March 2, 2012
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Kevin Fox's Until the Next Time is an ambitious book that tackles themes of Irish history, personal identity, and forgiveness. Told in alternating chapters by a father and son, this debut novel showcases Fox's precise ear for dialogue.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"In his debut novel, screen and television writer Fox has a fresh and fascinating take on an absorbing concoction of myth, belief, memory, identity, reincarnation, and the lasting power of love."
In my debut novel Until the Next Time, published by Algonquin,I don't reference a lot of music. I never really thought about it until now, but in contemplating it, I realized that I had hesitated because the radio experience at the time the book was set was much more localized and specific than it is today and I did not want to pull the reader out of the story with a song that might not fit their unique experience with the novel. However, when writing, I did have a playlist set up for myself – songs that fit a mood or inspired me in some way, although they were not specifically of the period of the novel. The songs I've chosen span the time period of the book and move beyond it, but each one fit in some way with the circumstances and the fluctuating moods of the novel-- from the tension of terrorism in Ireland and the fighting in the streets -- to the romantic moments between the protagonists on the island. I hope that if you read the novel, and then listen to these songs, the experience will be the same for you as it was for me.
"If I Should Fall Behind"/"None but the Brave" - Bruce Springsteen
As a fan of both the man and the artist, it would be a difficult for me not to find a Springsteen song that somehow inspires everything I work on, but "If I Should Fall Behind" is especially appropriate to the overall theme of the novel, as it centers around the love story of Michael and Kate. The emotion it captures would fit in perfectly as Sean waits on the island at the end: "We said we'd walk together, baby come what may. That come the twilight, should we lose our way – if as we're walking, a hand should slip free, I'll wait for you. Should I fall behind, wait for me. We swore we'd travel, darling' side by side. We'd help each other, stay in stride. But each lover's step falls, so differently. But I'll wait for you, should I fall behind, wait for me…"
I can't think of a better lyric or melancholy melody to sum up what I hoped to accomplish in Until the Next Time, and Bruce does it in a two minute and fifty-eight second song. It humbles me, especially since there is another Springsteen song that I listened to as I was writing, "None but the Brave." This song has a great sense of wistful nostalgia for a lost love. It may not be one of Bruce's most popular songs, but the emotion it evokes is perfect for the moment in the book where Sean sees his 'Kate' on The O'Connell Bridge in Dublin, and then loses her again in the misty rain of Ireland. "…Tonight down on Union Street, I'm thinking back baby to you and me. The way you used to be, your words come back to me. From passing cars voices sing out, and empty bars where guitars ring out, we'd walk and talk about who'd be the ones to get out. You said none but the brave, no one baby, but the brave. Those strong enough to save something from what they gave."
Of course the lyric here could also apply to those involved in the civil rights struggles detailed in the book, as well as in 'The Troubles' generally, but the bittersweet tone goes on, and I can see Sean, by the old schoolhouse, waiting for Kate, hearing these lines: "…In my dreams, these nights I see you my friend, the way you looked back then. On a night like this, I know that girl no longer exists, except for a moment in some stranger's eyes or in the nameless girls in cars rushing by. That's where I find you tonight and in my heart you still survive…" I mean, c'mon. Who says it better than Bruce?
"Loch Lomond" by Shanon
This Celtic folk song has been recorded many times, but never as hauntingly as Shanon has performed it. It's melancholy tempo and feel fit perfectly with the mood I wanted to create on the island in the middle of another ‘loch', Lough Ree, as Sean waits for 'Kate' to return, and its chorus (which is never sung in this version) is a great metaphor for how Sean intends on finding Kate: "…You take the high road and I'll take the low road, an' I'll be in Scotland before you, for me and me true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond… "
The haunted atmosphere of the song is appropriate, for according to legend, the song was written by a young soldier who was captured during yet another Gaelic uprising against the English, this time a Scottish Gaelic uprising in 1745. The low road referenced is supposed to refer to the low road the soldier's soul will take while the high road represents the hope that his love will take the high road over the hills of Scotland and that they will meet again, somehow, someday. This is also the hope that both Michael and Sean express, hoping that they too will be reunited with the woman they love.
