March 5, 2014
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.
Michelle Richmond's novel Golden State is both imaginative and bittersweet in its articulate examination of family and love.
Booklist wrote of the book:
"Mesmerizing and intricate, Richmond’s dissection of California on the violent brink of secession from the nation provides the backdrop for her deeper inspection of the fragile relationship between siblings…Seemingly random situations are tied together during a single day with breathtaking grace by Richmond in an understated yet riveting read…"
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
Golden State began with an idea for a single scene: a husband and wife at the end of their marriage, spending their final night together in a San Francisco radio station, where the husband works as a late-night deejay. As the story developed, the one thing that remained constant in my mind was the sound of the music from the radio station. Early drafts of the novel contained a number of songs that didn't make it into the final draft. Here are the songs that, for me, capture the spirit of California in general and San Francisco in particular.
1. Admiral Radley, "I Heart California"
The product of a one-off local California indie super-group combination, comprised of members of Grandaddy and Earlimart, this song is an unapologetic celebration of the true spirit of California.
2. Walty, "Haight Street Bus Ride"
Girl runs into an old lover on a San Francisco bus. As they ride together toward the park, with the sun setting over the hills, they catch up. He’s living near the ocean, he says; she lies and tells him she is too. You can tell she’s been really messed up ever since they broke up. This song is a story in the best sense, with a beginning, middle, and end. And it pushes all the right buttons. If you’re not in love, this song will make you want to be.
3. Beulah, "Hovering"
I'm still lamenting the dissolution of Beulah, one of the great, lesser-known San Francisco bands. "Hovering," a single from their album “Yoko,” is pure pop genius. For me though, the demo version, a lulling, beautiful instrumental, found only on a limited issue mini-CD, is the greatest treat. I'm not sure where you might find it, though I imagine there's probably a copy at Amoeba.
4. Tom Petty, "California"
Tom Petty is a transplant to California from the South. For years, his identity and his songs were intertwined with his birthplace in Gainesville, Florida. Listening to his albums over the years, I've always been interested to hear how his southern identity has slowly evolved and reconciled itself with his adopted home. With the short, direct, and brilliant "California" from 1996, the evolution seems complete. This song is highly personal for me. Like Petty, my roots are deeply Southern (I’m from Mobile, Alabama, the granddaughter of a rural Mississippi preacher), but I have made my home and my adult life on the West Coast.
5. Norman Greenbaum, "Spirit in the Sky"
Another California transplant, Greenbaum moved to California at the age of 23. He wrote and recorded this classic four years later in San Francisco. A Jewish kid from Massachusetts, Greenbaum reportedly penned his fun, funky, celebratory "friend in Jesus" song in under fifteen minutes. By some accounts, he was never really sure what it meant. I can never figure out what it means either. I don't know what it would've been like to live in San Francisco during the summer of love, but I imagine that the vibe was something like this song.
6. Dwight Yoakam, "Late Great Golden State"
When you scratch the surface of a gilded thing, you always find its hidden imperfections. This song from a Kentucky boy who made it big in LA makes a nod to California as the place of reinvention, calling California “a nice place for a clean slate.” So many of us come here from somewhere else and never leave. Maybe our dreams come true, maybe they don’t, but once we get here, we can’t bear to leave.
Michelle Richmond and Golden State links:
CarolineLeavittville interview with the author
In the Stacks interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for No One You Know
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Year of Fog
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)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists