I don’t know how I landed on this song, except that it always makes me happy — and Teenage Fanclub from Scotland is one of my all-time favorites. Here they are doing their Byrds-influenced, harmony-dripped jangle. Have a great weekend.
“I Don’t Want Control of You,” Teenage Fanclub, from their great CD, “Songs from Northern Britain.
I’ve long been awed by the song, “Feeling Good,” as sung by Nina Simone. It slays me every time I hear it. The lyrics by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse (I don’t know who to credit, exactly) are so simple, yet convey such depth of feeling.
Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
And I’m feeling good
Fish in the sea you know how I feel
River running free you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree you know how I feel
Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done
That’s what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pine you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel
And when the horns kick in, oh my.
Anyway, I’ve been writing and re-writing a scene in a new book. So far, it feels like every decision I make is the wrong one. Every path, the wrong one. I try to squeeze some background information into dialogue, it sounds false. I try it with straight exposition, it drags. I’m wrestling with the problem of “set-up,” an issue I’ve faced dozens of times with Jigsaw Jones, and I’m still searching, slashing, deleting, surrendering.
But I did wake up this morning with that song in my head, and I thought about my main character, Samantha, looking up at the clouds — something I wanted her to do, an aspect of her character — and that’s the feeling in her heart. She sees a bird soaring high and she knows how it feels.
Over coffee, I scribbled on a sheet of paper:
Sam was a cloud watcher and a sky dreamer. She looked up to admire a red-tailed hawk soaring through the clouds, and sent a silent message to that bird: Youknow how I feel.
Will this solve my problem? No, it won’t. Will it make it through the revision and editing process? No idea. But I’m going back in again, this song in my heart, and I’m going to bring that moment with me.
FUN FACT: Newley and Bricusse also composed the original score and songs for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Which, weirdly enough, inspired aspects of the story I’m currently writing. There’s a Wonka-esque character in it. When coincidence comes together, I often think, “Somebody’s trying to tell me something.” I figure I’m on the right track. Time to grab a shovel and dig in.
No blogging for at least a week until I beat a deadline into submission, literally. So ’til then . . .
I’ve concocted an imaginary soundtrack that plays during the imaginary movie that’s based on my (real!) upcoming Young Adult novel, Before You Go (July 17, 2012) I didn’t sweat the details, such as, oh, there’s no movie and even if there was, we couldn’t afford many of these bands. Not going to worry about that. These are the songs I hear in my head as I move through the book, the songs that helped me as a writer.
Setup: For those who don’t know, the story opens with four unnamed teenagers driving on a dark road. The car spins out of control, hits a tree. One passenger dies. Next page, we rewind six weeks into the past, and gradually meet all the characters. The reader does not know who is going to be in the car, or who will die. The book catches up to the accident about 2/3 of the way through. So the book is in two sections: “Before” and “After.”
For purposes of length, and to avoid disclosing any key spoilers, I’ve limited today’s post to Part One, “Before.”
And away we go, chapter to chapter . . .
Tom Petty, “Here Comes My Girl”
Probably not the hippest selection in the world, and surely classic rock isn’t the right note to start off with, but I always heard this Tom Petty tune blasting from the radio as the car races through the fogged, misty night. Anyway. Key lyric: “You know, sometimes, I don’t know why, but this old town just seems so hopeless.”
PART ONE: BEFORE
The Cure, “Pictures of You”
This is Jude’s recent obsession as a guitar player, this exact tune, and the music plays when he shoves in the ear buds while riding the bus to his first-ever summer job. I see him staring out the bus window, crossing the bridges, the summer morning, the traffic and the water and the gulls.
TWO & THREE
The Head and the Heart, “Lost In My Mind”
This doesn’t precisely connect to the material, but somehow reflects interior Jude, going through the motions at his new job, punching the clock, meeting the new boss, putting on the paper hat. It’s a mood thing. Key lyric: “‘Cause there are stars/Up above/We can start/Moving forward.” And also, “Put your dreams away for now/I won’t see you for some time/I am lost in my mind/I get lost in my mind.”
Toro Y Moi, “Still Sound”
Full on beach mode, Jude working hard now, the sun-burnt throng, great-looking girls in bikinis — and he sees Becka for the first time.
