July 19, 2007
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.
As a member of Zuzu's Petals and wife of indie legend Paul Westerberg, Laurie Lindeen needs little introduction to music fans. Her memoir, Petal Pusher, recounts her experiences in the thriving 80's and 90's Minneapolis indie music scene, her courtship and marriage to Westerberg, as well as her experience dealing with multiple sclerosis (she was diagnosed at age 24).
I can't listen to music while I'm writing; it bungles my mind and makes me think about songwriting moves; I have to sing, whine, blurt, and giggle in my head with the hopes of staggering into an internal rhythm or groove. My first idea was to isolate the songs that indicate hubris in my book, but on further examination, that's just me pointing out writing moves and asking you to pick up on a minor sub-sub-theme. That said, I'm grateful for this opportunity as I've retired from a short-lived blogging career. Liz Moore, I noticed, used song titles as chapter titles in her book The Words of Every Song (what a great title, btw). I did the same thing in my book Petal Pusher, so I'll discuss the songs that set the mood for the first five chapters in my book.
1) Hitchin' A Ride, Vanity Fair
A perfect pop song from 1970. I never tire of pure pop and I have a weakness for oldies radio. In this case, I used the song title to set up the scene of me hitchhiking (I know, super obvious choice) on Martha's Vineyard in the mid '80s that resulted in being picked up by Ms. Carly Simon herself. This experience is the polar opposite of that guy on This American Life who had a bloodcurdling hitchhiking experience on the same island.
2) Magic Bus, The Who
Growing up, The Who were what I'd consider a dude's band. I only liked TOMMY. Now I live in a house with all males and The Who have worked their way into my heart.
Taking-self-too-seriously aside, I concede that they were an incredible, innovative band. I use the song title to write about moving to Minneapolis from Madison, WI, in a Greyhound bus in the middle of the night. I sat next to a man, a recent graduate from Barnum and Bailey's Clown University, who introduced himself as The Clown Who Cried the Golden Tears.
3) Are You Lonesome Tonight ?, The King
I went through my first intense Elvis phase between 5th and 6th grade when I discovered his movies on TV, which led to the ordering of a his Greatest Hits off the tube C.O.D. Elvis, like Marilyn Monroe, JFK, and Hitler never seem to quench the public's thirst for iconography in the good, sexy, talented, and evil categories. I use this title to write a chapter about feeling initially isolated after re-locating to a northern, Scandinavian-stocked (and stacked) city.
4) I'm Sick Y'all, Otis Redding
In my house, my husband and I have an ongoing debate over Sam Cooke vs. Otis Redding (as if you should have to pick one over the other as they're both incomparable). I'm the Otis supporter, my spouse thinks Sam was City and Oat (as we call him) was a country bumpkin. Otis Redding was the best there was as far as I'm concerned. I read somewhere that he only knew a few chords on the guitar and that he favored E (like me). He wrote all of his songs simply and without frills (he, of course, had the incredible Stax musicians on hand to interpret these songs). One summer, when I was in between grades in early grade school, Otis's plane went down in Lake Monona in Madison, the closest lake to our house that we swam in regularly. According to Madison youth who swam in Lake Monona, Otis's body was never recovered and we used spend our days playing a treading water game called Don't Step on Otis Redding. The fact checker at Simon and Schuster broke the news to me that his body was, indeed, recovered thus shattering yet another childhood myth. I use the title from this terrific song to write about "coming down with" MS at twenty-four.
5) It Was A Very Good Year, Frank Sinatra
Have you listened to the melody of this song? It is, by far, the most exotic, freaky combo of minor chords on a non-Western scale to make the U.S. pop charts. The heavy melancholy weeping out of the strings and woodwinds in Frank's backing orchestra add to the intense drama. Which lead to the lyrics; Blue-blooded girls of independent means? Perfumed hair? From the brim to the dregs? Heavy hitting poetry that could flirt with Rod McKuen-land if not for Frank's impeccable phrasing and innate knowledge of what to do with over the top lyrics. When I was twenty-five, I was sitting in the CC Club trying to figure out how to launch my inexperienced band in the land of 10,000 bands.
Laurie Lindeen and Petal Pusher links:
the author explains her formerly dysfunctional relationship with Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville at the Morning News
Minnesota Public Radio interview with the author
Minnesota Public Radio's Fakebook with the author (streaming interview and music performances)
Rockermoms interview with the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
interviews (authors interview musicians and vice versa)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)
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