An imaginary soundtrack to an imaginary film
by Ben Myers
Richard is a novel that is firmly rooted in the indie and alternative music scenes of the 1980s and early 1990s. To accompany it I have been asked to compile a selection of music heard in scenes throughout the book, or which could perhaps could be played while reading the book.
The novel itself is actually very quiet but this playlist could also double up as soundtrack to an imaginary film adaptation. The music I listened to while actually writing the book was very different (lots of Krautrock mainly), but in the meantime, please enjoy...
1. Krzysztof Penderecki - 'Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima'
The sound of pain and warfare and genocide - a truly remarkable piece of apocalyptic music, as later sampled by the Manics themselves.
2. The Clash - 'Tommy Gun'
3. Joy Division - 'Shadowplay'
The originators of the one-note guitar solo and the unashamed wearing of white jeans represented the traditional rock 'n' roll wing of punk; Joy Division sign posted the future. I first saw footage of the latter on re-run of 'So It Goes' one late Friday night in October 1990 and like many before and after, had my mind blown. It's a shame that Joy Division's legacy today is a slew of drab indie bands feigning discordance and baritone.
4. The Wolfhounds - 'Me'
5. McCarthy - 'Charles Windsor'
Before they embraced post-Exile On Main Street classic rock stylings, the Manics were true C86-ish indie aficionados at heart. Here are couple of their favourites from bands who existed from 1985 to 1990.
6 Echo & The Bunnymen - 'The Cutter'
There is evidence that Richey Edwards sported an Ian McCulloch hairdo during his student days. 'Mac The Mouth' also features on the Manic Street Preachers' new album.
7. Hanoi Rocks - 'Don't Never Leave Me'
Thanks to my older brother I got into these slightly absurd Finnish glam rocker as a pre-pubescent. When the Manics appeared five years later during the era of shoegaze and indie-dance and started name checking the unfashionable Hanoi Rocks, I knew they must be men of equally bad taste too.
8. Birdland - 'Everybody Needs Somebody'
A Birmingham band with great cheekbones, Warhol haircuts and a propensity for self-aggrandising soundbytes, Birdland arrived approximately five minutes before the Manics did, and should have been as important. The press loved them; the public were indifferent.
9. Guns N' Roses - 'It's So Easy'
Guns N Roses were amazing for about 2 years and execrable for the next 20. I once wrote a collection of poetry entitled I, Axl: An American Dream.
10. Credit To The Nation - 'Call It What You Want'
The then-teenage Matty Hanson aka Credit To The Nation was rapping over Nirvana samples 15 years before Dizzee Rascal. He also toured with the Manics in 1993. Respect is long overdue.
11. Slowdive - 'Catch The Breeze'
I really tried to like Catherine Wheel, Chapterhouse, Slowdive and all those dreary bands NME were covering in 1991, but when Richey Edwards famously declared "We will always hate Slowdive more than we hate Adolf Hitler" he was clearly challenging us impressionable fifteen year old to choose sides.
12. Various Male Voice Choirs- 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadu' (aka 'Land of My Fathers')
A corny choice perhaps, but the Manics suffered a lot of anti-Welsh racism in their early days in order to open the door for many bands, artists, actors and writers. I'm not a big fan of national anthems - or patriotism - but sung by a Male Voice choir (any will do) this is undeniably emotive.
13. Shampoo - 'Trouble'
I remember buying a fanzine outside a gig from two blond Manics fans wearing fake fur. Not long afterwards they formed Shampoo, became pop stars, and invented the concept of "girl power" before the Spice Girls came along and removed all meaning from the phrase. Shampoo disappeared after one album, as all bands should.
14. Rednex - Cotton-Eyed Joe
This line-dancing twaddle was number 1 the week Richey Edwards disappeared in 1995. Its inclusion here is to provide 'aural context'.
15. British Sea Power - 'Remember Me'
16. Wild Beasts - 'All The King's Men'
These are, to my mind, the best British indie bands of the past decade, and about the only contemporary guitar bands I actually listened to while writing Richard.
There are highly literate themes running through their music. Coincidentally they both hail from Kendal, which proves some vague theory I have about the best music coming from places of isolation.
Let me know what you think of my selection by leaving a comment below.