June 18, 2013
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Singer-songwriter Lori Carson impresses with nuanced and crisp prose in her debut novel, The Original 1982.
Booklist wrote of the book:
"A lyrical story of love, longing, and acceptance. Beautifully imaged and authentically told, the result is a deeply meaningful exploration of an often painful subject."
In my book, The Original 1982, singer/songwriter Lisa Nelson, revisits the 1980's in order to become a mother, something she never got to do the first time around. In parallel stories, Lisa becomes a mother in one life, and a successful musician in the other, learning about regret and acceptance, love, loss, and the beauty of life, along the way.
I don't usually listen to music when I write because it's too distracting. It's like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. I'm not that coordinated. But obviously music plays an important role in my book. All of the songs on this list make an actual appearance with the exception of one.
"Every Breath You Take," The Police:
This song by the Police influenced a lot of songs in the eighties. It was ubiquitous then, and has been ever since. In my book, Lisa borrows its arrangement for her song "Still True" in 1982, a bit of poetic license since the Police didn't actually release "Every Breath You Take" until 1983.
Lisa's love song applies to different situations at different times in her life. It's a real song of mine. I wrote "Still True" in the mid eighties. The song didn't make it onto my Geffen debut though I wanted it to. I always thought it could have been a hit. Later, I recorded a lame version (with a hastily written bridge) that was released on a record of demos called House in the Weeds. The definitive version exists only in The Original 1982 on Lisa Nelson's second record "Room Inside." Unfortunately the record is imaginary.
"Down Under," Men at Work:
"Down Under" was another 1980s staple. The video for this song, by the band Men at Work, was played constantly on MTV. It had a reggae feel; Reggae played, by white bands especially, was big in the eighties. In The Original 1982, Gabriel Luna, a successful Latin musician watches the video, as he dreams of a crossover hit.
"Sexual Healing," Marvin Gaye:
Marvin Gaye's song "Sexual Healing" was a revelation when it came out in 1982 (on Columbia Records -- his first after leaving Motown). And when I get that feeling I want sex-u-al healing. I don't remember a song before it that was as blatantly sexual (there's a line about masturbation in the outro). When Gabriel sings the song at the Vantage, the women in the audience start to howl, and jealousy comes over Lisa like a creeping rash.
"People's Parties," Joni Mitchell:
Joni Mitchell's songs have been playing in my head forever. She was the one who taught me that personal revelations had a place in song lyrics. Yeah, I know, Bob Dylan. Whatever. There's something so honest and real about those early Joni songs, and her melodies were great too. When Lisa first hears her baby's heartbeat, she finds herself laughing and crying and, off course, Joni Mitchell's "Peoples Parties" comes to mind. Laughing and crying/ you know it's the same release.
"Company," Rickie Lee Jones:
Rickie Lee Jones released "Company" in 1979 on her eponymous first record. It's one of the saddest songs I've ever heard. It aches. The whole record is great. When Lisa spends New Year's Eve alone with Minnow, missing Gabriel, she listens to RLJ sing "Company," and thinks her voice is like a sob.
"My Favorite Things," Julie Andrews:
This song is one I associate with childhood and magic. The lists, the comforting last line: and then I don't feel so bad. The Sound of Music was big when I was a kid. When Minnow joins her mother to play in the snow, Lisa thinks of warm woolen mittens and snowflakes on eyelashes.
"Spirit of Eden," Talk, Talk:
Lisa and her friends listen to this late one night. When I thought of a record that might have been playing in the late eighties/early nineties, on a mellow Sunday night, relaxing with musician friends, I thought of "Spirit of Eden." Rock, jazz, ambient music, it had a mixture of styles that felt fresh and really took you someplace. Don't you just love when a record does that? You lose awareness of all the individual instruments being played, the musicians playing them. The music becomes a place. I wish I still owned a copy of this record.
"Heart of the Matter," Don Henley:
For a long time I had the entire chorus of this song written out in a chapter near the end of part two. Lisa is saying that Gabriel's life has turned out well, and that she's not angry with him anymore. She wishes him the best. She says that it's like this song: I think it's about forgiveness/forgiveness/even if/you don't love me anymore. "Heart of the Matter" got cut, and now the song isn't even in my book. But I still see it there.
Lori Carson and The Original 1982 links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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