Voices from the Dark
A SOUNDTRACK TO THE NOVELS, VOL I
Music has always played a large part in my life, so when it came to writing my books it seemed natural that music should have a role to play in them as well. I've written seven books, five of them featuring a detective named Charlie Parker (so you can see that the music references were pretty ingrained from the start.) Parker shares my musical tastes, so most of the artists on this CD have been referenced in the books in some way, and the songs chosen all have resonances for me, and for Parker. The Red House Painters' lovely, desolate "Summer Dress" brings to mind the figure of Parker's dead wife, who haunts the shadows of his life, and I've always thought that The Triffids' "Blinder by the Hour" might be about a man so overcome by grief that he wants nothing more than to be interred alongside his dead lover. The Walkabouts, Thee More Shallows, The Go-betweens and Lambchop have all made appearances in the books, and the lyrics of Pinetop Seven have graced three of my novels. The inclusion of the Radar Brothers and Hem stems from the way they seem to link with my second book, Dark Hollow, and in an ideal world Neko Case would play "Twist the Knife" during that book's dance hall scene, should it ever make it to the screen. Lullaby for the Working Class's "Good Morning" could almost be Parker's theme tune, and Kate Bush's "Ne T'En Fuis Pas" effectively soundtracks, for me, the moment when Parker and Rachel first make love in Every Dead Thing. I love the sense of promise and longing that suffuses Beachwood Sparks' "Ponce de Leon Blues", and as for The Blue Nile's "Happiness", well, there seemed no more apt way to close an album based around the troubled character of Charlie Parker than with Paul Buchanan asking how long his peace will last. . .
If you like these songs—and I hope that some, at least, resonate with you—then please hunt down the albums from which they come, and perhaps drop the artists a line to tell them where you heard their work. I'm immensely grateful to all of them for allowing me to use their music, and for the way in which their work has enriched both my own writing, and my life.
- Good Morning Lullaby for the Working Class
- Summer Dress Red House Painters
- Hollow Hem
- Crawl Away Lambchop
- Ne T'En Fuis Pas Kate Bush
- Cattle and Cane The Go-Betweens
- Bordertown The Walkabouts
- Ponce de Leon Blues Beachwood Sparks
- Twist the Knife Neko Case
- Where Are You Now? Thee More Shallows
- November 4AM Pinetop Seven
- Blinder by the Hour The Triffids
- Rock of the Lake Radar Brothers
- Happiness The Blue Nile
1. Lullaby for the Working Class, "Good Morning"
(from the album Blanket Warm)
Courtesy of Bar None Records Inc.
Written by Lullaby for the Working Class
published by Songs from the Womb (BMI)
c/o Presto Recording, 135 S.19th St., Lincoln, NE 68510
"There's no more room in heaven/ So when you tumble down..."
It always seemed to me that if I ever needed a theme tune for Parker, then the beautiful first track from LFTWC's debut album would do nicely. It's mainly instrumental, apart from its final seconds, and is very quiet and restrained, and then about 2.10 into the song a very understated martial theme creeps in. Finally, the lyric begins, and right in the middle there is this couplet: "There's no more room in heaven/ So when you tumble down..."
Albums also worth tracking down: Song; I Never Even Asked For Light
2. Red House Painters, "Summer Dress"
(from the album Retrospective)
Ⓟ 1995 4AD Limited
Written by Mark Kozelek
Published by God Forbid Publishing
ISRC No: GB-AFL-95-00014
Licensed courtesy of 4AD
"Wonders if she is loved/ Or if she is missed..."
Throughout the novels Parker is haunted by the presence, real or imagined, of his dead wife, Susan. She is always dressed the same way when he sees her: in a summer dress, with her hair tied back in an aquamarine bow. This lovely, desolate song always reminds me of that image, with its story of a woman wondering "if she is loved, or if she is missed. . ."
