Pretty much, Pete Townshend is a lyrical god.
That said, a lot of inspiration can be pulled from music. Inspiration for writing and visual arts, and other music as well.
One of my biggest inspirations is the album Quadrophenia. This was a major influence (along with All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes) on my first novel. I found the ideas expressed on the album weaving their ways through my writing. In the case of the latter, it could have been because I had that album on perpetual repeat during the drafting process.
Quadrophenia in particular provided a lot of ideas because what the main character in the album, Jimmy, goes through similar emotional and personal revelations that my character Will goes through. Isolation, alienation, and, of course, the difficulties of progressing into adulthood.
Sometimes I’ll listen to an instrumental or a foreign language piece to get into a different mood. If I’m writing a particularly emotional bit, I might switch to listening to a track from the Atonement soundtrack (possibly “Elegy for Dunkirk”) or “The Galapagos” from the Master and Commander soundtrack.
Music takes a completely different route in my mind. The different sounds influence how I feel at a moment, or bring back memories.
More on this later.
Photo taken by Ben Parks
I like collecting LPs. I don’t actually own a turntable, but there’s something very special about going into a record shop and finding something that you didn’t expect to.
The other day I came across this LP, the soundtrack to the cult classic Quadrophenia, based on the Who album of the same name.
Quadrophenia holds a special place in my heart, both the album and the movie. The album because it’s one of my favorites, if not my favorite. The movie? Well, I’m enamored with mods and rockers.
Also, the movie showcases Brighton, England, as the heart of the mod-rocker fight in May 1964.
The photo is actually one of the back of the album; I really like the pier in the background and Jimmy in the foreground–the picture is very pretty, and instantly pulls you in.
In this age of mp3s and iPods, being able to hold something in your hands, to hold music between your fingers, is a wonderful thing. There is little joy to be found upon discovering a song on iTunes, but to find an album in a record shop? Now, that’s something to smile about.
So, what have I been listening to as of late?
This time, it’s Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) by The Kinks. It’s a concept album, following up their brilliant The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society.
This album is one that evokes an emotional response from me. The first time I heard it, I felt really angry and uncomfortable. I don’t know why. For a few months, I only listened to it that one time. Now I’ve given it a second listen, and can say that I really enjoy it. It takes a powerful piece of work to inspire emotion from me. This being ticked off is of a different sort than say, being force fed tripe Top 40 (I’m looking at you, Taylor Swift).
“Some Mother’s Son” may be my favorite track on the album. There’s something quite mournful about it, given the topic of soldiers dying to protect their homeland. The juxtaposition of soldiers fighting and children at play is a powerful, haunting one. It really makes you think.
Ray Davies’ writing is something special. While other rock bands of the era were focusing on strange moves from rock (“Revolution 9” by The Beatles), or elevating rock to a more artistic level (Tommy by The Who), Davies stays focused on what he knows: life in England. Though not joyfully nostalgic like Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur takes a good look on opportunity poor English life post-World War II.
First time Kinks concept album listeners should start with Village Green Preservation Society. It’s easier to get into.