Posts Tagged Wham!
Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative environment – perhaps to connect with a character, populate a mysterious place, or hold a moment still to explore its depths. This week’s post is by Audrina Lane @AudrinaLane
Soundtrack by Berlin, Wham!, Rick Astley, Robin Beck, George Michael, Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes, Patrick Swayze
As I started 2013 and my 40th birthday I started to think about what I still wanted to do with my life, call it a mid-life crisis bucket list. It was a time to look back into my past from an 80s adolescence to my life today and wonder if I had made the right choices. Music has always been my life blood from watching Top of the Pops in the 70s and wanting to be a dancer in Hot Gossip, right through to the fact that I always have music on in the office, house, car and headphones. Wherever I was working on my novel the music was there.
So on my bucket list I wanted to write a book, my first attempt at this was in 1992 after suffering my first break-up. It was called Take my Breath Away and straight away you can see that the song by Berlin was my starting point. The mood and lyrics of the song a haunting epitaph to lost love. Afraid of rejection of my teenage romance novel I shelved it.
Happily in February 2013 I found the manuscript and set to work to achieve my dream. The title of my novel is a song Where did your heart go? By Wham, its poignant lyrics and soulful vibe pointed me in the direction my story was going to take. With the local radio station on I decided to bring my idea from 1992 into the present and include music that I loved from the 80s. By setting my novel in 2013 my main character Stephanie Eden, widow, single mother and local radio station DJ is 40 years old. She grew up and experienced love for the first time in 1988. The song that made me remember my first love was First Time by Robin Beck. I listened to this track constantly as the lyrics evoke that breathless yearning when you are hit by love. I needed the music of the era to awaken my memories.
Stephanie’s daughter Charlotte is 16 in 2013 and just experiencing her own break-up. Stephanie remembers her diary from 1988 from when she was 16 and about to embark on her first relationship. Handing the diary to Charlotte she lets her read about how first love was in 1988 compared to 2013. My favourite scene is Stephanie’s first kiss with Lifeguard James, unexpected and beneath the water in the local swimming pool where they met.
I felt his lips on mine, soft and firm against the liquid coolness of the water. We were suspended in a timeless moment’
Stephanie yearns to be a DJ so for every romantic event in her relationship a song comes to mind and for this kiss it was Whenever you need somebody by Rick Astley. Upbeat and hopeful like my character feelings.
You feel for Stephanie when she realises that James is moving away. I needed a song to express the yearning and desperation she feels and I listened to A different corner by George Michael, the lyrics and piano on the track highlighting her yearning and the decision she made that led her to James in the first place. Stephanie has never moved on from her first love, despite her short marriage and the birth of her daughter. James has kept appearing in her memories every time she hears a song from the past. How many of us have experienced the same thing when you hear a certain song?
Music was such a powerful memory tool and one that I could never silence no matter the pain it bought.’
Charlotte loves music, influenced by her mum’s career and also her own dreams of becoming a dancer. I hope you are all seeing the parallel’s in my own ambitions?? At a dance competition Charlotte meets Mitchell and with a shared love of the film Dirty Dancing they re-create the iconic dance to the song I’ve had the time of my life, it becomes the first song of their relationship.
She could almost hear the music in her head, just louder than the beating of her heart as they moved together in perfect synchronicity.’
The book follows both characters through their sexual awakening and each of these scenes was easier to write with a song playing for the characters. For Stephanie and James I found it in the beautiful lyrics of George Michael’s Father Figure, for Charlotte and Mitchell with She’s like the wind by Patrick Swayze. As Stephanie watches her daughter falling in love she wonders if she should give love one more try?
In a way the soundtrack of my teenage years became those of the characters I was bringing to life and recreated that magical feeling of first love.
Audrina Lane lives in Herefordshire with her partner and two dogs. She works full time for the Herefordshire Library service which means she is surrounded by books every day. Where Did Your Heart Go? was released in July 2013 and her second book, Un-Break my Heart, was released in December 2014. She is currently working on the third. Find her on Facebook, Twitter @AudrinaLane and her website.