Albums also worth tracking down: Old Ramon; Ocean Beach; Ghosts of the Great Highway (by Sun Kil Moon, Kozelek's new group); Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver
3. Hem, "Hollow"
(from the album Eveningland)
Composer - Steven Curtis
Ⓟ 2004 The Copyright in this sound recording is owned by Waveland Records under exclusive license to EMI Records Ltd.
"But it's a hard road that we follow/ The saddest cities, and the darkest hollows. . ."
This is the most recently released song on the compilation, as the album came out in the US late in 2004, and has only just been released in the UK as I write. I love Sally Ellyson's voice, the song's almost oriental melody, and the inadvertent lyrical echoes of my second book: "But it's a hard road that we follow,/ The saddest cities, the darkest hollow..."
Albums also worth tracking down: Rabbit Songs; I'm Talking With My Mouth (EP)
4. Lambchop, "Crawl Away"
(from the album, Thriller)
Lambchop appears courtesy of Merge Records and City Slang Records
"Save you/ Won't save you . . ."
This is the Lambchop song that's stayed with me above any other. It has a long instrumental introduction, and then Kurt Wagner's voice enters, singing F.M.Cornog's almost despairing words. (The song is a cover version of the East River Pipe original.) But it's the final refrain that turns this piece into something extraordinary: a haunting female voice competing with Wagner's, and the words "Save you/ Won't save you" sung over and over again, as the possibility of redemption is reasserted and denied . . .
Albums also worth tracking down: Nixon; Aw C'Mon/ No You C'Mon; I Hope You're Sitting Down/ Jack's Tulips; Poor Fricky (by East River Pipe), The Gasoline Age (by East River Pipe)
5. Kate Bush, "Ne T'en Fuis Pas"
(from the box set This Woman's Work)
Publisher—Kate Bush Music Ltd/EMI Music Publishing Ltd.
Ⓟ 1982 The Copyright in this sound recording is owned by Novercia Ltd. Under exclusive license to EMI Records Ltd.
Courtesy of EMI Records Ltd.
"Si les grands yeux de mon Dieu/ Regardez pas. . ."
I sometimes use music when I'm having trouble writing, or when I despair of ever finishing a book and need to raise my spirits a little. There are songs that I've used to soundtrack scenes or sequences in my head: Nine Inch Nails' "Something I Can Never Have" will always be associated with the writing of Every Dead Thing, and Depeche Mode's "Home" with Dark Hollow, as they were the songs that I listened to when progress on each of those books ran into difficulties.
"Ne T'En Fuis Pas" is another song associated with Every Dead Thing. I suppose that, like a great many men in their thirties and forties, I've always been a little in love with Kate Bush, and perhaps that adds a certain sensual charge to her music for me. There is a scene in Every Dead Thing where Parker and Rachel make love for the first time, both of them damaged in their way, both of them in shock after witnessing, and participating in, the violence at a funeral, and both of them seeking some way to reach out to another human being. In the scheme of the book, at least as it exists in my head, their lovemaking coincides with the killing of another character, and the two acts interweave. This is the music that plays over both.
Albums also worth tracking down: The Whole Story (compilation); The Kick Inside; Hounds of Love; The Sensual World
6. The Go-Betweens, "Cattle and Cane"
(from the album Before Hollywood)
Licensed from Southside London
(The Go-Betweens are touring Britain, Europe and America in May, June and July. Their new album is called Ocean's Apart and is to be released 25th April in United Kingdom and Europe and 2nd, May for Australia and the United States.)
"I recall/ A schoolboy coming home/ Through fields of cane/ To a house of tin and timber. . ."
The Go-Betweens should have been huge. They produced album after album of the kind of songs that give popular music a good name, and even when they reformed they avoided the pitfalls that seem to plague bands who, often mistakenly, believe that their time has not yet passed. But instead of enormous wealth and glory they've had to settle for being loved, which is, perhaps, not the worst result to have achieved in a career spanning four decades.
Most of the songs on the Voices from the Dark compilation refer to Parker's current existence, and come tinged with regret, but in the books Parker returns, again and again, to his youth in Maine and the beloved figure of his grandfather, and "Cattle and Cane" positively glows with that nostalgia for a childhood fondly recalled.
