There is a silent soundtrack to all of my work, sometimes referenced specifically in the text, sometimes just playing in my head as I write. As I always enjoy the chance to spur some discussion about music, I thought I should offer a book-by-book sampler, to provide a flavour of what I was hearing as I wrote certain novels, and to thus offer the opportunity for people to wrinkle their noses in pity and disgust.
Crime Scene Part One – The Afghan Whigs
The Sacred Art of Leaving – Billy Franks
Unemployed Boyfriend – Everclear
Teenage Wristband – The Twilight Singers
1985 – Bowling For Soup
We Can Be Brave Again – The Armoury Show
The Geeks Get The Girls – American Hi-Fi
Push The Ghost – The Twang
Chase This Light – Jimmy Eat World
Cloudy Room – The Twang
Mogwai Fear Satan – Mogwai
The Loneliness and the Scream – Frightened Rabbit
A Whole Child Ago – Biffy Clyro
And She Would Darken the Memory – The Twilight Sad
Quiet Little Voices – We Were Promised Jetpacks
Lightspeed – Twin Atlantic
The Afghan Whigs: Crime Scene Part One
This is the song quoted at length before the prologue to A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away. It is dark and foreboding, seductive yet menacing, a theme song for Simon Darcourt. The tone and sentiments of the lyrics are so apposite that my editor thought I had made them up myself.
Billy Franks: The Sacred Art of Leaving
Appropriately for a book about a heist, I stole the title from this song. It also informs the theme of departure that runs throughout the book, most notably in the impossible relationship between Angelique de Xavia and Zal Innez.
Everclear: Unemployed Boyfriend
Angelique and Zal discover a shared passion for this song, but debate the different gender perspectives upon its possible meanings. Is it a song about trying to be the perfect guy, or a song gently satirising a woman’s idea of what the perfect guy would be? You decide.
The Twilight Singers: Teenage Wristband
The book’s heroine, Jane Bell, ends up in King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, watching the Twilight Singers play this song as she waits for a taxi passenger. Greg Dulli’s performance reminds her what Saturday night used to mean: “When he sang, his voice was a nightclub: smoky, sultry, seductive, intoxicating, sleazy, euphoric, threatening, dark, dark, dark and an irresistible temptation.”
Bowling For Soup: 1985
This song undoubtedly played a part in my conceiving of a story that would look back to the year I left school. Coincidentally, there were two songs released around the same time in early 2005 bearing this title, the other by the Manic Street Preachers. I loved the Manics’ song also, but BFS’s sense of fun tipped the scales for me.
The Armoury Show: We Can Be Brave Again
Many of the chapter titles in this book come from songs released in 1985, the year of the characters’ school-leaving dance. The Skids were my favourite band growing up, but this may have been Richard Jobson’s finest song. In a book about looking back and fearing your best years are behind you, it’s a rallying cry to think otherwise.
American Hi-Fi: The Geeks Get The Girls
I knew inside out all the ideas I wanted to explore with this book, but it lacked a heart and soul. When I heard this song, I knew what had to be at the centre of the story. In a novel that is a paean to science, it seemed appropriate that the geek get the girl.
The Twang: Push the Ghost
Jimmy Eat World: Chase This Light
While writing this book, I was listening almost exclusively to these two bands. In a novel excoriating the disposable pop stars of the X-Factor generation, it was heartening to be listening to bands who would still live to play their music whether it was to a packed arena or three guys in a bar. I named chapters after these two tracks, in each case chiming with what was going on in the story at that time. I think I’ve mentioned Jimmy Eat World in three different novels, because they keep finding new ways to impress me.
The Twang: Cloudy Room
Mogwai: Mogwai Fear Satan
These are the main two tracks that dominate the novel’s pivotal party scene. Cloudy Room has the perfect sense of pace, its music and its lyrics reflecting how a night of hedonistic intentions such as this one slowly begins, builds and gradually develops. Mogwai Fear Satan then becomes the epic soundtrack to the night’s dark descent from the carnal into carnage. In the story, two of the boys have come up with their own extended mix of it, clocking in at close to half an hour. The real thing lasts a mere sixteen minutes.
Frightened Rabbit: The Loneliness and the Scream
I could come up with a playlist for this book that was all Frightened Rabbit. I listened to their albums constantly whilst developing and writing this novel, and have acknowledged as much in the credits. They can fit more genuine emotion and disarming honesty into a single song than most bands manage over the course of their careers.
Biffy Clyro: A Whole Child Ago
Mon the Biffy. In a world of identikit rock-bans, there’s no danger of them being mistaken for anybody else. There’s nothing quite like them. I adore this song title, so couldn’t resist pinching it for a chapter heading dealing with a particularly poignant incident in Jasmine’s past.
The Twilight Sad: And She Would Darken the Memory
This is a book of dark memories and buried secrets, and if the book had an audible tone, it would be similar to the Twilight Sad’s Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters. I listened to that album a great deal during the early soul-searching conceptual stages of this novel, and this is among my favourite of its songs.
We Were Promised Jetpacks: Quiet Little Voices
Twin Atlantic: Lightspeed
There’s so much great new music emerging from Scotland at the moment, which is a relief to me when I’m trying to get inside the head of a twenty-year-old young woman such as Jasmine. She’s a fan of both these bands, and by consequence so am I.