1. Seeds: 'If I could talk I'd tell you' - The Lemonheads
2. Manawatu: ‘Jump’ – Van Halen
3. Copies: ‘Diminishing Returns’ – Harvey Danger
4. Oh! So Careless: ‘Under African Skies’ – Paul Simon
5. Parisian Blue: ‘Home’ – Foo Fighters
6. The Tin Man: ‘The Hard Way’ – The Kinks
Now, here are songs seven to twelve...
7. Untitled (Crimson and Gold)
The story: Laura is trying to put the past behind her and move on with the help of her therapist and his handy techniques.
[Dr. Rothko] told me everything I was doing was okay. That I could feel guilty about the accident, but shouldn’t waste my guilt on secondary or tertiary things like how I sometimes pretend it was someone else’s accident, that the slippers were possessed, that it was Lennon’s fault.The song: 'Untitled #1' - Spain
As a rule I dislike untitled things (my story actually has a title which just happens to include the word 'untitled'), but this song, from the compilation Piece of Cake: 20 Years of Ryko, ticks a lot of boxes…
Walked away released from all my crimes
Walked away released from all my crimes
But I could never hide what I kept inside
8. Another Language
The story: When James' grandfather tells him he moved to New Zealand because of his stutter, wee Jim sets out to see if you can really stutter in one language but not another.
After choir I said, ‘You don’t stutter when you sing!’
‘I wish I didn’t stutter at all.’
‘You should live in a musical,’ I said, and thought about my grandfather. Moving to New Zealand would have been like coming to live in a musical for him, except he was sad and quiet. I thought, what’s the point in moving somewhere you can talk without stuttering if you aren’t going to talk?The song: ‘Singing in the Rain’ – Gene Kelly
My favourite musical and one of my favourite films, this is the sort of moment I’m sure James is thinking of when he imagines living in a musical.
I'm singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin'
I'm happy again
I'm laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready for love
9. Give Me Bread and Call Me Stupid
The story: Bembe and Rosa leave Madrid to revive their flagging English with a year in Edinburgh, but find the job hunt fraught with frustrations.
He had been in Edinburgh for six weeks by this time, but English still felt like wearing a stranger’s suit. His subconscious, however, seemed to be adapting more quickly. His dreams all seemed to revolve around Spanish-English puns.
A team of archers firing grains of rice (arroz)
A horse and cart, except the cart has been replaced with a giant letter (carta) from his grandmother.
A line of coy, blushing women, all clearly pregnant (embarazada).
And when he laid eyes on Lindsey that first time, the word octopus had popped into his head.The song: ‘Bye Bye Pride’ - The Go-Betweens
I lived in Brisbane on and off for almost four years; discovering The Go-Betweens is one of the few things I can point to from my time in the sun that I still cherish. ‘Bye Bye Pride’ (or adios orgullo) is exactly what Bembe must say when confronted by the challenges of a different culture, a different language and a slightly unhinged recruitment agent. Bonus points for the song having a line in Español: In la brisa de la palma, which I used to think was a reference to Brisbane, but just means ‘In the breeze of the palms’.
He goes home again.
He dreams resistance,
They talk commitment,
Things change over long distance.
Took the shirt off his back
The eyes from his head
And left him for dead.
10. A Man Melting
The story: Hamish starts melting, and nothing can stop it, not even poetry.
He was quite a sight for the eight year olds: a skeletal man sitting in a paddling pool, sipping from his water bottle via string of straws Sellotaped together, softly talking about poetry. He didn’t have many poems to read the class because he didn’t collect them. He just left the napkins and the flyers and the newspapers where he found them. Disposable poetry. You can’t take yourself too seriously when you’re time is nearly up. But he read them the poem he had written on the back of his bus ticket:
Think too much do too little
Think too much say too little
Do little say little
Think think much much
Too too much
The class stared at him. To him they looked like meerkats.
The song: ‘Poets’ – The Tragically Hip
I could probably do an entire playlist using just Tragically Hip songs. According to Last.fm, I listened to over 1000 hips songs in 2008 (the Kinks were second and Warren Zevon third, both around 600). And I've blogged about the band often (like my claim the album Day For Night is 'song noir'; or my top five Tragically Hip earworms). What better place to use my one Hip song, then, than as a match with the title story?
Don't tell me what the poets are doing
On the street and the epitome of vague
Don't tell me how the universe is altered
When you find out how he gets paid, all right
The story: The narrator uses all his wiles to try and hook-up with a friend of a friend at his significant other’s birthday party.
‘I’ll be on the balcony,’ I said and eased away, not letting her say a word — another secret of mine. How do you think I wound up with a catch like Alice if I didn’t have a few secrets? I’m savvy. I’m a hunter. Sure, I was a little out of practice when Delancey showed up — semi-retired might be another way to put it. But the greats, they never lose their touch.The song: ‘All The Wine’ – The National
2008 was the year I discovered The National (I blogged about them first in August). When I set out to make this playlist I knew I’d have to include a National song: they are the perfect background music when writing. When I started looking around for songs for ‘Touch’, the National provided a number to choose from: ‘Secret Meeting,’ ‘Karen’, ‘Guest Room’, ‘Apartment Story’… But in the end I’ve gone with ‘All The Wine’, which reeks of booze and hubris, much like the narrator in ‘Touch’.
I'm put together beautifully, big wet bottle in my fists, big wet rose in my teeth
I'm a perfect piece of ass like every Californian
So tall I take over the street with high-beams shining on my back
A wingspan unbelievable, I'm a festival, I'm a parade
And all the wine is all for me
12. Orbital Resonance
The story: A story in five parts which are seem quite discrete, but orbit the same question of loneliness and connection.
At parties he used to talk about orbits. How they relate to more than just planets. He would ask his audience to imagine two people running around an athletics track: it didn’t matter what speed they ran, if they ran for long enough they would come level again. The runners behave differently, he would explain, just before they are level, while they are level and just after they are level…
‘The rules changes when two people come together,’ he would say, and lean in to kiss whoever he was talking to.
It didn’t work often, and certainly not in South Africa, where people couldn’t understand his accent when alcohol was involved.The song: ‘Parklife’ – Blur
One of the many songs that make an appearance in ‘Orbital Resonance’ (though obliquely), ‘Parklife’ also captures that loneliness/connection vibe…
I feed the pigeons I sometimes feed the sparrows too
It gives me a sense of enormous well-being
And then I'm happy for the rest of the day safe in the knowledge
There will always be a bit of my heart devoted to it
All the people
So many people
And they all go hand in hand
Hand in hand through their parklife
A Man Melting Playlist Part I
A Man Melting Playlist Part III