Albums also worth tracking down: Bellavista Terrace (compilation); 16 Lover's Lane; Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express; Tallulah; Horsebreaker Star (solo album by Grant McLennan)
7. The Walkabouts, "Bordertown"
(from the album Setting the Woods on Fire)
GRCD 319, Glitterhouse Records
"Bordertown, there's been an accident in Bordertown/ Bordertown, I am your accident in Bordertown. . ."
The Walkabouts are another one of the bands referenced in the books. I guess they were alt-country before it was fashionable to be, or before people had even really started really applying that name to bands like Uncle Tupelo, The Jayhawks etc., but alt-country really doesn't do justice to their range. I just happen to like this song a lot, although its lyrics seem applicable both to the start of The White Road, when Bear concocts a story about seeing a missing girl at a racetrack in Mexico, and The Black Angel, which has a section set near Yuma, Arizona. The Walkabouts have produced a lot of material over the years, so if you like this song then you're going to be spoiled for choice. They're also spectacularly good live.
Albums also worth tracking down: Trail of Stars, Watermarks (compilation); Death Valley Days (compilation); New West Motel; Devil's Road; Nighttown; Drunken Soundtracks (compilation)
8. Beachwood Sparks, "Ponce de Leon Blues"
(from the EP Make The Cowboy Robots Cry)
Published by Songs/Dugong Songs/Silverbeach Music/ASCAP
Ⓟ 2002 Rough Trade Records
Licensed Courtesy of Sanctuary Records Group
"Still holding on to hope. . ."
I still think that this is Beachwood Sparks's finest moment. I love the combination of male and female vocals here (the Sparks's Chris Gunst and guest vocalist Mia Doi Todd) and the sense of optimism and resilience in the face of a love that appears to be failing: "Still holding on to hope as time stood still. / Real love/ Guards the way home./ I'll be waiting where the river flows . . ." As far as the books are concerned, it's probably Rachel's song, I think.
Albums also worth tracking down: When We Were Trees
9. Neko Case, "Twist the Knife"
(from the album Furnace Room Lullaby)
Neko Case appears courtesy of Mint Records
"Tenderly, tenderly, please take my breath from me. . ."
This was a favourite of the late John Peel, a British DJ who championed so many different kinds of music that he would have been a very wealthy man if every artist who had received his support had cut him in for one per cent of their earnings. (Actually, given a lot of the artists he favored were fairly obscure, and seemed destined to remain so, he probably wouldn't have made very much at all.)
Neko Case doesn't fall into that category, thankfully, and each successive album has been better than the one before (and she was very, very good to begin with.) I still get a pleasant shock when her voice explodes this song into life: she sounds as if the ghosts of every great female country vocalist are being channeled through her at that moment. If Dark Hollow, my second book, is ever filmed, I'd want Neko Case singing this song as Parker, Angel and Louis enter the dancehall in the titular town, with the killer Stritch lurking in the background.
Albums also worth tracking down: Blacklisted.
10. Thee More Shallows, "Where Are You Now?"
(from the album A History of Sport Fishing)
Ⓟ and © Thee More Shallows 2002
Available on Monotreme Records
"And oh, it's the people you choose/ To leave/ Whom you see/ All the time. . ."
This song is referenced by name in The Reflecting Eye, the Parker novella included in the Nocturnes anthology. Thee More Shallows are a most unusual group in that they don't really sound like anyone but themselves, and A History of Sport Fishing is often breathtakingly lovely. I think "Where Are You Now?" resonates with Parker because of its final words, which seem to function as a kind of warning as he tries to come to terms with the continued presence of his dead wife in the shadows of his life: "It's the people you choose/ To leave/ Whom you see/ All the time, all the time..."
Albums also worth tracking down: More Deep Cuts
11. Pinetop Seven, "November 4AM"
(from the album Bringing Home the Last Great Strike)
Used with permission of Darren Richard and Atavistic Records
"Am I/ Awake from the wind/ It's laughing through the walls..."
