I am very much a fan of music. I experience the world around me through music, and the songs I know and love come to describe what I see and hear around me, and what I feel.
This is also true of what I see, hear and feel in writing a novel. Most novels I have written come to have soundtracks, playlists that I listen to while writing them. The first was John Coltrane while writing Breakfast At Tuli’s. Train I Ride was inspired by the song MYSTERY TRAIN by Elvis Presley and Junior Parker.
SUMMER AND JULY was inspired by the sense of place of Ocean Park, Santa Monica, when I stayed there in an AirBnB with my wife and daughters Eleri and Harmony in the summer of 2016. It also happened to be the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys’ album PET SOUNDS, Brian Wilson’s work of genius, which apparently made the Beatles and Stones wonder what the heck they could follow it with. For the Beatles, it ended up being Sgt. Pepper’s. The Stones didn’t really have their answer until Exile On Main Street in 1972.
I listened to PET SOUNDS endlessly during our week-long stay in a cottage on 4th street, playing it on a portable Bose bluetooth speaker, often while drinking coffee on the porch before the rest of my family woke. I had known some of the songs on the album previously––WOULDN’T IT BE NICE and SLOOP JOHN B––but I had never experienced the whole record before.
Here is a guide to the musical references, stolen lyrics and inspirations appearing in SUMMER AND JULY, which arrives a week from tomorrow on June 9, 2020.
PAGE 1: We plunge right into our rhymin’ and stealin’ (BEASTIE BOYS reference) as our young narrator Juillet says The airplane hasn’t even landed yet, and already this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on.
This borrows from the song SLOOP JOHN B from PET SOUNDS, and the line “this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on.”
Juillet’s mom has the Beach Boys playing on bluetooth to try to put her in the spirit of her seaside holiday, and on PAGE 16 she says “I hear a scratching noise, faintly, in the quiet between a song about a wave and a song about a girl.
I was probably thinking of CAROLINE, NO and the earlier CATCH A WAVE, both by the Beach Boys. I like how the line previews exactly what becomes Juillet’s two main concerns during the course of the novel.
PAGE 20: Juillet says, in narration, Mom would kill me if I hung down with a surfer boy who’s practically a surfer man.
“Hung down” is an homage to the song 1979 by SMASHING PUMPKINS, with the line “Justine never knew the rules, hung down with the freaks and ghouls.” I think it is a beautiful alternative to saying “hang out,” when spoken by a gothic girl, which Juillet begins the story as. I had to fight like hell with my editor for this beauty.
PAGE 21: The first appearance of the recurring IGNORE ALIN ORDERS. This is scratched in the sidewalk on 4th street very near the cottage we stayed in. The cottage was built around 1910, but the sidewalks are considerably newer. Googling the phrase, IGNORE ALIEN ORDERS was apparently printed on tee shirts and bumper stickers by a group of hippies in San Francisco after a night on LSD in the 1960s. One of these bumper stickers found it’s way onto the guitar of Joe Strummer, frontman of THE CLASH and a solo artist whose later records are under-appreciated in my opinion. Many of the photos of Joe Strummer show him holding the guitar with this sticker. In the novel, the spot in the sidewalk becomes the meeting place of Summer and Juillet, and also something of a rallying cry.
PAGE 47: GRAVESIDE LOBOTOMY is not a real band, but seemed like a good name for an act that Juillet would be a fan of. If such a band existed I would hope they’d have a song called LET’S SWITCH BRAINS.
PAGE 75: Summer and Juillet encounter a homeless man on the pier, who has a sign that says “MY TALE OF WOE PRINTED ON A GRAIN OF RICE. DONATIONS CHEERFULLY ACCEPTED.” Summer asks him if he can tell his tale of woe to she and Juillet, and asks him his name. He speaks in a gravelly voice, and says his name is Butch. Waits’ song IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, which describes a beat-up and economically tattered neighborhood has a line that says and Butch joined the army, yeah that’s where he’s been. I don’t really believe that Butch has been in the army. Also I feel like Butch should be an alter ego for Waits. When I have read this chapter aloud to classrooms on social media, doing Butch’s voice often makes me cough.
PAGE 108: Juillet and her mom eat dinner at a surf-themed vegan restaurant called WAVE OF MUTILATION. The restaurant does not exist, but it is the name of a fine song by the PIXIES from their album DOOLITTLE. The Pixies have great lyrics and they often get imbedded in my work.