Arcade Fire, “Suburban War”
I see Jude returning home from work, walking the suburban streets, seeing his father out front, opening the door, going inside. Key lyric: “This town’s so strange/They built it to change/And while we’re sleeping all the streets, they rearrange.” There’s also a foreshadowing in a later line: “In the suburbs, I learned to drive/People told me we would never survive.”
Big Star, “I’m In Love with a Girl”
One of the all-time favorite songs, all that teenage vulnerability and yearning. We’ve got to find a place for it somewhere in the imaginary movie soundtrack, so we’ll squeeze it in here.
Ben Folds, “Not the Same”
Jude and his best friend Corey climb the roof of his house, overlooking their suburban world. About the homemade fan video, above, made by two brothers, I love the vibe they created. Good, clean fun. Nice job, guys.
SEVEN & EIGHT
Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Me and Jane Doe”
Cool tune, seems to be a conversation of sorts, and I wanted a female voice entering the soundtrack. I hear this with Jude and Becka outside on the bench in the open air, feeling each other out. Leads to this miraculous version of “Hey Jude” by Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman. All the lyrics to this song work for this character, “And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain/Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders.” Or this: “And don’t you know that it’s just you, hey Jude, you’ll do/The movement you need is on your shoulder.”
Wilson Pickett, “Hey, Jude”
Teenage Fanclub, “Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe in Anything”
Fits with the feeling of time on the boardwalk, putt-putt golf, and talk about guitars. Sunny and happy, Becka and Jude. And I worship Teenage Fanclub.
Stornoway, “Fuel Up”
The car imagery again, the youthful reflection, the open road — but not in the way that Springsteen writes about it, or even Kerouac, but here with a mixture of innocence lost and trepidation. Key lyric: “And your head’s on the window, your eyes are just closed/There’s a voice in the front and a hush on the road/You’re a passenger but your mind is travelling on.” Again with Jude, there’s this insular sense, lost in his mind almost regardless of circumstances. So many times he’s not fully there.
Yuck, “Get Away”
Just the right sound as the pace picks up, four boys in the car kicking back. But at the same time, a part of Jude will always, always, remain separate. He’s texting with Becka, thinking of her. Key lyric: “Summer sun says get out more/I need you, I want you/But I can’t get this feeling off my mind/I want you, I need you.//Oh, I can’t get away, Oh, I can’t get away . . .”
Laura Marling, “Rambling Man”
I kind of associate Becka with Laura Marling. I can imagine Becka owning some Marling on vinyl, spinning it in a candle-lit bedroom. Marling appears on this soundtrack in my head — lawyers be damned. This little scene between Jude & Becka at the beach has, like so many scenes with Jude, that underpinning of sadness to it. Key lyric: “Oh, naive little me/Asking what things you have seen/You’re vulnerable in your head/You’ll scream and you’ll wait till you’re dead.”
Rosewood Thieves, “Los Angeles”
This song just brings the hip, cool vibe I needed to hear. But it also reflects absence and longing, Jude’s little sister, Lily, gone forever. Key lyric: “It’s been so long since I’ve seen her around here/I can’t remember if she’s real/Summer days spent walking around/And up all night yeah/Trying to remember if she’s real.”
M83, “Midnight City”
Let’s party like it’s 2012. Good times, hanging out, knocking down the pins, drinking smuggled-in rum & coke. If this song plays when I’m bowling, hey, maybe I finally crack 150 if it’s cranked up LOUD enough.
15 & 16
Beirut, “The Rip Tide”
Sun Kil Moon, “Floating”
Joni Mitchell, “All I Want”
There’s the beach, the sadness of their conversation, and then together entering the water, floating, faces turned to the sun, and liquid desire. These songs are those feelings.
Wilco, “You and I”
Jude and Becka swapping songs on guitar, hanging out on a blanket, falling in love, together. If you don’t know this song, or the greatness of Feist, listen up!
Foo Fighters, “Home”
A stunning and sensitive performance by Dave Grohl. At the end of this chapter, Becka wipes a tear from Jude’s face and tells him, “When you cry, I taste salt.”