If any one group is linked to my books, it is Pinetop Seven. Whenever I'm looking for a suitable song lyric to mark the beginning of a new section of a novel, I now turn first to Darren Richard's work, and I always seem to find something apt. It may also be that, in his painstaking approach to making albums, and the sense of painstaking layering that I get from his songs, I feel that I've found a kindred spirit. I've used his lyrics in three novels—The White Road, Bad Men, and The Black Angel—and any one of the songs from which I've quoted in the past would have suited this compilation. Instead I've chosen a song that has no direct bearing on the books, although it does seem to work as a tribute to a woman (Rachel) who finds a way to calm her lover (Parker) when the world threatens to overwhelm him: "I've watched you smile as you hold my hand/ And talk me down again." Mainly, though, I love the moment at 2.55 when the song commences its extended instrumental coda, and a kind of transcendence is achieved through what follows.
Albums also worth tracking down: Pinetop Seven; Rigging the Toplights
12. The Triffids, "Blinder by the Hour"
(from the album Calenture)
"With your lips for food/ Your skin for sheets/ Your eyes for light/ And your blood for heat/ Your two wide arms for an overcoat. . ."
Calenture—soon to be re-released—is one of those great, lost eighties albums by a group that, like the Go-Betweens, should really have enjoyed greater commercial success than they did. Those who have discovered The Triffids tend to take them to their hearts, and if they connect with you then it's a bond that you won't shake off, and won't want to shake off. They are also, I think, the only band to have a written a funny, touching and moving song about a 10,000 year old frozen man in the British Museum: "Jerdacuttup Man", also on Calenture. Tragically, their talented lead singer and songwriter, David McComb, died of complications following a car accident in 1999. He was only 37.
I'm still not entirely sure what "Blinder by the Hour" is about, but I've always thought that it could be written from the perspective of someone whose lover has died and who, unable to continue alone, wants to be interred alongside her: "Now you'll have to hold me up/ And now I'll have to crawl./ Sew up my eyelids, stitch up my lips,/ Take me down roman stairs to your secret backdoor..."
Albums also worth tracking down: Australian Melodrama (compilation); Born Sandy Devotional; The Black Swan; Love of Will (solo album by David McComb)
13. Radar Brothers, "Rock of the Lake"
(from the album And The Surrounding Mountains)
Ⓟ 2002 Chemikal Underground Ltd.
Radar Brothers appear courtesy of Merge Records
"Out on the lake of all truth/ Rise to the surface you hunter, you killer, you fool . . ."
Like Hem's "Hollow", I associate this with my second book, Dark Hollow, even though both of these songs were released some years after the novel. It's just that sometimes a lyric like the one quoted above will resonate with something that I've written, and a connection will be forged between the song and the book. Along with "Shovelling Sons" on The Singing Hatchet, this is my favourite Radar Brothers song. Once again, there's hope at the end. Its final words are: "Just keep moving on/ The high water's coming on./ In this water they will carry me to you. . ."
Albums also worth tracking down: Radar Brothers; The Singing Hatchet
14. The Blue Nile, "Happiness"
(from the album Peace At Last)
Courtesy of Warner Brothers Records
"Now that I've found peace at last/ Tell me, Jesus, will it last . . ?"
A friend of mine once said that the part of Every Dead Thing he found hardest to come to terms with was the presence of The Blue Nile in Parker's record collection, but if I had to save one album for my desert island, The Blue Nile's debut, A Walk Across the Rooftops, would probably be it. I listened to it throughout my first ever trip to the United States in 1991, when I was just starting to discover Maine. The Blue Nile work painstakingly slowly, so in about 23 years they've produced just four albums, each of them, in its own way, quite wonderful.
This song comes from their third album, and the first line sums up the reason for its inclusion, and why it ends the Voices from the Dark CD: "Now that I've found peace at last/ Tell me, Jesus, will it last?"
Albums also worth tracking down: A Walk Across the Rooftops; Hats; High