The Never Prayer Playlist

Okay, so my friend and fellow Crescent Moon Press writer Constance Phillips had me come up with five songs that inspired me in the writing of The Never Prayer. I thought I was done with the playlist until my friend and Girl Friday Chris Devlin kept badgering me about a Never Prayer Playlist.

Well, since I was thinking about a sequel anyway, I figured I might as well go back into the music and give the Devlin what she so desperately wanted. And so, here is the full playlist. She wanted only 12 songs, but well, I got on a roll. I love music and I love the songs I listened to while writing The Never Prayer.

These were the songs I had on Constance’s blog:
Jeff BeckAmazing Grace
Dave MatthewsAngel from Montgomery (Prism Coffee House Charlottesville Virginia 04-22-1993)
Ray Charles & Willie NelsonSeven Spanish Angels
Black CrowesShe Talks to Angels
ScorpionsSend Me An Angel

And here are the rest of ‘em…
Massive AttackAngel
Best song ever! Well, it’s from the best album ever. Massive Attack’s Mezzanine was on the list of the coolest albums ever to own that makes you cool just by owning it. It’s electronica, but more, much more. And I love how the song builds. On my playlist, while I was writing The Never Prayer, the song would always come on first and it would snap into the dark, forboding world where Lena lived. Too cold to snow. Cold enough to kill. Love and desperation churning together inside of her.

Sheryl CrowMaybe Angels
Gosh, I love Sheryl Crow. I’ve written whole novels to her songs and I love the percussion in this song. That echoing, gongy thing. Spang. Spang. Spang. When I think of Sheryl Crow and her music, I think of Los Angeles. You can smell the smog on her. But this song and its stupid hope in dirty angels, well, it fits. Maybe angels. But maybe not.

Concrete BlondeAngel
Another song with interesting percussion. A slow dirge. Great bass lines and that piano! Fortissimo! And I love the lyric, “You’re my angel. You’re my devil as well.” That pretty much sums up the book. But then, I’m a huge Concrete Blonde fan and I’ll never miss a chance to see them live. Johnette Napolitano could very well be the voice of The Never Prayer, deep and tragic, just this side of hopeless.

Counting CrowsMiller’s Angels
I know people who don’t like the Counting Crows. They say the music is sappy, overdramatic, self-indulgent. And I say all of those things make the Counting Crows brilliant! Yes, overdramatic doesn’t work unless you, yourself, are overdramatic, which I am. So glad I found this song. I like how brittle and broken it sounds, how unsure of itself it is. Broken angels, sure, and that’s what The Never Prayer is all about.

Psychedelic FursAngels Don’t Cry
I somehow got Midnight to Midnight, an album by the Psychedelic Furs, and I somehow got to loving it. In The Never Prayer, I make up a band called The Sympathies, an old 80’s band that Lena’s dad loved. I always thought they would sound like The Cure, but maybe not. Maybe The Sympathies were a Pyschadelic Furs cover band. Naaahhh, Robert Smith all the way.

The CultThe Black Angel
Another 80’s band in the book, The Cult, and yeah, another song like Massive Attack that builds and builds. Love the lyric, “It’s a long way to go, with a black angel at your side.” Lena has a long way to travel and she has to travel through darkness to get to the light. Yeah, my book ain’t happy at times, but I like to think the overall message is positive. There is light in the darkness. There is hope. We can get to the other side of our pain.

HinderLips of an Angel
Okay, so Hinder is just neo-Bon Jovi, which, considering Jon Bon Jovi’s longevity, is high praise. I love this song. Thematically it doesn’t really work with The Never Prayer, but I like the EPIC angst and desire in the song, two things Lena knows all about. In the sequel, though, if all goes well, this song will be very apropos.

A-haAngel In The Snow
Well, my book has angels in it. And it has snow, in the end, and so the song fits. I have friends who are slavering A-Ha fans because as everyone knows, A-Ha is huge in Europe, has been for decades, and though they had that one cool video in the U.S., well, not a big A-Ha following in the U.S. Except for my friends. This is another song with a tragic but hopeful sound to it. Always. Forever. How many frakking songs about love have always and forever in them somewhere? It’s comforting, that forever-kind-of-love. Hmm, might have to play on that theme in the sequel.

Melissa EtheridgeTalking To My Angel
The great thing about the idea of angels is that it’s comforting to think that someone is watching over us and helping us. We can’t see them, but just to know that they are there, watching us, guiding us, is a nice idea. Lena was Jozey’s guardian angel, well, as imperfect as she was. The way this song opens, “Don’t be afraid. Close your eyes.” It’s something Lena would say to Jozey. I sometimes wish I could write books with powerful heroes, sure of themselves, like Anita Blake, badass women who kick butt, take names, and don’t even give the rearview mirror a glance. But nobody but my villain in the The Never Prayer is like that. That’s why this song is so good. The heroine singing is troubled and lost and hurt, but she’s been talking with her angel. And it’s gonna be all right.

Photo courtesy of Porah, stock.xchng

The Life Gets Crazy – Cambo and the Life

As promised, my Cambo and the Life blog post. Free music on their website. ‘Cause that’s how they roll.

So, this is what I do when I’m in the Bay Area.  I listen to KFJC, Your Source For Sound, 89.7 FM, and I go to their website, and yeah, a junior college radio station, playing everything, anything, all things.  From the soundtrack of the Andy Griffith Show, to Jello Biafra’s spoken word, to industry machinery, to babies screaming, dubbed over with Peggy Lee, to death metal Satan listens to when he drops a dookie in hell.  And yes, even the 1960’s cool Johnny Quest soundtrack theme.