The War on Drugs, “Brothers”
Good times, Corey and Jude, gaming in the basement. Great friends, waiting for their ride, ready to hit that party at Gilgo Beach. As they are about to leave, four teenagers in a car, Jude’s father calls out, “Hey, before you go . . .”
Lana Del Rey, “It’s the End of the World“
The original version of this song, by the great Skeeter Davis, ran through my head all through the writing of this book. I don’t think Lana Del Ray nails this version, by any means, but I like the idea of a hip update, sans strings, so submit that notion here. This is the chapter of the accident: “Don’t they know, it’s the end of the world?It ended when you said goodbye.”
Anyway, here’s the Skeeter Davis version — now imagine a more contemporary, stripped down take, without the syrupy excesses of the classic arrangement. Not criticizing Skeeter, btw, the original song is perfect. Just that for my movie, and for this song to reach a new audience, it needs a different take. IMO.
In the article, various musicians discuss their favorite instruments. I particularly liked Peter Buck’s description of his beloved guitar, because it so closely matched what I’d already written in my upcoming Young Adult debut, Before You Go (July, 2012).
Before we get to Buck and his guitar, here’s a brief section from my book, written over a year ago. To set the scene: Jude and Becka are hanging out together for the first time after work; they’ve walked the Jones Beach boardwalk on a cloudy day and are now playing putt-putt golf. Becka tells Jude that she’s saving up for her dream guitar:
This could be what Becka’s dream guitar looks like.
“What kind of guitar do you want to buy?”
“Rickenbacker 330,” Becka answered.
“You like that jangle sound, huh?”
“John Lennon, Johnny Marr, Peter Buck, they all played Rickenbackers,” Becka said. “You know Guitar World in Massapequa? That’s where I’m going to buy it. I’ve got mine all picked out.”
“Tell me,” Jude said, tapping the ball into the hole. He didn’t bother to fill in the scorecard. Jude hated those ultracompetitive guys who took things like P.E. way too seriously. He and Becka randomly cut over from the third to the eleventh hole. Nobody was around, nobody cared, and this one has a fake pirate ship in the middle of it to enhance the awesomeness.
“You should see it, gorgeous guitar,” Becka enthused. “Semi-hollow maple body, fireglo finish, rosewood fretboard with dot inlays, single-coil pickups –“
“Wow, you know your stuff,” Jude said. “That’s not a cheap guitar.”
“Almost two thousand balloons,” Becka said. “My parents are willing to go halfsies.”
“Halfsies?” Jude laughed.
“You know what I mean,” Becka protested, a hint of color rising to her cheeks. “I’ve been staring at that guitar for the past year. It’s my goal for this summer. I need that guitar.”
Jude knew exactly how she felt. He was always coveting a new guitar, or considering a trade-in. Every guitar had an individual sound, a character of its own, something that most people didn’t understand. Jude and Becka talked guitars and music, compared iPods and favorite tunes, thrilled to have that connection. “I’d love to hear you play,” Jude said.
I know, nothing fancy going on here, just two characters finding common ground, the beginning of something more. But I do love the setting, Jones Beach. I spent so much time there as a kid — hanging out and, later, working at the concession stands and washing dishes in the restaurant.
Now, from the article, here’s Peter Buck, name-checked in the section above (as is Johnny Marr, who coincidentally wrote the foreward to Graham’s book), describing his beloved Rickenbacker 360 JetGlo:
Buck & his guitar, 1983.
I bought my first Rickenbacker in about 1980. I love the tone. I love the history, knowing that Roger McGuinn and George Harrison and Pete Townshend also played Rickenbackers.
That one got stolen eventually, I think in 1981, when I was doing a show for $100. So we went to a tiny little guitar shop and pulled a Rickenbacker out of a box. It was in tune. I played it, it sounded great, and it’s the one I’ve used on every single record I’ve ever made. I’ve played it on stage my entire adult life and on every REM record except the “Radio Free Europe” single, because I didn’t have it at that point.
NOTE: I just triple-checked my Lennon/Rickenbacker reference. I know I got it from somewhere, that he played a Rickenbacker, but with Buck’s mention of Harrison, I started to wonder. Here’s a good article for guitar geeks, “The Beatles and Their Rickenbackers,” by Bjorn Eriksson.
And here’s Buck & company for your listening pleasure . . .