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April 6, 2018

Michael Imperioli's Playlist for His Novel "The Perfume Burned His Eyes"

The Perfume Burned His Eyes

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 Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Michael Imperioli's debut novel The Perfume Burned His Eyes is a gritty coming-of-age tale indelibly set in the New York of the mid-1970s.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Some fictional trips into 1970s New York abound with nostalgia; this novel memorably opts for grit and heartbreak."


In his own words, here is Michael Imperioli's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Perfume Burned His Eyes:



Lou Reed
Since an alternate universe version of Lou (circa 1976-77) is a central character in the novel, his music would naturally be featured on the soundtrack. The following songs have a particularly significance to the story:

"Romeo Had Juliette"
The title of the book is borrowed from a lyric in this song.

"Coney Island Baby"
Lou's ode to young love, lust and longing. He dedicated it to Rachel, his gal at the time, a version of whom also appears in the story.

"The Blue Mask"
A nightmarish howl of war, sadomasochism, violence and paranoia.

"Street Hassle"
The punk magnum opus with a cool Springsteen cameo.

"Metal Machine Music"
The most brilliant Fuck You in rock history. Listen at your own risk.

Dion, "Drip Drop"
My favorite Dion song. Mr. DiMucci was a big influence on the teenage Lou Reed. Lou would later induct Dion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. There's a scene in the book where Lou is writing a song and he cites Dion as an inspiration.

Rosie and the Originals, "Angel Baby"
Recorded in 1960 by the 15 year old Rosie Hamlin. This sweet song plays on the jukebox of the classic (but now defunct) NYC dive bar The Subway Inn, as the book's 16 year old hero Matthew has his first gin and tonic.

Suicide, "Cheree"
Every New York story soundtrack should include a song by Suicide. Their music is the sonic embodiment of the glorious and filthy boulevards of 1970s NYC. This is a love song.

New York Dolls, "Lonely Planet Boy"
A perfect track to accompany Matthew as he walks the streets of his new town for the first time.

Patti Smith, "Pissing in a River"
Yoko Ono "Death of Samantha"
Veronica, the teenage heroine of the story, is a fierce feminist. These two rock priestesses are her role models.

Funkadelic, "Maggot Brain"
A stupendous and stupefying specimen of electric guitar virtuosity. This should play as Matthew (for the first time behind a wheel) attempts to drive a van across rush hour Manhattan...and it begins to rain...a lot.

Mott the Hopple, "Death Might Be Your Santa Claus"
Because I like it and the world deserves it.

Janis Ian, "Stars"
Yes, it may seem like an anomaly amidst all the rock, punk and glitter, but this gorgeous 1974 ballad is the loneliest and saddest song in the world and thus fits in perfectly. I'd rather not reveal where it belongs in the book/movie but if you read it you'll know immediately.

Jobriath, "Rock of Ages"
If you've never heard his stuff this is a good place to start. And no, it has nothing to do with the dreadful Def Leppard tune or its musical theater spawn. This one is the history of rock and roll in a nutshell. It should play as Matthew and Veronica stroll the East Village as they fall in love.

T. Rex, "Girl", "Ballrooms of Mars", "Mystic Lady" and of course "Cosmic Dancer"
One never needs a reason to play T. Rex as long as it's played very very loud.

Gene Chandler, "Duke of Earl"
Lou plays this nugget on the Subway Inn jukebox and blows Matthew's mind in the process.

Erik Satie, "Gnossienne No.1" performed by Klara Kormendi
As Veronica takes Matthew to an occult bookstore...

Tiny Tim, "Tiptoe Thru the Tulips"
Matthew, in an effort to impress Lou by choosing something cool, selects this ditty on the jukebox by mistake. Lou finds it hilarious and from then on calls the mortified boy by the name of "Tim".

Nina Simone, "Suzanne"
The divine Ms. Simone's version of Leonard Cohen's classic would be ideal after Veronica casts Matthew into exile.


Michael Imperioli and The Perfume Burned His Eyes links:

the author's Wikipedia page

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

DIY MFA interview with the author
Parade interview with the author
Stereogum interview with the author
Viceland interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
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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