This is the second of FOUR posts about music and Eleanor & Park. Which (still) seems excessive . . .
When I was writing the book, I built four playlists — one tape with two sides for each character. Every time I try to condense them all into one playlist, I get really sad and feel like I’m cutting all the best songs, so FOUR IT REMAINS.
Last week I blogged about Eleanor, Side A. Today it’s Park, Side A. Park’s side of the story.
If you want to skip my director’s commentary, you can also:
All my other playlists are on my Spotify profile, too. For Attachments – and for Fangirl.
All right, here we go . . . Mild spoilers ahead.
Park, Side A
Love on a Farmboy’s Wages, XTC
So this is the song that Park is listening to on his headphones the very first time we meet him.
XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus.
Park pressed his headphones into his ears.
Tomorrow he was going to bring Skinny Puppy or the Misfits. Or maybe he’d make a special bus tape with as much screaming and wailing on it as possible.
I had this picture of Park as an island of thoughtfulness in a sea of chaos; everybody else is screaming and being crass, and he’s listening to intellectual New Wave. This song – Love on a Farmboy’s Wages – is one of my favorite XTC songs, and it’s especially quiet and romantic. It’s from the point of view of a poor farmboy envisioning how he’ll provide for his beloved.
With Park — with all of my male heroes, really – I’m trying to portray someone who’s masculine, but still tender and full of big feelings. That guy doesn’t exist enough (for me) in fiction.
XTC = that guy.
“High climbs the summer sun, high stands the corn,
And tonight . . . when my work is done,
We will borrow your father’s carriage,
We will drink and prepare for marriage –
Soon my darling, soon my darling.”
Sweet Disposition, The Temper Trap
I am a SUCKER for men singing in falsetto. Again, it’s the masculinity/vulnerability that gets me. (Is it a bad sign that I’m only two songs into Park’s playlist, and I’m already swooning?) (I SWOONED for Park.)
This song is all tension and anticipation — the way Park feels electrified by Eleanor’s presence, pretty much as soon she gets on the bus. He’s on alert whenever she’s on the page with him.
When I was making playlists for my first book, Attachments, I tried to keep the songs consistent with the 1999 setting. But I didn’t stick to the ’80s with the Eleanor & Park playlists — I went with whatever songs felt right.
Love Will Tear Us Apart, Joy Division
If Eleanor & Park had a tagline, it would be “Love will tear us apart.”
This is the song that Park gives Eleanor on their first mixed tape.
“It was awesome,” she said. “I didn’t want to stop listening. That one song – is it ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’?”
“Yeah, Joy Division.”
“Oh my God, that’s the best beginning to a song ever.”
He imitated the guitar and the drums.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she said. “I just wanted to listen to those three seconds over and over.”
“You could have.” His eyes were smiling, his mouth only sort of.
“I didn’t want to waste the batteries,” she said.
He shook his head, like she was dumb.
“Plus,” she said, “I love the rest of it just as much, like the high part, the melody, the dahhh, dah-de-dah-dah, de-dahh, de dahhh.”
“And his voice at the end,” she said, “when he goes just a little bit too high… And then the very end, where it sounds like the drums are fighting it, like they don’t want the song to be over …”
Park made drum noises with his mouth “ch-ch-ch, ch-ch-ch.”
“I just want to break that song into pieces,” she said, “and love them all to death.”
Under Your Thumb, The Vaccines
Park definitely embraces the idea of Eleanor before Eleanor is comfortable with the idea of Park. For me, this song is Park wanting her to let go and loosen up — and this is Park just looking for an excuse to say her name.
The Morning of Our Lives, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
After Park falls in love, all he wants to do is listen to pretty love songs.
Park played Elvis Costello for her – and Joe Jackson, and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.
She teased him because it was all so pretty and melodic, and “in the same phylum as Hall & Oates,” and he threatened to evict her from his room.
This song (and this video!) really, really get to me. I have a hard time living in the present; I tend to be anxious and twitchy, always feeling like I’m not ready for the future, or that I’m not enough for it. This is the song I need someone to write for me.
“Tell her it’s okay (it’s okay, it’s okay)
Tell her it’s all right (it’s all right, it’s all right)
And our time is now, we can do anything we really believe in.
Our time is now — here in the morning of our lives.”
Androgynous, The Replacements
Neither Eleanor or Park is androgynous — but they definitely experiment with gender roles.
His mom sat on his bed. She looked like she’d had a long day. You could see her lipliner. She stared at a jumble of action figures piled up on the shelf over his bed — Park hadn’t touched them for years.
“Park,” she said, “do you . . . want to look like girl? Is that what this about? Eleanor dress like boy. You look like girl?”
“No . . .” Park said. “I just like it. I like the way it feels.”
“No,” he said. “Like myself.”
“Your dad …”
“I don’t want to talk about him.”
I think I chose this song because it feels like Eleanor and Park, especially Park. It feels like two people who’ve chosen to be in love, damn the torpedoes.
Boys Don’t Cry, The Cure
For a while I had an all-Cure playlist for Park.
Robert Smith always gets called Goth — but the best Cure songs are about falling in love. They’re hopelessly romantic and hopefully romantic, and Robert Smith is The Man, no matter how much makeup he’s wearing. (Park’s patronus is totally Robert Smith.) For me, this is the song that plays when Park and Eleanor fight, and Park can’t exactly figure out why.
“I’m not proposing,” he said. “I’m just saying … I love you. And I can’t imagine stopping . . .”
She shook her head. “But you’re twelve.”
“I’m sixteen . . .” he said. “Bono was fifteen when he met his wife, and Robert Smith was fourteen . . .”
“Romeo, sweet Romeo . . .”
“It’s not like that, Eleanor, and you know it.” Park’s arms were tight around her. All the playfulness in his voice was gone.
“There’s no reason to think we’re going to stop loving each other,” he said. “And there’s every reason to think that we won’t.”
Heavy Like Sunday, Leona Naess
The thing I loved about writing Park was that he really believes in love. His parents are still in love with each other, so he has every reason to believe that true love prevails. That’s not how my brain naturally works. My parents got divorced and remarried and divorced and remarried (not to each other), and I always approached love very skeptically, always expecting it to end. Park doesn’t have that expectation. It felt nice to spend time in his head.
“And friends make better lovers,
‘Cause they look you in the eye
And they’ll put you in the middle . . .
Of a thousand whys.”
The Shining, Badly Drawn Boy
Another song for Park, trying to talk Eleanor out of the shadows. I think of them sitting in the snow at night, in the doorway of the elementary school.
They were sitting against the back door of the school, in a little alcove where no one would see them unless they were really looking, and where the snow didn’t fall directly on their faces. They sat next to each other, facing each other, holding hands.
There was nothing between them now. Nothing stupid and selfish just taking up space.
“Now I’ve fallen in deep, slow silent sleep
It’s killing me, I’m dying –
To put a little bit of sunshine in your life.”
Okay, that’s the end of this playlist. Next time I’ll do a spoiler-filled post on Eleanor, Side B. (Side B is where the book gets serious.)