I have been taking advice from writers on how to actually knuckle down and finish a project I’ve been working on. Some of the best advice seemed to involve not drinking coffee, some involved sitting in cafes with just a cup of coffee until bored enough to knock out a chapter. Most convincingly lately has been ‘think as the character’.
My primary protagonist, Chris, has constant need for music. He needs to be kept interested by the world, partially to exclude interest in the world. Deep or bullshit, your mileage may vary. But he has the latest smartphone. He has Spotify – we know this – it’s part of his character. So thinking as him, I decided, I need to make a playlist – a Desert Island Discs of music he’d like. This is a strange thing to do – but it’s strangely instructive on his moods, his character and his values. Or it can be. He is terribly old fashioned, a bit of a wallowy deep thinker, a bit of a worrier and, as the story develops, deeply guilty about his work. Here’s his playlist:
1. Eye in the Sky – Alan Parsons Project
This track fits the actual thoughts and feelings parcelled up in Chris’ life. It’s also lyrically quite apposite given his job and relationships in the book. It’s also a cracking tune, with that classic Alan Parsons ‘produced until it hurts’ feel.
2. The way she was before – Black (AKA Colin Vearncombe)
Black suits Chris’ aesthetic. Brooding, slightly melancholy but constantly optimistic. This is a beautiful track, speaking wistfully of past love and fond remembrance. This jars with Chris’ character a bit, but deep inside, we all want to feel a bit of a romantic. In contrast with the next track…
3. Sugar on my tongue – Talking Heads
Chris’ sexual and somewhat detached side is hinted at here. Talking Heads’ manic best from the album 77.
4. Because the night – Patti Smith Group
Dancing and singing into a shampoo bottle in the shower, this allows Chris to rock out with his Glock out.
5. Reveller – Diane Cluck
Uncertainty about the whole actually being alive and enjoying it thing permeates his whole being. He’s constantly guilty about being happy, which is reassuring given his job.
6. Old Love – Unplugged – Eric Clapton
The crowning achievement of the MTV Unplugged projects, this is the best track on the album. It’s an important song in the book. Stripping and cleaning a well looked after MP5SD takes around 8 minutes.
7. Welcome Home – Dave Dobbyn
One of New Zealand national musical treasure Dave Dobbyn’s schmaltzier tracks, this track plays in a hotel reception in Belfast where he waits for both his lover and a phone call to confirm or quell his suspicions about one of his team.
8. Sway – Bic Runga
The day before their graduations, Chris has this song sung to him by his girlfriend at an open mic night in the Students’ Union. Awkward.
9. TV Dinners – Robert Palmer
A job needs to be done – this track speaks to a certain hard headedness he develops as time progresses.
10. Sisters of the Moon – Fleetwood Mac
Realisation is a bitch. Awe of the awful is even worse. This is the musical expression of both.
11. Stay with me till dawn – Judie Tzuke
His romantic, petulant soul puts Chris and the whole plan in extreme danger – but they get to see the sunset.
12. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five – Paul McCartney and Wings
Resolve and resolution
13. Bones and Born Again – Diane Cluck
The old love is gone – and though he has no right to expect a new one, he has the basic sense to do the only thing one is expected to do with love, and accept it.