research: choosing scrapbook anchor songs, book three sixties trilogy

Each scrapbook in COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION is anchored by a song from that period that helps the reader "hear" that particular time-and-place, and sink deeper into the story. Book 3 will be the same.

I don't have scrapbooks done yet, but I'm keeping a hold file of possible photos on Pinterest, as well as a board with song possibilities (well.. two... maybe three.. I need to consolidate, now that I better understand what I'm doing).

Many of the songs I'm gathering will be mentioned in the narrative, but seven (or so) will be anchors for the scrapbooks of photos, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera that will help tell the story of 1969, and indeed the late sixties, as we're going to have to skip from 1964's REVOLUTION to 1969.

We'll need to secure permission and pay for the right to use these songs in their entirety if we so choose. I've only used one or two entirely -- "Dancing in the Street" and "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" (public domain) in REVOLUTION, but we want to use as much as we want of these anchor songs, as we design scrapbooks, and not worry about fair use -- we'll have permission.

I'll cover much of the five-year gap between REVOLUTION and BOOK THREE in scrapbooks. So the songs are important -- they have to carry us through. Often I use a song that denotes the opposite of what you see in the scrapbooks so I can give you that Unity of Opposites, so you can think about what you're seeing, and about that particular piece of the story. I juxtapose Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" over the early days of the Vietnam War (before there was much protest) in the final scrapbook in REVOLUTION, for instance.

The scrapbooks are a visual storytelling device and serve as a look at what's going on in the "outside" world while the story I write gives us the "inside" story, or the narrative arc of the book, of these characters and their hopes and dreams and very human failings.

Since I don't know them very well yet, I'm working on the scrapbooks. This usually goes back and forth as the book takes shape -- some scrapbook, some narrative. But right now, I'm just empty on the narrative, so the scrapbooks are getting heavy attention.

Here are some possibilities for starting Book 3. Let's see if one of these actually makes the cut. It will have to work against photos and ephemera that span 1965-1968, which includes death (Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Vietnam), the birth of the counter-culture, war protests, and the rise of some amazing rock-and-roll.

1.  Richie Havens at Woodstock singing "Freedom/Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child"..."a long way from home." I can see this as a way to begin Book 3. But it may be too close to REVOLUTION'S beginning. Just gathering right now.


2. Jefferson Airplane, "Don't You Want Somebody to Love" from Woodstock. "When the truth is found/ To be lies/ And all the joy/ Within you dies/ Don't you want somebody to love?/ Don't you need somebody to love?/ Wouldn't you love somebody to love?/ You better find somebody to love."

I love this. I really wanted to use "White Rabbit" as a possibility, but the lyrics are too tightly focused on that hookah smoking caterpillar, and might be confusing instead of enhancing.

3. Randy Newman, 1968: "Broken windows and empty hallways/ A pale dead moon in the sky streaked with gray/ Human kindness is overflowing/ And I think it's going to rain today.... / Lonely, lonely/ Tin can at my feet/ Think I'll kick it down the street/ That's the way to treat a friend."
This is hands-down my favorite. It holds so much possibility. The song meant a lot to me in the mid-'70s when I was alone with two kids and hoping for some human kindness. Joe Cocker's version is the one I heard in the '70s. I sat in a parking lot and cried. So I worry that I'm attached to it for reasons that won't serve the story.

Those are my top picks to begin Book 3. I loved and discarded for various reasons (although they could show up as anchors for different scrapbooks) Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild," The Rascals' "Get Together," The Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing," The Fifth Dimension's "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth."

I'm open to suggestions.... ?

I want funk and R&B and rock-and-roll and more, but I'll stop here today. Not bad for a day's work. Along with the epiphany I had while listening to Mark Rylance read a page of the new novel THE WAKE -- which as I wrote earlier, has given me energy to begin the narrative again with a different character -- I think I can go find some supper (Jim is gigging) and welcome the weekend.

Hope you are still awake!


finding ways in

The way into a story often comes in unexpected ways, as bit of kismet or synchronicity at work, I am convinced.

This morning I read on NPR ("An Unlikely Hit in an Imaginary Language") about Paul Kingsnorth's new novel, THE WAKE, about 11th century England after the Norman conquest. I was intrigued because the review talked about a made-up language. So I followed a few links to the Guardian, and one to Mark Rylance (who was Cromwell in PBS's WOLF HALL production) reading from THE WAKE.

And it was a wake-up call. OMG, I get it. My language is ALL WRONG with book three. Not that standard English isn't the way to go, not that I haven't planned to sprinkle in "groovys" and "far outs" and other counter-culture phrases... but I have been pursuing the wrong character altogether, which is why book three isn't working. Maybe.

I'm going to try a new beginning today, a new way in. Here is Mark Rylance reading from THE WAKE:





research: book 3 sixties trilogy

I'm gonna do occasional posts on research as I move deeper into Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy. I house research links on my Pinterest boards, but I also want to document my process, thinking, and resources here. I'll label all research posts as such.

===========

Full disclosure: I am stuck with book three. I don't know my story. I'm frustrated. So I'm contenting myself with research, which I've been doing intensely (ebb and flow) for about a year now, which has been mostly reading, and with no real focused objective but to understand the late sixties.

I did this with REVOLUTION and COUNTDOWN as well -- I read for about a year. You can find my bibliographies on Pinterest -- they are incomplete but will be added to as I can get to it.

So I'm working on scrapbooks today -- the non-fiction pieces of the documentary novels. I need about seven songs, one to anchor each scrapbook. They will change as the story is known and changes, but I need something to get me started, and I'm wondering if listening to the songs of the late sixties might also help me with finding my way into the story itself.

I spent most of my research day listening to the Billboard hits of 1967, 1968, and 1969. I dipped into 1970 as well. I want book 3 to be (in part) about ROCK-AND-ROLL. We've not had the chance to really do rock-and-roll with COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION, so here is the chance to Go Big Or Go Home, and I want to revel in the music. Maybe I have a character who does the same (that's what I've been playing with, anyway).

This is the kind of day where I have 24 windows open online at once and jump back and forth between YouTube and Wikipedia for lyrics and cursory information about The Rascals, Chicago (can only use their first album), Buffalo Springfield ("For What It's Worth" is perfect, about the Sunset Strip riots in 1967 -- I can use it for larger meaning), Jefferson Airplane (which leads to a lengthy side-trip down the "San Francisco Sound" tunnel), The Fifth Dimension, The Isley Brothers, Steppenwolf -- yes, I can use "Born to be Wild," now that I have moved book 3 from 1968 to 1969.

Last year, anticipating the long flights to Hong Kong and back, I invested in Bose noise-cancelling headphones, and they are perfect for this task. I'm listening a lot right now, trying to find a way in, and pulling out a line here, a line there, of select songs (not scrapbook anchors) for inclusion somehow -- don't know how yet. I'm going on faith here that I'll figure out a way to do this, and if I don't, it's not time wasted.

Delicious lines like "It appears to be such a long long long long time before the dawn." Know it? "And the beat goes on." "The past is just a goodbye." "All the world over it's easy to see, people everywhere just got to be free." And many more.

I've been wondering if I can put more of myself into this book, like I did with REVOLUTION and COUNTDOWN. I've said I'm going to the Bay Area for book 3, but I lived in Charleston, South Carolina in 1969, my dad flew into and out of Vietnam, our high school was integrated - in spite of Strom Thurmond's defiance - by the National Guard, boys picketed to grow their hair long, girls picketed to shorten their skirts, and I loved Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Beatles and many more... the music was fresh, new, energizing, and amazing.

I was 16 years old and wanted to see the film Easy Rider. I didn't have the $3 it cost for a movie ticket. My dad said, "I will not give you three dollars to support Peter Fonda's drug habit." He forbid me to see Easy Rider. So I told my parents I was off to somewhere or other on a date with Jim (that took care of the $3, and besides, it was JIM), and instead went into downtown Charleston, South Carolina to see Easy Rider.

It. Was. Thrilling. Imagine sitting in the theater, a sheltered child of strict Southern, military parents who didn't even want rock-and-roll in the house -- I'd had to "audition" rock-and-roll in order to be allowed to play it -- I chose my 45rpm of "We Can Work It Out" by the Beatles and got a reluctant okay.

Imagine this kid sitting in the theater and watching Easy Rider unfold. Born to be Wild indeed. Here is the beginning of the movie with Steppenwolf's signature anthem for the late sixties:



That's it for today. I've listened until my ears hurt. And I've got to get myself back to the garden....