A-Z of Dead Man Singing: C

A-Z of Dead Man Singing: C

157 days ago

C is for Cover versions. Early on in writing Dead Man Singing I decided that my main character, Dave Masters, would include cover versions on his records and in his live set, alongside his self-written material. That was partly self-indulgence and partly for the benefit of a certain type of reader. When I’m reading a novel, I love coming across mentions of real songs that I know – Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity is an obvious example, but Jonathan Coe’s Rotters’ Club and countless Christopher Brookmyre books have also provided the delight of out-of-the-blue musical references. There was also the very practical reason that putting songs into Dave’s mouth would let me use his music to help me to tell the story without my having to, you know, actually write any songs.

Finding the right songs for the right moments in the book was a labour of love. They had to fit into Dave’s musical style and they had to highlight significant themes, help to define or reveal character, or to foreshadow plot developments. My hope is that if readers are kind enough to give the book a second reading, they will notice numerous musical clues that they might have missed first time around. Some of the songs included hastily in the early drafts – such as ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Feel Like Going Home’ – kept their place throughout the writing process, while others – Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Monday Morning’, for example – were reluctantly moved aside when I found something else that carried the thematic weight a little better (in the case of ‘Monday Morning’, it was the Dave Mason song ‘Feeling Alright?’).

One disadvantage of reusing other people’s creativity in this way is that I wasn’t able to freely quote lyrics for fear of falling foul of copyright restrictions. You’ll notice that songs are generally described rather than directly quoted, although if you want to hear the soundtrack of the book, I have curated a Spotify playlist also called Dead Man Singing, which features most of the songs mentioned in the order they appear in the book. While I can’t give you Dave Masters’ version of those songs, hopefully the originals will add to your appreciation of the story, and of the many great artists who created them in the first place.

What are your favourite examples of song references in books that you loved?


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