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November 21, 2014

Book Notes - Sean Manning, Jack Pendarvis, Heather Havrilesky, Phil Hanrahan, Laura Lippman, Emily Chenoweth "Come Here Often?"

Come Here Often?: 53 Writers Raise a Glass to Their Favorite Bar

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, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Come Here Often?: 53 Writers Raise a Glass to Their Favorite Bar is a magnificent celebration of local bars.

Forbes wrote of the book:

"Perfect holiday gift book. . . Between the bars, locales, themes and the writers themselves, there is something here for pretty much everyone."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In their own words, here is Sean Manning and several contributors' Book Notes music playlist for the anthology Come Here Often?: 53 Writers Raise a Glass to Their Favorite Bar:

Jack Pendarvis - "Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash

I'd say that if you're alone at a back table "Sunday Morning Coming Down," written by Kris Kristofferson and sung by Johnny Cash, is the perfect bar jukebox song to accompany self-pity, an all-time fave barroom emotion.

Heather Havrilesky - "Hot in Herre" by Nelly

I know I'm outing myself as a aging frat boy with this one, but "Hot in Herre" by Nelly is the first song I look for on a jukebox. It's catchy but still soulful, upbeat but still menacing, and sexy, but in that old-school, goofy way that doesn't take itself too seriously ("I think my butt can bend!"). The bottom line is that most people are disappointingly hesitant to "take off all their clothes" in public, even when it's very hot and they're drinking tequila. This song makes up for that just a little bit.

Phil Hanrahan - "The Have Nots” by X

For a few years now I've had this fantasy of opening a small New York City bar that plays only Husker Du songs (with exceptions made for tunes by Bob Mould's post-Husker band Sugar and his solo work). Seven days and nights a week, this magnificent music, yours to hear by just stepping through the door into a place where you'll share at least one instant, guaranteed bond with everyone in there. "Celebrated Summer.” "Flexible Flyer.” "Brasilia Crossed With Trenton.” One night, all of Zen Arcade. Another night, Copper Blue. Paradise.

But given just one jukebox credit, it turns out I wouldn't turn to Husker Du. Nor to my favorite song in the world, Mark Lanegan's weary, whisky-voiced love ballad "Strange Religion” (with dark-angel backing vocals by Come Here Often? contributor Duff McKagan). The Lanegan song—about a scarred, regret-filled soul who finds transformative love—is too stately of tempo, too interiority-triggering, too grained with ache, to play in a bar, unless you want to see a roomful of patrons staring into their drinks, remembering their sharpest losses and the way love both redeems and paves the way for grief.

I'd go with my second favorite song, "The Have Nots” by X. Closing track on their epochal 1982 album Under the Big Black Sun, this song, too, has some ache in its gritty sketch of factory lifers, barflies, lonely souls gathered in Bukowski-ready dive bars and Rust Belt taverns, nursing a shot and a beer after another "hard-earned day,” playing cards with "barmaids while they work.” A lifetime of grinding and these workers have barely risen up the economic ladder since, system-wise, "this is the game that moves as you play.” (Bret Easton Ellis used the lyric, with irony, as a Less Than Zero epigraph). But the song's tempo is fast: Billy Zoom plays snappy, surging rockabilly licks; DJ Bonebreak drums with whip-cracking crispness; and as ever with X, John Doe and Exene Cervenka deliver distinctive, sometimes soaring, slightly cracked vocal harmonies—Cervenka's voice sliding up and around her then-husband's, unpredictably, wonderfully weirdly, even darting into brief, droning atonality. A harmonizing that in its knowing spikiness seems to capture the complexity of love. I've played this song more than any other song in my life. And it's never better than when pounding out of a bar jukebox. Like they're driving down one of the factory neighborhood streets in my hometown of Milwaukee (the lyrics reportedly came to Cervenka while touring the Upper Midwest) and reading aloud what they see on neon tavern signs, Doe and Cervenka chant together the names of seventeen blue-collar bars all told, including my favorites The Hula Gal, Jocko's Rocket Ship, Dexter's New Approach, GG's Cozy Corner and the Get Down Lounge. I would have loved to have been in LA's Roxy Theatre on July 12 this past summer when X played the third of four full-album shows devoted to their first four albums. That night, a Saturday, they played all of Under the Big Black Sun.

Laura Lippman - "Everything Happens to Me” by Chet Baker

There's a Steve Earle-Emmylou Harris duet that I love, "I Remember You,” from the Jerusalem album, but I've never found it on any jukebox. And I can't listen to it without crying, so maybe that's for the best. I have found Chet Baker on various jukeboxes, although it's almost always "My Funny Valentine,” which is fine, but I'd love to find his version of "Everything Happens to Me.” The thing about playing Baker for people who have never listened to him is that people start off saying, "That sounds like my drunk uncle at a wedding," but after a while, they get it. Oh, and want to win a bar bet? Bet someone who's sure they know everything about music they don't know the verse to "My Funny Valentine.”

Sean Manning - "Roll With It” by Steve Winwood

Trying to pick just one jukebox song is tough. Usually you get at least three songs, and you don't pick them independent of one another. You weave them together to tell a story or evoke a mood. Picking jukebox songs is like boxing: your combinations should vary and surprise. Picking just one song, then, is like coming out of your corner and instantly throwing a haymaker. In which case, I'd have to choose "Roll With It” by Steve Winwood. There's a reason the sax solo in rock and roll died out shortly after this song's release in 1988: you can't do it any better. Put it on and just watch the nods of appreciation from your fellow drinkers.

Emily Chenoweth - "Return of the Grievous Angel” by Gram Parsons

I've never been that person who goes to the jukebox clutching a fistful of ones. This is partly because I'd rather spend the money on a cocktail—but it's also because I don't want to choose everyone's night-out soundtrack. That seems…well, kind of bossy, honestly. And, as if these reasons aren't already enough to keep me away from the jukebox, I'm also totally indecisive. Sure, if ever forced to impose my taste on fellow bar patrons, I'd probably pick a Gram Parsons song, because I love him and because that is some down-home all-American drinking music, albeit sung by an androgynously gorgeous drug addict named Cecil wearing a bespoke sequined suit. You can hear beer bottles shattering during Parsons's live numbers, and his so-called Cosmic American Music is anthemically perfect for all the beautiful, regrettable promises a night of drinking with friends and strangers seems to hold: bad romance, psychedelic visions, satanic bargains, murder and heartbreak. But which song to pick? "Still Feeling Blue"? Too honky-tonk. "$1000 Wedding"? Too depressing. "Hickory Wind"? Waaay too slow. (See what I mean?) So I'd dither around in front of the blinking machine for ten minutes and then end up with "Return of the Grievous Angel," which, as much as I love it, would somehow feel anticlimactic and unsatisfying. Better to just stay at the bar and talk shit about the guy who picked "Take the Money and Run.”

Sean Manning and Come Here Often?: 53 Writers Raise a Glass to Their Favorite Bar links:

the editor's website
excerpt from the book (Andrew WK's essay)
excerpt from the book (Elissa Schappell's essay)
excerpt from the book (Hunter R. Slaton's essay)

Biographile review
Forbes review
Kirkus review
San Francisco Book Review review

Reddit interview with the author
Shelf Awareness profile of the author
Soundcheck interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists

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)
musician/author interviews
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

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