Believe in Me (Wampus Multimedia, Nov. 29) is a story about heroes and believers, regret and redemption, fathers and sons, and the healing power of rock and roll. Music plays a central role in two of the key relationships in the book—between narrator / former campaign operative Tim Green and socially-conscious rock star Jordan Lee, and between Tim and his recently deceased music-writer father.
The path forward for Tim and Jordan is littered with quotes from and references to songs by The Who, Switchfoot, Eagles, Steve Miller Band, Queen, Dave Matthews Band, Bob Seger, R.E.M., Paul McCartney, Gin Blossoms, Bruce Springsteen, Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Fountains Of Wayne, Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin, and Wampus’s very own Arms Of Kismet. The songs form paths of connection that allow these characters to speak to each other in a unique dialect all their own, albeit one that most Riff Raf readers will immediately recognize.
So, while it’s not necessarily a story about music, Believe in Me is a story infused with it, a story in which music seems to seep from the pores of the main characters and provide a sort of subtextual soundtrack to moment after moment along the way. As Richard and I chatted about how to approach these guest posts, the idea emerged for me to create what are basically liner notes to the story—notes about how and why each song referenced or quoted in the text ended up as part of the story. And so, off we go…
“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows
The epigraph at the very front of the book is a quote from “Mr. Jones,” Adam Duritz’s iconic celebration of every nightclub musician’s rock-star dreams. The title of the book is nestled within its key lines: “Believe in me / Help me believe in anything / I want to be someone who believes.” That feeling of wanting to believe in something, in part because you don’t necessarily believe in yourself, strikes me as reaching into the heart of the relationship between fan and performer, as well as the heart of the story I wanted to tell. (The song also deftly pinpoints the biggest lie of all about the rock-star life: “When everybody loves me, I will never be lonely.”)
“Going Mobile” by The Who
An exuberant song about breaking free from your current situation and setting out on a new journey; in Believe in Me it’s the title of the first section, where Tim does exactly that.
“This Is Your Life” by Switchfoot
The book opens with Tim questioning what he’s doing with his life, and the quote fronting part one is “This is your life / Are you who you want to be?” A little on the nose, perhaps, but considering how much Switchfoot I listened to while writing this story, there was no fighting it.
The next four songs pop up as part of the initial dialogue between Tim and Jordan, where they’re establishing the common ground between them, using the songs to illustrate their situation: jetting away from where Tim has just deserted the employer he has come to detest.
“Already Gone” by The Eagles
One of the great kiss-off songs in classic rock, its simplicity and directness is its whole appeal. “I’m aaaaaaal-ready gone / And I’m feeeeeeee-ling strong.” Who hasn’t fantasized about saying something like that to a terrible boss?
“Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller Band
“Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To...)” by Queen
“Too Much” by Dave Matthews Band
“Ramblin' Gamblin' Man” by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Tim and Jordan are talking about the appeal, under the right circumstances, of life on the road when Jordan begins to sing “Oh lord I got to ramble…” Of course, they agree it isn’t the same without backup singers.
“Stand” by R.E.M.
[Note: All lyrics quoted are copyrighted by the songwriters and their respective publishing companies, with all rights reserved, and are used here only for purposes of discussion.]