I joined 8tracks.com! Yet another way for me to waste time on the Internet! In commemoration of reaching 75,000 words in my novel, I made a mix related to my story — basically the songs that I listen to when I need some musical inspiration to put me in the timeframe of the story. Which is, as you can guess, 1988 or thereabouts. I tried to pick songs that my characters would’ve loved, or songs that would’ve been floating in the air.
The interesting thing is, I was sorely tempted to put in random stuff like The Birthday Party or Void or more obscure bands — but I tried to remember that these were girls in the Midwest in the 80s, living in a small city, and their only real, consistent source of knowledge about music would’ve been “120 Minutes” or Sassy or maybe Rolling Stone on a good month, or maybe a cool older sibling of a friend. They probably could’ve gotten music only at Musicland at the mall, or when they’d roadtrip into the nearest large city. It’s amazing to me now how knowledge of music is so available over the Internet (through services like 8tracks, of course). But perhaps the downside of so much availability is that sometimes music feels like consumerism and not so much about discovery. I don’t know. But I’m sure music would’ve functioned for my characters as a lifeline to another, much larger, more expansive world outside their own — and it’s that longing for the large and unknown, I think, that propels these characters to do what they do.
This is the full tracklisting:
The Replacements, “Dose of Thunder”
Nothing makes me think of music culture in the late 80s than the Replacements. I remember subscribing to the Columbia Record Club and trying to get as many Replacements tapes as possible through that whole “get 12 tapes for 1 cent” promotion. My dad thought it was a scam and made me send it all back.
R.E.M., “Pretty Persuasion”
I feel like this is the R.E.M. song a 16-year-old girl would’ve loved in the late 80s.
Surfer Rosa would’ve come out in 1988, I believe. I know that my werewolf heartthrob would’ve been a big fan — something about the twisted intensity would’ve appealed to him. I like to think that he probably introduced this tape to my main character. The strange sexual connotations in this song somehow find their way into the story.
Al B. Sure!, “Nite and Day”
One type of music that reminds me of the late 80s outside of anything I would’ve discovered via “120 Minutes” is new jack swing-type R&B. I think the main character of my novel would’ve secretly dug this jam. In my mind it plays at the one school event they go to in the book. The other alternative to this: “Don’t Disturb This Groove” by The System.
Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Peek-A-Boo”
The semi-sad thing about NOT placing my book in the 90s is that I don’t really get to write in some way about how riot grrrl got to affect my female characters. I think Lily and Viv (my leading lady and her best friend) would’ve totally been down with riot grrrl, and they probably would’ve got into it — but only in college. But they would’ve looked up to the amazing Siouxsie Sioux for sure.
The Cure, “All I Want”
Lily and Viv’s mutual favorite band is the Cure. There was a pair of best friends in my 8th grade class that both adored the Cure; that’s what I based that characteristic on.
Guns N’ Roses, “It’s So Easy”
EVERY STRAIGHT BOY I KNEW LOVED THIS RECORD WHEN IT CAME OUT IN 1987. I would think the skater boys in the novel would be no exception.
Bad Brains, “At the Movies”
Just one of the greatest American hardcore bands of all time. Or so would my teenage werewolf skater would say.
Jesus & Mary Chain, “April Skies”
“The aching love on the edge of a knife / And the world comes tumbling down.” Darklands is one of the most underrated JAMC records there is — I find it to be one of their most romantic, and I think for that reason it would mean a lot to my main character. She’s kind of a reluctant romantic — she hates feeling vulnerable and fights it, so she hides it but it often comes out strong. This song manages to be both gooey-eyed yet tough, which would be acceptable to her.
Public Enemy, “Rebel Without a Pause”
The skaters I knew when I was young were the first white boys I knew who listened to rap and hip-hop. Skaters really did have the best taste in music back in the day.
Husker Du, “Something That I Learned Today”
Black Flag, “Depression”
When you are talking skaters in the late 80s, you really need to put classic American hardcore in there somewhere. It doesn’t find its way into the store, but my werewolf sweetheart’s favorite record label is SST, which would’ve been in its heyday in the late 80s. And Black Flag would’ve been one of his favorite bands.
Danzig, “Am I Demon”
I based a bit of Kieran’s dark, brooding appearance on this dude I knew in early high school, with dark hair and dark eyes and a magnificently heavy brow. He wore trench coats, combat boots and Danzig, the Misfits and Samhain t-shirts exclusively.
Jane’s Addiction, “Pigs in Zen (Live)”
Arty and carnal, Jane’s Addiction were sort of beloved by girls and boys equally, which I found really interesting in retrospect. I think this would be a shared musical love between Lily and Kieran; I can hear this playing in the background while they hang out in her room, doing homework, stealing kisses during the really loud parts while the crazy fundamentalist mother is in the other room.
Bangles, “Hazy Shade of Winter”
I really associate this song with a certain kind of summer in the 80s, wandering around the neighborhood aimless with a soda, looking for something to do, ending up at someone’s house watching MTV when they actually played videos. This would be one of them. Hot, aimless, itching for excitement.
Sonic Youth, “Shadow of a Doubt”
I listened to this song a million times as I wrote the first big kiss scene between my two main characters. It takes place in a dark, spooky forest. Something about the eerie hush in the song worked.
My Bloody Valentine, “Lose My Breath”
I deliberately moved my novel up a year to take advantage of this record coming out, if only for the possibilities within my imagination. There’s something about the ethereal nature of shoegazer that seemed key for the story, if only for the atmosphere it brings.
The The, “Infected”
Matt Johnson’s The The was one of the great political bands in the late 80s — I wouldn’t be surprised if, through psychoanalysis, I discovered they were obliquely responsible for my sense of politics as I got older. I tried not to make politics of the late 80s into a main aspect of the novel, but AIDS hysteria, rising Christian fundamentalism and Reaganism definitely worked their way into the story, however obliquely.
Corrosion of Conformity, “Loss for Words”
This was one of the first hardcore bands I ever heard. Of course, I read about them in eighth grade in Sassy. Unlike Lily, I didn’t have the advantage of a skater beau to introduce me to punk and hardcore bands. Now, it may be slightly lame to some snobs to discover a band through a girl’s magazine, but it’s kind of amazing that Sassy even wrote about them in the first place.
Ratt, “Round and Round”
It’s just not the late 80s without at least one hair metal reference!
N.W.A., “Fuck Tha Police”
Hardcore is definitely one of Kieran’s favorite genres of music, but I think there’s something about the great confrontational nature of some 80s hip-hop that he would’ve loved. As someone who has to remain so emotionally controlled by necessity, I think he would seek out aggressive music that would express emotions that he couldn’t.
New Order, “True Faith”
Depeche Mode, “Here Is The House”
In 1988, Depeche Mode were one of my favorite bands. Hell, it’s nearly 2011 and they’re still one of my favorite groups. I find this song highly underrated in the DM canon, but I think it’s just a very lovely sentiment.
Peter Murphy, “Cuts You Up”
The Bauhaus frontman released his solo record in 1990, so this is a bit of a cheat. But I couldn’t resist, I like its elegant romanticism. You need a bit of it when you’re working on a genre story.
The Smiths, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”
A classic of tragic romance, with what I recognize now to be a peculiarly adolescent fatalism at its core. It’s not a dark werewolf romance without some peculiarly adolescent fatalism, you know?
Steve Winwood, “Higher Love”
This mix ends on a slightly ironic note, but truth is that in 1988, I really, really loved this song.
I also made a mix that’s much more contemporary and really pretty, esp. for the winter.
This one features Lykke Li, Victoire, Museum of Bellas Artes, the Notwist, Low, the Wedding Present, the Sundays and many more.