PAGE 132: I needed to build the presence of The Big Kahuna, one of the characters, without him being seen. So I threw a party at his house which was entirely inspired by the song PARTIES IN THE USA by JONATHAN RICHMAN, formerly of THE MODERN LOVERS, and one of the most under appreciated geniuses of the rock and roll genre, though he goes far beyond that. PARTIES IN THE USA begins with Richman saying, to the riff of HANG ON SLOOPY, Hi everyone, I’m from the 60’s, the time of Louie Louie, and Little Latin Loopy Lou, after which his bandmates chime yeahyeahyeah in beatnik fashion. The song argues that we need more parties, with potato chips sittin’ there, and guitars playin’, a line which I put in Summer’s mouth. The scene also features a guy playing Louie Louie on guitar with a fuzzy amp, and Summer tells Juillet that she left her school after telling all her classmates to kiss off, which was certainly put in my head by THE VIOLENT FEMMES with their song KISS OFF. PAGE 139 features a mention of Huarache sandals, which would not be in my vocabulary if not for the song SURFIN’ SAFARI by the Beach Boys. The scene ends with a mention of crickets (BUDDY HOLLY’s BAND) and a song by Buddy Holly heard from across the street.
PAGE 163: Juillet is alone in a park and observes that it seems like a good day for a daydream, planted in my head by THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL and their song DAYDREAM. What a day for a daydream.
PAGE 166: One of the most important things that happens in the book came about quite accidentally. The girls meet in the morning, and, because I had been listening to a lot of THE REPLACEMENTS Pandora, Summer says “You be me and I’ll be you!” That was totally put in my head by The Replacements song with the lyric you be me for a while, and I’ll be you. I had no idea that, in wearing Juillet’s Goth regalia, Summer would give herself permission to feel the pain inside her, beneath her sunny exterior. It blew me away to watch it happening, and reaffirmed my belief in the muse.
PAGE 178: I feel it all. Planted in my head by FEIST.
PAGE 181: Sea, swallow me. Put in my head by Cocteau Twins, not the first or last time.
PAGE 186: WOULDN’T IT BE NICE. First song on PET SOUNDS, maybe the last to capture the innocence of youth. Oh, and wouldn’t it be nice if everything was completely different than how it is.
Page 202: This must be the place. Put in Summer’s mouth by TALKING HEADS, and the name of their most beautiful song.
PAGE 204: Boom Shaka-laka. All over rock and roll, but I hear it from Dave Wakeling in GENERAL PUBLIC and their song PUNK. Summer uses it in her prayer to the surf gods. God, I love that girl.
PAGE 216: Betty. Betty is all over the novel, and surf culture, as the word for an attractive surfer girl, and I need to give mention to the female band CUB, and their album BETTY COLA. It is such a lovely record, and carries such a beautiful, youthful aesthetic. They cover The Beach Boys and Daniel Johnston, and their own wonderful songs. Give it a listen.
PAGE 277: the ghost of a smile. I never would have used these words if not for THE POGUES and their song of the same name, from the album HELL’S DITCH. Fun fact––the record was produced by the aforementioned Joe Strummer.
PAGE 287: The predawn is quiet as a postcard. No dogs bark, no crickets chirp, no cars go on the empty streets. Okay, I do think that’s a fairly lovely bit there. The idea of no cars go came from the Arcade Fire song of the same name from Neon Bible.
PAGE 292: “When we ride, we ride together.” Ah, Juillet, you’re killing me. Also because this was put into my head by the DAN ZANES children’s song, “Catch That Train.” It makes me think of my daughters, how I always want to be with them. Dan Zanes makes children’s music that you’ll listen to when they aren’t in the car.
PAGE 295: I don’t want to spoil the scene, but the three words “Neptunes only daughter” come from the Pixies song Mister Grieves. What’s that floatin in the water, old Neptuna’s only daughter. I made something very different of the sequence of words.
PAGE 296: There is a whole vocabulary and a catalog of song for it, for this feeling, for these feelings–– ah, I could go on but I won’t. But she’s right.
PAGE 297: the last line is from the Beach Boys’ song DO IT AGAIN. They claimed to have invented nostalgia with this song, and who could argue?
PAGE 299: Yellow Taxi. All yellow taxis belong to Joni Mitchell, especially this one.
I hope this enhances your enjoyment of Summer and July. I hope you love the book, that it helps you to remember the way that summer might be once again––filled with happiness, ice cream, love, forgiveness, waves, peace and equality.