The Undercover Soundtrack is a weekly series by writers who use music as part of their creative process – special pieces that have revealed a character to them, or populated a mysterious place, or enlarged a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by contemporary novelist Matthew Dicks
At the heart of Unexpectedly, Milo is a road trip. The protagonist, Milo Slade, heads south in search of a woman who may or may not be alive, and since music has always played a large role in every road trip that I have ever taken, I felt like it should play a role in this book as well.
Savants and self-awareness
I wanted the choice of music to say something about Milo as a person, and so I enlisted the help of my wife, who is a near savant when it comes to music, to help me choose the playlist. Milo first begins by burning a CD with the type of classic road trip music that you might hear in a movie. He is a movie buff, and in many ways, he views himself as a character within a film, so includes songs like Bob Seger’s Against the Wind, Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run on his playlist.
He doesn’t necessarily like this music, but it is what he thinks he is supposed to play, which is in many ways Milo’s problem. He has spent his life pretending to be the person he thinks he is supposed to be instead of the oddball that he truly is.
Unlike a film, where a three-minute song can fill an entire road trip montage, Milo is surprised to discover that his carefully constructed playlist runs out before he is even able to leave the state of Connecticut.
Milo then turns to music that he likes but is too embarrassed to play around his soon-to-be ex-wife. Bands like Supertramp, Wham! and Abba enter the rotation, and it was these choices of bands to which my wife assisted me. I wanted music that a certain breed of men might like but would rarely admit to liking. Not the toughest guys in the world, but not exactly wimps either. Catchy tunes that an average guy like Milo might enjoy. The guilty pleasures of the everyman.
It was also important that Milo kept his love for this kind of music hidden from his wife. While Milo’s wife, Christine, is not the nicest of people, Milo is at least partially to blame for the failure of his marriage because of the number of secrets he has kept from his wife. She knows nothing about his obsessive-compulsive nature, and this has required Milo to construct an elaborate and secretive life from her, undoubtedly causing barriers in their relationship.
In fact, music plays a large role in this secret life as well. As an obsessive-compulsive, one of Milo’s compulsions is to sing the German karaoke version of the 1980s hit 99 Luftballons by Nena to an audience. When the demand strikes, Milo’s mind cannot be put at ease until he takes the stage and performs the song. As he prepares for his road trip south, he makes sure to have a copy of the 99 Luftballons karaoke CD in the event the compulsion strikes.
Karaoke bars tend not to have this song on hand.
The song originally chosen for this compulsion was The Hokey Pokey. Milo’s compulsions often involve escalation and eventual release, and I liked the way The Hokey Pokey followed this model, adding one body part at a time until the dancer is permitted to truly hokey pokey. But my agent wisely steered me away from this song, thinking it a little too over-the-top and silly to be realistic. The more obscure but still well known song like 99 Luftballons worked well, especially when I decided to use the German version of the song, which was actually popular in the United States for quite a while. It added to Milo’s oddity, and the fact that he was required to sing the German version further emphasized how little control he had over these compulsions.
The song ends up playing a key role at the end of the novel, though that came as a bit of a surprise. It was one of those writes-itself moments, and I ended up loving the scene. The novel has been optioned for film, and as the process grinds along slowly but surely, I am hoping that the writers, producers and director decide to keep 99 Luftballons as Milo’s song of choice. It’s the song that plays in the back of my mind whenever I think about Milo and his story.
Matthew Dicks is not one for long, crafted sentences, preferring the stylings of Vonnegut over those of Saramago. He is an author whose works, to date, include the novels Something Missing, Unexpectedly Milo, and the as yet unpublished Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend; a blog; and a number of Op Ed pieces, all of which, at some level or another, tend to examine the outcomes of the quirky and/or rebellious individual when forced up against staid society; however, to say that he is an author is an understatement, for this husband and father from Newington, CT, who has faced a number of near-death experiences, lived in his car, and been tried for a crime that he did not commit, is also an acclaimed elementary teacher who has received the Teacher of the Year Award, is the co-owner of a DJ business, and still wishes that he could beat some of his friends at golf.