September 20, 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.
Kevin Fenton acutely and honestly recounts his Midwestern childhood in his impressive memoir Leaving Rollingstone, and how those experiences shaped his life.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote of the book:
"It's a life story that could easily succumb to kvetching, but Fenton's writing elevates it to a holy kind of consideration. "Leaving Rollingstone" is a long gaze into, and at, the looking glass. Fenton puts the past, warts and all, on a pedestal while remaining fully aware that this nostalgia for when "things were better" is an illusion that each generation nurtures. Fenton's book is a treasure for readers who want to strike that balance between memory and awareness."
I wish I were cooler.
I wish the songs that shaped me were Brian Eno's more ethereal atmospheres, Coltrane's atonal explorations or some primal Romanian post punk. But, nope. Leaving Rollingstone is a memoir and, as a memoir, it is honest as it can be, and the songs that shaped me as I grew up in small town Minnesota were strictly Top 40, classic rock, my-uncle-likes-that stuff.
"Yummy Yummy Yummy"
Proof that the 60s weren't all Janis Joplin, Dylan, Otis Redding and the Stones
"No Milk Today" by Herman's Hermits
"Henry the 8th" makes me want to kill someone. "Mrs Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" makes me want to kill myself. But, man, do I love this song.
"I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles
Greil Marcus has written that, at its best, music defines what it means to be alive. Coming after an assassination and a dismal February and weeks of watery Bobby Vinton singles that made you yearn for the raw energy of Lawrence Welk, this song felt like a revelation and a revolution to my just-sentient self. People who weren't there have a little trouble grasping this. My best advice is watch the opening of Pirate Radio, as Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays All Day And All of The Night by the Kinks. That gets close to the feeling.
"Downtown" by Petula Clark
A platonic essence dressed up a Top 40 hit. It's unsettling, the effect this pretty song about the allure of a city had on my life.
"The Sounds of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel
The best high school poetry ever written. That's not necessarily faint praise.
"Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who
Pimply, inarticulate, clueless, angry, striving. Pete Townshend understood that goings on in the head of the average teenage boy were one-part Dionysus and one-part Dostoyevsky.
"Sway" by The Rolling Stones
I've loved many Stones songs. This is the only one that's haunted me. The question in the song's first verse interrogated me through years of trembling hangovers.
"The Boston Rag" by Steely Dan
Steely Dan gets lumped in with a lot of too-safe, too-smooth 1970s music. But there's a longing in the guitar line here that feels like a human soul doing important business.
"The Tennessee Birdwalk" by Jake Blanchard and Misty Morgan
"You see them walking southwards in their dirty underwear." My father loved this song, which according to Wikipedia was "theorizing on the effects of removing the wings, feathers, singing ability, and common sense from birds, along with birdbaths and the trees in which the birds reside." Theorizing? The result passed from novelty to something like absurdism.
"Take Five" by Dave Brubeck
The older I get, the more music made when I was a more or less a zygote speaks to me. Still, people might question: why Brubeck? Miles Davis's Kind of Blue was probably purer. Bill Evans at the Village Vanguard, more delicate. But oh the striding winking flow of this! O the crazy synesthesia: the evocations of rhombi and boomerangs and ellipses in the oddball time signature, the invocations of rose and turquoise and sienna in those bright tones! O the frictionlessness and optimism! Brubeck could make entire decades look like they were trying too hard.
Kevin Fenton and Leaving Rollingstone links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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