A "Smile" Soundtrack

David Gutowksi, the impresario behind Largehearted Boy, recently asked me to contribute to his blog. Largehearted Boy is an inventive site that, among other things, has writers provide a “soundtrack” to go along with their books. I’ll paste the first few songs I chose for Smile When You’re Lying and then provide the Largehearted Boy link to the rest of my “soundtrack.”

Since Smile When You’re Lying is basically a memoir masquerading as a travel book, and since numerous songs are referenced throughout, it’s easy to come up with an accompanying “soundtrack” pegging songs to specific chapters. The trick will be keeping it concise. There’s a great moment in Chuck Klosterman’s Killing Yourself to Live in which Klosterman tries to decide what CDs to bring along on a (pre-iPod) road trip—after punishing rounds of cuts, and mindful of limited car space, he finally decides to pack a mere 600 CDs. No promises, but I’ll try to keep my list slightly more manageable.

Intro: You Deserve Better
“Li’l Darling” — Count Basie
A rare chapter that presents no obvious musical cues, so I’ll take the opportunity to list a transcendent ballad written by Neal Hefti, one of those sadly forgotten geniuses of American song (spanning generations, he later wrote the “Batman” theme). I was introduced to Count Basie by a high school band teacher named Stan Sells and have never stopped buying his records (Count Basie’s, not Stan Sells’).

Chapter 1: “Welcome to Thailand, Ulysses S. Grant!”
“Tomorrow People” — Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
This chapter deals with a trip to Thailand in 1988. You couldn’t go anywhere in Bangkok that summer without hearing Ziggy Marley or Tracy Chapman. I bought pirated cassettes of both and paid a cabbie to drive me around for an hour while I looked at the dysfunction out the window and listened to “Fast Car” and “Revolution” and “Tomorrow People.” This before all my cash was stolen and I could no longer afford to so brazenly laugh in the face of Peak Oil. (We’re all doomed, by the way.)

Chapter 2: Baked Alaska: How Drugs, Tourism, and Petroleum Tamed the Last Frontier
“Fight or Fall” — Thin Lizzy
“Black Market” — Weather Report
“After the Lovin’” — Engelbert Humeprdink
Thin Lizzy comes as tribute to everyone who ever sparked a doob in the woods outside Floyd Dryden Jr. High. As explained in the book, I wasn’t among the wool-encased hipster trendsetters in halibut jackets (you may have to be from Southeast Alaska to get that reference), but I did love their music.

I spent a large chunk of my early youth as an inveterate jazz snob; insufferable in a 15-year-old, but there you are. Weather Report represents 70s jazz fusion, the most unfairly maligned genre in music history. In high school, I obsessed over bands and musicians like Weather Report, Pat Metheny, Jeff Lorber, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, etc. Given that this period of pop music was dominated by the likes of Loverboy, Scorpions, AC/DC, and Pink Floyd, it might not surprise you to learn that I didn’t notch a single date in high school. Even so, as the inclusion here demonstrates, I hold no grudge against Joe Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius.

“After the Lovin’” because “adult contemporary” was the only type of music Juneau’s two identical radio stations played back in the day and, I don’t know, it’s either a cool sing or the repetition brainwashed me.

Chapter 3: Canned Hams, Kendo Beatdowns, and the Penis Olympics—The Education of an Accidental Ambassador in Japan
“Headstart for Happiness” — The Style Council
With a certain age group of British men, it’s possible to start a fight simply by walking into a pub and declaring that The Style Council was in fact a better band than The Jam. (True, by the way.) Life in Japan fired my suicidal imagination like no other place and there were dark weekends there when only my discovery of Paul Weller’s new and improved incarnation pulled me through.

To read the rest of this piece, go to: http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2007/12/book_notes_chuc_2.html

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