It's music for a rainy Monday morning here as Nancy Kay Shapiro stops by to share a few tunes. Instead of sending us her favorite songs, Nancy lets Seth, the main character of her first novel, What Love Means To You People, select our morning drive time soundtrack. Set your dial on the way back machine to mid-1990's and enjoy!
iPod Playlist by Nancy Kay Shapiro
As what is scientifically known as A Total Music Head, it nearly did me in when Wendi asked me for 5 tracks. Five?!??!!! I've got over 9,000 on my computer not to mention the wall of CDs in my apartment (and there isn't much overlap between those two collections.) So after picking myself up from the floor, I thought: never mind your top 5. What about Seth McKenna's? Seth is the main character of my new novel, What Love Means To You People, which takes place in the mid-1990s. A gay man in his early twenties, newly transplanted to New York City and doing everything he possibly can to reinvent himself and suppress his uneasy beginnings, Seth is the kind of person who lives with a constant soundtrack of pop music and reads a lot into the words and the feelings he gets from songs--he's got plenty that are All About Him. Of course he's pre-iPod, but these five tracks are ones he'd certainly include on a mix-tape during the time the novel takes place:
Higher Than The Sun by Primal Scream: Psychedelic, dirgy, anthemic. "My brightest star's my inner light, let it guide me ..." As someone living life without a net, Seth finds inspiration from this paean to self-absorption, about finding "higher states of grace ... in my mind."
Old Orchard Beach by Magnetic Fields: "Is there some part of you/tail or hunchback/that when they cut if off/grew back?" Perhaps Seth's defining musical question. He thinks of himself as the quintessential "sad young man and no one knows why". Magnetic Fields are Seth's favorite band, he never misses a chance to see them at The Knitting Factory of The Cooler.
That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore by The Smiths: Seth is one of the thousands and thousands of young people who is utterly convinced that every song by The Smiths is ALL ABOUT HIM. This one in particular, an acoustic-guitar-driven slowie, steeped in nostalgic melancholy, both reminds Seth of his sad teenage self, and gives him a pleasurable frisson of escape. "I've seen this happen/In other people's lives/And now it's happening in mine ..."
One Way Or The Other by Blondie: As a misfit teen in rural Nebraska, hearing Debbie Harry's sultry New York-accented singing would've evoked all kinds of fantasies in Seth's head about La Vie Boheme on the Lowest East Side. A good one to pogo to. When he wasn't setting small fires or jerking off, I think Seth must've pogo-ed a lot to get through high school.
Ever Fallen In Love? by The Buzzcocks: Seth's ultimate track about being Secretly Gay. Punky and driving, with a plaintive lyric that asks "Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with?"