"Dweller On the Threshold"/"Bright Side of the Road" - Van Morrison
"I'm a dweller on the threshold, and I'm waiting at the door. I'm standing in the darkness, I don't want to wait no more. I have seen without perceiving. I have been another man. Let me pierce the realm of glamour, and I know just what I am." This Van Morrison lyric, for anyone who has read the book, summarize the journey Sean takes explicitly and any novel that takes place in Ireland in 1972 and 1996 would definitely have -- even just as background music, the work of Van Morrison playing somewhere. As a native son of Ireland, Van Morrison manages to capture both the spirituality and the cynicism of the place and time in his work.
Not surprisingly, there are a host of other Van Morrison songs that would be appropriate, including "And it Stoned Me" with its references to 'the water' but none more so than "Bright Side of the Road": "From the dark end of the street, to the bright side of the road. We'll be lovers once again, on the bright side of the road… Into this life we're born, baby sometimes we don't know why. And time seems to go by so fast, in the twinkling of an eye. Let's enjoy it while we can. Won't you help me sing my song -- from the dark end of the street, to the bright side of the road."
"The Men Behind the Wire" - Barleycorn
This song was contemporary with 'The Troubles' in Ireland and was a popular protest song. The 'men behind the wire' were those arrested and interned during 'Operation Demetrius', an operation carried out by the British Army in August of 1971. Three hundred and forty two suspects were arrested and held without trial on suspicion of being involved with the IRA. The rioting that followed the dawn raids that began the interment process killed 20 civilians and two British soldiers, but also caused somewhere near seven thousand people to flee their own homes, with an estimated twenty-five hundred taking refuge south of the border. The lyrics are self-explanatory: "Armored cars and tanks and guns came to take away our sons, but every man must stand behind the men behind the wire. Through the little streets of Belfast, in the dark of early morn, British soldiers came marauding, wrecking little homes with scorn. Heedless of the crying children, cragging fathers from their beds, beating sons while helpless mothers watched the blood pour from their heads. Not for them a judge and jury, nor indeed a trial at all – but if being Irish means you're guilty, so we're guilty one and all…"
"Give Ireland Back to the Irish" - Paul McCartney
While I agree with Sir Paul in the broadest sentiment of this song, I have friends in Ireland who consider themselves to be absolutely Irish, as their ancestors arrived there in the 1500's. They are still considered newcomers by the ‘Native Irish', many of who are descended from Vikings that invaded Ireland several hundred years before. In truth, the Irish on either side of the conflict are a mix of Celtic, Viking, Norman, Spanish and Gaulish stock, never mind the possibility of Fomorian and Tuatha De Danaan blood. When deciding who to give Ireland back to, I have to wonder who it would be given back to in the end. The advances in DNA research may need to advance a good deal before it can be determined. In the end, I think the real point is that Ireland and its people are still unique in the way they adhere to what has always been ‘Irish values' of self-determination and the right to disagree – and that they deserve the right to self-determination, regardless of their bloodlines and history… The point Sir Paul makes is clearly in line with this, and I hope he'd agree with the above:
"Give Ireland back to the Irish, don't make them have to take it away… tell me how would you like it, if on your way to work you were stopped by Irish soldiers? Would you lie down, do nothing? Would you give in, or go berserk? Give Ireland back to the Irish, don't make them have to take it away. Give Ireland back to the Irish, make Ireland Irish today…"
"Solsbury Hill" - Peter Gabriel
Solsbury Hill sets a tone and an emotion that I think both Michael and Sean feel, especially when on Inchmore in the middle of Lough Ree, with their respective love interests. Overwhelmed by something they can't quite believe in, the melody and lyric combine to sum up their states of mind:
"…I did not believe the information,
I just had to trust imagination.
My heart going boom boom boom "
Son," he said, "Grab your things, I've come to take you home."
