September 3, 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.
Dave Hill's essay collection Tasteful Nudes is just like his This American Life vignettes, impressive with its self-deprecating humor and Hill's natural storytelling talent.
The Atlantic wrote of the book:
"There's a good chance that Hill is one of the funniest people alive who also happens to be a really great writer."
My book is a collection of essays, so I decided to try and pick the perfect song to go along with each one.
Desnudo En El Mar
The Smiths- "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out"
This first essay in my book is about the time I went on a "clothing optional dinner cruise" in Sheepshead Bay, a horrifying experience I'm still trying to block out. I'd accepted the dare under the guise of journalism. And as these things go, one thing led to another and there I was, butt naked at sea, eating bowtie pasta with thirty of the last people I'd like to wind up in that scenario with. I love the Smiths, so their music is perfect for every occasion as far as I'm concerned, even this one. But when I think of the line "Take me anywhere, I don't care, I don't care," it reminds me of my unfortunate willingness to do just about anything sometimes. Too bad there were no "double decker buses" or "ten ton trucks" to save me from that night by killing me instantly.
Loving You Is Easy Because You Live Pretty Close to My Parents' House
The Raspberries- "Tonight"
The Raspberries are from Cleveland and so am I. They were power pop at its best and they all had incredible hair (like me). I discovered them after I was a kid, but when I hear them now, their music paints a nice picture in my head of growing up on the East Side of Cleveland and longing endlessly for one ultimately unattainable girl after another. This song goes well with this essay, which chronicles my scorching hot love life between the ages of twelve and seventeen. When I hear it, I can picture sixteen year-old me borrowing my mom's station wagon and driving over to the house of the absolutely wonderful girl who broke my heart for the very first time.
As of Now, I Am in Control Here
Ennio Morricone- "Theme from 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly'"
Shortly after college, I got a job working in a homeless shelter in New York, where I somehow managed to rise through the employee ranks pretty quickly. I thought it was because of my lack of hangups when it came to dealing with people's lice and scabies breakouts, but it turned out it was just because I was the only person in my position who wasn't a recovering crackhead. On the one night I was promoted to supervisor of the place, I felt like the proverbial new sheriff in town. Ennio Morricone has written probably 500 compositions that make for the perfect soundtrack for such an occasion, but this one is the best if you ask me. I was never allowed to be supervisor again after that one night because I somehow let a crackhead co-worker steal 300 pounds of meat right out from under my nose. I haven't been able to bring myself to think about what Ennie Morricone score might go with that, but I know it's out there.
All the Wrong Moves
Thin Lizzy- "Bad Reputation"
My grandfather was from Canada, so there was no way I wasn't going to end up playing ice hockey as a kid. And while I've always been a pacifist in regular life, I never shied away from the rough stuff on the ice (with all those pads, nothing ever really hurt that much anyway, especially when you're twelve). Thin Lizzy is one of my favorite bands and- with the exception of a few ballads here and there- they pretty much specialized in creating the perfect soundtrack for kicking ass or perhaps (occasionally) getting your ass kicked. This is the title track from Thin Lizzy's eighth studio album, on which- fittingly for my purposes here- guitarist Brian Robertson is largely missing because he'd been injured in a brawl of some sort. You can listen to this song even when you're just vacuuming or running errands and you still feel like a badass. Try it.
What with being a man and all, I've spent much of my life grappling with what that exactly means. Contrary to what I just wrote about Thin Lizzy, I don't think being a man has much to do with beating the crap out of anybody. Still, the fact is I think a lot of men don't know what it means to be a man and dammit if Beyonce doesn't agree with me. I first heard this song when some friends did a cover of it at a variety show I did a few years ago. I'd never heard it before, so I didn't realize they hadn't written it themselves and I couldn't wait to tell them how incredible I thought their new song was after the show. I was sorry to hear it was by someone else, but happy to go home and listen to Beyonce's version about 900 times immediately afterward. "To the left, to the left..." Don't even get me started.
The Lord's Work
Ghost- "Monstrance Clock"
My mother was a super devout Irish Catholic and, as a result, was always trying to rope me into as much extracurricular Catholic activity as possible, culminating in her duping me and a priest I knew from high school into attending a benefit luncheon for retired nuns and priests in hopes that some of his holiness might rub off on me, an experience that makes my chest tighten even as I type this. A lot of people I know say they were "raised Catholic but aren't anymore", but I don't believe you can ever get away from it whether you want to or not. Something tells me the guys in Sweden's Ghost feel the same way. They combine classic 70's hard rock with awesome pop hooks and then serve it up in an awesome quasi-satanic black mass of sorts. And as if that isn't enough, their lead singer dresses as a satanic pope. If you listen closely, you can hear that a lot of their lyrics are just Catholic prayers flipped upside down, which makes it especially amusing to me. This band rules.
The Kinks- "This Time Tomorrow"
This essay is about the time I accidentally took a high-end escort to lunch, which turned out to be absolutely delightful but not in the way you might be thinking. As for the Kinks, I think they are one of the greatest and most underrated bands of all-time. And Ray Davies lyrics' are so smart and funny, I almost can't take it sometimes. And they were so great at chronicling every day life in England while exposing the absolute weirdness and absurdity of it all at the same time. It might have taken place thousands of miles away from London town, but my lunch that day felt a lot like that too.