Yeah, love KFJC.

Back in December, 2010, I was in the Bay Area, or was it March?  I can never remember.  The life gets crazy.

But I grabbed some friends, picked Cambo for some reason unknowable, and we went to see ‘em.  In my other post, I talked a little about meeting Cambo in the lobby, but I didn’t really know him until he hit the stage.  And of course, that ain’t Cambo, but a stage persona, a mask of attitude and fury.

I did notice that the crowd was older.  I guess I’m a little sensitive about my age going to see live music.  I’m, um, not what I use to be.  I grow old…I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.  I talked to people, and a lot of people in the crowd were parents of the musicians!  It was like my daughter’s piano recitals with more drugs and more booze.  Which, to tell a dirty little secret, is how many parents get through the piano recitals.  Not me.  High on life, baby.

So, it was exactly like my daughter’s piano recital.

But the music was so good.  So charged.  And I met Cambo’s mom, and her friend, and his brother.  And I shook all their hands.  If you go to see huge, massive bands in stadiums, you’re generally not going to meet the family of the talent and get to shake their hands.  Ah, I love the local music scene.  It’s the only way to go.

I left feeling good.  Feeling hopeful.  I got to see a talent doing what they love and were born to do.  What a wonder this world is.  What a fabulous wonder.

Now, like with publishing and any artistic endeavors, the music industry is fraught with dangers to the body, mind, and soul.  Money kills people.  Drugs.  Doubt.  Fear.  Tequila.  Fame is rat poison that tastes like pixie dust.

But I wish Cambo the best.  In my next life, I’ll be a musician.  Writing generally doesn’t involve late night parties that end with a greasy breakfast and mimosa’s.  I get decaf coffee, and I don’t sleep much.  Yeah, I don’t know about you, but my social life is nutz.

Now, Cambo’s lyrics are not kid friendly.  It’s raw, baby.  It’s not about a salary; it’s all about reality.

I would start with Crazy Things and go from there.  It’s dangerously funky, yo.  And if you can at all go and see a Cambo and the Life show, you will not be disappointed.

Raw Talent, Raw Charisma, Touched by the Gods

I have not given the music industry as much as I should have.  I was the guy who would come over, borrow about a hundred of your vinyl record albums (for the kids, think big, black CDs) and then spend hours listening and copying the songs to my crappy tapes.  Hiss, pop, a little music, a grinding sound, more hissing, more popping.

I never really felt guilty for stealing music.  I should have.  But I figured I paid for it with the hiss, pop, and grind.  And I did buy new cassettes of Rush and Jethro Tull, my two favorite bands in the world.

Now, what I do to atone for my sins is buy local music and see small bands, or bands that do not have solid gold limousines.  If you have a day job, I will support you.  If you don’t, I’ll do my best to be honest, but I can’t promise anything.  I would imagine most people are like me.

But I am trying to make up for things.  Catholic guilt.  Right here.

So I see a lot of bands, mostly I pick by random, and a lot of them are good.  They are fine.  No big whoop.

But every so often, I am astounded, and what is the difference?  I wish I could say.  As the French would utter, they have that je ne sais quoi, that stage presence, that glowing gift from the muses.

Photo by Sean Desmond

For example, I went to see Cambo and the Life in San Francisco last year.  Like their Facebook. Love them.  Love Cambo.  So I hit the doors of the show, and I meet a smallish guy in bright red clothes, and he’s nice, and we chat.  Like I said, no big whoop.  The first act comes up.  Oh, rats, I have to go completely into the Cambo show.  I will in another blog post, I promise.

So the opening acts come on in, and they are fine, enjoyable, and then there’s not intermission, while people do a lot of gear stuff on stage.  Roadie stuff.  Like Tom Hanks in the SNL sketch, sibilance, sibilance.
Then, Cambo and the Life.  Cambo strolls onto the stage, and suddenly, I am transfixed.  And the beat hits, the music swells like an old man on blue pills, and I take notice.  I am grabbed.  I am in a presence bigger than the room, bigger than the music, bigger.  More.
Charisma.  Power.  Glory.  Something ineffable.  A presence.

I had the same experience at Fitz and the Tantrums. Facebook them here. Feel the love.  When Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs came out, I was glued to the floor.  Who are they?  What mysterious power do they have?  What the hell is happening?

I think I might know what it is.  It is a deep, internal commitment to what they are doing.  This is not something they are doing lightly.  This is who they are, they are committed to their vision, and they have grabbed onto their work with everything they have.  And they are brave, fearless, in that commitment.  They are risking everything.

Which is probably why there are so many alcoholics and addicts tied to the arts.  Because deep down there is doubt, fear, despair.  And to send out that fearlessness either takes a lot of God or a lot of chemicals, but not always.  I’d like to think some people are blessed, by whatever, to have that fearlessness of spirit.  Pure, lovely creativity.

I’m not a musician.  But I play one on T.V.  Kidding.  Stop it.

I’m a writer.  And in the end, I must commit fully to my books, to my frakking wordy, purple-y prose, and to my broken characters and shattered stories.  If I don’t, I won’t get anywhere.  Nope.  Nowhere.  I’ll be fine.  I’ll be okay.  But I won’t be touched by the gods.

Bottom line: if someone doesn’t absolutely hate my writing, I’m not doing something I need to be doing.  Always go for too much, that’s my motto.  Commit.  Be fearless.
And damn all the critics.  In the end, we’ll all be dead and for 99% of us, even the current bestsellers, our novels will be Navajo sandpaintings.  Countless hours of work, blown to nothing. 

Reach for the impossible. 

Do the impossible.

Be the impossible.