February 15, 2005
In honor of the paperback debut of Tom Dolby's novel The Trouble Boy, the author has created a mix of songs for us that inspired him while writing the book, songs he would put in a film version, and songs that are included in the novel itself.
When my main character, Toby Griffin, arrives in New York, I think he'd hear this George Michael anthem in his head. While he's far from flawless himself, he's full of dreams and anticipation about the first year of his life as an adult. "I think you'll make it in the city…"
As I was writing the book, I imagined this song playing on the first night that Toby goes to Beige at B Bar, the gay fashionista party where he encounters Real World Guy and film producer Cameron Cole. In these glitzy environs, Toby fantasizes about the life he might have once he achieves success as a famous screenwriter.
Pet Shop Boys, "New York City Boy"
I used to play this song while taking breaks from writing the novel (I was living in LA, so I needed a little New York energy). To me, it captures all the spirit and exuberance of being young in the city.
It may be a gay cliché, but this song would have to play a part in The Trouble Boy. Maybe Toby rocks out to it in the privacy of his East Village bedroom. "I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses…"
This song reminds me of Toby, Jamie, and Donovan, because what they're living is, in fact, a bizarre love triangle.
Not only does this song have the word "trouble" in the title, but it has a meditative quality to it that I really like. I can imagine Toby walking home in the rain after his hook-up at the club in the meatpacking district, dealing with a massive hangover, and wondering where life was going to take him next.
Fast, "Boys Will Be Boys"
This classic from the Max's Kansas City days makes me think of the wild antics of all the boys in the novel.
Another "trouble" song. I can hear this one playing the background when Toby hangs out with Goth Boy at the after-hours club on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. "My kind of trouble is you…"
When Toby returns home to San Francisco, I think his Italian mother Isabella would listen to a little Maria Callas, this one an aria from the opera Gianni Schicchi.
Donovan plays this song during Toby's crash party. The lyrics are symbolic, as I incorporated the imagery of mirrors and reflections throughout the book as a way of showing the dichotomy between what the characters thought of themselves and how they were viewed by others. "Let me stand to show that you are blind…"
A song about addiction, this Rufus favorite is all about the sort of self-destructive behavior that plagues many of my characters.
When Toby hooks up with Loft Boy, this song is playing in the background. I used to listen to this album a lot with my first boyfriend in college, so for me it's always been tied up with sex and longing.
First Choice, "Doctor Love"
This is exactly type of retro-70s track that the DJ at Beige likes to play. "Doctor Love: He can cure my every pain…"
This classic, which is excerpted in the novel and is a longtime favorite of mine, has an irresistible sweetness to it. I liked the idea that downtown is a place where Toby can always go and find acceptance, despite the drama that continues to draw him in. "When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown."
I can imagine Toby hearing this song whenever he sees Andrew walking down the street.
This song captures the melancholy ending of the novel. "I was living fast, now I'm running on empty…" I can hear it playing as Toby walks out of Barneys, and heads back downtown again.