Aural Fixations, The Rumpus Mixtape #2: Chicago




Sometimes it gets overlooked as a great city as we tend to focus our energies on considering the coasts and leave the interior as a great blur in our minds. But a great city it is, indeed, and its location in the Midwest enhances its riches. It’s real. Unpretentious. Sitting as it does right in the center of the country, it is in some respects, the most American of cities.

It ties east to west and carries our industrial tradition in its very architecture.  After the great fire of 1871, Chicago didn’t just rebuild, it gave us the first skyscraper. You get the sense that everyone in Chicago is working. Hard. Sprawling under its L tracks are a kaleidoscope of images and recollections:  terrific parks, Lollapalooza, Al Capone, baseball, politics, President Obama, a rich fabric of diverse and disparate neighborhoods, ethnic foods, the Art Institute with “American Gothic” and Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” inside, Second City, theater, Lake Michigan, jazz clubs, speakeasies, so many great restaurants, hot dog vendors, Michigan Avenue, Navy Pier, Ira Glass doing This American Life over at WBEZ’s studios, the University of Chicago and its storied press, and on and on.  After being raised from the age of three on the South Side, the great scribbler Nelson Algren would go on to write about the city, “Once you’ve become a part of this particular patch, you’ll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real.”

These tracks tell some of Chicago’s many tales, evoke some of its many stories, each song as real as the city itself.

“Sweet Home Chicago”
Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings

“Open Rhythms”
Bodies of Water
Twist Again


“Via Chicago”
Kicking Television – Live In Chicago


“I Used to Work in Chicago”
Tin Ear Tanner
100 Country Number 1 Hits


“She Was Hot”
The Rolling Stones
Undercover (Remastered)


Lucy Wainwright Roche
8 More


“Johnsburg, Illinois”
Tom Waits


“Sweet Spots”
The Fiery Furnaces


Smith Westerns
Dye It Blonde


“On a Freezing Chicago Street”
Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s
The Dust of Retreat


“True Enough”
Everything’s Easy


“Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago”
Soul Coughing
Ruby Vroom


The Uglysuit
The Uglysuit


“Going to Chicago Blues”
Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers
One Hour Mama


“Grey Ship”
Past Life Martyred Saints


“Sweet Old Chicago”
Roosevelt Sykes
Crescent City Bounce: From Blues to R&B In New Orleans, CD A

Anna March’s writing appears regularly in Salon and here at the Rumpus and her work has been widely published including in The New York Times' Modern Love Column, New York Magazine, VQR, Hip Mama and Tin House. Her essay collection, Feminist Killjoy, and novel, The Diary of Suzanne Frank, are both forthcoming and she is at work on two new books. She teaches writing workshops, mentors writers, is active in promoting literary community and is the co-founder of LITFOLKS in LA and DC. She lives in Rehoboth Beach and Los Angeles. Sometimes she has pink hair. Follow her on Twitter @ANNAMARCH or learn more about her at ANNAMARCH.COM. More from this author →