Today is Monday. But it is not just any regular old Monday because today is Forgotten Memphis Media Monday, a newly designated, entirely unofficial holiday dedicated to the backwaters of Memphis Media. In celebration of this hallowed day, we have compiled a definitive list of five Memphis-made YouTube videos that you probably have not seen, unless you are some kind of YouTube-fed mediaphile with too much time on your hands. Ahem.
While none of these videos runs the risk of going viral, all of them cast a long side-glance at the city’s history. For the Mid-Southern archivist or for the regular Memphis Joe on a Monday coffee break, we endorse these clips as (possibly?) indispensable.
Every city worth its weight in river bass deserves a good free-form beat poem, and that is what “What Memphis Needs” (available in excerpted form) aims to provide. Documentary filmmaker Alexis Krasilovsky delivers what is, in her words, a protest poem that examines Memphis history: “From ponies running through the Memphis cottonwoods to a girl running across the construction site of Mud Island, from white kids in a West Memphis parade throwing candy at black bystanders to a Bible-reading in the Lorraine Motel, and from rock 'n rollers to marquee lights on Beale Street, this video provides a searing cross-section of Memphis history and society.”
2) The Kropotkins, “Truckstop Girls”
The Kropotkins are, in this writer’s opinion, one of the best Memphis bands that never quite got their due. The five-piece band, featuring Lorette Velvette, Alex Greene, Charlie Burnham, Dave Soldier, and Jonathan Kane, is blues-inspired but arguably genre-less. Their music has an uncanny grasp of the the kinds of far-flung musical idioms that populate this region’s distinctive sound. “Truckstop Girls,” off the 2000 album Five Point Crawl, has the feel of a song that kicked around WEVL back in the day, quietly brilliant, rockin’ and rollin’ whether anyone is listening or not.
There’s nothing quite as funny as the news trying to explain youth culture. The best section of this 1992 Local News 5 broadcast is about halfway through, when the segment attempts to explain militant vegetarianism. Curious about the grunge-era iteration of Memphis alterity? This incredible clip is for you.
Billy Tripp and his massive outsider artwork, the “Mindfield,” are not quite Memphis-local, since they are located in Brownsville, Tennessee, but this short documentary by Memphian Larry Dunn is one of the best interviews with Tripp available. You can get a good sense of the artist’s ponderous commitment to building his “Mindfield.” Tripp began the work in 1989 and has continued it to this day, without the approval of his Brownsville neighbors.
In the early 2000s, the grassroots film group Live From Memphis used to host a regular event called “Li'l Film Fest.” The idea was that Memphis filmmakers, armed with home video cameras, would make five-minute films surrounding a particular theme. The entire archive of these is worth digging through, but if you’re short on time, “Heatwave” is a good place to start. It involves puppets, science fiction, and footage of the old Baptist hospital implosion.