painstakingly chose in order to gain your heart, the one that went away. Hazel Shep is the band that I associate with our first kiss and our last goodbye. Your fave colours: red, blue and yellow, the ones you used in that art class when we met. I obviously wanted to sing ‘Some women artists all around town’ in that moment. I did when we kissed for the first time. Then we broke up and it rained on the way back home. I was sure I was going to die walking in that windy rain, with only the chords of ‘Canyon Manor Rehab’ and your fading warmth as my possessions. Never again will I walk alone in the rain.

I wonder where you are right now. Who did you end up with. How life turned out for you. I never questioned this until this tape, which I nicknamed Sonny Smith – 100 Records vol. 3, found its way back to me. That’s life for ya: memories resurface like pieces of cork.

Oh, I realise I drove all the way to Sausalito. I’ll stick around, get a few tacos de asada and maybe go and see the new exhibition at the Headlands Center for the Arts. I heard there’s a dude that made a bunch of fake bands for a concept album. I’d love to see that…

Words: Sam J. Valdés López

Sonny Smith Website. Twitter. Bandcamp. Facebook.

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