Somewhere around 1997 or 1998, I joined a listserv fan group for Francesca Lia Block, a YA author who described sparkly and grim L.A., girls with purple hair, and a kind of longing felt by suburban thirteen-year-olds (i.e., me). From this group, I made friends across the country, including my friend Lindsey, who I reunited with in Brooklyn three years ago.
I traded mix tapes with these girls, which is how I discovered Tori Amos and Ani Difranco. I listened to "Mr. Zebra" obsessively, having no idea what it was about.
I still don't know what this song is about.
There was a librarian in the group named Anne, who mailed me my first mix CD. I'd never even seen one before. I asked her how she'd gotten to print her own label on the CD and she told me she bought the labels at Office Max. It was a revelation. I listened to it all autumn, and for years afterward, and so these songs stick out in my mind as being particularly autumnal, and remind me of riding in the backseat of my parents' car on our way to a Rosh Hashanah party, on the north side of Chicago, in the rain, listening to my discman:
Meryn Cadell - "Johnny and Betty"
Joan Osbourne - "St. Theresa"
Paula Cole - "Hush Hush Hush"
Sarah Mclachlan - "Ice Cream"
Liz Phair - "Polyester Bride"