I probably don’t have to tell most people what an interesting time the 1960’s were. Many societal- and world-changing events took place in this decade. But if you think it was difficult picking what events from the 60’s to include in my story, imagine how hard it was to pick my playlist!
Many writers (including me!) see their stories unfold in their head as though they’re watching a movie. And nothing enhances a movie like a good soundtrack. Music adds an extra dimension, a layer of emotive resonance that not only helps to set a scene in a specific time and place, but to sharpen the empathy the viewer has for the characters and what they’re experiencing.
As you should have twigged by now, I’m a bit of a fan of the 60’s. I know a LOT of music from the 50’s through to the 70’s, and love most of it to bits. So don’t be surprised that when I compiled my original list of music to go with Atomic Goddess, I had well over 200 songs ranging from 1959 to 1969!
One of the most interesting moments from the process of writing my song list was to discover, quite accidentally, a song from the early 60’s that shared the name of my main character – Angela Jones. I had no idea of it’s existence, but then as I was researching for the list, I came across it, and I was stoked.
It’s in the usual style of the sappy, pappy pop music that was around in the first three years of the 60’s – not that memorable, which is probably why I didn’t already know of it.
But it suddenly gave me one more thing in common with my main character.
When I was born, my mother had already picked out the name ‘Lana’. She always said she had chosen Lana because she liked the Roy Orbison song by that name, which, I believe, was written as a tribute to the actress Lana Turner.
Mum may have liked this song, but I didn’t. Whenever it came on the radio, she’d sing along with it in a funny voice and make faces at me to tease me. I also hated (as a child) having a name that rhymed with so many other words – school kids can be so cruel!
But I eventually got used to it, and as an adult, even came to like it. Took me a long time, though, and I’m afraid the song still isn’t one of my favourite Roy Orbison songs.
So imagine how I felt when I came across this silly, sappy sort of pop song about Angela Jones. Knowing her character so well, I was sure she would have hated it! Especially as she would have been in high school at the time it came out. I can just picture the other kids poking fun at her by singing this song in silly voices and carrying on like teenagers do.
It was a perfect opportunity to add another layer of humanity to Ange. For her, hearing this song – especially at a really inappropriate moment in the story – would seem like a mockery, the final straw that pushes her beyond mere annoyance to the limit of her endurance when she’s really struggling to hold it all together. Yes, she truly finds it that annoying (Henceforth, it shall be referred to as The song that shall not be named…).
Awww, would I do a mean thing like that to her? Yes, I’m afraid I would!
After all, she has to grow, and learn to overcome petty annoyances and problems. Which kind of brings me to another important aspect of the musical landscape in the story.
Yes, you heard me. Radio. Ange spends a good deal of time in her car during the story. Whilst many homes were equipped with record players, and in some cases, reel-to-reel tape players, along with a radio or two, every car came with a radio as a standard feature.
Radio DJ’s were just as important as the music they played. They could make or break a record by promoting it in prime time – or not. Payola had come and gone with the 50’s – though pirate radio stations such as those transmitting from the Mexican border were still able to get away with such practices well into the 60’s.
And when you talk pirate radio in the 60’s, there is one DJ in particular who comes to mind – the iconic Wolfman Jack.
Of course, his fame has become legendary in the years since – to many people of the time, his mysterious persona and individual style of announcing is as much a part of the fabric of the 60’s as any music he played. (If you’ve never actually heard of Wolfman Jack – or heard his radio patter – watch American Graffiti, where he plays… himself!)
I imagined an almost love-hate relationship between Ange and the Wolfman. Although they never meet, it feels to Ange like he knows her intimately. He plays the music she ‘digs’ – the Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf, Love, the Animals, the Kinks and the Who. Even a fledgling Led Zeppelin. In her best moments, she feels a kind of synchronistic power transferred to her through this music, right from Wolfman Jack himself.
And then there are those moments when everything’s just gone to pot and she can’t imagine it getting any worse, and then some song she really hates starts playing. And it just seems too darned coincidental – like Wolfman is teasing her, playing it on purpose just to rile her up.
Especially that one particular song. You know the one. I talked about it earlier. That sappy, poppy immortalisation of her own name. The song that shall not be named…
So, naturally, I needed a large list of appropriate – and, of course, highly inappropriate – songs for the Wolfman to draw on. And therein lay the greatest dilemma – narrowing the list down!
I was a good girl. I didn’t just write down all my own favourites (I’m sure the list would have been ten times longer if I had done that). I was careful to pick out songs that I thought Ange would like, and as often as possible, that would convey some sort of meaning in the context of the story.
And I’m extremely pleased with the results. Even though I can only mention the titles, as copyright laws prohibit the use of lyrics without gaining the proper permissions, I’m sure that the songs I’ve chosen will evoke the sixties in all their mad and beautiful glory.
Keep a smile on your dial until next time, and peace and love in your heart
From Lana Lea and her time-travelling muse