April 8, 2015
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Lily Brooks-Dalton's Motorcycles I've Loved is a compelling memoir of personal growth and adventures.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"In her reflective prose, Brooks-Dalton captures the nearly mesmerizing quality of solitary, long-distance riding. She offers some useful tips on maintenance and repair, and overall she portrays a satisfying journey to a very American sense of selfhood and autonomy."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
I'm one of those annoying people who finds great joy in listening to the same songs or albums over and over again. Often, this kind of listening will eventually wear a piece of music out for me. Not so with the tunes on this list. These are the songs (and albums) that I will never, ever get sick of. All of this stuff evokes specific moments or moods, things that I wrote about in my memoir, Motorcycles I've Loved.
"When I Hear My Name" by The White Stripes
The White Stripes was the first band I really got excited about as a teenager. My older brother had their first two albums, so of course I figured that if he liked something it was certifiably cool. When he disappeared for a while during my freshman year of high school he left me with those two CDs and I listened to them nonstop. This particular track is mentioned in the book, and I remember listening to it together in his car, right before he left. The lyrics resonated with me so deeply when I was a teenager, and in a lot of ways they still do: "when I hear my name I wanna disappear/when I see my face I wanna disappear." It's such a simple song, and so poignant.
"Rub Til' it Bleeds" by PJ Harvey
Rid of Me was another album that I listened to obsessively as a teenager. When I was writing the teenage chapters of Motorcycles I've Loved, going back to this particular track was so nostalgic it ached. I'm not that familiar with PJ Harvey's other albums, but this one has such a raw, eerie quality to it. This song in particular has a thread of tension running through it that sets me on edge, as if something terrible and loud and exciting were about to happen… and then it does, and it's so satisfying.
Eulogy for Evolution by Ólafur Arnalds
I couldn't possibly pick just one track from this album. I saw Ólafur Arnalds live when I returned to the US after spending a few years traveling and I bought the CD after the show. That was an important moment for me, and for the book I ended up writing—I was going through a lot of upheaval but also rediscovering a lot of beautiful things about the area where I grew up, and this music reflected that dichotomy in a really epic and comforting way. It totally rocked me: this combination of gentle sound and tough, gritty noise. I still listen to it a lot when I write.
"Bad To The Bone" by George Thorogood
The ultimate badass song, obviously. There was a point when I was halfway through the book when I listened to this song over and over. I'd put on my headphones and then I would spend a few hours with good old George and the Destroyers—never the album, just the one song. I don't even need the music anymore, this song plays in my head of its own volition, especially when I'm riding. Is there anything more recognizable than that opening riff? It evokes a rebellious mood so immediately and so completely, the rest of the song is almost extraneous.
"Love is a Battlefield" by Pat Benatar
This is another song that I've loved for years that really speaks to the tenor of the book I set out to write. Right after I dropped out of high school, I used to blast Pat while I sped along dirt roads in my first car, chain-smoking with all the windows down. Years later, when I was writing Motorcycles I've Loved, I was really interested in thinking about love in a way that wasn't linked to romantic partnership. It's where the title comes from. Loving other people is a battlefield for sure, but so is loving yourself, and so is loving something as temperamental and volatile as a motorcycle. I really wanted to write a love story that wasn't between two people.
The soundtrack for Easy Rider
I bought this on vinyl when I was living in a big house with a lot of other people in western Massachusetts. I love pretty much every song on here, and I recall pissing everyone off because I couldn't stop playing this record. It seemed incomprehensible to me at the time that one might not want to listen to it over and over. Luckily, by the time I was revising the book I was living alone and I could play it as much as I wanted. There's obviously a motorcycle motif happening in the movie, but I think what really gets me about this record is the joyful no-fucks-given mood. Every single track on here oozes irreverence.
"Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen
No playlist is complete without a Bruce Springsteen song, and this one is a good on the road song, so there you go.
"Mumbles" by Oscar Peterson
When I'm drafting something new I often tend toward instrumental music. I love this song because it has no words, but it's full of Oscar Peterson's voice, mumbling away while he jams on the piano. It's what my brain sounds like when I'm struggling to get from one thought to another, or when I can't find the word I want. Lots of noise, but no meaning. I like most of his music as background noise while I'm working—it's unpredictable and melodious and crazy and smooth. It keeps me on my toes.
"Drive" by Melissa Ferrick
Ostensibly, this song is about sex, but with lyrics all about riding and driving, I tend to think about riding motorcycles when I hear it. It's got a really slow, sultry baseline and Melissa Ferrick's voice is just this raspy, seductive whisper for most of the song. When she sings "I hold you up and drive you all night/I hold you up and drive you till you feel the daylight" I think she's probably talking about something else, but I'm picturing a lone motorcyclist ripping along a dark, empty road, loving her machine.
Lily Brooks-Dalton and Motorcycles I've Loved links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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