September 12, 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.
Leila Sales' This Song Will Save Your Life is a powerful, honest, and heartfelt young adult novel about personal identity and the power of music in our lives.
Kirkus wrote of the book:
"Her journey toward acceptance—of others and of herself—is compelling. The supporting characters are equally well-developed, with the strengths and flaws of real people. Sales' narrative, rich with diverse music references, reverberates with resilience."
My new novel, This Song Will Save Your Life, is about a friendless high school sophomore who, after a failed suicide attempt, discovers an underground nightclub and a life-changing passion for music and DJing. (Incidentally, you have no idea how long it has taken me to be able to summarize this book in one sentence like that. Up until a few months ago, when people asked me, "What's your book about?" I answered, "It's about this girl…?")
Elise's story is an indie rock story, so when I wrote it, I started off each chapter with a brief quotation—just a line, maybe two—from indie songs that mean something special to me. Throughout the writing and revision process, I revisited these epigraphs again and again, changing them, reordering them. Not only did they need to have significance for me, but also they needed to relate to and illuminate Elise's experiences in the chapter to come.
I thought a lot about these quotations, but what I had not anticipated was that I would not be able to use them. They appear at the start of every chapter of the bound galleys, but were cut from the final hardcover book. Here's why:
Unlike with quoting a book or an article, there's no standard for what constitutes "fair use" of song lyrics. Is it copyright infringement to quote fifty percent of a song in a publication? Is it copyright infringement to quote one full line? No one knows. As such, to avoid getting sued by a music label (which sounds, frankly, terrible), I was advised to request permission to quote every song that opened every one of the twenty chapters.
I approached this task with determination and optimism, but after many months of trying, I had to admit: it was not going to happen. For some of the songs quoted, I never figured out who the rights holders were, so I couldn't ask for permission at all. Lyrics rights holders often are not the musical artists themselves or the labels—they are third-party companies that you have probably never heard of before. I certainly hadn't. Unfortunately there's no central database where you can simply look up who owns rights to a song you want to quote.
On the occasions where I did succeed in getting in touch with the correct rights holders, they often quoted me prices in the hundreds of dollars to use one line from their song—and that cost would be just for the American edition, not even covering the other countries that the book will be sold in. Without telling you my exact book advance, I can say confidently that paying hundreds of dollars for each of twenty quotes was not a financially viable option.
So, I removed the lyrics from the book. It was a disappointment not merely because I'd spent so long on them, but because I had wanted to introduce readers to these songs. This Song Will Save Your Life is a young adult novel, which means much its audience will be teenagers. They may have not yet heard of the Smiths or New Order or Belle & Sebastian or other bands that I honestly believe can make life better, and high school easier, if you discover them and connect with them. I didn't know about any of those bands until my senior year. I wish I had. I wholeheartedly believe that the right song can help you through a difficult time; it can change the way you look at yourself and at the world. I wanted to share with my readers songs that might do that for them.
Therefore, I am here going to list for you every song that was supposed to be quoted in the pages of This Song Will Save Your Life. If you want, you can read this list alongside the book, and you can see just how I envisioned it.
Oh, and then go buy the songs. They're good ones.
Opening to the book: "We go down to the indie disco every Thursday night. Dance to our favorite indie hits until the morning light." From "At the Indie Disco," by the Divine Comedy
Chapter 1: "By now you should have somehow realized what you're not to do." From "Wonderwall," by Oasis.
Chapter 2: "I'd rather be no one than someone with no one." From "Here It Comes," by the Stones Roses
Chapter 3: "I know I'm unlovable, you don't have to tell me." From "Unlovable," by the Smiths
Chapter 4: "You can't start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart. This gun's for hire, even if it's just dancing in the dark." From "Dancing in the Dark," by Bruce Springsteen
Chapter 5: "I would go out tonight, but I haven't got a stitch to wear." From "This Charming Man," by the Smiths
Chapter 6: "Get me away from here, I'm dying. Play me a song to set me free." From "Get Me Away from Here, I'm Dying," by Belle and Sebastian
Chapter 7: "Let your feelings slip, boy, but never your mask, boy." From "Born Slippy NUXX," by Underworld
Chapter 8: "We are far too young and clever." From "Come On Eileen," by Dexy's Midnight Runners
Chapter 9: "I think everybody here can agree that a party ain't great ‘cause the booze is free." From "Whoo! Alright – Yeah… Uh-huh," by the Rapture
Chapter 10: "If we sleep together would it make it any better? If we sleep together would you be my friend forever?" From "La Familia," by Mirah
Chapter 11: "Do you find this happens all the time?" From "Age of Consent," by New Order
Chapter 12: "When you say it's going to happen now, well, when exactly do you mean?" From "How Soon Is Now?" by the Smiths
Chapter 13: "Where are your friends tonight? Where are your friends tonight? If I could see all my friends tonight…" From "All My Friends," by LCD Soundsystem
Chapter 14: "Don't cry, don't raise your eyes, it's only teenage wasteland." From "Baba O'Riley," by the Who
Chapter 15: "And I was no one, I had nothing." From "I Saw Her at the Anti-War Demonstration," by Jens Lekman
Chapter 16: "Lived in bars and danced on tables, hotels, trains, and ships that sailed." From "Lived in Bars," by Cat Power
Chapter 17: "Calm down my heart, don't beat so fast, don't be afraid, just once in a lifetime." From "Once in a Lifetime," by Wolfsheim
Chapter 18: "Misshapes, mistakes, misfits. Raised on a diet of broken biscuits. Oh, we don't look the same as you, and we don't do the things you do, but we live ‘round here too." From "Mis-Shapes," by Pulp
Chapter 19: "And we're just like how Rousseau depicts man in the state of nature: we're underdeveloped, we're ignorant, we're stupid, but we're happy." From "You! Me! Dancing!" by Los Campesinos
Chapter 20: "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need." From "You Can't Always Get What You Want," by the Rolling Stones
Leila Sales and This Song Will Save Your Life links:
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