Rocking You, Rocking Me, and Probably Some Other People, Too
Led Zeppelin- "Bron-Yr-Aur"
If there's one thing I've learned in this life it's that I just can't stop rocking. This essay starts with me discovering my dad's copy of Led Zeppelin IV and instantly becoming a slave to rock and roll. Led Zeppelin has been my favorite band ever since and, in the back of my mind, I still can't help but compare any and all of my rock exploits with theirs just to keep myself honest. I love "Bron-Yr-Aur" not only because it's such a beautiful guitar instrumental by my favorite guitar player, Jimmy Page, but because it's what's playing at the beginning of "The Song Remains the Same" when the band is cruising around New York City in a limousine. It gave me something to aspire too. And while I've yet to play in a band that cruises around in limousines, I've been in some pretty sweet vans in my day so I feel like I'm doing alright.
A Funny Feeling
The Replacements- "I Will Dare"
Like a lot of "creative types," I've had my fair share of problems with anxiety and depression and decided to write about it as best I could in this essay in hopes that it might lead to sex. Anyway, in my early twenties, when things really hit me in the gut, music was the only thing I was still somehow able to enjoy as much as ever. And while I love Led Zeppelin, the Replacements were the band I could really relate to. I was from Cleveland and they were from Minneapolis, which is just down the rode in the grand scheme of things as far as I was concerned. And Paul Westerberg always had a great way of making hopelessness somehow seem a little less hopeless, especially on "I Will Dare," a song that gets me every time.
Northeastern Ohio Velvet
Guided by Voices- "Game of Pricks"
This is the story of being drunk in Cleveland dressed as Santa Claus and ready to fight. I'm not so sure about the Santa Claus part, but the rest of that sentence can't help but remind me of Guided by Voices, my fellow Ohioans and one of the greatest bands of all-time. With over seven million songs to choose from by them, it's hard to pick a favorite, but "Game of Pricks" might be it. And if getting into a fight while dressed as Santa isn't a game of pricks I don't know what is.
Blue Oyster Cult- "Burnin' for You"
The first time I ever saw a pedicab cruising around New York City, I thought "Now there's a job for me." I only lasted two days behind the wheel, but dammit if I didn't learn a thing or two. And there's something about pulling out into traffic riding a bicycle with a big cart attached to it carrying a couple tourists that makes you feel like a champion. "Burnin' for You" makes me feel the same way. I imagine diehard BOC fans think of this as their sellout pop hit, but I love it. It's catchy, bombastic, has great guitar solos, and- perhaps most importantly- I swear you can hear the mustaches on every single band member throughout the track. You don't have to drive a pedicab to listen to this song, but it doesn't hurt.
Witness the Fitness
Walter Schreifels- "Save the Saveables"
If you've ever seen a picture of me, you already know I'm an incredible physical specimen. Um, okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit, but this essay is about my attempts at getting kind of, sort of in shape and somehow, despite my lifelong hatred of it, getting into running. I first started running on tour as the guitar player for my friend Walter Schreifels solo band. We were in Europe and I figured I had to start doing something to work off all the sausages and beer, so I started joining Walter on his daily runs after soundcheck. I practically had to be brought back to the club on a stretcher most days, but I'm still here to type about it. This is my favorite song from Walter's solo album An Open Letter to the Scene and also a pretty good tune to run to if you're so inclined.
I Kind of Remember You in the Chelsea Hotel
Rufus Wainwright- "14th Street"
When I ended up back in New York City ten years ago, I wound up moving into the Chelsea Hotel for what was supposed to be a month or two but ended up being almost a whole year. Rufus Wainwright's Want album had just come out and I played it constantly on the $30 CD player I'd just bought at K-Mart. It became a soundtrack for that time in my life and whenever I hear it, especially "14th Street", my favorite on the album, I am instantly transported to my tiny little room in the Chelsea with the out-of-tune piano and the old sink in the corner that I promised myself I would never pee in instead of using the bathroom down the hall but still kind of did most days.
The Streets Are Hell
Bad Brains- "Sacred Love"
I'd be a horrible cop but my friend Travis is a great one. He has the mustache and everything. This essay is about the time I ended doing some impromptu police work with him in Cleveland, which was fun until the guns came out and I realized how dangerous and insane his job really is. It's probably because H.R. supposedly recorded his vocals for this song on a pay phone in jail, but "Sacred Love" by Bad Brains has always reminded me of being on the wrong side of the law. I've never done worse than a few parking tickets, but I can still somehow relate.
Big in Japan
Valley Lodge- "All of My Loving"
I realize it's shameless of me to put a song by my own band on this list, but this essay is about how my obscure and aging rock band Valley Lodge got asked to tour Japan a few years ago and we all somehow got to live out our lifelong Cheap Trick "Live at Budokan" dreams at last. We didn't actually get to play at Budokan, but we were right down the street so I'll take it.
The Time I Went to Prison
Down- "Stone the Crow"
I'd always wondered what it's like inside of prison, so one day I decided to go ahead and book myself a comedy gig at Sing Sing. It seemed like a pretty funny idea at first, but in the days leading up to the show, I no longer found it very amusing. I was scared shitless but it ended up being one of the funnest days of my life. It also gave me insight into how even the most violent of felons aren't really that much different from the rest of us when it gets right down to it. Still, there's no denying that prison is a rough place. This song by Down captures the feeling of walking down those long, dark halls for the first time.
Big Star "Thirteen"
My mom died a few years ago and, as you can probably imagine, it rocked my world. And it took me until the end of her life to realize that all that stuff I'd worried about- wanting to her "get" me and be proud of me and all that- didn't matter at all. The only thing that mattered was spending time together. This song by Big Star is more about teenage romance, but it came on my stereo shortly after my mom died and to me it somehow summed up that feeling of desperately wanting to spend time with someone you love.
Dave Hill and Tasteful Nudes links:
Cleveland Plain Dealer interview with the author
The Informer interview with the author
The Leonard Lopate Show interview with the author
Nerdist interview with the author
New York Observer profile of the author
VICE interview with the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists