I’ve created a playlist to accompany the reading of my novel, Ghostflowers, now scheduled to be released by Journalstone Books on July 8, 2022.
It’s a playlist of 125 songs that I refer to in one way or another in Ghostflowers, either playing on my main character’s stereo, on the car radio, or at a secret party in the woods. If you watch this on the actual YouTube page, my notes explain some of my motivations, and the feelings I hope these tunes will evoke in the listener.
Please join me and go back to the hippie-esque weekend of July 4, 1971, and watch or listen to my YouTube compilation right now. It’s classic rock and a few other things mixed in that you might remember. Please let me know what you think.
Ah, Brandy . . . you’re a fine song . . . but the wrong song.
In my last post, I talked about the Song, “Brandy,” and it’s impact on both me and the writing of Ghostflowers. That’s important to remember, because “Brandy” was only a thematic influence upon the events of my novel, and I somehow forgot that while I was writing Ghostflowers.
Even though I was alive, well and extremely cognizant during the grand year of 1971, the summer in which Ghostflowers takes place, nevertheless it was 42-43 years later that I wrote Ghostflowers. Consequently, I had to do a lot of research on almost every aspect of life in 1971, and, until a few days ago, I thought I had verified the release dates for every song I mention or reference in my book to jibe with the timeframe.
The time is very specific in Ghostflowers: the novel takes place from Thursday, July 1 to Sunday, July 4, 1971. And I discovered a few days ago that I had accidentally put “Brandy” into a scene where my main character not only dances to the song, but sings along.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t do that in the summer of 1971.
See, “Brandy” wasn’t released for almost another year, on my 14th birthday, on May 18, 1972.
I’m still shaking my head how I made that mistake. Wishful thinking, I guess. The song is perfect for the moment.
After realizing I had to rewrite the scene, I printed that page from my manuscript (page 291, not that it matters)—it’s a scene of a big teen party in the woods, somewhat reminiscent of the party in the woods in Dazed and Confused—and started crossing things out. I changed “Brandy” to “I Feel the Earth Move,” which would not have been anachronistic; but I used Carole King elsewhere in Ghostflowers, so I thought maybe I should come up with another song.
I don’t listen to radio much nowadays. There aren’t a lot of stations that still play real rock and roll—ok, classic rock and roll—and I can’t hear the Blues or Jimmy Buffett on the radio unless I subscribe to Sirius XM, which I do not. BUT Richmond does have Boomtown Radio, which can sometimes entertain me when it isn’t trying to sell discount deals on their obnoxious radio shopping shows. Today, after a short but exhausting little virus that laid me up for three days, I got out of the house to pick up lunch for me and my lovely bride. And the first song that came on was a tune that I remembered happily from my misspent youth. Luckily for me, it came out in 1970, before the events of Ghostflowers, was quite popular, and I remember it playing on the AM station (WGH, in old Virginia) that I always listened to back then . . . and that my characters are listening to during the party in the woods on Saturday, July 3, 1971.
“Brandy,” the hit single by Looking Glass, made a big impression on me when it was released in 1972.
First, it came out about a year after the classic Dark Shadows ended its run on ABC TV. I was still happily hungover from its daily dose of ghosts, vampires and werewolves—to be honest, I still am—and the lyrics to “Brandy” evoked in me a sense of ethereal loneliness that I still feel almost fifty years later whenever I hear the song.
At one time—and, no, don’t ask me when, because I have no idea—I thought that perhaps “Brandy” could be a vampire story. Yes, of course, her sailor/lover was bound to the sea . . . but perhaps he was an undead, as well. I always had two images, of Brandy, walking through a village street at night, her cloak tight around her; and the image of Brandy standing far out on a wave-splashed dock, waiting for her lover in the darkness.
I never thought I’d ever see anything close to the image that “Brandy” summons in my mind, but director Karel Reisz and cinematographer Freddie Francis captured it almost perfectly with Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
So, that idea, plus the era the song came out, plus the song’s love story, plus my love for Dark Shadows . . . somehow they all commingled together when my lovely wife first gave me the initial idea for Ghostflowers.
Music, especially classic rock and roll, is all-important to Ghostflowers, just as rock and roll was all-important to every American teenager growing up in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, when radio was still king. Rock pervades every paragraph of my novel, whether it’s mentioned or not, so every few days or so I’m going to present here a song from my imaginary Ghostflowers soundtrack.
When it gets closer to publication time, I’ll compile a playlist and post it on YouTube, Spotify and Pandora, to play while reading the novel.
Until then, here are not one but two of the tunes that influenced me in the writing of Ghostflowers: “Brandy” and the “Theme from Dark Shadows.”
By the way: the subtitle to Ghostflowers is A LOVE STORY. WITH BLOOD.