…And of course, 'going home' is a major theme of this novel as well, but the major thread here is the acceptance of new information and beliefs that can open doors for both men, and both resist at first, as does Peter Gabriel:
"…To keep in silence I resigned.
My friends would think I was a nut.
Turning water into wine, open doors would soon be shut.
So I went from day to day, 'though my life was in a rut,
'till I thought of what I'd say -- which connection I should cut. "
Or in this case re-connect…
"The Seeker"/"The Song is Over"/"Won't Get Fooled Again" - The Who
The Who, to me, are so emblematic of the protests and civil strife of the early 70's that I can't imagine writing something from that period and not listening to their music as I wrote it. "Won't Get Fooled Again," with its depiction of the cyclical nature of politics and conflict is a great song to listen to when writing about 'The Troubles', which seem to always abate only to rise again every so often. "The Seeker" is an ode to Sean and his naïveté as he seeks the truth about his uncle Michael. "The Song is Over" sums up where Sean is by the end of the novel: "The song is over, it's all behind me. I should have known it, she tried to find me…" – But he's going to move on and 'sing his song' to try and find Kate.
"Street Fightin' Man"/"Paint it Black" - The Rolling Stones
Again, when thinking of the protests and civil unrest of the early '70s, it's hard not to hear Mick Jagger singing, and the above-mentioned songs have the tempo and edge that capture the bombings and scenes I saw in my head when I was writing.
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" - U2
I know, I know, this is so on the nose it's ridiculous, but there is one point that Bono makes in the live version that I think applies to the novel as well when he shouts out: "…This is not a rebel song." It was also never my intention to favor one side of the conflict in Ireland. My only hope was to be able to see the conflict through specific characters' eyes to try to better understand it.
"Time After Time" - Cyndi Lauper
Yes, I said Cyndi Lauper. I could have said the Phil Collins version, but the truth is that Cyndi Lauper does a great job on this one: "Lying in my bed, hear the clock ticking, think of you. Caught up in circles, confusion is nothing new. Flashback, to warm nights, almost left behind. Suitcase of memories… Time after... sometimes you picture me, I'm walking too far ahead. You're calling to me I can't hear what you've said. Then you've said, go slow… I fall behind. The second hand unwinds… If your lost you can look and you will find me – time after time. If you fall I will catch you, I'll be waiting, time after time…"
…And isn't that what Until the Next Time is all about?
"In a Lifetime" - Clannad
Clannad is often characterized as a 'New Age' band and probably suffered from the Enya backlash after her songs were desecrated by too many Hollywood movies. This is a shame, as there really are very few music groups who do what Clannad does so well, combining tradition with contemporary styles. Given that one theme of my novel is how the past and the culture of a place can inform the present, I would be hard-pressed to ignore Clannad. Of course there are dozens of songs that are appropriate, including "Newgrange," "Closer to Your Heart," "Dulaman," and "Something To Believe In," but "In a Lifetime," with its image of the sun breaking through after a storm in the context of a lifetime is a song that fits this novel perfectly:
"And as the rain it falls, heavy in my heart. Believe the light in you, faded and worn, torn asunder in the storm. Begin again -- as the storm breaks through, so the light shines in you, without color, torn asunder in the storm. Unless the sound has faded from your soul, unless it disappears…"
"I Will Always Love You" - Whitney Houston
In the novel I quote an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem, "To a Friend Estranged from Me," and the intent and emotion of this song, written by Dolly Parton, is very much the same. Compare the lines: "…Farewell, but fare not well enough to dream -- you have done wisely to invite the night before the darkness came," And "…If I should stay, I would only be in your way. So I'll go, but I know, I'll think of you every step of the way… Bittersweet memories that is all I'm taking with me…"
The bittersweet and necessary parting of lovers is summed up in both the poem and the song, and, I hope in the novel. If you have read Until the Next Time, I hope you get a chance to look at it again with these songs in mind, and if you haven't yet, maybe you could read it with these songs playing in the background for a more complete multimedia experience. Enjoy.
Kevin Fox and Until the Next Time links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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